C.E.C. TL 0 CD transport Page 2

Now for a quick analogy: When not tooling about Paris in one of his Volvos, my Parisian brother-in-law drives an '84 Aston Martin Vantage—five-speed, of course, with that dogleg one/two I find so disconcerting. It's quite the pièce de resistance, old boy, a real gentleman's club inside: yummy soft English leather, Wilton carpets, silver salvers, and three in help (well, almost). It's also a delicious, sexy, demanding, and blindingly quick truck—but it's still a camion. I mean, it's big. It makes demands on the driver, and a long trip can be tiring. (Amusingly, in what I consider to be totally English fashion, the air-conditioning began belching clouds of not-very-cool condensation while on the autoroute toward Compiegne!) Anyway, when you pop the hood ("shall I open the engine cover, m'Lord?"), there's a cam coverplate that reads "This Engine Made by Mike Peach."

That's the TL 0 all over. "The TL 0 is priced commensurate with its performance and the true cost of its premium materials and painstaking workmanship. Each unit is hand-fabricated by an individual whose technical skills are complemented by his exquisite attention to detail." Each unit is burned-in at the factory for a full month! So much for justifying its stratospheric price.

What it's like playing with one of the most expensive transports on earth
In residence with the C.E.C. TL 0 was the Jadis J1 Drive CD transport I reviewed in March '95 (Vol.18 No.3). I accordingly used the same system and music that I used for the Jadis review to judge the TL 0's performance—Avalon Ascents driven by Jadis JA 200 amplifiers; CAT SL-1 Signature preamplifier.

I set the TL 0 on the integral points of a ClampRack, eschewing the use of the provided furniture-saving "Holder Feet," which help you avoid scratching your Louis XVI Commode. I wasn't able to tweak the TL 0 in any fashion—after all, the drive chassis is just larger than the CD it carries, and the heavy, inert, solid-aluminum chassis evinced not a single hot spot when rapped. Considering the design brief, this is as it should be. I placed the power supply on another shelf on a small set of Audiopoints. Datalinks used were XLO and Kimber AGDL coax, Aural Symphonics ioGel-gooped glass, Illuminati Datastream Reference, AudioQuest Diamond x3, and Kimber AGDL, again balanced. Power cords included the usual group of suspects, but best results were obtained using T&G Audio Labs PC2-A.

In day-to-day use, the TL 0 proved an unalloyed pleasure, resembling more an analog than a typical CD interface. You remove the Heftyboy stabilizer from the spindle and place it somewhere secure while you fumble with the CD jewelbox—after all, you can't clamp the stabilizer between your teeth, and holding it between your thighs would be a bit awkward. Besides, you might drop it—$17.5k, remember.

Center the disc on the spindle, replace the stabilizer, and the unit spins up to read the table of contents. When you replace the stabilizer on the upper drive chassis, the entire assembly bobbles a bit as it settles on its rubber-damped spring assemblies. Like all belt-drive C.E.C.s, the TL 0 takes a moment to speed up; if you're an impatient Type-A personality, buy an NAD. The minimalist control buttons on the mirrored fascia provide for all basic functions, and an adequately upscale remote provides a few advanced features.

The TL 0 is tactile—it's a device for those who have an appreciation of the finer things in life. You've got an attractive spouse and a wine cellar. Your kid goes to Harvard. Perhaps you're a surgeon living in Westchester who has an Alfa 6C 2300 sitting in the garage. You covet a blast around Le Mans in a Birdcage Maserati. You're sorry you never got that engineering degree, but you were too busy making your company wildly successful. You love the close precision of fine mechanical devices. You could be a filthy-rich yuppie, but I don't see it; you're most likely older. You've been knocked about by life, you're wiser now, and you're ready to sit back and savor the karma, operation, and sound of the TL 0. You're not in a hurry—you pay people to rush about for you.

The most overwhelming sonic characteristic of the TL 0 was its ability to lift a perfectly immense amount of information from the disc and feed it to the processor in question. It was eloquently and enormously hyper-detailed to the limits of my ability to hear. No matter what the material, it seemed as though everything encoded in the pits was making it out. The C.E.C. TL 1 and the (original version) Forsell Air Bearing CD transports tended toward the soft, musical, and spacious; the TL 0 was all sharp resolution and absolute transparency--the foundations upon which its sound is formed. The TL 0 didn't billow forth with the same huge sonic soundscape as the Forsell transport or, to a lesser extent, the TL 1 or Jadis J1 Drive. But it was entertainingly deep, layered, cleanly focused, and illuminated from front to back.

US distributor: Parasound
950 Battery St.
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 397-7100