Musical Fidelity CD-Pre24 CD player-preamplifier

How much fun can you have with an audio component? Fun for me is having a Nakamichi BX-300 analog cassette deck running into Musical Fidelity's evolutionary, revolutionary CD-Pre24 preamplifier, with the unit's digital output feeding the Alesis Masterlink hard-drive-based digital recorder, and being able to monitor the digital loop through the preamp once again in the analog domain.

I'm preserving a wacky cassette compilation made by Byron Werner, an old L.A. acquaintance I met back in 1982, when we worked together on the movie Tron. Back then, Byron was a rabid collector of vinyl oddities. He'd also painted a life-size rendering of Jack Ruby's encounter with Lee Harvey Oswald, with a hole where Oswald's head would be. Visitors were asked to stick their heads through the hole, at which point Byron would snap a picture for a rather peculiar archive. Today, he's described as a "vinyl archivist" and as one of the originators of the "lounge music" movement.

The cassette includes Senator Sam Ervin's (of Watergate fame) cover of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," Telly Savalas "singing" "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," Beaver and the Trappers' "Happiness Is" (yes, it's Jerry Mathers as the Beaver), and the original "I Took a Trip in a Gemini Spaceship" by the Legendary Stardust Cowboy, which David Bowie covered on his new album, Heathen. This is stuff I don't want to lose.

Thanks to the CD-Pre24's digital tape loop and the Masterlink, it's become really easy, even fun, to archive decades' worth of cassette, open-reel, and microcassette recordings of personal musings, radio shows, and commercials I'd produced—and, of course, treasured soundtracks-to-my-life music compilations—before they and/or I turn to dust. I bet you have a similar stash of analog history you'd like to preserve.

The single-box CD-Pre24 contains a full-function remote-controlled analog preamp, a digital switcher, a CD transport, a 24-bit/96kHz upsampling DAC, and a 16-bit/44.1kHz A/D converter—all for $3000. With it, one can have both analog and digital components connected, and record and play back from both domains without constant plugging and unplugging.

If that doesn't give you a convenient handle to grasp, think of the CD-Pre24 as a CD player with a bonus analog preamplifier, bonus digital switching facility, and analog and digital tape loops. Or as an outboard DAC with a built-in CD transport and a bonus analog preamp section plus A/D converter. Or, better yet, as an ingenious compilation of familiar electronic components that function in new and sometimes surprising ways.

Analog signals plugged into the three analog inputs remain in the analog domain. When one of these is chosen, it appears at the preamp's analog line-out RCA jacks as well as at the output of the analog tape loop, where you can monitor it with an analog recorder—but, thanks to the built-in 16/44.1 A/D converter, a digitized version of the chosen analog input will also appear at the CD-Pre24's digital outputs.

There are also two digital inputs, each offering a choice of TosLink optical and coaxial connections, as well as digital recording monitor. Select a digital input and its signal will be converted to analog and appear at the main and analog tape outputs—and, redigitized, at the CD-Pre24's digital outs (one coaxial, one TosLink optical).

If you have a digital recording source connected to the digital tape monitor, you can monitor the signal through it. Conversely, a digital input can be monitored via the analog tape loop. If you've never used a tape monitor, you're now thoroughly confused in both the analog and digital domains! The important thing to remember is to always connect a recorder's output (analog or digital) to the monitor input and not to a regular input. Otherwise, when you try to monitor the signal you'll create a feedback loop that can do serious damage to your loudspeakers and your ears.

Inside and Out
Despite the CD-Pre24's incredible versatility and reasonable price, Musical Fidelity has managed to retain the high parts quality of its more expensive products. The 24/96 upsampling DAC, 8x-oversampling filter, control electronics, CD transport, and choke-regulated power supply are identical to those in the more expensive Nu-Vista 3D CD player. (Not included, of course, are the tiny metal-can nuvistor triode tubes that help give the 3D its magical sound.)

Musical Fidelity
Kevro International
902 McKay Rd., Suite 4
Pickering, Ontario L1W 3X8, Canada
(905) 428-2800