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Get The Noise Out Of Your Cables!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

EAN Audiophile Review!
CODA Technologies CSiB
Integrated Stereo Amplifier


©Everything Audio Network

Brevis...
Price: $6,000
Likes: accuracy, speed, precision
Dislikes:  $6,000 ain’t pocket change
Wow Factor: The “have-it-all” integrated
More Info: CODA CSiB

 by John Gatski
 CODA Technologies is one the best kept secret in Hi-Fi. With designers Doug Dale and Eric Lauchli at the helm, the company has been manufacturing pristine-sounding, transparent amplifiers and preamplifiers for more than 20 years. CODA has OEM’d for such prestigious companies as Legacy Audio and under their own CODA moniker. Based on my experience with CODA, including the two mid 1990’s-era high-current preamps and 200 watt amplifier I owned, I know how good these made-in-California hi-fi products are.
  The $6,000 CSiB audiophile-caliber, integrated amplifier reviewed here has advanced my impression of CODA even further.

Features
  The CODA CSiB is a 400-wpc Class A/B amp (8 ohms) combined with the preamp section out of the CODA 05X, which utilizes the PGA2310 digitally controlled analog attenuator. The C1SB incorporates the company’s CSX Precision Bias Class A/AB amplifier design, with discrete JFET differential input stage, VMOSFET voltage gain DC coupled to an ultra wide-band bipolar output stage.
  The fully discrete amplifier FET differential input stage is DC-coupled to an ultra wide-band bipolar output stage with no overall feedbacks. The amp section operates in Class A to five watts.
  If you like a no-compromise amp and preamp in one unit, and you like your power, clarity and dynamic bass impression on the real side. The CODA CSiB is definitely a high-end, integrated amplifier for your short list.

  The preamplifier section is derived from the CODA 05X design, utilizing the PGA2310 digitally-controlled precision analog attenuator. Component upgrades include PRP audio resistors, Multicap capacitors, and high speed rectifiers for the preamp power supply. The design and parts list are impressive, and it shows in the integrated’s ultimate sonic presentation.
  The front panel is unusual, among hi-fi integrated, in that it does not have any rotary potentiometers. All controls are push button, including the attenuator. The controls include level adjust, subwoofer output, tape monitor, input, and mode, which selects either both channels, or routing the right or left through the preamp output.
  The main power switch is on the back, but the standby power on the front panel mutes the audio, via a bias interrupt, useful for making cable swaps without turning off the power supply. The volume output level is indicated via an LED that goes from 0 to 99 dB.

Plenty of I/O and a clean layout

  The CSiB contains three pairs of unbalanced line inputs (Aux 1, Aux 2, Video), one pair of balanced inputs, a processor loop, stereo subwoofer output and a pair of RCA preamp outputs. Speakers inputs are single-wire binding posts for the left and right channels.
  As I have come to expect from CODA, the specs are exemplary: up to 800 watts per channel into 4 ohms, signal to noise of at least -110 dB and distortion under .04 percent. Also, CODA really knows how to build a power supply. The CSiB features 80,000 uF of filter capacitance and a 3,000 vA transformer rating.

The CSiB has one horse of a power supply

 The 3U high CSiB is compact for such a powerful integrated, but it is hefty in its weight: 55 pounds; the weight comes from the sturdy chassis, cover faceplate, the massive power supply and rear heatsink.
  The CODA CSiB includes a really nice accessory remote control, but I never used it. With the amp’s location in my test rack and the integrated’s ease of use I never felt the need to use it. I just set the level manually. Other customers I am sure will make full use of the remote.

The set up
  I installed the CSiB in my tester audiophile rig, which consisted of numerous components: an Oppo BDP-105 universal player, Oppo HA-1 D/A, Benchmark DAC 2 D/A, Mytek Manhattan D/A, a Teac UD-503 D/A, a Clear Audio Emotion turntable, a Rogue Audio RP-5 tube preamp, a 20-year old CODA preamp and a Pass Labs C10 preamp. For ultra-hi-res PCM playback through the system, I also used my home brew/budget-priced, high-performance music server — simply a Dell Venue 8 Android tablet, the USB Audio Player Pro Android player program, a USB hub and a few cables.
   I had numerous amps on hand for comparison with the CSiB including: Bryston 14B SST-II bipolar output, Pass Labs X350.8 MOSFET output. Most of my eval listening was done through my MartinLogan Montis electrostatics, but I also monitored via a pair of Legacy Studio HDs, stand speakers, Pass Labs SR-1 tower speakers, and a par of TAD Compact Reference 1 (TAD-CRMK2).
  I connected the components with Wireworld Eclipse interconnects and speaker cables,  as well as Essential Sound Products Essence II Reference power cables and passive power strip. I let the CSiB burn in for a few days before doing any serious listening.

The audition
 With the ML Montis electrostatic wired to the CSiB I began a series of critical lis3ting sessions using hi-res jazz and classical music. First up was my reference Warren BernhardtSo Real SACD, engineered by Tom Jung at the DMP label in early 2000. It did not take long for the CODA’s integrated-design qualities to shine through. The open sound stage, quick, taut powerful bass lines, the 3-D like transient cues from the piano and drum cymbals, immediately put this amp in the forefront of  the best amplifiers out there on the market. 
  CODA amps have always trended toward the transparency side of the music. In fact, I owned a 200-wpc stereo amp that was Legacy labeled about 20 years ago that showed off its musical realism sonic properties back in the CD days. The newer generation of CODA amps, however, are even more transparent with tighter bass, less noise and impressive dynamics. Perfect for today’s best examples of hi-res recordings.
  Although integrated are often seen as a compromise of two critical audio components, The CODA CSiB sound does not sound compromised to my ears. The open sound stage and the dynamic textures of jazz piano, and cymbals of the signature Warren Bernhardt cut, “So Real,” was up there with the best bipolar output amps I have ever heard.

  Although integrated are often seen as a compromise of two critical audio components, The CODA CSiB sound does not sound compromised to my ears. The open sound stage and the dynamic textures of jazz piano, cymbals, of the signature Warren Bernhardt cut, “So Real,” was up there with the best bipolar output amps I have ever heard.
  Compared to the Bryston 14B-SST2 (using Bryston BHA-1 HP amp's line output stage), the CSiB and the Bryston tandem were close in their signature transient speed and tight bass, but I thought the CSiB was a bit more spacious in the dynamic space impression. However, when I routed the CSiB preamp output signals through the 14B-SST2, the sonic difference gap closed. 
  Switching to Classical music, I sampled several cuts from the Ludwig Van Beethoven  — “Complete Sonata for Piano and Violin,” Isabelle Van Kuelen and Hannes Minnaar (Challenge Classics). This very live and dynamic SACD is slightly warm, yet openly dynamic with lots of range. The violin tone with with all of its bow-to-string overtones is simply a joy to listen to as is the strong piano performance. I have heard it on a number of review set ups and my own reference system numerous times.

Everything Audio Network CODA CSiB Angle
The CODA CSiB will look great in your rack

  The presentation through the CSiB was simply gorgeous — with just the right amount of warmness — yet the violin has this life-like sonic persona with out any stridency that often afflicts violin performances with lesser amps. And the CODA amp did not impart any slowness to the bass spectrum. The Steinway piano’s low end was very natural.
  Versus some MOSFET and tube amps I have reviewed over the last two decades, the CODA  audio signature is less veiled. The Beethoven’s recording’s piano room reverb is clearly audible through this amp  — without being smothered. This caliber of amp begs you to listen deeper in to the mix. Versus the Pass X350.8 (one of the best stereo MOSFET amps on the market), the CODA met its match (and slightly exceeded) in the stereo image department. Yet the MOSFET design imparts a warmness tinge that the CODA does not. The CSiB exudes a dynamic character that is very honest.
  I switched off to the Andrew Jones-designed TAD Compact Reference 1 (TAD-CRMK2) stand speakers that I had in for an upcoming review. These extraordinarily accurate speakers were a perfect match for the CODA. The speaker is very linear with its specially designed cabinet that minimizes any enclosure effects to give you a nearly perfect balance within its frequency response range. Couple the dynamics of such an open amp with a pair of high-end, equally dynamic speakers, and you have quite a combination.
  In listening to the Frank SinatraNo One Cares SACD, the lush orchestration and Sinatra‘s emotionally nuanced vocal were presented through the TAD/CODA tandem as good as I ever have heard the recording. It is impressive that this late 1950’s recording captured so much nuance of Mr. Sinatra vocal inflections and the understated power of the supporting orchestra. For those who like the sound of “thicker-sounding” tube amps, you owe it to yourself to hear the honesty of an amp like the CODA CSiB
  Switching back to the ML’ electrostatics, I  played some dense Pop hi-res music including the Jason Mraz — Love Is A Four Letter Word album, courtesy of an HD Tracks’ 24/96 download. The track “I Won’t Give Up” is very acoustic, but the chorus gets very loud. With some components, the loudness sounds hard, but the CODA has the dynamic power to handle the  track level with out any strain.
  In fact, this integrated is unlikely to ever run out of gas in most home listening rooms. 400 watts per channel at 8 ohms (or 800 watts into 4 ohms) is quite a lot of room-filling power. I connected the CODA integrated to the Pass Labs SR-2 three-way tower speakers and cranked up the level for Rock and Classical orchestral recordings, including the discrete two-track PCM soundtrack from The WhoLive At the Isle of Wight 1970 Blue Ray and Telarc’s 30th Anniversary re-recording of the Tchaikovsky1812 Overture with real cannon shots (more controlled than the original 1978 version) and choral accompaniment.
  The presentation through the CSiB was simply gorgeous — with just the right amount of warmness — yet the violin has this life-like sonic persona with out any stridency that often afflicts violin performances with lesser amps.

  Although these two pieces of music were quite different, the CODA showcased each track with an open, clean delineation of the instruments at a loud level— without premature blurring that happens when amps can’t handle the demand. Even at 96 dB, the 1812 Overture tympani and percussion were clean and well articulated. (I could not stand it any louder).
  The CODA cleanly beamed out the The Who concert mix, which showcased John Entwistle’s signature bass lines, Keith Moon’s tireless, relentless drum beat and Pete Townsend’s powerful P90 pickup Gibson SG guitar/ Hi-Watt amp system. My favorite live Who recording got the royal treatment with the CODA integrated.
  Operationally, the CODA CSiB was easy to use. Those who like to turn knobs may initially be put off by effortless button pushing of the digital attenuator volume control, but you get use to it. The other buttons work the same way.
  The amp only gets warm, when playing the system loud. Otherwise, it does not generate a lot of heat. It is biased at 5 watts Class A. CODA’s Doug Dale says that the company can customize the bias output for more power in Class A (less in Class A/B) — if the customer demands it.
  Overall, I had no complaint about the CSiB. It is built like a tank, and I doubt they break very often. My original CODA amp only failed when it got took out by a lightning strike. My two CODA manufactured-for-Legacy preamps are still going strong after 22 years.

The verdict
  As you have likely noted from this review, I really am impressed by CODA audio components, and the CSiB is just about as good an integrated amp as you can find on the market. it ain't’ cheap at $6,000, but many top-notch USA-made components are now north of $5,000.
  Based on my experiences with this integrated and my own preamps, I plan on doing more reviews so that the CODA line is no longer a secret in the world of quality high-end audio. More people deserve to hear them.
  If you like a no-compromise amp and preamp in one unit, and you like your power, clarity and dynamic bass impression on the real side. The CODA CSiB is definitely a high-end, integrated amplifier for your short list. We also have bestowed an Everything Audio Network Stellar Sound Award and put it on our 2016 Amp Of The Year nominee list.

  John Gatski has been evaluating consumer, audiophile, home cinema and professional audio gear since 1988. In 1995, he created Pro Audio Review, and he has written for Audio, Laserviews, Enjoy The Music, The Audiophile Voice, High Performance Review, Radio World and TV Technology. Everything Audio Network is based in Kensington, Md. Articles on this site are the copyright of the ©Everything Audio Network. Any unauthorized use, via print or Internet, without written permission is prohibited. John Gatski can be reached via everything.audio@verizon.net

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