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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Source: Zanden Audio Model 2000P/5000S; Consonance Droplet CDP-5.0 [on loan]
Preamp/Integrated: ModWright SWL 9.0SE; Music First Audio Passive Magnetic
Amp: AudioSector Patek SE; Yamamoto A-08S; Canary Audio CD-308 [on review]
Speakers: Zu Cable Definition Mk 1.5; Gallo Acoustics Reference 3
Cables: Zanden Audio proprietary I²S cable, Stealth Audio Indra (x2), Zu Cable Varial (x2) and Ibis; Crystal Cable Reference power cords; Zu Cable Birth on Definitions; ZCable Hurricane power cords on both conditioners
Stands: 1 x Grand Prix Audio Monaco four-tier
Powerline conditioning: 2 x Walker Audio Velocitor S
Sundry accessories: GPA Formula Carbon/Kevlar shelf for transport; GPA Apex footers underneath stand, DAC and amp; Walker Audio SST on all connections; Walker Audio Vivid CD cleaner; Furutech RD-2 CD demagnetizer; WorldPower cryo'd Hubbell wall sockets
Room size: 30' w x 18' d x 10' h [sloping ceiling] in long-wall setup in one half, with open adjoining living room for a total of ca.1000 squ.ft floor plan
Review Component Retail: $2,795

Front panel simplification is both an aesthetic and interface boon to combat clutter. Still, it's odd that for the CD-100, Canary did not add the missing fascia functions on their black metal remote as expected. The wand merely mirrors the basics and adds "repeat". That's it. No direct track access. No display off or dim. No program. No random play. No time mode cycle. Certain shoppers will call this an unforgivable oversight no matter how good this machine might sound.

On the upside, there's XLR and RCA S/PDIF digital outs as well as optical and balanced and single-ended analog outs. The blue frontal display is typical Sony in how the block of total tracks flashes the current track, then deletes it from view as the next track commences.

The CD-100 goes Sony not just for its transport but also for the 24/192 DAC, an unusual move away from Burr-Brown and Analog Devices. Like the Canary amps, the CD-100 uses large Hovland MusiCaps® and other top quality parts. Its "custom-wound toroid transformer is housed in a metal can filled with epoxy to eliminate vibration."

Both transport and transformer benefit from solid Teflon mounts to avoid direct-coupling to the chassis.

A 2V/4V line-out for the RCA and XLR sockets respectively shows a true differential circuit, something that a phone call to Canary Audio confirmed. This is a fully balanced machine. Published S/N ratio and dynamic range of >118dB and >116dB respectively are unusually high for a valved digital circuit while channel separation of >85dB is more in line with such expectations. Distortion is claimed as <0.005%. The player is sizeable at 19" W x 16.5" D x 4.75 H and uncommonly stout at 50 lbs. Thermal stability of the circuit to de-mute the outputs is accomplished in ca. 60 seconds. The gold-anodized dress plate on the drawer of my review loaner had dislodged sideways during transit to jam the drawer behind the fascia. Removing the top cover and recentering the plate fixed it but Canary Audio should revisit that attachment to prevent customers from crying "Uncle" when unpacking their newest acquisition and finding it apparently damaged.

A relay activates each time you hit 'play', 'next' or 'back'. This is similar to how the auto-muting circuit in the Eastern Electric MiniMax player has been mechanically bypassed. In the CD-100, this isn't audible from the listening seat and was noticed only when I did headphone listening and had the player within reach (this click is not in the signal path but simply a small mechanical noise). Let's take a quick pre-listen measure based on the precedent set by Consonance Audio's overachieving Droplet CDP-5.0. At a mere $200 more, it's plainly a direct competitor. With full remote functionality and variable outputs, it exceeds the Californian since -- by virtue of its 2 x 6H30 output stage -- it can be run amp-direct without booking the usual compromises of lacking tone and weight. In build quality, both players aim very high. The Droplet's cosmetics are clearly more flamboyant, the Canary's more conventional. Both make strong - ahem, cases depending on taste. The Chinese player's top-loading nature could be a further notch in its belt. Some customers believe drawers to be less reliable (though computer users know a few things to the contrary).

From a pure feature perspective, the Canary plays second fiddle to the Consonance (and in fact does so even compared to $179 Electric Avenue specials when you think about it). The question remains whether its sonics obliterate any such un-audiophile creature comfort hagglings? For those with deeper purses, a forthcoming top-loading Canary Audio SACD player will package the whole nine yards. The CD-100 is aimed at those who'll forgive the missing features and want performance. How about it then? Let's take 'er for a spin and report back soon.
Manufacturer's website