Audio Analogue’s AAdrive CD transport and AAdac digital-to-analogue converter are the latest high-end audio components from the Italian company’s four-strong PureAA line. The Pure AA models are all half-width but robust designs, which combine the company’s twin ideals of making it sound good and look good. The price differential might suggest the AAdrive is in some way the lesser of the two devices, but that’s not the case. In reality, both represent a pinnacle of performance for the brand, and beyond that, both fit well into Audio Analogue’s ever-expanding product portfolio. Come to think of it, the biggest stumbling block the PureAA line might have is that people have welded shut their minds when it comes to audio, and that means the success of the Puccini integrated amplifier might pigeonhole the company as an amp brand.
This would be both wrong and foolish. Audio Analogue has a long and illustrious career making audio electronics of all shapes and sizes, and at all price levels. A CD transport and a matching extremely well-specified DAC/headphone amplifier are very core to Audio Analogue’s product line. Moreover, the ‘singing shoebox’ form factor shared by the AAdrive, AAdac, AAphono (guess what that does for a living), and the full-width AAcento integrated amp all combine to offer a delicious looking system.
The AAdrive is perhaps the easiest part of the group to process. It’s a well-built, modified TEAC-CD5020A CD transport with a front-loading drive, a small but readable display beneath that CD sled and only an RCA S/PDIF and an AES/EBU digital output to its name. The top of the panel has a small inset allowing you to view the spinning disc, but that’s more cosmetic than functional (it does look good, though). It’s chunkily put together, with some rear-mounted ventilation, although it doesn’t run especially warm.
A new CD transport is a rare and useful thing to see in today’s audio world, even if it’s a comparatively specialist-interest device in today’s stream-heavy world. It’s often easy to ‘kick CD upstairs’ and call upon some of the most expensive devices with clock connections, SACD replay and more. While these devices are great and long may they continue, we also need a damn good CD transport at a more reasonable level, and that has become all too rare in 2021. It doesn’t just get points for showing up, and the AAdrive needs to pass muster both in build and performance, but it’s a welcome addition to the pantheon of modern audio.