Built like a tank, the CA21 is a fine example of the minimalist approach: a line preamp with an input selector (four line inputs) and a volume control, but no balance control. Stock tubes are Chinese 6SN7s. Substitution of NOS 7N7 or 7AF7 Loktals yields smoother textures and more palpable images. A giant killer in clarity, soundstage transparency, and detail resolution. A slightly closed-in treble range highlights the midrange. Tonally, the center of gravity is centered in the lower midrange, enabling a bigtone portrayal of cello and upright bass.
Reviewed by DO, Issue 208Welcome to the 2011 edition of The Absolute Sound’s Editors’ Choice Awards, our annual Recommended Products list. On the following pages we present the gear that our editors and writers have selected as most worthy of your consideration. These are the components we ourselves would buy—or recommend to friends and family. Each product category is divided into price ranges, with components listed in order of ascending cost (though a few items, like cables and accessories, are listed alphabetically for clarity’s sake). Each recommendation is also accompanied by a capsule review, the original reviewer’s name or initials, and the issue the review appeared in. Note that in a few cases a product may have been reviewed in one of our sister publications, Playback or AVguide.com, or the review may be pending publication, or the product may not have been formally reviewed but earns a recommendation based on one or more writer’s extensive experience with it.
Given that this is the high end, where components generally have long lifespans, some of our recommendations look back several years. At the same time, in an effort to be as selective and up-to-date as possible, we have dropped some components that appeared on last year’s list, usually because they have been discontinued but sometimes because fresh competition has caused us to reconsider the choice.
TAS founder Harry Pearson’s selections can be found in this issue’s HP’s Workshop.