The CEC HD53N is a very slick looking amplifier approximately as thick as the average hardcover book. It takes both balanced and single ended headphones, as well as small efficient speakers through the speaker posts at the back panel. Power output of 4.7W per channel at 32 Ohms through the balanced drive, and it’s 18W per channel at 4 Ohms for the speaker terminal.
On the front panel, you can see two Neutrik combo jacks, which allows you to insert either a 1/4″ TRS jack or a 3-pin XLR jack. Balanced connection is achieved by connecting two 3-pin XLR connectors to both combo jacks, one for each channel. For single ended connection, the left combo jack is marked “Hi” while the right combo jack is marked as “Low”, terms that I assume refer to choose the appropriate port depending on your headphone impedance. Then there are three small buttons with the following functions:
– HP/SP chooses between activating the headphone out or the speaker out.
– GAIN toggles between low gain and high gain.
– INPUT selects either an XLR or RCA input.
The build quality is first class, coming from high end Japanese manufacturer CEC. The controls, the buttons, the finishing of the casing, the volume knob are among the best I’ve seen in a headphone amplifier. Although most CEC products are now manufactured in China, the build quality is far from the typical chinese build quality, and very clearly reflects the $1,000 price tag. Although this particular unit has a small ding on the top left side of the front panel, I believe that it’s an isolated incident that shouldn’t apply to the other HD53Ns, judging from the overall high quality build of the amplifier.