California Audio Labs CL-20 CD Players

CL-20

CD/DVD player

User Reviews (11)

Showing 1-10 of 11  
Rob Damm   Audiophile [Mar 11, 2000]
Strength:

Excellent CD playback, best HDCD sound I've heard. Nice build quality.

Weakness:

The picture is not as sharp or colorful as some cheaper competition. No component out. No DTS. No 24/96 digital out.

I like this product quite a bit. As a stand-alone, it presents a warm, rich sound with a deep soundstage. As a transport, it simply is not very good. I don't think it puts out a reference quality bit-stream. In fact, I think the cheaper sony is better as a transport, but weaker as a player. Has anyone compared this to the Denon DVD 5000? I've been thinking of buying the 5000 and I'd like some feedback. Please email me.


Similar Products Used: Sony DVP 7700, Rega planet w/x24k Dac or Msb Link DAC, meridian 518, pioneer dv 09, denon dvd 3000.
OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
3
Peter   Audio Enthusiast [Aug 14, 2000]
Strength:

musicality, design,

Weakness:

Transport!!! There it starts to go from time to time, and indeed, a friend had the same problems bevfore

I'll go for the TagMclaren, of which I bought the AV32R already; This isreally a product where they first do a lot of research. It's like buying a Alfa Romeo: great cars, as long as they last...

OVERALL
RATING
3
VALUE
RATING
3
Bose Sucks   Audiophile [Nov 20, 1999]

To clarify what is meant by "Borderline class B" I actually asked a Stereophile reveiwer (DO). It is often misunderstood. If a class A product is "Borderline class B" then that means it is barely in class A, in other words some reviewers gave it an A- and maybe one gave it a B+. So the reviwers meant (according to DO) the CAL CL-20 is A+ in DAD and A- with 16/44 CD's. Similarly if a class C product is "Borderline class B" It may have gotten some B- ratings but the C+ ratings kept it in class C. Hope that helps.

At $2500 new or $1700-1800 Used this is still an awesome bargain!

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
I. Medina   an Audiophile [Sep 08, 1999]

I replaced my Rotel RCD-855 CD player with the CL-20 and the difference in sound is light-years apart. The Rotel was a Class C Stereophile reviewed unit and I bought it for less than $500.00. The CL-20 cost me more than $2,000.00. However, the cost difference is well worth it. The 96KHZ playback is simply amazing. It is better than the quality of sound I am getting from my Linn-Sondek LP-12 record player. Although Stereophile rates the CD playback as Class B, I personally believe it should be Class A. The DVD future playback options means that this equipment is a very good long term investment. Stereophile is right in classifying this as a Class A equipment but it should be both for CD and DVD playback. It should also have given it a $$$ rating. Before buying it, I looked at the other Class A rated equipment from Audio Research and Naim. I think with the DVD option the CL20 gives a much better value for your money.I am 101 percent satisfied with the purchase.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
Linny   Audiophile [Sep 09, 2001]
Strength:

Best CD player I have heard under $5k, AND it playes DVDs. HDCD is nice too.

Weakness:

Video quality is only so-so... component video out (which I do not have) is a $500 option(?); more than my roomate's Sony DVD player--which comes with component outs standard. No longer being built (but CAL factory support is very good).

This deck replaced a Audio Alchemy DDE 3.0 and 1.1 DAC combo; I expected an improvement in CD playback but WOW, I was no where near ready for the sound out of this rig--this thing slays! It sounds even better on DAD playback--a lot better.

Contrary to Rob Damm's review below, the CAL DOES play 24/96 sources (though its internal DACs operate at only with 20-bit precission) AND it does have a 24/96 output but it had to be turned on internally (no big deal really).

Compared to other pricy DVD rigs, I thought the CAL sounded every bit as good as the much more expensive Proceed (though without the latter's upgradability and with some what poorer video quality); I have not heard the Ayre Acoustics D-1, though many seem to like it quite a bit....

If you want a great CD player (or transport) that had 24/96 capability AND playes DVDs, you owe it to give this deck a listen (if you can find one). If you are primarily interested in it as a HT DVD unit, save yourself a few (thousand) bucks and look at something a little less extreem.

Similar Products Used: Audio Alchemy DDE 3.0 and 1.1 DAC combo; DDE 3.0 and Goldumnd Mimisis 21+ DAC combo; Rega Planet; Proceed PMDP; various other mid-fi and hi-end CD players.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Gilbert Torres   an Audio Enthusiast [Apr 08, 1999]

I finally get to do a review based on actually owning two products :) I recently bought the DVP-7700 about 2 months ago. My system consists of:
Main -B&W 801s Series III
Center - B&W HTM1
Rear - B&W 804s
Sub - Velodyne ULD18
Preamp- Citation 7.0 (Proceed AVP on the way :)
Amps - Citation 7.0 Fronts
Citation 5.0 Rear & Center & Shakers
DVD/CD - California Audio labs CL-20
- Sony DVP-7700
Tactile - 2 Aura Bass Shakers (soon to be 4)
Screen - Pioneer Elite 50"

Needless to say I am not a rich person(my system has been in the making now for about 7 years). I have put together what I think is a high quality system by slowly buying one item at a time. I have been searching to put together a system to recreate a live performance. Something that just plain gets you emotional listening to it. Yesterday it finally all came together..woohooo...Now you must be asking yourself how this just happened since I bought the Sony 2 months ago. Well lets begin with me getting the Auras 2 days ago. Since there is no section for them I will have to let you all in on something every system MUST have to get that LIVE feeling w/ out having to "crank" your system. I took the time to match their tactile feel to the output of the Velodyne. Then I made 4 different custom sound settings on the Citation Processor. On each I increased the Bass output by 3db. So get this Custom 1 0db, Custom 2 +3db, Custom 3 +6db, Custom 4 +9db and if you really want to feel things hit the bass boost one more time and you get +12db. Now w/ all this talk about bass and dbs you must be thinking I must be a total bass head. No. It just means that depending on the music/movie you may want more or less feeling. I made the custom settings so my guests can tailor the sound easily to their liking. Ok so that pretty much sums up the system setup.
Now on to the Sony. I have had it for a while now and am familiar w/ it. I was able to get one for $999. The video is the best I have ever had in my system and puts my older Pioneer Elite LD in the closet (well almost-looks great in my rack). I will no longer be buying LDs. Since my current processer lacks AC3 and DTS (recall I am waiting for the Proceed to come in and my opinions may totally change once it is set up) I can only comment on good ol Pro-logic (actually 6-Axis for all you familiar w/ Citation processing). The Sony's ablitiy w/ movies is w/ out question excellent.
However, its ability to play CDs left me feeling there must be more to stereo music that what this unit could do. I pretty much rate new equipment like this. If it makes me want to get out a bunch of CDs to see how they sound w/ the new equipment it is a winner. Well the Sony made me want to order a bunch more DVDs. Really folks you will not hear anyone really brag about this player's stereo ability that has heard a quality CD player.
The reason I can say that is because I just got a California Audio Labs CL-20 CD/DVD player yesterday. Now why would I buy a combo player when I already have one. Frist it plays HDCDs the Sony does not but the CL-20 does not play DTS and the Sony does. Even trade off since who knows where those formats are gona go. The other reason I got this player is that it was on Stereophiles Gradae A list for CD players (check out this months issue). Now the interesting this is that it cost me $2076. Does the CL-20 play DVDs better than the Sony? yes. Does it play them $1000 worth in difference to make that small difference worthwhile? Absolutely not. If you are looking for a killer DVD player for $1000 you can not find one better than the Sony. If you want to buy a combo DVD/CD player that can play BOTH CDs and DVDs extremely well go for the CL-20. It is up to you if you think you need to upgrade your CD player as well. At $2000 the CL-20 is a bargain. Look folks the CL-20 had me looking for CDs to play on it. It is a winner. I found room in my system for both of these guys. So as of yesterday I have finally hit the realism I have been searching for. The cool thing is that I now have it in DVD and in CD. Now if that proceed would just come in so I could see what the fuss AC3 & DTS is all about. Be back w/ an update then.

Sorry for the long story but I feel you really need the big picture to appreciate the difference both these players have made in my system.

One last thing. W/ out a really good system you would not hear or see the difference between these players near as much. However, they ARE very different BUT you need a darn good system to see/hear it.

One last thing any input on improving my system further E-mail me. I am always open for suggestions.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
Ted   an Audio Enthusiast [Apr 08, 1999]

Gilbert, you should read more carefully. Stereophile gave the CL-20 a Class A rating for DVD playback (24 bit, 96 kHz audio only discs) and rated the unit as borderline Class B for CD playback. Still a great and versatile player, but it is not a Class A CD player. By the way, the Denon DVD 5000 is slightly better (my opinion) on both CD and DVD playback than the CL-20 (yes, I auditioned them both in the same store, same equipment in the playback chain, multiple CDs and DVDs). The DVD 5000 is also quite expensive.

OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
Frank   an Audiophile [Jun 10, 1999]

ACTUALLY Ted, three stereophile reviewers commented on the CAL 20. Two said the CD playback is Class A, and one said he thought it was borderline Class B (just like one said the Classe DAC was the best he had ever heard anywhere, and another said borderline Class B for the Classe, but it still got the Class A rating). I disagree the CAL sounded better on 24/96 music material, HDCD CD's, and regular CD's. I did not compare the DVD video as I am a two channel man until my kid is old enough to sit and watch movies (actually sold all the A/V separates and went back to 2 channel when he was born, rare huh)
Frank

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
Frank Steele   Audiophile [Oct 16, 1999]
Strength:

Great with CD's and HDCD CD's, Awesome with DAD's.

Weakness:

Expensive, Big

I just recently replaced my Rotel 971 (actually its in the second system now) with the CAL-20. The Rotel was a great unit for the price, but the CAL sounds better with CD's and HDCD CD's. But the real bonus is with DAD's. These discs sound awesome, like Dave's True Story. The CD version is great, but the DAD is a good step above on the CAL. I promised myself to get a DVD player when "The Matrix" came out and had planned on buying a sony or Denon unit. But after hearing the CAL, and it sounded better then the Rotel or the Ultech UCD-100 for that matter. I knew I could kill two birds with one stone. I paid $1690 for a used unit, but I hear they may have a new "2500" unit that has the component video that the current 25 has and it will only be $1,500-$1,800. For now I am happy with this player, I hope the new one is just as good or better.

Current set up is:

CAL-20 DVD/CD
Sonic Frontiers Assemblage L-1 (A better Sonic Frontiers SFL-1 in a kit)
Bryston B-60 Integrated (AMP used only)
Silver Audio silver bullet 6.0's Interconnects
Pure Silver Sound Sextet pure silver speaker cables
PSB Stratus Silver speakers

Similar Products Used: Rotel RCD-971 HDCD CD-Player
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
4
Dennis Blejer   an Audiophile [Feb 18, 1999]

The California Audio Lab CL-20 is an excellent CD/DVD player. First and foremost it has excellent audio. I reviewed it in an audiophile store first and then at my home. I connected to my Proceed AVP preamp/pro, ATI 1505 5 ch power amp and Cambridge Soundworks Tower IIs, Centerstage, Powered Sub, and Optimus Pro 77 for surrounds. The interconnects were upper end Monster cable and M1.2s for speaker cable. I compared it to my Marantz DVD-810 which was recommended in two Stereo Review system articles and has the same audio quality as the Marantz 67SE CD player (which I also have). Needless to say the CL-20 has superior audio both as a player and as a transport. The sound from the CL-20 is detailed, refined, smooth, and very engaging. The CL-20 is also capable of playing 96 kHz DVD audio tracks which sounded incredible in the audiophile store. The video quality of the CL-20 is good but not better than the Marantz. In fact I saw some video artifacts watching the DVD movie "Small Soldiers" which I don't see with the Marantz. The CL-20 has a 9 bit video DAC: the CL-25 has a 10 bit video DAC, so videophiles should opt for the CL-25 which also has component and RGB out. The CL-20 has a pretty good remote and ergonomics. The last play function is excellent and works with all DVDs and CDs. The build quality is excellent. Its looks are fair as it is very boxy with sharp corners.Overall an excellent machine that has some upgradeability (DTS perhaps and not clear what else).

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
Showing 1-10 of 11  

(C) Copyright 1996-2018. All Rights Reserved.

audioreview.com and the ConsumerReview Network are business units of Invenda Corporation

Other Web Sites in the ConsumerReview Network:

mtbr.com | roadbikereview.com | carreview.com | photographyreview.com | audioreview.com