A $16,750 CD Player!?
By James Grahame
Nagra has a long history producing tape recorders for professional film and video recording. Perhaps that explains their deranged quest to produce the most overengineered CD player on earth.
The Swiss company borrowed the high-end industrial aesthetic of their classic tape machines for this top of the line $16,750 CDC CD player. The front panel features a gloriously unnecessary level meter and a smattering of gob-smackingly expensive knobs and toggle switches.
So what else do you get for almost seventeen grand? Well, the CD module is built into the front-loading CD tray rather than being bolted inside the machine. The engineering gnomes claim that sliding the CD mechanism in and out in conjunction with the disc will improve our listening pleasure, by providing the "ideal mechanized environment for the CD module."
The drawer itself is powered by a planetary reduction motor developed by a NASA supplier whose products graced an unnamed Mars Rover. Hopefully it's one of the cute ones that didn't smack into the harsh and uninviting surface of the red planet at 6,000 mph. The disc is held in place by a magnetic clamp. Nagra ensures us, "The prescribed weight of this component has been rigorously adhered to; an over-heavy roller would deteriorate the playback and wear the transport motor out prematurely."
It goes without saying that the power supply is housed in an external case, lest the presence of high voltage alternating current pollute the audio signal path. This could wreak havoc with the astoundingly articulate highs, the confident yet affectionate mid-range and the leviathan bass.
As icing on the cake, the printed circuit board holding the Burr-Brown digital-to-analog converters is radiation shielded by a gold-plated cover, presumably to keep the music playing in the event of a nuclear holocaust [or to ward off mundane RF interference]. Far be it from me to point out that 50 cents of properly engineered tin sheeting would suffice, although it would ruin the joy repair technicians must feel when popping off and swiping it.
To round out the feature set, the CDC includes a pair of analog outputs coated with pigment harvested from endangered butterflies [uh, ok, it's actually gold], AES, S/PDIF and Toslink digital outputs, along with spiffy 24-bit digital-to-analog converters with 8x oversampling. The 4 kg beast includes a solid-state preamp so you can plug it straight into a power amplifier. Of course, you also get a dashingly sleek headphone jack with adjustable volume control, just in case you can't afford any other components after selling your Honda Civic to finance this little extravagance.