Shanling CD2000 £1000
26th Feb 2009 | 09:30
Competitively priced, but can performance match up?
Shanling is probably best known for its visually stunning valve-equipped products, which take audio to new levels of visual art (if you've an eye for design). The company does appreciate, however, that some listeners prefer a plain rectangular box: hence the CD2000.
It's also devoid of valves, but still promises the 'organic Shanling sound'. Whether organic or artificially fertilised, the sound is actually produced by some old friends from among the ranks of digital and analogue components.
The transport is from Chinese specialist Asatech – apparently it's capable of reading DVDs, though that function is disabled here and there's no obvious reason why that should make it any better or worse for audio duty than a 'normal' CD transport.
The digital-to-analogue conversion uses a high-quality chip, followed by some fast op-amps which turn the DAC's current output into a more useful voltage and then there's the usual gentle analogue filtering and output buffering.
The power supply uses an 'R-core' type of mains transformer and importer Real Hi-Fi assures us that this is a specific 240V model, one of Real's '3D Shanling' upgrades done as standard for UK stock. Mains transformers intended for worldwide use may saturate, with audible side effects, on the UK mains which is only theoretically harmonised with the rest of Europe for voltage.
There's generous provision within the power supply for smoothing and regulation of supply rails, and all parts of the player are very well built, with a strong preference for through-hole components over surface-mount types. Output sockets are high-quality types, connected internally with screened cable and the case is solidly constructed from aluminium, with little tendency to resonate.
For one reason or another, none of our 'blind' listeners quite clicked with this player. Comparing their notes, it seems the core of the matter is that the CD2000 is more keen on the midrange than on the frequency extremes and, in addition, is a little lacking in analytical skills. Take these two factors together and you have a sound that is basically pleasant, but not as involving as one might wish for, nor as revealing.
On a more positive note, stereo imaging is very good laterally. Depth is not class-leading, but width has both extension and precision and has little or no tendency to wander with dynamics, as can sometimes happen.
There's also some nice 'bop' to the sound, thanks to a lively upper bass region which gives good timing in most musical styles. But despite those talents, the CD2000 doesn't entirely convince.
The bass is deep, but lacks definition and tunefulness and, as a result, has a tendency to 'plod' when it should excite. High treble, by contrast, seems a little harsh and over-bright. Dynamics, too, are rather restrained and the sound is reluctant to blossom, or indeed explode, as the music dictates.
So our listeners ended up making lots of polite comments about 'good' this and 'OK' that, but very little in the way of 'very good' or 'excellent', nor suggestions of new musical insights, that might suggest that this player was highlighting previously unappreciated facets of the music, or causing re-evaluations of fundamental recording quality.
It puts the music across, but doesn't seem very enthusiastic about it and while we could hear everything on the recording there's no new insight that makes one really sit up and take notice. We've been highly impressed by Shanling in the past, but this one seems to have missed out on some of the magic!