Many people have written off CD today. However, reports of the death of the polycarbonate disc are greatly exaggerated. True, it’s getting ever harder to find players, especially new players, and increasingly the audiophile zeitgeist is moving toward online and LP as the music collections of choice, but there are still many enthusiasts who prefer a good bit of disc spinning. Indeed, there are many (incuding several writers for this magazine) who prefer the sound of compact disc over the same files stored on a hard drive.
So, Roksan announcing the Blak CD player last year came as something of a pleasant surprise. Especially as it is so uncompromisingly CD oriented: most players today are almost apologetic about playing discs, and come with a set of functions that open the player up to next-generation formats (most notably, USB inputs). The Blak makes no such excuses for CD replay, and it gives the user the choice of the spinning disc, or the door. In fairness, 21st Century digital inputs are a function of the built-in DAC within the matching Blak integrated amplifier, tested in issue 148.
Like the Blak amplifier, the CD player is built to the industry standard 440mm width, but taller than most players (at 140mm, it’s almost twice the height of other disc players in the Roksan range), with a choice of three front panel finishes – Anthracite, Charcoal, and Opium, also known as silver, black, and a sort of rich metallic brown colour that looks a lot nicer in the flesh than it reads in print. The range is intended to sit at the top of Roksan’s expanding electronics line, and at launch there were discussions of these being simply the first two designs in a range of products, but no future products have been announced to date.
Also like the Blak amplifier, the on/off switch is under the left of the front panel. In the ‘manuals are for wimps’ stance common to most men, I confidently mashed all the buttons on the remote and front panel to no effect until I found this hidden little power button. When depressed, however, the Blak springs to life, with a huge yellow LED read-out above the central CD draw. When not telling you that you just bought a Roksan in big letters, it can rack through different variations on track and time elapsed options, but any kind of CD-Text options (like artist or album or track) elude the Blak.
The display options are controlled from the lone silver button on the left side of the front panel. An array of five similar-sized silver buttons control almost all track-handling functions (except repeat), and in a time of a return to minimalism, it’s good to see a player that can be driven without a remote.
The large back panel houses a pair of high-quality gold RCA single-ended line-level sockets, a pair of equally decent XLR line level outputs, and digital coaxial and TOSlink S/PDIF connections and – somewhat overlooked in many modern players – an AES/EBU XLR connection. The sheer size of the rear panel means each of these connections is easy to reach and no-one will ever have much in the way of problems hooking the Blak to a system. The matching amplifier offers both single-ended and XLR inputs, so feel free to experiment, but I preferred the single-ended input.