REVIEW: Corda Cantate. Includes lots of pictures
Aug 10, 2007 at 10:33 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 71

Dzjudz

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I ordered my Cantate Tuesday evening, Dr. Meier mailed it Wednesday, and it arrived this morning (Friday)! I'm one happy customer.

This is a marvellous piece of work. It looks great. Of course, in the spirit of head-fi tradition, I took unboxing pictures for the lot of you to salivate over.

Also, I will (naturally) post a few comparative notes between the Cantate and the RSA Hornet.

After an hour of listening, I can already say one thing: I love the Meier Audio crossfeed.

[size=medium]Review:[/size]

I've had the Corda Cantate for about a week now and I thought it was about time to post some impressions. I know that's what you are all waiting for. First a few remarks before I start this small review:

This is my first home amp and I have never heard any other home amp. I'm not an expert on headphone amps, not in the least. My impressions below are entirely my opinions of the sound signature of this amp. YMMV. Also, excuse my terminology in advance. I just write what I think is an appropriate description of what I hear.

My only other headphone amp, and incidentally the only other headphone amp I have ever listened to, is my RSA Hornet. It is also the amp I am directly comparing the Cantate to. I've had the Hornet for a few months now and I'd say it's fully burned in. My Cantate, on the other hand, has only had about 50 hours of play time at the time of this review.

I reviewed the setups directly against each other. I had the same song playing on both setups with the 1/4” female jacks next to each other. This way I could switch within moments and compare.

My competing setups for this review are:
- Acer Aspire 5024WLMi laptop running Foobar2000 v0.9.4.3 and ASIO4all -> USB port out -> Cantate USB in (crossfeed enabled) -> Sennheiser HD650
- iRiver H340 (sporting a UDA1380TT DAC chip) line out -> Hornet (high gain) -> Sennheiser HD650
Pictures (thumbnails, click for full size):


Music used (all MP3 LAME V2 or better) (of course I've listened to much more music with my Cantate, but I specifically used these songs in the head to head review):
Anna Ternheim – To Be Gone
Billy Joel – Piano Man
Bruce Springsteen – Jungleland
Chris Rea – Stainsby Girls
Christina Aguilera – Beautiful
Coldplay – Fix You
Damien Rice – Eskimo
Eagles – Hotel California (Live)
Evermore – My Guiding Light
Imogen Heap – Hide And Seek
Justin Timberlake – Lovestoned / I Think She Knows (Interlude)
Kate Havnevik – Suckerlove
Meat Loaf – Objects In The Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are
Nelly Furtado – Wait For You
Room Eleven – Bitch
The Fray – How To Save A Life
The Postal Service – Such Great Heights
Timbaland feat. Keri Hilson & D.O.E. – Way I Are
Timbaland feat. One Republic – Apologize
Tori Amos – A Sorta Fairytale

Bass section:
The bass response (the bass 'thumps') of the Cantate is good. The Hornet might have a tiny edge in the 'oomph' department, but this comes at an expense. What the Cantate has over the Hornet is more bass accuracy or control. A good example of this can be heard in the song 'Wait For You' by Nelly Furtado. This song has been over-produced in such a way that the bass is way too abundant and strong: bass overpowers vocals, especially on cheaper gear. If I listen to this song with regular earbuds, it's a matter of blurred bass and distorted lyrics. This song does give us the opportunity to compare how the Cantate and the Hornet handle this bloated bass. Unfortunately, the Hornet suffers from its stronger bass representation; clarity of vocals sometimes diminishes. This is especially apparent in the chorus and the middle of the song, where long syllables appear. The Cantate exerts a bit more control, even though it's still not perfect (this could be a result of the producing as well, what's the deal with over-producing these days?).

Feeling of being 'there':
I love the live part of the Eagles' 'Hell Freezes Over' album. The sense of actually being at the perfomance is considerable. I also really have this with Emiliana Torrini's live Hamburg performance. With most upgrades in my Head-Fi career this sense has improved. This is also the case with the Cantate. There really is a difference if I listen to Hotel California through the Hornet or the Cantate. The best way to explain it is this. When the song starts, the instruments are introduced and the audience frantically applauds, you feel like you are there. With the Hornet, you feel like you are standing in front of the stage. With the Cantate, you are sitting on the third row in the middle of the audience on a seat directly facing the stage. I don't know, that's just how I experience it.

Overall sound performance:
The Cantate does a damn fine job DACing and amping the USB signal. As with the bass, the rest of the frequency scale is also controlled tightly. No noticeable smearing of sounds. While the Hornet may have a tad more bass response, I feel the Cantate delivers a darker, but at the same time clearer, sound. It may seem dark and clear contradict each other, but that's not the case. The sound may be a bit darker, but, as I said, bass control is better and vocals are better preserved.

Vocals:
The Cantate having a darker sound signature than the Hornet can be an advantage. Christina Aguilera's voice on 'Beautiful', for example, has less of the tangy bite and the high peaks of her voice are not so shrill. I don't mean that there's a treble rolloff though. With the Cantate, vocals are presented naturally and clear.

Comments on the crossfeed option:
I've listened with the crossfeed on 95% of the time. I really think it is a great addition to this amp. Extreme channel separation is solved. Volume doesn't change (as it did with older Corda amps I've read), and quality certainly doesn't deteriorate. The Postal Service's 'Such Great Heights' start doesn't give me an instant headache any more
tongue.gif
. But seriously, it does what it says it does and it does it very well at that. Another great example of the benefit of crossfeed is Damien Rice's song 'Cold Water'. This song starts out with an piano on the far right, after 15sec a guitar starts on the far left, after 30sec Damien Rice starts singing in the middle. I always appreciated the instrument separation and placement with the Hornet and the HD650. But if I turn crossfeed off on this song, it just sounds fake! With crossfeed, instrument separation doesn't change. Placement does change a little, but for the better. Without crossfeed, when the piano starts it sounds as if the right cup is struggling to keep the piano from falling off an edge. With crossfeed, it sounds just right. I make it sound like it's a dramatic change, I know. It really is, though.

Conclusion:
The Cantate is a great amp. In my opinion, it's definitely a step up from the Hornet. Its sound signature is slightly darker than the Hornet, but bass is not so heavy and more controlled. Vocals are preserved and represented accurately. The crossfeed switch adds to the value of this amp. All in all a recommended amp. Jan Meier delivered the goods.

Build quality:
The Cantate is a very sturdy brushed aluminium amp, about 2 and a half kg heavy. In my opinion the looks are really sexy and minimal. I like the ufo-style platform/cupholder/ventilation cover. The switches on the front require a reasonable amount of pressure to flick, they are very stable. The volume knob turns quite easily, but there is still enough resistance to be accurate. It turns more easily than my Hornet's knob. The switches flick harder than my Hornet's power switch. The 1/4" jack is also of good quality, initial insertion is quite easy, but at the end there's a strong 'click'. Taking the plug out takes two hands, one to hold the amp, one to pull the plug. The power and audio connectors at the back are of strong quality. A power cable and USB cable are supplied, as are the three shunts to change the gain as you can see in the pics below. The four corner-knobs can be screwed off and 8 screws become visible. These screws are the only gripe I have so far with this amp: the platform holes and the screw holes don't align properly, so it's very difficult to remove the screws and even more difficult to screw them back in. I opened it once to take the pictures below, but I'm not opening it up ever again (I don't need the low gain option). Everything considered the build quality is very good, the screws aren't perfect, but the outside is superb.

Hope this review helped some of you. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask here.


[size=medium]Pictures (thumbnails, click for full-size):[/size]

The box:


Oh yeah, I also bought a Sennheiser headphone holder:


Manual on top:


There it is, in all its packaging glory:


Front:


Back:


New home setup (Foobar2000 -> Corda Cantate -> Sennheiser HD650):


Foobar2000 setup:


Hornet <-> Cantate comparison pictures: (excuse the quality, took them against the cloudy sunlight)









Some pictures of the Cantate opened up:

Unscrewing. The screws are pointed outward and kinda difficult to remove:


Inside 1:


Inside 2:


The low gain shunt area. To change the Cantate to low gain, one has to place the three shunts provided on the indicated places (I haven't tried this yet):


The USB led shunt. The USB led is always lit when connected to a powered USB port, even when the Cantate is off. To turn off the USB led completely remove this shunt:


The bottom of the cover plate. You can see the two ventilation holes:
 
Aug 10, 2007 at 11:54 AM Post #4 of 71

Dzjudz

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Quote:

Originally Posted by badmonkey /img/forum/go_quote.gif
What on earth is the cup-holder on top for?

That's a serious question by the way. I notice some of the other Meier amps have strange platforms on their tops. What are they?



There are ventilation holes under the platform, except where the 'cupholder' is. You can see on in the front picture. I will post a couple of better pictures of it. There are two holes.





 
Aug 10, 2007 at 11:58 AM Post #5 of 71

krmathis

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Thats what I call fast shipping!
Congratulations with the new amplifier.
biggrin.gif
 
Aug 10, 2007 at 12:10 PM Post #6 of 71

badmonkey

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Dzjudz /img/forum/go_quote.gif
There are ventilation holes under the platform, except where the 'cupholder' is. You can see on in the front picture. I will post a couple of better pictures of it. There are two holes.


That's interesting, so it's just to cover them? And the hole in the circle is just because it looks good...?

I saw this:

DSC01238.jpg


and thought there was maybe a purpose!

(Where can I get a stand that looks that good?!)
 
Aug 10, 2007 at 12:11 PM Post #7 of 71

Norn

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I've received mine too this morning ! The Corda Cantate was ordered the first of August, payment was received by Dr Meier this tuesday, and finally it arrives today !

Some pictures :

My headphones



My new Dac/Amp



My external hard drive where all my music is store (lossless format)



EDIT : Thx to Dzjudz, thumbnails work !
 
Aug 10, 2007 at 12:17 PM Post #8 of 71

Dzjudz

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Quote:

Originally Posted by badmonkey /img/forum/go_quote.gif
That's interesting, so it's just to cover them? And the hole in the circle is just because it looks good...?

I saw this:
http://i69.photobucket.com/albums/i4...b/DSC01238.jpg

and thought there was maybe a purpose!

(Where can I get a stand that looks that good?!)



Yes that's the purpose. I guess the 'cupholder' is to make it look good. You can also just see the hole in the picture you posted. (And the stand is a headphile custom made stand IIRC).
 
Aug 10, 2007 at 1:37 PM Post #10 of 71

Dzjudz

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Quote:

Originally Posted by warrior05 /img/forum/go_quote.gif
How does it sound?!!!
evil_smiley.gif



Awesome. More details to come, I have to leave now.
 
Aug 10, 2007 at 1:38 PM Post #11 of 71

LoweArt

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Thanks for sharing Dzjudz, it looks a beauty and I'm sure it sounds sweet !

I'm patiently waiting for my Cantate which is a couple of weeks away
because I live DOWN UNder !
 
Aug 10, 2007 at 2:12 PM Post #12 of 71

jdimitri

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Quote:

Originally Posted by LoweArt /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Thanks for sharing Dzjudz, it looks a beauty and I'm sure it sounds sweet !

I'm patiently waiting for my Cantate which is a couple of weeks away
because I live DOWN UNder !



Naw.. my move got here in about a week

How's it sounding?
 
Aug 10, 2007 at 5:29 PM Post #13 of 71

lerio

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You beat me in time
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But just for pics, i made a review too
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Aug 10, 2007 at 6:22 PM Post #14 of 71

vcoheda

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this thing looks like a real winner. balanced ground. amp. dac. crossfeed. usb input. stylish look.
 
Aug 10, 2007 at 9:20 PM Post #15 of 71

DJShadow

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Thats great Dzjudz thanks for the pictures they provide some proper perspective. A lot larger than I thought
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Take your time with it, because we all want detailed descriptions
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What do you guys consider the Cantate's main rivals at this price point?
 

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