Superior sonics are the main drive to pursue a dedicated digital transport where due to critical mechanics, reliability and spare parts are key. Here Denafrips assure us of a big in-house inventory of CDM4/19 spares. Raw reliability reports rely on long-term use far in excess of what a review encounter provides. Here one banks on a brand's customer service where Vinshine Audio's reputation scores tops. For sonics, reviewers ideally contrast equivalent hardware in direct A/B. But I had no competing transport on hand, just our usual SD card readers. My review will thus contrast Avatar to them; to the music iMac with locally hosted files and PureMusic in our main system; and there explore the unique clock-sync feature into the T+. For first card vs. disc action, we stay upstairs to contrast Soundaware D100Pro and Avatar into the standard Terminator. Software was either stamped CD or CDR vs. the same tracks either ripped off the stamped CD or downloaded as .flac/aiff then burnt to CDR to sidestep all provenance issues.

Relying on both lesser tracks like Mercan Dede's "Kapadokya" or Mohamed Rouane's "Heureux dans la tristesse" and premium recordings like Salar Aghili's "Negar", it took the second sort to call out subtle changes.

Over Avatar, textures were slightly more matte/soft hence tone veered a tick to the warmer. For magnetic not optical read-out, the D100Pro had fractionally more HF gloss/sheen so a hint more emphasis on the leading edge. This was subtle and of such a narrow delta that you'd forget about it in seconds. Still, condensed down to their essence, we'd call the spinning media slightly softer, mellower and bloomier, the stationary media with zero moving parts just marginally more shiny, sharp and damped. One can easily mock up similar but stronger offsets with cables.

The real takeaway from extensive prior experience is that either trumps PCfi of computer⇒USB DAC. That's the case even if the latter is the exact same Terminator. It's why our upstairs systems use SD transports. They sound better than laptops & Co. It's why our main system runs the ultra-capped Soundaware D300Ref as the iMac's USB reclocker and regenerator; or as an SD card transport which, by again a small sliver, still eclipses the decrapified USB stream. As others on our staff have found, CD spun with a contemporary player/transport still has it over most sophisticated streamers; or pulls even. Before you trash a fully loaded iMac, there's good reason why I'm on our third and not an 'audiophile' streamer instead. I reviewed those. The costliest would have bought four Macs. With Audirvana or PureMusic and our reclocker I²S to DAC, the combo equals bespoke streamers then adds superior functionality. Our WiFi-allergic household also despises the servers' tablet remotes. WiFi gives us headaches. Like CD, that makes us dinosaurs. But as critical listeners, it makes us informed enough to know that on sheer sonics, the olden ways remain perfectly up to date. Often in fact, they're still superior. To know that, you simply must try them again. Go back to the future. To bet on today's future, we'll go downstairs.

CD vs. PC. It's not very PC to claim that CD can still beat it. Such matters simply don't give a bleep about political correctness. I had the same playlist on CDR and iMac/PureMusic. Avatar clock-sync'd to T+. So did Gaia. To compare spinning with streaming media, I merely reseated one 75Ω clock cable and swapped an AudioQuest Coffee HDMI. Both readings aced all the audiophile pressure points. The remaining difference wasn't any of it. Now even experienced listeners with a loquacious vocabulary toss the audiophile dictionary and talk about feelings. It's where—sorry bench testers who can't follow—our utterly subjective response enters. I don't review by committee or with colleagues. I only have my very own reaction. For whatever that's worth…

… CD was (gulp!) juicier!

Even though I do suspect that streaming files was even quieter to perhaps win on slightly higher contrast ratio, without fail particularly vocals felt more fluid, free and physical on CD. The file equivalents felt drier and slightly more staid.

On convenience of course the iMac crushed it. Even 80-min CDR sink against a 3GB hard drive stacked with music; or the unlimited cloud where physical discs just cry tears in the rain. On expense meanwhile, Avatar mauled the fully loaded iMac with max RAM plus Gaia. That it also just edged them out sonically and did so with just one box was extra embarrassing.