The ATC CDA2 Mk II and P2 amplifier can bring forth levels of performance attributes that may well surprise many music lovers and audiophiles!
A three-in-one audiophile component, the ATC CDA2 MK II combines an all-discrete Class A preamplifier, high-grade CD player, premium (and much in demand) AKM 32-bit DAC and a high-resolution USB input.
Although ATC is primarily known for its speakers, it has long produced electronics. While the company has been praised for the power modules in its active speakers and the diversity of stand-alone amplification it provides, it has never quite been able to maintain the attention in this area it so well deserves.
This polished-looking unit can be a source component designed for the essential audio enthusiast. It is an ideal match for the British company’s P2 amplifier (see below) while garnishing a solid performance with high-value engineering and features.
Included is the TEAC-supplied CD transport which is responsible for sublime, error-free reading, and fast responsiveness. The CDA2 Mk2 even comes with a dedicated headphone amplifier – in effect, making it a five-tool device. Per ATC tradition, it is hand-built in the U.K.
The MKII ‘s designated DAC can deal with up to native 32-bit/384kHz PCM and DSD256 through its USB input and boasts extraordinarily low jitter, distortion, and noise which attests to its technical proficiency. The power-supply structure claims a total of 9 high-end voltage regulators, whilst the neighborhood power-supply decoupling accounts for an arguably purer sound quality. To achieve the greatest sonics possible, each problem of the CDA2 Mk2 speaks to this topic.
However, ATC has put forth their attention to detail shown in the hand-soldered surface-mount components on the chip legs inside this unit. Is this level of obsession necessary? Maybe not for everyone, but for those who truly appreciate the nuances of top-notch sound quality, these details can make a significant difference in the overall performance of their system.
It is of some significance that The ATC CDA player’s discrete op-amps make up the six gain blocks that are used and are arranged for optimal performance, with two blocks dedicated to left and right input buffering. The output stages are configured as unity gain complementary compound pairs, biased in Class A, which is uncommon for a CD player/DAC at this price point.
On the front panel of the CDA2 Mk II, we see an organized and simple case of rationality. The CD tray is on the left, and the five metal buttons for Play, Stop, Previous, Next, and Open/Close are on the right. A row of five tiny indicator LEDs, labeled CD, Aux 1, Aux 2, S/PDIF, and USB, is located to the right of the tray.
The digital display and two buttons for Mute/Function and Standby are located below the small display to the right of this column.
A motorized Alpine Blue volume control is located at the far right. All the controls are easy to use and work to complement each other quite gracefully.
The CDA MkII was used in conjunction with their P2 power amplifier (review below) as well as 2 other tubed units that were on hand, namely the Allnic 25th Anniversary SE (100 watts) and the soon-to-be-evaluated LSA VT-150 power amplifier (60 watts) which was loaned to us courtesy of Underwood Hi-fi.
Simply said, the sound has a rightness and straightforwardness to it. It has a precise, powerful bass, a clean, illuminating mid-band, and a treble that is both explicit and delicate. These characteristics all imply that the CDA2 Mk2 is just allowing the music to pass through it, without any meddling with the sound. It is amazing how its ‘singularity’ proves to be very seductive! It is this neutrality that makes it a pleasure to use.
A CD player, DAC, and preamp may cost much more, but you would still hear the components’ influence on the quality. It is a great achievement on the part of ATC’s engineers that this (fairly) inexpensive combo gives so much while introducing or eliminating so little.
The CDA seems to smooth over some badly recorded material as well and yet manages to keep you informed of all that is going on in the details of the sources employed. It is a great surprise to hear how clean and musical just about all sounds are displayed when employing the MKII in your system. The DAC is polished and lustrous sounding for an incorporated unit and is easy to listen to for hours on end. For those that need a fine-sounding CD player/DAC, and preamplifier at a moderately affordable price, the ATC CDA MKII is a terrific choice!
P2 POWER AMPLIFIER
When The ATC P2 power amplifier was hooked into the system, things truly started to roll, and in a huge way.
The P1 power amp from ATC is the smaller brother of the P2 dual mono power amp, the latter having a considerably bigger power supply and much more output MOSFETs to increase power by double to 300W per channel. It is the ideal method for driving speakers in bigger spaces and/or when a loudspeaker presents a difficult load because it will provide a natural, musical presentation even in these demanding circumstances.
Similar to the smaller P1, this device’s excellent resolution and neutral fidelity allow the quality of the original recording to stand out while also providing exceptional flexibility with a wide range of partnering equipment.
A class A/B amplifier, the P2 has been successfully engineered with the amplifier’s internal circuitry, thereby allowing it to behave very differently from the typical class A/B amplifiers on the market. This was distinctively noted from the amp’s sonic performance in my listening room with 3 pairs of loudspeakers put into the testing
The casework details in the top ventilation slots have been improved as well while the back panel also provides link outputs for those who want more than one power amp. Included are balanced and single-ended inputs, well-finished binding posts for the speaker cable, and some other features.
There is a rear-mounted button that can be pressed to switch the power on or, much more conveniently, a remote handset that goes into standby. (not included in my sample).
To quote Leland Leard, sales chief of the USA distributor Lone Mountain Audio, “The amp doesn’t behave exactly like a pure class A, class B, or a class A/B amplifier…but somehow exhibits the best qualities of each amplifier class.” I asked Leland how ATC does this. His answer, as he chuckled: “The P2 amplifier is designated Class A/B, but really, it’s Class ATC.”
It is not hard to disagree with this assessment as the amplifier sets forth clarity and smoothness that is in a class of its own, and quite different than many other amplifiers I have had the pleasure of listening to. There are many theories about the why, what, and how, but in the end, what I am hearing is what counts and the P2 is surely a “class act” in and by itself.
Musical transients are strong yet delicately subtle. The sound emerging is full, rich, and riddled with good depth and easy, airy quality. Yet within all of this, the P2 displays a discernable sound that sometimes screams ‘tubes’, yet definitively acts in most ways like a Class A or A/B solid-state piece of equipment.
The P2 shows its musicality without any type of “sterility” in its wonderful midrange. More importantly, there is not a whisper of harshness in the mid to upper treble and the soundstage is quite smooth and beautiful to listen to. As you can tell, I enjoyed using this amplifier in my system and each loudspeaker employed showed off its particular magnetism, indeed.
While other amplifiers may sound a bit faster, few can match the ATC P2’s solidity, silkiness, and intensity in the bass department. It is substantial, has a profound texture, and stops and starts at the correct intervals.
Many amplifiers, let alone ones with prices equal to the P2, lack the overall authority that the P2 does.
When combined with the CDA MKII player, disks played without a hiccup and the sound delivered was overtly neutral in just about every respect. At its price point, the combination appears to have no genuine competitors, but I must admit that when utilized with my other associated gear, the P2 amplifier stood out from the crowd. (See below.)
The ATC CDA MK II and P2 AMPLIFIER
I had a great time exploring and utilizing the CDA2 Mk II. It is an incredibly well-designed component that accomplishes everything. The CD player is excellent. The inbuilt DAC sounds wonderful and is expertly made. I was appreciative of how effectively it captured the essence of natural tonality while simply playing the music and letting you relax to enjoy it. Whilst ATC developed the CDA Mk II with one of their self-powered speakers in mind, the player was a superb enhancement to the speakers that were utilized for my evaluation.
Having said that, there is no doubt that the P2 is one terrific amplifier. It gave the music such depth, airiness, auditory richness, and spatiality that my loudspeakers were completely submerged in it.
Although there was no artificiality in its solid-state construction or design technique, many times there was a sense that things had a somewhat similar quality to a good tube amplifier. This did fluctuate throughout auditioning but offered the listener a sense of easiness and a sincere absence of listening fatigue.
Somewhat inadvertently, the P2 didn’t try to over-project anything or blatantly push out utterly senseless detail to wow the listener, even with its large 300-watt output. The ATC P2 gave everything a genuinely calm and infatuating listening experience because of its audible characteristics and sound attributes that went way and above some of the best types of amplifier designs on the market today.
Both components are highly recommended with great confidence and deserve a special ‘Editors Choice’ Award.
Review system: Loudspeakers: QLN ONE Loudspeakers~ Harbeth Compact 7ES-3 XD loudspeaker ~ Q Acoustics Concept 500 loudspeaker ~ Digital: Mojo Audio ‘Mystique’ X DAC ~ Innuos Zenith Mk.3 server/streamer ~ Audio Note (UK) CD3.1x/2 player/DAC Analog: Audio Technica LP-7/ZYX Bloom 3 mc cartridge Amplification: ~Pass Labs XP-12 preamp, Pass Labs XA30.8 power amp ~PS Audio M1200 ~Allnic Audio A-2000 25th Anniversary SE amplifier ~ Cables/ Conditioners: Argent/Pur Silver stranded loudspeaker cables / Inakustik AC-3500p power station &, AC-2404 reference Air Power Cord ~ Audience Studio 1 interconnects,~ Clarus “Crimson” 75-ohm digital spdif / Audio Art 1 e” AC Power Cord
Type: Dual mono MOSFET stereo power amplifier.
Analog inputs: RCA, XLR
Analog outputs: binding posts, RCA
Power output: 300W/8 Ohms, 450W/4 Ohms
Bandwidth: <2Hz – >400kHz (-3dB)
Sensitivity: 2V (ref. 150W out)
Distortion: THD >0.002%/-95dBSignal to Noise Ratio: >110dB (DIN)
P2 $5499 300 w/ch
P1 $3999 – 150 w/ch
Lone Mountain Audio
c: (702) 755-5025 www.lonemountainaudio.com
WHERE the MUSIC BEAT meets the AUDIOPHILE ELITE !
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