As David Graham of Scottish import house Elite Audio UK had promised, "I'll send both units configured for Roon on an account we supply the details of. In addition there's a 1TB drive loaded with music files. So you'll be able to access the CX's local library and your own." Since I'm no Roon user—I prefer to own music and tag it in iTunes—I asked David for a TeamViewer session. So he accessed our music iMac remotely to configure things. I had their kit on the network through the same hardwired switch which runs back to our router via 30m of CAT5. Once Roon had imported my iTunes library, it was amalgamated with the solid-state drive's files. If I ran my Tidal or Qobuz subscriptions in this system, Roon would have promptly incorporated their libraries as well. Since I don't, it was locally hosted files exclusively. That's because artists ought to get properly paid for their work. For the vast majority of musicians, streaming subscriptions do not. That's why I only use those subscriptions on my work desk – to learn what music I want to buy next.
Wiring up the Kiwis was simple. Via the provided CAT links, it was from our Ethernet switch into the CX's red RJ45 input*. Its black isolated RJ45 output fed the EX which tapped a C.E.C. DA0.30 DAC via double-header red KingRex USB. A companion C.E.C. TL-2N belt drive transport via I²S over 4 x 75Ω BNC fed the same DAC to host legacy CD spin classes. On the DAC, switching between USB and SuperLink selected transports – one an optical polycarbonate reader, the other an elaborate magnetic SSD reader. The iMac's Roon window selected the music. The rest of the signal path were the Vinnie Rossi L2 Signature preamplifier with Elrog ER50, LinnenberG Lizst monaural power amps and Audio Physic Codex 4-way speakers.
* "Our whole design ethos is to maximize bandwidth and minimize noise in tandem. There is an art in that. This is in contrast to the approach of competitors who are about 5 years behind. They address noise by filtering it. This will give you tonally nice but musically boring sound. The red port should connect to the network and the black port to the EX and this is nothing to do with sound quality. The Direct Ethernet works because of isolation between the ports rather than filtering."
In hard currency, this stack triangulated €5'995 for the C.E.C. optical drive against €9'760 for the Antipodes streaming/rendering drives. On access, it pitted a very lonely CD against a horde of thousands of files backed by the cloud-based immensity which hid behind the two local libraries. On user convenience, twice the coin bought enormity squared, thus runaway advantages.
Next I must preface that the C.E.C. combo eclipses our resident Jay's Audio CDT2 MkII + Denafrips Terminator transport/DAC combo on spaciousness, dimensionality and DSD-type suaveness. The majority of that lead goes to the DAC. Some is also due to the transport. Now the silvery two-box streamer with its green-for-go circular lights—orange is for standby—proved to be the belt drive's equal.
That meant that advanced listeners like Kevin & Lynn Scott of Living Voice who'd arranged for this C.E.C. loan and made available their personal converter could finally enjoy streaming on par with their favorite digital for CD. Their context are the world's arguably most ambitious hornspeakers, the Vox Olympians; valve electronics of Kondo pedigree as a company they've represented for 16 years; and analogue of Grand Prix Audio standards. With my C.E.C. loan acting as personal reference for what they demand of digital, I finally had a serious streaming recommendation for these analog purists who until now hadn't been able to get behind streaming.