High-Tech for Luddites: The CAD 1543 Mk II DAC, CAD CAT Transport, Trilogy Audio Systems 915R Reference Preamplifier and 995R Reference Monoblocks, and Verity Amadi Loudspeakers

Both the name of the company and the look of their products belie what I found to be the company's spirit. "CAD"—short, in this case, for Computer Audio Design, but more commonly denoting computer-aided design, evokes highly technical, inhuman stuff. The main CAD products on active display in this room at AXPONA—the CAD Audio Transport, the 1543 Mk II DAC, and various "Ground Control" boxes—are squared off and minimalist in design, resembling space objects from 2001: A Space Odyssey. The components' green logos evoked, for me, nothing so much as the eyes of aliens come to abduct us.

CAD, though, isn't like that at all. A British company run by an American expat, CAD is all about humanity and approachable music. Art Dudley would approve—I'm sure of it (except perhaps for the prices). In this room, there was much talk of rhythm and pace and flow and the deleterious effects of high-frequency noise.

CAD's technology—spearheaded by CEO and chief designer Scott Berry (the expat)—focuses on simplicity and reducing that high-frequency noise—EMI and RFI—which Berry believes is one of the main culprits—perhaps the main culprit—in digital-sounding digital sound. I think he might be right. I'm reminded, ironically, of analog days, when phono stages with very wide bandwidths often sounded grainy. At the time—1970s or so—many experts (including some Stereophile reviewers) attributed that grainy sound to noise above the audio band. Was that the predecessor of today's "digital" sound?

The 1543 Mk II DAC ($12,000) is non-oversampling, presumably to keep switching frequencies low and lower high-frequency noise. It uses a ladder architecture and vintage Philips TDA1543 DAC chips—one generation removed from the chips used in some of the earliest single-box DACs, such as Arcam's Delta Black Box. The case is made from acrylic.

The transport is dubbed CAD CAT ($14,000)—they call it a transport but it's actually a server with a transport built in. Put a CD in and it's automatically ripped to memory. The transport, too, is designed to reduce high-frequency noise and radiation. There appears to be a lot of technological sophistication here, aimed mostly at making CAD's products old-school. High tech for luddites. They also damp vibrations in their cables (CAD USB Cable II, $1500). Amplification was by Trilogy Audio Systems, a U.K. company: the 915R Reference Preamplifier ($18,900) and the 995R Reference Monoblocks ($14,800 each). Analog cabling was by the Swedish company Bibacord.

In addition to the more conventional components, CAD had also deployed a device called the Ground Control, which is aimed at reducing noise on ground wires, both signal ground and true earth ground. Ground Control prices range from $1995 to $21,500. Cables are an extra $350.

I spent half an hour or so in the CAD room, with the CAD server and DAC, the Trilogy amplifiers, and a pair of Verity Amadis S loudspeakers ($40,695 in the Makore finish), which, distinctively, feature rear-firing woofers. The component stand was Quadraspire's Evo, in Cherry. The power distribution block was from VIBEX. Power Cables were from The Chord Company, their entry level “Shawline” range.

I found the sound remarkably sweet and flowing, with good rhythm and pace, and full and rich. Those rear-firing woofers were producing a lot of low bass. I'm no luddite, but, despite its modest scale, this room is on my shortlist for best sound in show. There's no denying it though: There's nothing modest about the prices.

PAR's picture

As stands are being mentioned elsewhere is this series of reports it is only fair to mention what appears to be another British product in this system; a Quadraspire SVT rack supporting the CAD and Trilogy equipment.

NB: I have no affiliation to the company beyond that of a very satisfied customer who found that the product really does improve things compared with its predecessors in my system. So it too will have contributed to the sound that you enjoyed.

Jim Austin's picture
Good point, thanks--I neglected to mention: - The stand, which was Quadraspire Evo in Cherry - The power distribution block, which was VIBEX - The Power Cables, which were from The Chord Company, their entry level “Shawline” range. I'll add. Jim Austin, Editor Stereophile
Alan Tomlinson's picture

The word expat is excrement(I should know, I am one). People who leave countries where they were born to live somewhere else are called immigrants. The only reason the euphemism "expat" is used, is to suggest that we are somehow better than people who have less money who choose, or are forced by circumstances, to emigrate from their home country. Neither I, nor I suspect Mr. Berry, are better people than anyone else who moves to another country; we just have more money.

You may find this off-topic, or just plain stupid, but words matter. I assume no malice whatsoever and hope that the same courtesy be extended to me. This being the internet, I strongly suspect that I will not be given the benefit of the doubt. That said, Stereophile is published in a country where a significant minority, if not a majority, think that immigrants are bad, evil, vile, etc.

All that crap said, the equipment sounds intriguing. I have an Innuos Zen Mk. 2 and wonder how that compares.


Alan Tomlinson

Jim Austin's picture
As an editor, I spend a lot of time thinking about words. This idea was new to me. Five minutes of research turned up nothing except a dubious article in The Guardian newspaper, obviously written by someone with an agenda. True, Berry is white--a white person moving from one white-majority country to another--but if he hadn't been I would still have written 'expat. And 'expat' is better because it does not, like Immigrant, depend on whether or not he intends to stay there forever. Yes, words matter, but that word is used correctly. My Best, Jim Austin, Editor Stereophile
Alan Tomlinson's picture

I appreciate your thoughtful response. I live in a country not of my birth. I moved here for the indefinite future and I have no idea what tomorrow will bring; I might leave(although I doubt it). I'm glad that you considered the issue rather than rejecting my response out-of-hand.

When I went through the immigration process, there were a lot of people from other countries who had a much harder time with the authorities(certainly on the basis of policy, probably culturally as well) than I ever did. Ultimately, I think it's important that I be honest about having won the birth lottery, rather than being in any way more worthy of the trust of the government of my adopted country. In my experience, people who are poor, tend to work much harder than people who are not. The irony of my receiving residency here quickly and relatively painlessly primarily because I had money and secondarily because I fit in culturally is bittersweet. In many ways, a poorer immigrant might well have "contributed" more to this country than I ever will. I have digressed however and for that I apologise.

Thank you once again for your kindness in responding.

Kind regards,

Alan Tomlinson

ok's picture

"expatriate" is a word of graeco-roman origins normally being used by fellow countrymen, since “patria” proper is meant as one’s own homeland whichever that is in a given context. It therefore is as perfectly natural for Jim to call an american immigrant “expat” as unidiomatic is conversely for a foreign person to do thus; anyway nothing remotely related to current enmity politics whatsoever.

Charles E Flynn's picture

The Oxford English Dictionary gives no hint that the word "expatriate" is a pejorative. The earliest usage citation is from a letter by Shelley written in 1812. "Expat" is defined as the colloquial form. The definition is concise:

An expatriated person. In modern usage, a person who lives in a foreign country.

Draft additions 1993

b. Of, pertaining to, or being an expatriate; living in a foreign country esp. by choice.