Hear No Evil: KEF, Kimber, and the Parasound CD 1

Even as my dear friend Michael Lavorgna lays down the law in the Wild Wild West that is Computer Audio and continues to rid himself of Compact Discs, I find myself more and more attracted to the little silver discs and their associated players. So I was happy to learn about Parasound’s new CD 1, which adds a computer to the conventional CD player.

Parasound’s Richard Schram explained: “We’re convinced there are enough people out there who love audio and who still don’t trust computers. We think they’ll welcome an extraordinary way of playing their CDs.”

The Parasound CD 1 ($5000) uses a precision CD-ROM drive and an Intel computer running Linux with software developed by Denmark’s Holm Acoustics. The CD 1 is said to spin CDs four times faster than a CD drive, with a far lower error rate. Schram continued, “Every part of the disc is read at least two times. If the reads match, it’ll move forward.” The data goes into a buffer and is analyzed by the Linux computer. "If the data doesn't match, the CD 1 will read and re-read the disc until it’s verified the accuracy of every bit.”

The CD data is clocked by the CD 1’s computer to achieve “near-flawless” accuracy, for jitter that is barely measurable: “Less than 10 picoseconds,” according to Schram. Users can also select between the CD 1’s low-noise op-amp output stage and a discrete circuit by pressing a simple front-panel button.

In addition, there are two digital power supplies and a separate analog power supply derived from the JC 3 phono preamplifier. All sections are fully shielded.

What doesn’t the CD 1 do? There are no external data inputs, but a standalone DAC will be available soon, perhaps by the end of next month.

In a room sponsored by Denver's Hear No Evil, the CD 1 played in a system made of KEF Reference 201/2 loudspeakers, Parasound amplification, and Kimber Kable. I listened to “The Girl from Ipanema,” off of 50 Years of Popular Music, KEF’s 50th anniversary CD, and it sounded delicate, detailed, and present, with the subtle rhythmic interplay between bass and guitar easy and fun to follow.

volvic's picture

I have a sizeable collection of CD's and I ain't gonna put them in storage and invest in computer audio in particular when it is in its infancy, but perhaps one of the spinoffs and overlap of the computer industry might mean a certain hybrid of sorts in CD replay.  I work in the IT field and continously deal with the frustrations of making different platforms "talk" to one another, I certainly don't have the time to learn how different hardware/protocols work in the audio world and would certainly not want to transfer over 4000 cd's to a hard drive that might fail one day, etc, etc.  Having said that I have heard great sonic benefits to computer audio, just don't want to invest more moula into other hardware.  But if companies like Parasound can merge both technologies into something that will push the envelope forward while at the same providing sonic benefits to the CD medium with out making a sizeable change to my hardware then I for one applaud them for their effort and product and hope this is a sign of great things to come.  


LM2940's picture

"I find myself more and more attracted to the little silver discs and their associated players"

Same here. It's still nice to have a physical medium and CDs just work. Put it in, press play and listen. Simple. Ahhh, isn't that nice?

volvic's picture

Stephen and I am paraphrasing, but I recall on this site a long time ago where you said that those shiny little silver discs were transitory storage mediums that would not be held in the same esteem as vinyl discs, so I love hearing that you are drawn to those little discs and their players.   I still think - and this is my own humble opinion, that those shiny little discs while not as popular as they once were, are not in imminent demise as we have been led to believe.  While the free market is deciding their fate I still believe there will always be people like us who will want to interact with a physical medium, and who knows there might end up being a CD revival if no clear standard/format in computer audio wins the day or captures the consumer market's imagination or the audiophile's imagination.  Well said LM2940.  


Stephen Mejias's picture

I still feel that CDs lack the value of LPs.  I just like CDs more than computers.  It's just that all my life I have done the opposite of what everyone tells me to do.  And I'm a late adopter.  Ten years from now, I'll probably buy my first computer.

volvic's picture

Glad to hear you were a late adopter,  I purchased my first CD in 2000 but purchased my first computer in 1989 and I still prefer CD's to computers.  

fkrausz's picture

I am vehemently opposed to the use of the ungrammatical phrase "off of" in place of "from".

Pro-Audio-Tech's picture

This Parasound gear appears to offer a great value in high end audio.

Amps, preamp, phono stage, and now CD player all looking good for the bucks!

Spacetime's picture

Cool player but nothing new under the sun... if I remember correctly PS Audio PWT or Rockna WQ are doing this for over 3 years now..

solo man's picture

This is most certainly the finest cd transport ever in my home. Am using it in companion with a Nuforce DDA-100 so can't comment on the dac/player aspect. Straight to the conclusion ... the best and most consistent audio reproduction in my experience. The holograph of sound is actual. The telling is in my ear. Product of the Year please! After 30 years of CD histrionics they finally got it right.

The unit has yet to even once misread a second of sound. All defects, nicks, pits, whatever are read as if the error did not exist. That is not subjective as is my above conclusion.

mnbasser's picture

I have always been a big fan of Parasound and felt there products always gave the best bang for the buck in the industry.  I never really considered their products to be in the upper eschelon of highend products on the market....until now.

All I'm saying is that you have to hear this CD player in person.  If you have a large red book collection and don't own a lot of SACDs, this player is worth giving an audition.  I listen to vinyl, CDs, computer feeds to higher end DACs as well as a SONOS into high end dacs.  I have not really listened to a CDs that much in the last three years as most of my collection has been ripped to hard drives.   I had a chance to spend some time with the CD player and it  is remarkable.  Significantly better than my computer/SONOS play back. The reason I left CD players three years ago.  was my play back from the hard drive was better than my CD players.   Not anymore, the CD-1 has changed things again.  Hard to believe.

Big sound stage, air around the instruments, detailed  yet musical and no digital glare to speak of.  I would put this player up agaist anything on the market now. 

If you wondering why a company would come out with a $4,500 player that only plays CDs like I was, go listen to one and you will say.  Ah, I get it now, this is a damn good player.

solo man's picture

To build on my previous comment about the undetectable error correction: the facility has limits. Though the CD-1 was able to read discs perfectly that could not be read by my other 4 reference players (all more $ than the cd-1), it is not superman. This weekend we found one disc that could be read but caused the drive to vibrate excessively. Another disc was so badly scratched that it was audible and finally caused the drive to stop.

Another issue is the ambient sound level of the drive. Because of the higher speed (4X) yes it can be heard on "pause". It is not as silent as a cd audio drive. One wonders if almost the same level of error correction could be provided by a drive running slower, say 2X.