Moving back to the CD mechanism, it’s a TEAC unit (although not a VRDS design) with a five second buffer. This means it’s not the quickest of units to work when you press play, but does mean the error correction is at least notionally better than standard unbuffered CD replay. We are in an interesting time with digital disc; as we hear rumours of older discs decaying and even new discs sporting errors, this buffering system is a good idea.
The all-discrete component output stage is – as is common to NORMA products – a wide-bandwidth design: although even a 24/192 track hits the Nyquist-Shannon brick wall at 96kHz, the amplifiers are capable of a frequency response into the 2MHz range. This is to prevent any high-frequency cut-offs working their way down into the audio band, but requires solid engineering to prevent the DS-1 making those ‘papada, papada’ noises when mobile phones periodically poll their nearest cell. Fortunately, as discussed earlier, NORMA is all over the ‘solid engineering’ bit, and the cabinet is as well made as it is elegant. It’s a sandwich design, similar in some respects to Edge’s G-Series amplifiers. The big difference between them is the NORMA makes this sandwich construction look elegant, while Edge… makes it look like an Edge G-Series amplifier.
The output stage also comes with XLR terminals alongside the single-ended RCA sockets. However, you are strongly advised to use the RCA sockets; XLR is best considered vestigial, a sort of pseudo-balanced connection that shouldn’t be used unless your preamp is balanced only.
The Italian player exudes cool, sophisticated charm all over, except for the remote handset. It’s out of place here; an oddly shaped plastic curvy thing that looks as if it came from a £30 supermarket DVD player. Worse, it has function buttons that come with cryptic descriptions like ‘F1’. There is a nicer-looking and optional system remote coming.