I had the opportunity to evaluate this machine at length last year (2007) and I post my comments (which I recorded at the time) below.
My initial observations was that the CD120 appeared to be a very smooth, non-fatiguing performer with above average timing and a good sense of air and space around vocals.
That said, despite such phenomenology, something nagged me about this player as I was putting it through its paces. One early observation I made was that relatively sparse recordings sounded great (particularly vocals with limited instrumental backing) but more complex recordings felt veiled and somewhat restrained. There was a slight heaviness about the more complex recordings (particularly orchestral) which didn’t seem natural to me.
It wasn’t until I put on my test tracks for Dynamics (Britten – Aria Italiana & Stravinsky – The Royal March) and my test track for pitch precision and transient response (Zucker & Jolles – images for flute & harp) that I finally uncovered what was nagging me. Aria Italiana is a rapid fire piece with sudden accent changes. One problem became immediately apparent, the CD120 lacked resolution. The twelve stringed soloists utilised for this recording were almost homogenised into a collectivised whole instead of commanding their own space. Furthermore, the Royal March which is ordinarily captivating dynamic music, thrilling in terms of clarity, thrust and incandescence was rendered anodyne and shrouded. I felt there was a low dynamic ceiling which the CD120 would not exceed and I felt short changed by it. It was clear by now that one could never accuse this player of blinding you with detail, but matters grew worse with the Victor Frost Sonatine piece on images for flute & harp. The harps strings in this piece start and stop quickly so any sense of slowness or haziness promptly informs you that something is not right. Playing the track it became vividly apparent that the CD120 was blunting the leading edge from the harp leading to a softening of dynamic contrasts and an overly restrained presentation sans the emotion.
One of the problems with the snappy superlatives that audio reviewers like to utilise or sometimes brazening bellow to describe how something sounds is that they can often hold double meanings. I began my commentary by noting that the CD120 was a very smooth, non fatiguing performer – which upon first glance would appear to be a commendation. Only in this instance I use the terms in contemptuous albeit enshrouded in a humble captious sense. For while the players smoothness may reduce irritating ‘digital’ qualities – it does so at the expense of resolution, transient response and associated dynamics. Blunt leading edges and rounded peaks whilst clearly non-fatiguing for the listener also tend to paint a shrouded, poorly resolved and veiled complex canvas – one that does not inspire, demand or captivate attention. By way of poor analogy, the CD120 reminds me of a good cup of Horlicks, a great bedtime drink for those who have made a conscious choice of not wishing to sustained by ‘red bull’ till the early morning hours.
Does my criticism mean the CD120 is not a good player? The answer is clearly no. For what is good (or bad) is not just a question of ticking audiophile glossary boxes – rather – it is a question of addressing one’s own taste in musical presentation. In this regard the CD120 may be perfect for some people - but it is entirely unacceptable to me. For a few extra dollars one can purchase a Cambridge Audio’s 840C instead - a multi-award winning player which quickly illuminates the multiple weaknesses of the CD120.
I have been looking for a replacement for the Marnatz cd63se for about 2 years. At last I found a cd player that did not cost the earth that can replace my Marantz cd63se.
I use a Rotel power amps, valve pre amp, and B& W DM330i speakers (modified, hardwired crossover with wonder caps). I listen to jazz, instrumental, acoustic, rock.
I am very impressed with the Consonance cd120 linear, however it takes a good burn in around 200- 300 hrs and it keeps improving. It is smooth, detailed, very musical and analogue sounding (natural and warm) with plenty of 3D soundstage depth, atmospheric, quite dynamic, rich and sweet. It has a very fluid sweet musical midband, top end is open sweet and airy, the bass is quite solid. It has a real sense of realness and naturalness to the sound (non-digital in the best sense e.g. harshness). It picks up the interplay between instruments, inflections, singers breathing which adds to the overall musical enjoyment. It times well (PRAT) like a good Naim.
I compared it to the Cambridge audio 640c v2, Arcam 73t, Nad c542, Marantz cd63se, Marantz sacd 7001. Compared to the Cambridge 640c v2, the Cambridge was slightly punchier in the bass, more forward and cold sounding. The Consonance was much more musically enjoyable especially the mids (realistic and sweet), deeper soundstage – more layered and fuller deeper bass the top end is more detailed and open. Much better than the Cambridge. The consonance was more natural and open and musical sounding than the Marantz sacd7001, the marantz seemed a bit glassy and clinical in the mids and forward - very wearing after awhile.
The Arcam cd73t was better than the Marantz sacd 7001 however the consonance was more refined, detailed, open and musical, with a deeper soundstage and had a more sparkling top end. The Arcam was drier sounding, had a touch wider soundstage and slightly fuller bass. The consonance was quite a bit better than the Arcam. I compared it to my old Marantz cd63se, the consonance easily matched its musical midband, the consonance was smoother, more refined and detailed.
I had a listen to the next level up in a shop, the Creek Evo and the Rega Apollo both very musical machines, the consonance seemed to have a slightly more open soundstage, natural musical mid-band, more balanced. The Rega Apollo seemed a little light in the bass department however its top end is quite magical (sweet open and airy -impressive). I did also have a quick listen to the meridian cd player on my system (4 x the cost of the consonance), the meridian had a tighter deeper bass, a touch more detailed and refined, slightly more top end air, however I probably preferred the consonance midrange - more musical and natural sounding. The consonance overall came close and I enjoyed it just as much.
It’s important to get good power leads and interconnects and it works well with valve gear too. Listen for hours without fatigue – rediscovering my cd collection. Sit back relax and enjoy - let the music soothe you. It well suited to all kinds of music. It is quite analogue non digital sounding.
One feature it has is selecting the sampling rate. 44.1 brings a little more of the mids out and a touch more livelier and energetic. The 88.2 setting makes it slightly smoother and refined sounding with a touch more air at the top end. The consonance is a nice looking unit which weighs a bit – I think just under 10kg. It comes with an odd shaped but nice heavy metal remote.
Price is Australian $.
This is a review of the CD120 Linear.
Got the player about 6 weeks ago to replace my 1992 Rotel 965BX.
The 965BX was hard to replace but the Linear did it conclusively.
The Linear is a fabulous, musical player.
Clear highs with no harshness, great midrange & excellent bass.
A very detailed player but not analytical.
It took about a week to burn in & has since got better & better.
Very musical with all types - Ben Webster, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Weather Report, Keith Jarrett, Diana Krall, Stacey Kent, Ry Cooder, Asleep at the Wheel, The Amazing Rhythm Aces,The Band, Guy Clark, Jennifer Warnes etc etc & classical.
Instruments & voices sound so realistic.
Can listen for hours with no fatigue.
If you are looking for a new player at this price point (or even higher) you should review the Linear.