Hanss Acoustics CD-20

Digital player from the analogue expert is well priced and impressive for its upsampling capacity

Hanss Acoustics made its debut in these pages with the T-30 turntable (HFC 331), one of three high-mass, multi-motor designs that it produces. Despite the presence of phono stages and even a record-cleaner in the range, it’s not just an analogue company, as the CD player proves.

Like the turntables, the CD-20 is a substantial beast with high build and finish quality for the asking price. In fact, the all-metal remote, which is styled to match the player, is the most attractive in the test.

By the standards of the group it’s low on features, but has all the essentials in the RCA phono and XLR analogue outputs and a lonely coaxial digital output. Optical outputs have their uses, but not many audio enthusiasts make them a first choice.

The CD-20 has switchable upsampling from the remote to a whopping 705.6kHz which is 16 times the standard 44.1kHz sample rate of CD, but only four times the 176.4kHz produced by the pair of Burr-Brown PCM1792 DACs it houses. Hanss uses four Burr-Brown op-amps in the output stage to produce the balanced output available on the XLR connections.

Interestingly, the quoted distortion figures for this output are considerably lower than those for single-ended outputs, suggesting that these RCA phono connectors are hooked up to a valve output stage. Although no mention is made of the fact in the spec, the ventilation holes under the box piqued our interest sufficiently to take the lid off and reveal a pair of ECC85-equivalent 6N1 double-triode valves.

Sound quality

The blind panel heard the CD-20’s single-ended outputs as it did for all the other players and having auditioned the two options side-by- side, we suspect it’s best that way.

The tubes on the single-ended side have a distinctly mellowing effect, which helps the CD-20 to produce a fluid and relaxed, if slightly dark, sound that is a little short on energy.

The panel seemed to enjoy its first presentation rather more than the second –the quality of the preceding player presumably having a bearing on their expectations. Initially, the panel reported an “open and airy” sound with a “wide soundstage” and “good bass that’s tight and full”.

This impression didn’t continue throughout the programme, however, and by the La Folia piece the novelty seemed to have worn off, with complaints that the sound was “flat with no sense of depth”.

The results were not significantly more consistent the second time around where a panellist enjoyed its musicality. But not everyone was so positive and there was some dissent regarding a “lack of bass weight” and “poor image-projection”.

In its defence, this is the least expensive one-box machine here and it can clearly make music if your tastes are for the acoustic rather than the electronic.

LIKE: Good with acoustic music thanks to valve output and solidly built
DISLIKE: Not for those who like their sofas to shake
WE SAY: The Hanss has a mellow, relaxed sound that lacks the dynamics to be fully engaging

DETAILS
Origin: China
Weight: 14.4kg
Dimensions: (WxHxD) 434x132x354mm
Features:
• Analogue outputs: unbalanced and balanced (XLR)
• Digital outputs: electrical S/PDIF
Distributor:  ABC Audio
Telephone: 020 8462 1379
website: hanssacoustics.com