A long time ago, or so it seems, ALO Audio launched their tube driven Continental Dual Mono. At that time – more or less just before the Hifiman HE-1000 V1 was launched – this portable DAC/AMP was THE thing on the market. We reviewed the heck out of it in two separate reviews, we gave one away to a lucky reader and I even published a dedicated tube rolling article for the CDM. At the time I was even crazy enough to send ALO Audio tubes I bought from a local dealer to try out in their CDM. So what’s happened? Is CDM still as popular as it was? Are they still “Back on top”, how Nathan called it? How did the competition react? And maybe the most interesting question of all: are we still using it at the HFN HQ?
When the ALO CDM came out we all loved it. It was one of the first good sounding, tube driven, portable DAC/AMP combos that had enough power to drive full sized headphones. I wasn’t really surprised of how well it performed as ALO has a great Studio Six amplifier which simply sounds gorgeous, even though it never was the biggest success. So yeah, everyone – us included – loved it and the buzz was high. Not so long after CDM was on the market Woo Audio reacted with the Woo Audio WA8: also a portable tube driven AMP/DAC combo. The big/important difference here was that the tubes weren’t and still aren’t user replaceable. While both the CDM and the WA8 had things going for them, the WA8 for me personally, as a DAC/AMP combo sounded better than the ALO CDM.
The WA8 stayed with me for quite some time before I had to ship it to Focal for testing with the Utopia. At the same time there also was this awesome device from Chord, the original HUGO. And while that AMP/DAC combo wasn’t tube driven, I simply used it more often than the CDM. The Hugo has a great DAC inside (the H2’s is even better!) and I was and still am a fan of the smooth, musical and well layered sound of the Hugo amp section (well it’s not really an amp section, as it’s part of the DAC). So as a result, CDM kind of moved to the back and while I still get it out of storage for comparative testing from time to time, it never made it back to the “daily gear” category. Of course now with Mojo and Hugo 2, both non-tube driven, the CDM spends even more time in storage than ever before. Will it ever come back out again? It just might but I don’t see that happening any time soon unless ALO comes up with a CDM2.
That’s just one side of the story though. Our writer Linus also owns the Hugo 2, Mojo and CDM, and he actually on regular basis still uses his CDM (Mullard 6021). More specifically, the AMP section. And that in combination with his HUGO 2 and SP1000. I’m sure a lot of original CDM owners still use their CDM and enjoy the heck out of it like never before, but for me personally, it just can’t compete with the performance of the newer devices.
Maybe I’ll fall back in love with it again one day, never say never, but it’s not looking good for the good old CDM.
What’s your opinion? Are you still using yours and what do you think of the competition. Let us know in the comments!
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