Pro-Ject CD Box RS2 T / Pre Box RS2 Digital CD Player/DAC

hfnoutstandingFar from being just cute and compact, Pro-Ject's Box Design range is now all grown up – as this high quality CD/DAC/preamp combination so vividly demonstrates

Considering where Pro-Ject's Box Design range started, it's come a very long way. It all began with a compact and very affordable phono stage, the original Phono Box, launched as an interface between the company's wildly successful lineup of turntables – which arguably spearheaded the entire 'vinyl revival' – and the amplifiers of the time, many of which had long since dispensed with inbuilt phono equalisation.

At the last count, sales of the Phono Box were well into the hundreds of thousands, so it's hardly surprising that the company capitalised on that success with a rapidly growing, and increasingly ambitious, range of compact components. These culminate in the duo we have here, the £2150 CD Box RS2 T CD transport and £1750 Pre Box RS2 Digital DAC/headphone amp/preamp, available in either black or silver.

Transport Of Delight
The arrival of these new components shows just how diversified the Box Design range has become. For each kind of component, from phono stages to CD players and DACs, there's a series of models at different levels. It can make for a somewhat confusing read when you have the entire catalogue before you, and while of course you can mix and match across the various series, the devil is in the detail when identifying at which level a product sits.

At the moment the RS2 models are at the pinnacle of the offering, but the Box Design catalogue contains no fewer than six CD-playing devices, including two transport-only models – the CD Box DS2 T in addition to the RS2 T we have here.


Pro-Ject says that the RS2 T is 'the next generation of ultimate CD transports', and of course it's based around a dedicated CD mechanism. That's not always a given even in high-end CD playing hardware, but is a good sign.

Actually, it's a very good sign, for the top-loading CD mechanism here isn't even one of the (very few) off-the-shelf options available, but a custom design, the result of co-operation between Pro-Ject and Michael Jirousek, formerly of the Philips CD development team which was based in Pro-Ject's home city, Vienna.

The CD Box RS2 T is built around StreamUnlimited's CD-Pro mechanism and the Blue Tiger CD-84 servo system, the latter integrated into the solid aluminium body of the transport assembly itself, and further stabilised by being mounted in a carbon fibre chassis with vibration dampers. The drive is finished off with a new alloy clamp, balanced to ensure the disc sits perfectly on the motor spindle.

Pro-Ject says this is its 'best CD transport ever and the perfect partner for so many currently existing premium quality DACs'. By way of flexibility, the CD Box RS2 T has a choice of digital outputs on the rear, including optical and coaxial S/PDIF, and AES/EBU on an XLR socket.


Around The Clock
But the weapon of choice when using the CD Box RS2 T in tandem with the Pre Box RS2 Digital will be its HDMI output, which carries the digital signal in I2S format along with a separate Masterclock feed. In theory, at least, this synchronising clock feed should eliminate many of the problems inherent in conventional digital connections.

Unsurprisingly, the Pre Box RS2 Digital has a matching HDMI I2S input, designed to slave the transport to the preamp/DAC/headphone amp's master clock. Obviously, in considering the two Pro-Ject boxes as a CD-playing system, this was the connection used, but to ensure its compatibility with as wide as possible a range of digital sources, the Pre Box RS2 Digital also has one coaxial, two optical and one AES/EBU digital inputs, as well as built-in Bluetooth and USB-Type B 'computer audio' connections, the last capable of handling PCM-based files at up to 768kHz/32-bit and DSD512.

Dual Mono DACs
Under the bonnet, Pro-Ject has levered-in a pair of ESS Sabre ESS9038 DACs in dual mono configuration, alongside seven selectable digital filters, MQA decoding plus the option of two analogue filters, operating above 25kHz or 120kHz. The DAC offers switchable upsampling to 384/352.8kHz: you can leave it off, only upsample MQA files or upsample everything, and also turn reclocking on or off, which may be advantageous with files at higher sampling rates. Finally you can switch between the company's bespoke solid-state and triode valve output stages.

Both of these are fully balanced in operation and are kept permanently powered up, and selecting between them merely diverts the signal. Variable-level outputs are provided on both RCAs and XLRs – unusually there's also a single set of RCA/XLR analogue inputs – and the headphone output is on a 6.35mm socket.

Pro-Ject Audio Systems
Supplied by: Henley Audio Ltd, UK
01235 511166