Review: Audio Note CDT-2 Transport

Category: Digital

Gentle reader – please be aware that this is an update to my earlier full review of the Audio Note CDT II transport here on Audiogon.

The CDT II is stuffed with Black Gate electrolytics, a make of capacitor whose remarkable sonic characteristics UK professional reviewer Martin Collums has recently devoted a whole article to. Among the idiosyncrasies noted by Collums is the long -- 300 hours + -- burning in time that Black Gates require before they give up their music goodies.

Judging from Internet conference threads, this extended burn-in time is noteworthy, but clearly not widely understood. One recent purchaser of a CDT II announced that he couldn’t live with the lightweight sound of his new transport and was selling it on after only a few hundred hours of running.

That’s a great shame. He’s going to miss out because that transport will sound very good indeed when it is finally burned in, but that will not be until – at least in my limited experience – it has passed the 600-hour mark.

The Audio Note CDT II is not perfect. However it does deliver a remarkably musically coherent and satisfying experience that gets closer to live sound for the price than any transport I’ve heard. But not out of the box.

At around 100 hours (these are approximate milestones and apply only to the player I bought) it began to develop a semblance of top-end, but an unpleasantly brittle, on-edge one.

At 200 hours it still had no real bottom end and what there was sounded loose and flabby.

By 300 the top-end had begun to develop a sweeter and more natural sound with less edginess but the bottom end had still not tightened up. The transport was sounding a pale shadow of the demonstration model that I had auditioned. In fact it was not until it had passed the 600-hour mark that I heard the beginnings of a familiar musicality and airiness.

This morning, at getting on for 800 hours of constant running, it is showing signs of the taughtness and weight of bass that I also found so impressive in the demonstration model. I expect the new transport to continue to improve still further.

It’s easy to see how this very long running in period could cause impatient purchasers to dismiss their new transport as lightweight and unsatisfactory. Certainly, if I’d bought a CDT II on the strength of a favourable review and had not been expecting the break-in the take so very, very long, I’d too have been temped to show it the door.

But surely that’s a problem that could easily be resolved by accurate setting of expectations: tell the purchaser right up front that their new transport WILL take, say, 800 hours before it sounds right.

I am happy to testify that in respect of the CDT II, the wait is well worth it.
kevingf if i need to listen to music 4 hours per day in average i should break it in for almost a year????????

i n s a n e.
Kevin- I am the one you are referring to in your post. I don't care if you burn in the CDT II for 10,000 hours, it's never going to ever touch the Spectral SDR 3000SL transport that I replaced it with- and the Spectral was just out of the box...
My apologies for the non-intended chest-thumping bravado above Kevin :) I should have added though, that we are talking two different price points here- for what it costs, the CDT II is a very decent transport (I was EXTREMMELY impressed with how low the noise floor was- that thing is quiet!), and good value for the $$. I guess its simply personal choice- I feel the real magic with Audio Note are their dacs...
Sutts -- Thanks for your note. No apology needed. I do say the CDT II is great for the price so you and I agree. I am sure, too, that if you spend more (wisely, as you seem to have done) that there is better performance to be had. This is the way of the world.

Incidentally, I do not expect Peter Q. to rest on his laurels with the CDT II. As you have demonstrated with your purchase, there is a lively market for transports higher up the price ladder. I would not be at all surprised if AN UK coughs up something better still...and with a bigger price ticket to match.

Yes Kevin- he is- the CDT III. Joe at JC Audio says that it will be coming out 'a few months after CES'. I understand Peter is already backordered ~ 40 units- high praise indeed...
Sutts -

Sounds like something to look forward to with great anticipation...for those who, unlike me, won't get their ears boxed at home for yet another purchase of audio gear!

Incidentally, the difference a low impedence power cord makes to the CDT II is instructive. I use a Kimber high-current cable sourced from Ray's UK distributor and substituting it for the transport's standard mains cable produces still more blackness between notes, a tighter, more articulate bass, and a better sound-stage.

I have experienced similar benefits making the same substitution with a Meridian 500 Series transport.



I've had my CDT-2 for year but didn't start to use it until March 02'. I was waiting the TacT 2150 amps (no music at home for 3 months) and final went with their Millenium MKII. I was thinking of upgrading to the CDT-3 but the cost and not know if there will be transports with firewire, SACD, DVDA digital out. I just sent my CDT-2 to Audiomod for the Audiocom Superclock II, Superclock PS, Q-Power regulators, Bybees on pos and neg of balance outs, and Cromlin damping. I'll post the results after break-in. BTW - I use the Foundation Research powercord/conditioner to feed this baby.

Just purchased a CDT2 (here on Audiogon : )) and I have a few questions for you guys if you don't mind.

I've noticed that the 'puck' never sits dead centre after placement. Don't you think that this will have a negative impact when the disc is spinning by moving the weight off-centre ? It's a very small offest but surely it must be detrimental to the performance ?!?

How important is isolation ? Any of you guys use a seismic sink etc. to isolate the unnit ?

MikeG, I'm looking at buying a TACT 2.0 and S2150 myself. Is the CDT2 a good match with TACT gear. One complaint of the TACT equipment I've heard that is that it's maybe TOO realistic and takes away some of the musical enjoyment. Does the CDT2 still groove with your TACT amp ?

Nice to see that there are a few advocates of a long burn in time. Not sure how many hours my unit has seen before I aquired it but it's already starting to improve with each play.

Fingers crossed it just keeps on getting better.
Voodoo -

Apologies for the lack of swift response. I am not in the habit of re-visiting old crime scenes, but did tonight and your questions beg a reply.

On isolation, I have found it to pay real dividends. Some swear by an absortive approach, while others rate an attempt at direct coupling to sink away acoustic energy thought to cause electronic feedback. I have tried both with the CDT II, and have found the direct coupling approach to work best, using oak cones from Ray K's UK distributor Russ Andrews. Placing the player on a glass shelf makes it suck (now there's a trick!). It gets shouty and in-yer-face. Wood sounds best.

As for the magnetic clamp self-centering perfectly every time, no, it doesn't. Does it matter? I don't know. Sounds to me, in my system, like it may not, 'though.

I am afraid I know nothing about TACT amps. Best of luck!