Pro-Ject CD Box S2

As one of the biggest makers of turntables, it might seem ironic that Pro-Ject has decided to turn its attention to making CD players. The CD Box S2 is the smallest model in the range and uses casework that matches its MaiA S2 integrated amplifier and measures just 205 x 37 x 155mm (WxHxD).

Internally, it mates a slot-loading CD mechanism with a Texas Instruments PCM5102A DAC. Where things get interesting is the nature of how it gets information off the disc and into the DAC. Instead of relying on a servo mechanism, a bespoke ‘mini computer’ is used to read the CD in 1:1 format (rather than the ‘burst’ process the drive would likely perform naturally). This is read into a memory and any corrections made prior to decoding.

The DAC offers a choice of digital filter settings. The first is a more straightforward IIR type while the FIR option requires more processing to achieve, but allows for a more linear handling of the digital signal. While it is described as being a 32-bit/384kHz-capable design, no indication is given as to whether any form of upsampling is performed.

Connections include a stereo analogue output on RCAs, joined by an optical digital output to allow hookup to an external DAC. A small remote control is also supplied. 

Sound quality
The player feels reasonably well assembled, but it isn’t without issue. Once you have loaded a CD, there is a significant pause accompanied by a lot of mechanical noise while it reads the disc. During playback this isn’t a problem, but the mechanism can occasionally be heard towards the end of discs during quieter passages.

The immaculate pop presentation of Christine and the Queens’ Chaleur Humaine is effortlessly reproduced and the vocals are rich, detailed and nicely defined. Right from the outset, both this and almost every CD I play sounds better with the IIR filter selected. The FIR option boosts the perception of detail, but loses some of the naturalness of the IIR setting.

This is particularly useful with good recordings of real instruments. La Saboteuse by Yazz Ahmed captures the feeling of the performance as a whole in a way that is extremely compelling. More than picking up individual elements – something that is more apparent in the FIR setting – you can enjoy the performance as a whole taking place in front of you. This is helped by a commendably wide and well-arranged soundstage.

Listening to the rather more forceful Second Toughest In The Infants by Underworld reveals some of the limits to the Pro-Ject’s performance and these mainly centre on the bass response. The good news is that lower frequencies are impressively detailed and well defined. The pulsating and undulating low end of Pearl’s Girl is delivered with the required snap and agility to keep the music sounding exciting, although it does lack a little outright depth. This is most easily demonstrated by attaching the Pro-Ject to a Chord Electronics Mojo DAC (HFC 405) via the optical connection. Used purely as a CD transport, the CD Box S2 offers an entirely transparent platform for the connected DAC to work with, although rival offerings – like the dedicated Audiolab 6000CDT (HFC 447) – tend to be quieter and slicker in operation.

Some of the richness that the Pro-Ject naturally possesses used via its own DAC is lost by doing so, though, which means that while this little box isn’t entirely neutral, the character it possesses is appealing. At the price, it faces competition from full-size designs with more conventional (and quieter) mechanisms but the CD Box S2 is a compact and engaging solution for those that are short on space or as a matching partner to the company’s MaiA S2 integrated. ES

Product: Pro-Ject CD Box S2b
Price: £325
Type: CD player
Read the full review in July issue 451

Henley Audio (UK distributor)
01235 511166