California Audio Labs Tercet Mk.III CD player The LP in 1991

Sidebar 1: The LP in 1991

I beg the reader's indulgence for a moment, but I feel compelled to articulate my feeling (apology, if you like) regarding the current state of the long-playing record in this country. I know, this is supposed to be a review of CD players, but please be patient. I feel the tone of my review and the subsequent recommendations will mean more with this brief background confession.

I have been told and have read that analog recordings and LPs will sing their swan songs during the early years of this decade. If so, many will call me foolish for continuing to invest heavily in records and the front-ends to play them on. New LPs no longer exist in stores here in Santa Fe, and the two-hour round trip to Albuquerque, always tedious, is downright dangerous during winter snows. A vinyl junkie like myself has therefore to rely on mail-order sources for his fix. Gone is the joy of browsing a store's record bins and the thrill of discovery of that elusive slab of vinyl.

Consequently I frequent garage sales and religiously visit used-record stores. With my VPI record-cleaning machine and VPI/Eminent Technology front end, all but the most abused LPs become playable and enjoyable.

But why all the fuss, when it's so much easier to drop in to the local CD emporium and grab a handful of the silver devils and be done with it? Because I grew up with LPs and have a strong attachment to them. An LP is a physical entity to me, more so than CDs will ever be. Yet I do find myself listening to the silver slabs more frequently these days, and enjoying them more. Much new music I enjoy is not available on LP, and the rate of deletions of older LP catalog is approaching the speed of light. CDs are hot—they can be found in shopping malls, music stores, and former record shops.

The operative word here is "found." Music, in its kaleidoscope of styles, is more important to me than the medium by which it is reproduced. Naturally, the less artifact between me and the music, the stronger I'm touched. So here I sit with a couple of handfuls of CDs and two excellent CD players, with the task of explaining to the reader which player I prefer and why.—Guy Lemcoe

California Audio Labs
Huntington Beach, CA 92641 (1991)
company no longer in existence (2020)

LinearTracker's picture

I had purchased one of these based on this review back in the day ☹️. Still spinning vinyl.

dial's picture

As a student I had long holidays from june to october so I did a lot of jobs. One of them was salesman -during two years- at a high end shop, where you can buy Piega, Swiss Physics or Threshold if you were wealthy. They have other brands but I remember well these three as they seem very well built. One day someone came with a Goldmund studio 2 with their Gold cartridge, saying he doesn't play vinyl anymore. We have to find him a buyer at huge discount as he was buying a lot of gear (only sources cos for electronics he owned some Jadis separates I fall in love with)from us it was done quickly. He had just bought the 2 chassis version of THE CAL player.

Ortofan's picture

... saved $400 and bought a Sony CDP-X55ES.

Or, for the analog disc aficionados, $1,300 would have bought a Pioneer PL-90 turntable, along with your choice of a Stanton 881S Mk II or an Audio-Technica AT-ML170 cartridge.

dial's picture

Yes but it's less exotic.
For me direct drive turntables offer the best speed stability and less vibrations because the motor turns at the right speed, very low.
About CD players I liked the looks of the 2-chassis CAL, the sound well I can't remember. Shame there's no market for these old digital gear (even tubey), would like to get one cheapo if the mechanism is easily replaceable and still available. At the shop (long closed), we've got bad surprises concerning build quality and to get some parts especially for Sonographe- by Conrad Johnson.
Today I use a very old (1996 !) Micromega Drive 2 (Philips pro laser section still available but now made in PRC). Is there a big difference between this and a BR player ?!

Ortofan's picture

... vintage CD players have become unobtanium.
Plus, players that are two decades old, or more, may need to have the electrolytic capacitors replaced.

So, is it worth the expense to acquire and refurbish a vintage high-end CD player, or would one simply be better off applying those funds toward a brand new unit, such as a Denon DCD-1600E or a Yamaha CD-S1000 (either of which cost about $1,200)?

dial's picture

My budget to play CD to BR is only 150$ max ; my CD (drive only) has his own converter (AES-EBU wired), my preamp (an old vintage Isem Quark) has another built-in especially for HDCD so I keep it for that only (coax link). And at last I have a 3D Lab. Nano for Hirez files (384 K max -enough for me can't tell the difference !-) linked to a cheap Samsung BR via coax Kimber. I only keep the Quark to play vinyls with a Thorens MC pre and a Project phono.
I love old gear, especially exotic brands when the looks are my taste.

dial's picture

Saw one for sale with a Tempest for 120$ but none in working order