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Roksan has upgraded its Caspian CD player and integrated amp. Are they still class leaders?

Roksan Caspian M Series – 1 CD Player & Integrated Stereoamp|$2700 each |
 (CD Player) | (Amp) | www.qualityhifi.com.au
For: The Roksan Caspian has always been well respected, so why change a good thing? Smoother and more cohesive performance, that’s why.
Against: It might give it a good shake, but the sound is not entirely neutral. Certain notes were less resonant than with the older machines.
Verdict: The M-Series CD player is good, and on that scale, the amp is great. If you’re looking for an engaging listen, this is it.
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The Roksan Caspian range has always gone down well in hi-fi circles. But Roksan has never been a company to rest on its laurels, and has made a number of running changes to both the amp and the matching M Series-1 CD player.

One of the most distinctive things about the original Caspian M Series-1 CD player was its fold-down display/draw unit. This has been replaced by a more conventional drawer mechanism, with a new Sanyo transport adding the benefit of CD-R/RW replay. Further changes include a switch from the unusually implemented Philips TDA1305 DAC to a more fashionable 24-bit Burr-Brown PCM1730e. Much work has also been done on board layout and power supplies, making the player less complex to set up during production, which will improve reliability. The boards themselves are now double-sided and of higher quality.

The twin toroidal power supplies are still in place. One of these is used solely for the analogue output stage, while the other powers the rest of the machine. Internal build quality is much improved compared to earlier versions of the player, which should lead to much higher product consistency (something that has been a weakness with Caspian products in the past). Finally, the latest player adds both XLR balanced and optical digital connections to the existing coaxial digital output and, of course, analogue phono sockets.

The most recent changes have been made to the M Series-1 amplifier. Unlike the CD player, it looks just the same as before. Essentially, the changes focus around the power supply and power amp section, although there have been slight changes to the control software, too. New bridge rectifier diodes, smoothing capacitors and a host of other small components have been changed. The object has been to make the power amp side of the Caspian amp faster to react, less ‘shouty’ and to have superior harmonics at the bottom end.

Otherwise, all is pretty much as before, including the same sturdy metal chassis that received improved ventilation during the last round of changes.

While reviewing the new Caspian M Series-1 CD and amp, we had the benefit of having to hand a two-year-old example of both. Although the CD player sports the most obvious changes since, it has to be said that the latest model still reflects the ‘Caspian sound’. However, the performance was smoother and more cohesive than before. Percussion detail benefited from noticeably superior resolution and there was the impression of more space around the individual musicians. Vocalists’ notes had a more cohesive form and structure to them. As with the older player, there was a very open soundstage that would suit more restricted sounding amps and speakers especially well.

Also in common with the old player, and indeed the amplifier, was an intimacy to the sound. Unlike the amplifier, we didn’t detect any real improvement in bass’s depth, but it was more fluent and quite strong enough in any case.

With Kate Bush’s Sunset, although the sound was tidier, faster and offered improved articulation, a little of the old Philips DAC’s character had been lost with the move to Burr-Brown. It’s hard to define but there were just certain notes, usually stringed, that had more resonance with the older machine – they tugged at the senses with just that bit more conviction. Over all, though, the CD player is still an improvement.

As has always been the case with the Caspian amp, listening to it was a unique experience. Playing the Kate Bush disc again, ours were greeted by a euphonic and distinctive sound that, whilst not entirely neutral, was certainly highly involving. As before, there was a fine sense of space and dimensionality to the sound, although this time it was certainly tauter. Bush’s vocals had that sense of engaging intimacy that the Caspian amp has always excelled with, only this time it was less cluttered – if still not immaculately ‘formed’.

Vocal projection is still a strong point for the Caspian M Series-1 amp, but the latest version sounds less forced and more focused in its efforts. The tweaks to the power supply certainly appear to have worked in eking out a deeper bass – or at least giving the impression of doing so. While still not a hard-hitting amp, the bottom registers appear to be more sustained and deeper than before. Crucially, though, this hasn’t come at the expense of integration with the midband. The great thing about the Caspian amp, and particularly this latest version, is that it makes you forget about the ‘hi-fi’ so you can just get on with enjoying the music. 

Together, the latest Caspian M-series 1 CD player and amp are an involving and competitive combination. Taken individually, the CD player is fine enough, but it’s the amp that has star quality: that magical Caspian intimacy, now with added focus. Neutral? Not entirely, but it’s a wonderfully engaging listen.

 


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