For many enthusiasts, the source is the most important part of a hi-fi system. And after testing the CEC TL2N transport and accompanying CEC DA SL Superlink d/a converter there is much to be said for that. Initially, only the transport was going to be tested but importer Hear Everything Audio assured us that with the specially developed dac you would discover the full potential of the transport and we wanted to prove that bold statement.
CEC, from Japan, has been around since 1954 and has been making CD transports, CD players and d/a converters for decades. For their optical players, they developed an equally simple and ingenious system in 1991. It was then that they first used, in their now illustrious TL1, a string to play silver discs. In the TL2N, which we are testing today, even two strings are used, a so-called double belt drive. Via a unique Superlink system – I2S – you connect to the specially developed DA SL d/a converter. Different, aberrant, special. We like that.
Construction and Appearance
Modest is the term we would use for these devices. Both components are very solidly put together but they don’t stand out. The TL2N transport has full-sized dimensions (435 (W) x 335 (T) x 111 (H) mm), just like the dac, and looks mostly functional. At the front we see a rectangular LED screen with five push buttons below it. These serve from left to right for rewind, fast forward, upsampling, stop and play/pause. On the left is the on/off button and that’s it.
At the top we see a drawer that you slide open with an ornate lever. Inside we find a large circular puck that covers the entire compact disc. This solid puck (Flywheel stabilizer) has a diameter of 12cm and a weight of 380 grams.
Open the drawer, take the puck out, put the CD in, place the puck on the cd, close the drawer. Always the same ritual of listening to a specially selected CD. Delightful. A lot less volatile than streaming in any case. This ritual, just like putting on a vinyl record, provides an extra experience. Quietly reading the liner notes and lyrics completes the picture. At the back there are outputs for optical, coax or AES/EBU and for the unique Superlink connection (I2S). Finally, there is an input to connect a separate clock.
As mentioned, the dac has the same dimensions as the transport. The front is again minimalist with the same LED screen in the middle. You can dim that screen or turn it off completely. On the left we see a button to choose between the two filters (flat and pulse) and on the right the input button. At the far left is the on/off button and ready. At the back from left to right the analog outputs (xlr and rca), a word-clock input, the four superlink inputs. The highly modified ESS Sabre Hyperstream dac should provide ultra low distortion. Both units come standard with an inexpensive remote control, and while it works fine, we think the metal, optional remote control should just be in the box.
The patented CEC Superlink connection is actually an I2s connection that has CEC split into four parts. Through four 75 Ohm BNC cables, one sends the signal from transport to dac without additional decoding. The goal here is to give jitter no chance.
The four parts with the Superlink connection are MCK (masterclock), BCK (bitclock), LRCK (left/right clock) and DATA. You attach the cables and give them a quarter turn to the right to snap in place. At first we thought you could only use the DA SL dac via Superlink but that’s not true. After reading the manual we find out that the second input (BNC-BCK) can be used as a normal spdif BNC connection. So you can still connect this dac to another device. A streamer for example.