Acoustic Transducer Company. As per the British manufacturer’s lesser-known unabbreviated name, ATC is best known for its loudspeakers: actives taking up residence in the some of the world’s finest recording studios and a consumer range – actives and passives – continuing to impress at home. Being well-versed in active loudspeaker design means ATC also know a thing or two about electronics, specifically amplifiers and DACs.
This week ATC announce the availability of the CDA2 MK2 – an outboard D/A converter whose sleek-looking chassis has been fashioned from steel and aluminium with any airborne resonances tamed by constrained layer damping.
From Wikipedia: “Constrained-layer damping is a mechanical engineering technique for suppression of vibration. Typically a viscoelastic or other damping material is sandwiched between two sheets of stiff materials that lack sufficient damping by themselves.”
Starting ’round back, we note S/PDIF coaxial, TOSLINK and asynchronous USB digital inputs, each feeding a 32bit internal DAC chip from Japan’s AKM.
The CDA2 MK2’s USB input handles DSD natively up to DSD256 and PCM up to 384kHz, ensuring a broad range of file compatibility for those who like to swim in the shallow waters poured by hi-res audio.
It’s easy to get excited about the promise of broader hi-res PCM or DSD availability – often the sound of audiophile idealism. The reality is where pragmatism lives; it tells us that the majority of the music arriving at our hard drives comes via CD ripping software or download sites like Bandcamp or is piped into the house via ‘Hifi’ streaming tiers offered by Tidal, Deezer or Qobuz.
The Music-First Audiophile wants a D/A converter that sounds great with Redbook content. We have no reason to suspect the ATC box won’t. Also on our functionality wants list is a broad range of connectivity. Upon seeing a TOSLINK input, the Music-First Audiophile will see the potential for a TV hook-up long before his/her mind turns to HDtracks downloads.
This is where ATC’s CDA2 MK2 really steps up: it’s also CD player, the mechanism coming from TEAC. Global CD sales might be trending downward – and sharply – but those with existing collections needn’t be left out in the cold. Besides, how long before the CD becomes fetishized for its physicality (as per the cassette tape)? People like to buy and touch their music. And in the age of digital files there comes a point where people begin to miss owning stuff.
For headphone listeners, a 6.4mm socket, albeit unusually placed on the back panel. According to ATC, the CDA2 MK2’s all-discrete headphone amplifier circuit is capable of driving input impedances up to 600 Ohms and down to 30 Ohms. Rounding out the unit’s analogue inputs, a high sensitivity 3.5mm socket (also on the back panel) invites smartphones and media players to the party.
The main event for active loudspeaker and/or power amplifier owner is the CDA2 MK2’s Class A pre-amplification circuit, outputting via single-ended or balanced XLR sockets, making it an all-in-one front end for any loudspeaker system.
On improvements over the first generation model, ATC says, “Supporting the DAC, the Mk2’s power supply architecture employs no fewer than nine additional high-performance voltage regulators, and local power supply decoupling has been improved from the Mk1…”
The press release takes an über technical turn with the following: “…both input and output gain stages have been improved by an arrangement of discrete opamps comprising six common gain blocks: two for left and right input buffering, and four to provide a “true” differential output for the left and right channels. The positive and negative drivers are arranged in parallel to ensure that the signal delays and phase shifts are identical on both sides. The output stages are configured as unity gain complementary compound (Sziklai) pairs, biased in class A.”
How much? £2950. Shipping now. Remote control included. Batteries too.
Further information: ATC