The emperor's new clothes? During a phone chat with Igor Kante, for my review of his Ubiq Audio Model One loudspeaker and Ubiqu DAC/amp, I learnt that a smaller Ubiqu was coming. Where the 300wpc Ubiqu integrates a slightly modified MSB Analog DAC, the 200wpc Ubiqu would include the DAC stage of the Gold Note CD-1000. In his 20-year old distribution shoppe in Slovenia, Igor carries many upscale brands including Gold Note. When the time came to augment his speaker project with gear, Igor meant to combine a domestically designed modular and scaleable amp with a top converter and precision volume control for ultra-short signal paths and better performance. Knowing that he couldn't do better than MSB's Analog DAC, he secured an OEM licensing contract. For his downscaled Ubiqu, his DAC of choice will be the CD-1000's. Even before the Italian deck landed, this was an unexpected endorsement.

Popping its 6mm thick lid by first undoing the equally chunky side panels fixing it in place—this joint was seriously cased out—revealed a half-empty box with a basic output stage of the below socketed BurrBrown OPA2228P opamps following "a class A 'SoundPlus' FET" input stage.

The USB transceiver board revolves around an XMOS chip with a single large clock.

Here we see a TI LM1972M on-chip stereo volume control which the display says attenuates by 63.5dB (the part's application notes say 78dB). Clearly the one-box CD-1000's leitmotif is IC based before a multi-pronged upgrade path intones variations on discrete. My loaner included a rebranded metal/plastic optional upgrade remote over the standard wand. Once set to 'CD', it could navigate inputs and change the volume which had arrived preset to -19.5dB. The big blue-on-black display was easily legible from across the room and whilst not multi-stage dimmable, could be turned off. Volume displayed as dual mono to also show channel balance even though "L and R balance is not available on this model so disregard those buttons on the remote". After a few seconds, volume readout reverted to chosen input which, sans signal, said 'USB in, unlock' (or the equivalent for other digital inputs). Under signal, 'unlock' was replaced by 'fs 176.4kHz' or whatever other sample rate the incoming data carried.

The slow Austrian transport moved with a bit of mechanical noise, closed with a minor clunk, then took a few seconds to read the TOC. Direct track commands—such as inputting 13—required being followed by 'play' or otherwise would go unnoticed. There was no 'time remain' mode. The display simply showed the current track, play and time elapsed. When engaged, 'repeat track' or 'repeat all' would replace 'play' to remain permanently visible. Not having spun CDs in many years, I felt like an archeologist back in school. In my first class I learnt that when the slot is empty, the front panel 'back' and 'next' buttons will toggle sequentially through the inputs. Volume up/down however wasn't equally double coded. That does require the remote to be essential in preamp mode. My first inspection called the outer CD-1000 of bank-vault build in the very best Esoteric tradition; and the inner CD-1000 rather bare-boned to leave room for the very extensive upgrade options. A loaded-to-the-gills Aqua Hifi this wasn't.