Neodio Origine S2 CD Player/DAC

hfncommendedThis French company's 'ecosystem' is founded on an extensive range of power and audio cables, but the brand's design philosophies also extend to an amp and CD player       

The world of high-end audio just wouldn't be the same without products like the Origine S2 from Neodio. It resides in that rarefied section of the hi-fi market where designers get to see their dreams fulfilled in large and beautifully appointed products. Head honcho Stéphane Even has energetically embraced the chance to make leading-edge, premium hi-fi products. As well as purveying expensive cables and isolating feet, his company makes the £15,000 CD player/DAC you see before you, alongside its companion A2 integrated amplifier.

Even's background in specialised industrial sensors, and abiding interest in vibration and electromagnetics, has certainly informed the design of this player. So when he launched Neodio back in 2000 it was with the purpose of designing products to minimise 'interference inside and outside the audio product'. It's a philosophy that extends from his range of premium interconnects to his electronics.

With the Origine S2 CD player/DAC, Even has naturally paid careful attention to the power supply and the layout of the digital and analogue circuits, with isolation, simplicity and careful routing being key here. For this reason, there is a 2cm gap between the S2's proprietary clock PCB and the DAC board and DAC chip itself, he says.

Prime Time
Careful component choice is also evident – including precision resistors with non-magnetic terminations – and the cabling is designed to mechanically decouple the different boards. Most interesting of all, though, is the eschewal of a conventional crystal clock in favour of what Even calls an 'analogue clock'.

You would expect the Origine S2's casework to have a 'hewn from granite' feel, and so it proves. It's very heavy for a silver disc spinner at 25kg, and large too at 460x172x405mm (whd). The casework, meanwhile, is beautiful brushed aluminium with a brushed copper coloured inset band, which is a clever way of making an otherwise bland black box look striking, in a 'retro-futuristic' kind of way. The chassis is designed to be rigid, and is very well damped by a mixture of hard and soft materials. Even the rear panel is decoupled from the main internal boards, and three large and distinctive feet are fitted, comprising a proprietary mechanical damping technology.


Inside, the layout is clean and sparse, dominated by the centrally mounted optical disc drive in its own custom casing. The company says this DVD-ROM mechanism has been specially adapted to run with Neodio's own control software. As a result, the feature set is relatively sparse, with transport controls limited to track skip, search, stop and pause – there's no direct numerical track entry facility on the remote. The fascia-mounted buttons, fashioned from hard plastic, are perhaps a little small and fiddly but, like the bright white LED display, are as much about visual drama as functionality.

Built To Satisfy
Format support is limited for although it features the DSD-capable CS4398 DAC, the machine itself does not handle DSD files or spin the SACD layer of hybrid discs. This won't be a problem for most prospective purchasers, but in Far Eastern markets like Japan, it's an issue. Furthermore, PCM fans are limited to 192kHz/24-bit via the player's rear panel digital inputs.

For all its idiosyncrasies, this machine is made to an extremely high standard and is most satisfying to use – aside from the slightly longer-than-expected time for the mechanism to read the CD's table of contents. The unit comes with a classy aluminium system remote control that also commands the matching integrated amp.

sqnote Midband Magic
This is certainly a quite distinctive-sounding CD player/DAC, whose key strength is its midband performance. This is exceptionally spacious and detailed, even by the lofty standards of top rivals. Indeed, few machines I have heard achieve the same degree of intricacy that the Origine S2 delivers, especially from humble CD. And the player is seriously accomplished in other respects too. Its bass is highly impressive while there's an engaging and easy rhythmic nature to its presentation that never fails to please.

Neodio (Seven Audio)
Bordeaux, France
Supplied by: Elite Audio Ltd, Fife
01334 570 666