The heavy disc stabilizer covers the entirety of the CD surface. Once the lid closes…

… the table of contents reads in automatically. Shortly after the player goes into 1st track pause mode.

After reading out the disc's contents, the display will progress to '1 0:00'

Perhaps because for C.E.C. this isn't a heavyweight flagship but a model positioned at their portfolio's shallower end, the accompanying remote control was a plain plastic job. Here cognoscenti could wish for a full metal wand like our ~€1'700 Jay's Audio CDT2 MkII has; or today's C.E.C. companion DAC. SuperLink isn't activated by the TL-2N—there's no command for it—but when the matching DAC connects. That must send a trigger code to the transport and lights up its blue SuperLink text whence external I²S transmission is live. The DA0.30's display confirmed with 24/44.1kHz and I had sound. The obvious first test to conduct was SuperLink vs. AES/EBU on the TL-2N; then compare its AES/EBU output to that of our CDT2 MkII. The first test would show if and how I²S was superior, period. The second test would isolate the belt-drive's contribution to my Transporter movie. For instant toggling, I had burnt two identical CD. Each transport would spin simultaneously and be selected at will as the DAC's AES/EBU input 1 or 2.

As it turned out, SuperLink overrode all other inputs. For those to even show as DAC selectable, its four BNC had to disconnect first. So I kicked off with the easier round. Here I learnt that unlike ours, C.E.C.'s transport strangely won't repeat single tracks, only an entire album. So I ran through my disc front to back and switched between transports on the go until a faint pattern emerged. This was about how transients registered. Think of 't' and 'd' sounds. The former have the crisper, the latter the softer start. Tattle kicks off differently than doodle. This was a subtle but consistent distinction. To my ears, it manifested primarily in how I heard focus and rhythmic perspicacity. On both counts, our transport played it stronger or crisper, the belt drive softer and more relaxed. Again, this was a very minor shift. To my mind and on its own, it wouldn't justify spending thrice more on the C.E.C. But having already played the I²S ⇒ AES/EBU ⇒ coax games with our transport, I'd arrived at that sequence of best to worst. I was quite certain that the same would hold true for the C.E.C.

And so it was. This became a significant move upward on contrast, clarity and dimensional specificity. By contrast I mean the 'pop factor' of how sounds show up against jet-black silence. Higher contrast ratio meant more suchness and greater clarity. From those qualities arose a third. Individual sounds grew more specific to their surrounding context in the recording venue. Here it was immaterial whether reverb cues were original acoustic or subsequent electronic manipulations, whether the soundscapes were real or masterfully built up on the recording console. All of the markers whereby our ear/brain more readily buys into the overlay of an 'other' acoustic onto our own were stronger. This shortened the emotional distance to the playback illusion.

Clearly TL-2N ownership is, or ought to be, predicated upon using SuperLink. Now the softer more fluid/organic hints of its AES/EBU connection increase in potency whilst in parallel the sense of presence and dimensionality scales up. Aside from C.E.C.'s own D/A converter, those with the matching four BNC from Ancient Audio and B.M.C. should work. Admittedly that makes for a very short list of prospective candidates. But when used with its external I²S protocol, the TL-2N really does blossom. Now its slower response times to queuing up particular tracks become a charming reminder of its anachronistic belt drive.