Some forty or more years ago, the average person who set out to buy a stereo system, typically ended up with a stereo receiver. Things were much simpler then; all you needed was a receiver, a turntable and a pair of speakers. As for ‘audio furniture’, milk crates were the order of the day. A pair of included patch cord interconnects and if you were somewhat sophisticated, a run of heavy gauge lamp cord and you were in business. You didn’t have to give any thought to power cords, because components had captive power cords.
Of course, there were serious hobbyists who bought separates and had furniture grade cabinets made to house their components and speakers. These folks constituted a very small minority of stereo buyers. Once the transistor era took hold, watts per channel was the order of the day; the bigger the box with more knobs and lights, the better.
Once the high end segment of the market was fully established, single box or receivers were completely cast aside. This wasn’t without good reason. Separates simply provided much better sound.
In recent years, integrated amps have made serious inroads into the high end market. For beginning audiophiles who desire a simpler system that will still deliver excellent sound quality at a lower price, an integrated amplifier is a reasonable choice. However, you will still need an outboard CD player, phono stage and headphone amp.
Lately, new modern one box music systems have been coming onto the market. A number of manufacturers are intent on making a serious assault on the audiophile segment of the market with these products. They’re doing this by offering convenience coupled with excellent sound quality in a one box system. The major advantage of the one box system is logistical simplicity as well as convenience of operation.
AVM is a company (founded in Germany in 1986) in the forefront of this relatively new segment of the market. The CS 8.2 is an addition to their extensive line of audio products. Udo Besser is the owner and managing director of the company and according to the manufacturer, the company is dedicated to designing and producing the finest equipment for the highest quality musical reproduction. The modular design of the CS-8.2 means that future upgrades will be made quite easily.
The Ovation CS 8.2 is far more than a simple receiver. It’s one of AVM’s top of the line all in one network music systems. The other is the Ovation CS 6.2. The difference between the two is the 6.2 has a transistor line stage as opposed to the 8.2s use of 803T tubes in the line stage. Since it has tubes in the line stage, it requires a short warm up period before playing. AVM’s tube topology is going to cost you two grand more than the solid state 6.2, with an MSRP of $12,995.
Both of them include an FM tuner, a streamer/network player that supports all common streaming formats, a red book CD front-loading transport based on the exclusive TEAC drive, a Quad DAC that can process signals up to 384 kHz / 32 bit and also DSD formats, with future upgrades easily made as the DAC is a modular design and easily replaceable. The power section consists of two Hypex Class D 500 watt modules and finally, a front panel headphone jack.
The layout of the front panel is clean and uncluttered. On the left is the selector knob, and the power button right below that. The CD slot is right below the indicator window.
The remote functions are controlled by an app that can be installed on an iOS or Android device. There is a traditional remote available for an additional $700.00. Since the app worked flawlessly, I chose to stick with it. The volume knob and the headphone jack are on the right side. This is a handsome and well-built piece of gear overall.
Type: All-in-one with DAC, streaming, CD drive, FM tuner
Tube complement: 803T tubes
Power output: 2 x 500W into 4 ohms
Analog inputs: One balanced XLR and one unbalanced RCA
Digital inputs: One coaxial SPDIF, two TosLink, one LAN, USB, Wi-Fi, CD changer
Supported media server: UPnP 1.1, UPnP-AV, and DLNA-compatible server, Microsoft Windows Media Connect Server (WMDRM 10), DLNA-compatible server (NAS)
Web radio: Airable Internet Radio Service
Digital signal processing: Up to 192kHz/24-bit (USB, 32-bit/384kHz)
Input impedance: 6.8k ohms
Outputs: One balanced, one unbalanced, one line-out
Streaming formats: MP3, WMA, AAC, OGG Vorbis, FLAC (192/32 via LAN), WAV (192/32 via LAN), AIFF (192/32 via LAN), ALAC (96/24 via LAN)
Supported streaming services: Tidal Hi-Fi, Qobuz (which made a huge splash at this year’s RMAF)
Upsampling frequencies: Native, 44.1, 48, 88, 96, 176, 192kHz
Dimensions: 430mm x 130mm x 370mm
Use and Listening
Installation is simplicity itself. While you’ll need an ethernet connection to do the initial configuration, once completed, you can use your Wi-Fi. Afterward, just connect your speakers, plug in a power cord and you’re in business.
I started my audition with the tuner. It worked, but was hampered by the poor reception that we receive here in the crowed city. While a number of stations were pulled in, they were noisy and compressed. Streaming these same stations not only made then listenable, but it was about as good a sound quality that I’ve ever heard from FM.
Listening to AAD music files from iTunes via a MacBook Pro was another pleasant surprise. Overall, the sound was open and full bodied with very good image specificity and clarity. Cassandra Wilson’s Traveling Miles, came across with her full silky voice intact. Lonnie Plaxico’s acoustic bass provides a solid underpinning throughout the recording. Again, with the AVM, the sound was large and weighty. The rich timbres were in no way constrained or thinned out.
Haydn’s Symphony No. 75 in D Major was heard with the full width and height of the grandeur this symphony provides. The clarity of the AVM was especially appreciated. All of the instruments were well placed with all of the instrumental lines clearly delineated.
Cyrus Chestnut’s Midnight Melodies [Smoke Sessions SSR-1408], is a live recording of a performance with Chestnut on piano, Curtis Lindy on bass and Victor Lewis on drums, made in November of 2013. This is an excellent recording that has a good measure of that ‘you are there’ quality. The AVM Ovation CS 8.2 excels at reproducing these qualities provided they are present in the recording. The shimmer and decay of the piano is most notable as is the weighty timbres. You can get a good sense of the size of the room as well as the location of the sidemen throughout the entire recording.
With the exception of the Cyrus Chestnut CD, I listened to the same selections I listened to on AAD files on CD. As good as the CD is, I preferred the sound of the files by a very slight margin. The music from the files was a little clearer, and slightly more open with better image specificity.
I used a pair of Audeze headphones to test the headphone amp. It proved not thrown in as an afterthought. Music sounded as full bodied and well detailed as any that I’ve heard to date. It’s good to know that with this unit, you will not have to worry about adding a headphone amp to the system.
I have to admit when I first encountered the AVM CS 6.2 I was expecting a compromised sound quality. After all, this and the 8.2 are single units not separates. Well, this was one of those instances where I was completely taken by surprise and was reminded about passing judgements about gear that I haven’t heard. More accurately, I was totally blown away by the sound quality of both units, but I ultimately preferred the slightly warmer sound of the tubed CS8.2. I could, however, easily live with either one. I listened to the CS8.2 with AVM’s own Ovation SA8.2 450 watt power amplifier. The major difference was with the heft, slam and extension of the low end. With the outboard power amp, these qualities were vastly improved. The bass with the built in Hypex amps is in no way deficient; it is far better with the outboard amp. I know that adding an outboard amp somewhat defeats the goal of simplicity but is an option for you to consider.
I know a number of seasoned audiophiles who have or are about to give up the search for the sonic Holy Grail and are looking to downsize their systems. For them, the AVM Ovation CS 8.2 would be a good solution. In addition to the advantage of saving space, there would also be a corresponding savings as a result of the elimination of several sets of interconnects and power cords.
For audiophiles who are starting out but do not want to make the investments in multiple boxes and software again, the CS 8.2 is a solution. There are those who would argue that anyone owning a unit such as this simply isn’t an audiophile. Well, that’s an opinion. I’m saying that the convenience of the CS8.2 is desirable, but what counts is the sound quality. As I said earlier, this is a unit that I would be quite happy to own. Given the build and sonic qualities, plus the convenience.
Further Information: AVM