There aren’t a lot of meet-cutes in high-end audio, but this CAD story might qualify. Back at the Florida Audio Expo last February, I met with PTA writer Matthew Partrick to go over my expectations for show reports. (It was the first time we met in person.) We decided that the best approach was for him to shadow me for a couple of rooms. At the time, we were standing in the corridor of the FLAX venue, right outside of the Computer Audio Design (CAD) room. “Let’s start in here,” I told Matthew.
Words and Photos by Marc Phillips
At that moment, I knew next to nothing about CAD. Matthew is a big fan of new digital technologies and is a huge Roon advocate, so I thought a brand with “computer audio” right in the name would be his jam. We sat and listened and when we went back out into the corridor I offered him a few additional tips. Then I stopped for a second, and looked back through the doorway into the CAD room. “By the way,” I said, “that was a great sounding room!” Matthew agreed and I told him to go back in there to cover it. (Which he did.)
A couple of weeks before Munich 2023, I received an email from CAD’s Isabel Whitley thanking me for coming into her room in Tampa and reminding me that CAD would also be in Munich. (We missed the CAD room at AXPONA, unfortunately.) I suppose I felt a little guilty for walking into someone’s room at a show and then walking right back out, so when I walked past the CAD room at the MOC I immediately headed in.
Isabel was there, happy that I was going to stay and take a listen. We had a great conversation, in fact, and then I learned something interesting–Computer Audio Design is located in Portland. No, that doesn’t mean we’ll be bumping into each other in front of Voodoo Doughnuts on 2nd any time soon, but it does make it easy to arrange for CAD reviews.
And I want to arrange for a CAD review because my instincts in Tampa were confirmed in Munich–this gear sounds great.
CAD teamed with Wilson Benesch and Trilogy, a UK manufacturer unknown to me despite the fact they’re celebrating their 30th anniversary, along with Bibacord cabling from Sweden. (As Isabel mentioned in her email, “Unintentionally, a bit of a British room with a spot of Swedish gloom thrown in.”) Wilson Benesch showed their somewhat odd-looking Resolution 3Zero speakers with rear-facing drivers mounted on the front baffle–these are isobaric designs. I’ve heard these speakers before and they’re superb.
So what does CAD make? They offer a DAC, the 1543 Mk. II, and an intriguing one-box digital solution called the CAT which includes a server, streamer, CD ripper, and playback. You can also customize the CAT for two-channel systems or as part of a multi-room network. Finally, CAD makes a number of grounding devices and a USB cable.
Once again, the sound quality of the CAD captured my attention. This was an extremely dynamic sound, even when choral music was played–it was confident and yet beautiful. When we switched to a percussion track, the CAD/Trilogy/WB system was able to recreate the physical presence of an actual drummer right there in the room. No, I did not ask for “Chocolate Chip Trip,” but I should have.
Matthew Partrick did mention something about being interested in a review. But he’s gonna need to get in line behind me. I love it when a high-end audio manufacturer comes out of nowhere and suddenly I’m obsessing about getting it in and telling the world about it. Expect to hear more about CAD in the coming months.
If you would like to hear even more coverage from Munich 2023, check out our recap report and highlights from our audiophile-oriented show The Occasional Podcast. You can stream the episode direct from the embed below, or from your favorite podcast platform including iTunes, Android, Google, Deezer, Spotify, iHeartRadio and more.
Also don’t forget to check out our latest collaboration – a solid bronze record weight available only for a limited run. This 800g of solid bronze features the PTA roundel on the top which also acts as a 45 adapter. You can purchase direct from the PTA Approved Store here on the site.