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"Elegy for Violin and Orchestra" from Cinema Symphony - Andrew Pearce [Moviescore Media MMS-08023]. This is the first time Moviescore Media has released a non soundtrack. Stunning symphonic debut from composer Andrew Pearce, it's partially homage but assembled as a fresh and unique work that becomes the composer‘s own. Uniformly excellent material performed by the Royal Scottish National orchestra under José Serebrier. Wide dynamics and credible soundstage. This cut is a full-fledged romantic violin piece that will tear your heartstrings. Beautiful work by soloist Miriam Kramer and a keeper that is becoming well worn.

"Robert Johnson: Defiled is my Name" from the i furiosi baroque ensemble album of the same name [IF001]. This talented ensemble borrows from the membership of the legendary Tafelmusik Orchestra to strike out in new and exciting directions. Soaring vocals with amazing presence captured in the acoustic of a church. Complex information with rich decay.

"Ricercar for solo cello" from the same CD gives a marvelous interplay of instrument against acoustic. Does for this instrument what Antiphone Blues did for the saxophone.

"Firth of Fifth" from Selling England by the Pound - Genesis [Atlantic CD82675]  is classic 70s' keyboard Rock with an ambitious instrumental soundscape layered with rich textures. A style of orchestration and instrumentation now historical artefact.

"Snowdrop" and "Shooting Star" from Stardust/Music from the Motion Picture - Ilan Eshkeri [Decca B0009821-02] is an enjoyable little romp which borrows styles from several composers and is assembled with some tongue in cheek. These cuts offer close-miked material with delicacy juxtaposed against dynamic power. Recording has detail and charm but is strained at louder levels, running out of headroom before the performers do.

"Suite in E Major" from the Aufs Lautenberg Music by J.S Bach - Ken Heindel [Dorian DIS-80126] captures the dynamic attack and long decay of the lute harpsichord in a generous acoustic with excellent warmth.

"Guarjira Antigua" from Top 12 in Gold Plus [GS DXD 001] is another excellent Winston Ma sampler using 24/352.8 mastering. There is tremendous midrange dimensionality and authenticity with masterful finger work on the guitar.

"Variations from Butterfly Violin Concerto" from the same CD has silky liquid highs and captures the body and string of the violin as well as remarkable complexity of resonance from the body of the piano.

"Slave to Love" from Bryan Ferry The Best of the Ballads [Virgin 7243 8 49585 2 7] is a combination of the stylization that Bryan Ferry lends to music. His almost cabaret inflection is rich, textured and sultry, with deeply dimensional soundstages and thick ambiance. This HDCD recording allowed me to explore decoding capabilities.

"Blue Light Red Light" from Harry Connick Jr.'s Red Light Blue Light  [Columbia CK48685] is a big-band orchestra recording with remarkably good instrument placement, transparency and attack.

Going through my usual checklist of attributes, there was little to fault. Noise was never an issue from any input excluding the unusual compatibility quirk with the Acousticbuoy DAC. No hum, no tube noise. Any theoretical benefits of balanced operation in this specific regard were subtle. The perception was of a very low noise floor where the music emerged out of darkness and illuminated the acoustic around it. Dynamics were quite wide on all outputs, with SS exhibiting the most overt hard contrasts and edge but losing some dynamic shading compared not only to the other outputs but especially against the Acousticbuoy DAC. On an absolute basis the Acousticbuoy was the better machine with a wider palette of dynamic information and better resolution. Still, the Audio Space CDP 8A was close enough to keep the contest interesting. An upgraded power cord made an appreciable difference as did better isolation feet. The CDP 8A gained resolution and dynamics and diminished the performance differences between tube and SS output in the lowermost octaves, with the tubes gaining a fair bit of control. The balanced output was the best of the three by retaining the unbalanced tube output’s dimensionality but adding a further measure of resolving power. Some may prefer the harder edge of the transistor output.

On an absolute basis, the unit was mildly forgiving on all outputs and aimed more at musical enjoyment than analytical perspective. The frequency balance was quite neutral, closest overall to the Acousticbuoy DAC. Its failings were a slight lack of refinement in the upper octaves and a slightly over-enthusiastic extreme bottom end. There the CDP8A exhibited a slight rise compared to the Luxman and Acousticbuoy DAC regardless of output. For those with speakers or subwoofers with level adjustments, this is of no consequence. For those with speakers that could use a little bit of assistance in this range, it will be a welcome characteristic.

The midrange of the CDP 8A matched the dimensionality of the Luxman, albeit with a reduction in overall resolving power. Tonal authenticity was quite good and running in balanced mode, the Audio Space CD player made a rather wonderful match with the midrange of the Soundmaster preamp, affording me some of the better performance in that range I have encountered. The combination of the 12AX7s married to the PX4/n tubes was incredibly convincing.

High frequencies had good extension, their character dependant on output choice. SS was driest but certainly never harsh. The balanced tube output was smoothest, achieving sweetness with ample bite on instruments. The unbalanced tube output split the difference by being a little less smooth in response, with a mild upper midrange elevation. This was especially noticeable against the neutrality of the Acousticbuoy DAC but had the side effect of injecting a little more life into that range. By contrast, my Luxman was slightly superior in smoothness but the CDP 8-A had the better treble extension on all outputs.

Focus was good although a bit diffuse against the Acousticbuoy DA 2488 especially on the tube outputs. As a result, the images of the CDP 8-A were mildly diffuse via the other two sources. Outboard resonance control improved that to narrow the performances differences between the tube and SS outputs and also against the DAC2488 and Luxman. The soundstage was wide and relatively deep, its best performance achieved with the Space Master preamp. Comparisons? The Luxman matched the width of the Audio Space with slightly superior depth. The higher priced Acousticbuoy DAC produced a marginally narrower soundstage but had the greatest  focus.

In terms of depth, the CDP 8A lacked the sophistication and higher resolving power of the steeper priced competition and came off a little flatter in overall perspective. If depth was not its strongest suit, the Audio Space did have another area of strength where it stood apart. The CDP 8A produced greater projection power in the upper midrange than either the Luxman or the Acousticbuoy DAC. This created a better illusion of dimensionality and solidity. Material which had 'phasey' effects like 70s' rock came off with a 3D presentation that was closer to its analog counterpart. While this occurred on both the tube and transisotr outputs, it was most convincing in balanced configuration where it retained the unbalanced tube output’s dimensionality but gained control and detail especially in the upper octaves. While I cannot vouch for the absolute accuracy of this effect, I cannot deny the amount of musical immersion it created.

The overall performance of this deck was always competitive against the other digital sources I had on hand. It was never embarrassed by any serious deficiencies and always acquitted itself with an engaging and lively presentation. Itse errors were primarily of omission insofar as it couldn’t match the resolving power of the Acousticbuoy DAC or in some portions of the spectrum, the modified Luxman CD. It also lacked the ultimate level of depth those machines could carve out. That said, the player responded well to upgrades in power cord and resonance control, improving significantly and making the contest a much closer call especially when run balanced. The CDP 8A also demonstrated its own advantage in dimensionality and projection in the upper midrange and as a result, the Audio Space materialized as a surprisingly adept digital source that held its own and was never less than enjoyable.

The HDCD decoding lent another interesting point in its favor. On the handful of encoded recordings I had in my collection, the CPR 8A did indeed pull a bit more information from these discs for a higher quality of playback than either the other player or DAC could manage.

The performance variations of the multiple outputs made life entertaining and should be of particular interest to those who have wrestled with divided loyalties between the tube and transistor camps. The character differences were classic examples of both approaches. The transistors demonstrated faster transient response, harder leading edges and superior transparency. The tubes were a dynamically a little softened but boasted a more immersive soundscape with greater projection and dimensionality. Liquidity or transparency? With this unit there’s no need for withdrawal pangs or guilt. The CDP 8A introduces an element of decadent fun for instantaneous indulgence on either side of the fence.

The Audio Space player also exhibited that intangible factor where the whole amounted to considerably more than the sum of the parts. Yes it had flaws but when the music began, those deficiencies became relatively inconsequential. The presentation was involving and shifted attention more onto the performers than on the equipment which, ultimately, should be the goal.

Did David get the better of my Goliath DAC loaner? Not on an absolute basis. The standalone Acousticbuoy gave a sizeable level of refinement and improvement to justify its loftier price. On a comparative basis, the Audio Space conducted itself with reasonable distinction especially in balanced mode where it narrowed the performance gap further. In combination with the Space Master preamplifier, it achieved an astonishing level of synergy which did honor to both components and showed the CDP 8-A in its best light. It shed its budget-conscious status and achieved a considerably more upscale sound quality.

There are audiophiles who simply must have the absolute best. This player probably won't satisfy them. If you are willing to set your sights a bit lower, the CDP 8A offers a surprising level of performance that comes close, with deficiencies that are never glaringly obvious. In the grand scheme, the Audio Space occupies a useful niche. It is affordable enough to be considered an upscale budget component and engineered well enough to deliver legitimate High End performance. With the Audio Space CDP 8A, Peter Lau has built an overachiever that’s easy to enjoy and sets a musical standard worthy of consideration as a budget reference. 

Who should be interested? The price makes the CDP 8A remarkably appealing to anyone looking for a high-quality single box solution without breaking the bank. It’s going to interest the audiophile with a good CD collection who can’t decide between a tube or transistor DAC and wants to delay the decision indefinitely (plus gain a balanced output in the bargain). It will also be a good choice for those searching for a stalwart performer to hold them over until they move to the next generation of download technology. If you fall into these categories, perhaps you‘ve found your CD player. It's really an easy recommendation for the fun-loving budget conscious audiophile who wants more than a taste of the good stuff. Sold through authorized dealers.

Quality of packing:
Double shipping box. Product well protected with a frame of thick formed foam.
Reusability of packing: Yes.
Condition of components received: Minor tray problem with first sample. Perfect the second time.
Delivery: Hand-delivered by Canadian distributor Charisma Audio.
Website comments: Well laid out. Informative. Distributor information up to date. Company website in need of updating regarding current CD product lineup.
Human interactions: Professional and friendly.
Warranty: 1 year parts and labor warranty.   
Final comments & suggestions: Strong on performance for the price, in fact strong enough that I purchased it to stay on as a benchmark.   
Audio Space website
Canadian importer's website