Aaah, with this name, Mimetism could only be from the land of Marcel Marceau! 'Mimétisme' (with an 'e' and an accent) is a uniquely French word that describes something in-between chameleon-like behaviour and pure imitation. Of course, in the case of the Mimetism 20.1 CD player, this refers to replicating the signal off the disc. The change in spelling? A mere frisson of Gallic condescension: they thought English speakers would have trouble with pronunciation if the spelling were kept pure. Fortunately, that's the only part of the design that reeks of the haughtiness of la Belle France.
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As for me, I have no problem with the company because the French half is balanced by the Swiss component, thus tempering my detestation of the world's most perfidious nation. Which is a good thing, or I'd be missing out on what is actually a mighty fine disc spinner. It even looks sensational, like a Copland that's been forced through a goose's gullet to create audio fois gras: minimalist yet comprehensively equipped, with only two rotary controls, a display and a tray occupying the front panel.
Naturally, there's a comprehensive remote control (and a positively luxurious optional control that also works the matching integrated amp) for all minor functions, but the designers have managed to squeeze in all of the basic on/off and transport functions into the two rotaries by using them in push mode as well as for short arcs in the left-and-right planes. You can even set the display's illumination intensity from the right-hand knob.
Around the back, it's equally barren, yet complete: single-ended and XLR balanced outputs, coaxial singled-ended and XLR balanced digital outputs and an RS232 socket for linking it to the matching integrated amp or custom installations. This no-nonsense layout reaffirms a first impression: there's something immediately reassuring about the 20.1, not least its mass and girth: 430x118x450mm (WHD) and 18kg. To say nothing of its heritage...
Mimetism was founded by William Andrea and Yvan Coderev in 2004, and the two have track records that will push all the right buttons with savvy and sophisticated audiophiles. Andrea - what a C.V.! He spent his 'atypical career' working with a number of companies in both audio and broadcasting, beginning building active speakers for SupraVox, for use by the French television organisation ORTF. Andrea also designed and assembled the Nuance and Plenitude amps and preamps for FAMCO (French American Company), and the P-UN preamp and the P.P-UN pre-preamp for Yves Cochet. Then he joined Phlox Electronique, where he participated in the development of certain YBA products. During a brief hiatus, he learned all about digital signal processing, by designing weather stations for Pulsonic. He then joined Vecteur and where he designed the CLUB 12, then the i 6.2, P6, A6 and the L 4.2 CD player, still regarded as reference components in Chiracland.
Yvan Coderev lives in Lausanne, Switzerland, where he owns L'Audiophile SA, a high-end retailers in a decidedly high-end area. His long standing passion for sound and design led him to build his own specific supports and furniture for audio gear, distributed in France under the Vecteur brand name, which is how he met William Andrea, whom he the introduced to the digital processing experts from Anagram Technologies. Mimetism is the collaboration (a very French pursuit) between the two, marrying French savoir faire and Swiss quality. The Mimetism components are hand-made by ASM (Audio System Manufacturing) in Brittany.
Remove the lid, and what you see is a text-book example of clean layout and faultless construction, with immaculate motherboards and top-grade components. In creating what he feels is the definitive way to deal with Red Book CD, Andrea offers no suggestion of any SACD wannabe-ness here: Mimetism is resolutely two-channel. Using a high-grade ATAPI disc transport, the digital signal exits via a Crystal CS8416, to the Texas instruments SRC4190 asynchronous sample rate converter, a circuit that allows you to upsample from 44.1kHz to 192kHz 'without any concern for jitter.' The signals then feed the Wolson Delta-Sigma WM8740 DA converter, which Mimetism believes is the only converter with 6-bit resolution, while the general market suffers 5-bit.
Mimetism feels that the advantage of this type of converter is the significant reduction in high frequency noise in the analogue output of the D/A. Another advantage of equal importance is that 'power conversion is extremely well done,' resulting in an 'easing effect' on the analogue output stages. The output stages deliver a cross-differential balanced signal and an unbalanced signal, and you will find immediately that the former is preferable to the latter; you can A/B this easily as the output levels are the same at 2V - no 6dB difference to throw you. The output circuits employ low-noise FETs, and the balanced output operates with the help of in-house designed transformers. The balanced S-PDIF output is 'perfectly isolated from the digital power supply,' and the circuit ensures that non-inverting absolute phase is maintained in the digital domain without adding noise.
For its power supply, the 20.1 uses a low-induction toroidal transformer rated at a healthy 100VA. It feeds six separate, regulated power supplies to the individual analogue and digital stages, and the unit boasts its own mains filtering network. There's also an internal strap that can be removed to separate the earthing circuit in case of ground loops in specific instances.
For the physical concerns, Mimetism has used Neutrik connectors for the XLRs, and RCA connectors made by ASM for the single-ended connections. The latter are gold-plated and isolated with Teflon inserts. The chassis itself consists of a 10mm thick brushed aluminium faceplate, a treated steel case of 10mm and 15mm sections and a brushed and anodised aluminium top plate that's damped against unwanted resonances. The massive, 60mm knobs are made from solid aluminium and feature switching made in-house. Other damping and isolation techniques include the fixing of the transport to the chassis with a damped U-frame using different densities of rubber, and aluminium feet with damping inserts.Read more about the CD 20.1 on Page 2.