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Cambridge Audio EVO CD transport video review

  • We know the story well: about how the CD reigned supreme in the eighties and nineties but that the triple whammy of ‘illegal’ file sharing, the iTunes store and streaming gnawed away at its popularity throughout the 2000s and 2010s. A significant turning point came in 2022 when the CD ceded the top spot to vinyl as the USA’s preferred physical music format. Not just in revenue generated but in units shifted.

    But America is not the world. In Germany, CDs outsold vinyl two to one in 2022. A similar ratio favoured the CD in the UK in 2022. The CD is a long way from dead. That’s a plain-as-day fact that, even if not seen by those with their heads in the streaming cloud, hi-fi manufacturers are fully across. These companies don’t spend big on designing and manufacturing CD players for fun or charity. They do so to turn a profitย  The last two years alone have brought us new models from Rotel, Technics, Hegel, Marantz, TEAC. Pro-Ject and PS Audio.

    One company blurring the lines between CD playback and streaming is the UK’s Cambridge Audio whose EVO CD unit twists the concept of what a CD transport might look like; and how it might interface with an outboard D/A converter. On the back panel, there are no analogue outputs. That much we expect. But there are no industry-standard digital outputs either. The TOSLINK, coaxial, AES and I2S sockets that would otherwise connect the EVO CD to an external DAC are MIA. In their place sits a single 2.5mm socket. What the heck is going on?

    The answer brings the killer blow: the EVO CD is only compatible with Cambridge Audio’s EVO 150 (or EVO 75) streaming amplifier, a 2.5mm balanced umbilical connecting the pair for two-way communication. The hi-fi industry’s jungle drums say that the EVO CD was initially intended to launch alongside the EVO 75 and EVO 150 but that its production was beset by delays.

    When we insert a CD into the EVO CD, it reads the disc’s table of contents before handing that data off to the EVO 150 over the 2.5mm-to-2.5mm intralink for a MusicBrainz metadata look-up. The CD’s metadata – artist, album name, song title and cover art – is then shown on the EVO 150/75’s front panel colour display. It’s a neat party trick that explains the absence of any visual readout on the EVO CD itself. When it comes to listening to the music stored on the CD, the EVO CD reads the disc’s digital audio contents but the D/A conversion and loudspeaker drive are handled by the EVO 150/75 on the other side of the umbilical. If the internet goes down, the CD plays as normal, just without any metadata infusion.

    Those concerned about privacy would do well not to conflate streaming service signup – and any associated listening behaviour tracking – with a MusicBrainz metadata look-up. A streaming service demands that we fork over our name, date of birth, email address and credit card info before we are granted full access to its contents. MusicBrainz wants no personally identifiable information: it (probably) wants to know which device is making the metadata request – the EVO 150/75 – and it (obviously) will require our ISP’s public IP address in order to return the metadata to the EVO 150/75 that requested it. Do you know how MusicBrainz might nefariously use this information because I do not?

    And if you still think that CDs are dead in the water, know that the video coverage of the EVO CD seen above has clocked up a whopping 80,000+ views on YouTube in its first 48 hours to become this channel’s fastest-growing video to date.

    🎥 Camera: John Darko / Jack Kaminski
    🎬 Editor: John Darko
    🌈 Colour: Olaf von Voss
    🕺🏻 Motion GFX: John Darko
    💰 Ad segment: Jana Dagdagan

    🎵 Song IDs? Playlists of all music heard in this video – and other videos – can be found on PATREON:

    Further information: Cambridge Audio

    👉 As seen in this video…

    Cambridge Audio Evo CD

    Cambridge Audio EVO 150

    Pro-Ject RS2 T

    KEF R3 Meta

    👉 Further listening…

    The Chemical Brothers – Brotherhood
    🛒 (US)

    Tindersticks – II
    🛒 (US)

    Pet Shop Boys – Pop Art
    🛒 (US)

    James – Laid
    🛒 (US)

    Peter Gabriel – 4 / Security
    🛒 (US)

    John Cale – Fragments of a Rainy Season
    🛒 (US)

    Foals – Total Life Forever
    🛒 (US)

    Tricky – Maxinquaye
    🛒 (US)

    Clearlake – Amber
    🛒 (US)

    👉 Further watching…

    15 reasons why I STILL BUY CDs

    Four of Lisbon’s BEST CD & VINYL stores

    A vinyl lover’s guide to electronic music in Berlin

    Darko.Audio may earn a small commission from items purchased via affiliate links.

    Written by John

    John currently lives in Berlin where he creates videos and podcasts for Darko.Audio. He has previously contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram

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