Had I paid attention in Psychology 101, this review could have featured a mini dissertation on the single-chassis vs two-box debate. To separate or not to separate - that is the question. It's just that any single-box CD player over £1000 has to compete not just with other single-piece designs, but with entry-level transport/DAC combinations as well. And the Copland CDA 266 is imported into the UK by the same source which handles the awesome Theta Chroma converter...
Not to worry: I'm convinced that there are numerous consumers who don't want to accommodate an extra box, sacrifice an extra mains outlet, invest in a digital cable or whatever else it takes to go two-way. The reasons to prefer a single-box design over separates are just as compelling as those in favour of splitting a player into two, so let's just agree, for the sake of argument, to regard the Copland on its own terms. If you're pre-disposed toward separates, you probably wouldn't have read this far anyway. But if you're looking for one honey of a single box player, read on.
The CDA 266 is Copland's the third and final CD player in a trilogy which also includes the CDA 277 (£1,799) and CDA 288 (£2,199). This one's the entry-level model at £1,199 and it's ideally suited to match one of Copland's integrated amplifiers in both price and aesthetics. Though the CDA 266 shares certain family traits with the CDA 288 and CDA 277, a number of dissimilarities mean that various prejudices against the dearer models - especially the controversial '288 - should be ignored. This is an altogether different beastie, which shouldn't suffer because its siblings were, uh, delinquents.
High value for money rears its blessed head in that the Copland has the look, feel and calibre of internal ingredients of players selling for a far higher four figures, like those with a '3' at the front. Whatever one thinks of HDCD, plenty of people regard the Pacific Microsonics PMD100 x8 oversampling digital filter as one of the best sounding on the market; even if you never purchase a single HDCD disc, you should benefit from filter's presence in the '266. To complete the processing combination are a pair of the equally revered Burr-Brown PCM 63P 20-Bit Colinear Converters and a custom-designed crystal clock oscillator 'for a more natural musical performance', i.e. lower jitter.
The analogue section features complementary Class 'A' topology using discrete components, while the power supply transformer is screened for both static and magnetism. A filter conditions the mains supply, and the power supply feeds seven separate secondaries for the various analogue and digital stages and the drive mechanism. Build quality inside mirrors the exterior - it's superb. The circuitry is divided over three main boards with a smaller PCB for the readout display, all the boards using 70mm copper tracks. The first PCB incorporates the power supplies for the digital and analogue circuits, the second contains the control system and the third deals with the signal processing. 1% metal film resistors are used throughout.
Unlike so many players suffering with Philips mechanisms, the Copland represents the new wave which looks further afield. This baby sports a smooth-acting Sony mechanism with integral four-point sprung isolation system mounted on silicon rubber bushes, and it oozes luxury - just like the player itself. Despite compact dimensions of only 430x125x375mm (WxHxD), the Copland suggests 'high end'. OK, so it bears an eerie resemblance to an exclusive, elitist American brand named after a stringed instrument, but that's only part of the reason the '266 suggests extravagance. The unit exudes solidity, thanks to a weight of 9kg, a heavy gauge, interlocking 'U'-shaped steel chassis, which also provides screening, and the presence of an alloy front panel which is a substantial 5mm thick. The latter also damps vibrations, as do the large isolation feet. And those knobs...
Ahem - this isn't , thank Christ, so lets make this clear: the use of the word has nothing to do with the mammarial vernacular. The CDA 266's knobs - hooray! A break from buttons!!! -- allow for the operation of play/pause with a simple press on the right-hand rotary, while the left-hand control provides power on/off. A combination of rotating and pushing (however salacious that sounds) accesses tracks one at a time or in rapid succession. A separate button operates open/close, and a green LED tell-tale indicates the presence of an HDCD disc. Copland's RC 288 Remote Control is a 20-function, 99-track direct-access hand-held commander in charge of a 20 track memory and all of the minor operations not handled by the front-panel rotaries. In addition to all of the expected transport and programming functions, it also provides on/off switching of the display, with two levels of illumination.
Continue reading about the CDA 226 on Page 2.