AVM CS 2.2 All-in-One System: A Compelling Alternative

Equipment report
Solid-state preamplifiers,
Integrated amplifiers,
Digital-to-analog converters,
Music servers and computer audio
AVM CS 2.2 All-in-One System: A Compelling Alternative

If the AVM CS 8.2 is more than you need or can afford, I’m happy to say you can get virtually all of the features and much of sound quality of AVM’s flagship in the company’s $4995 CS 2.2. I’ve been using the CS 2.2 as my “daily driver” for the past few months and its combination of features, flexibility, and sound quality in one easy-to-operate component is hard to beat.

I won’t reiterate all the features that Steven described, but rather will concentrate on the differences between the CS 8.2 and CS 2.2. As with the CS 8.2, its little brother has a CD drive and a streaming DAC that supports virtually all formats, offers Internet Radio and FM, has integral Tidal and Qobuz streaming, and can be controlled by the same app. The differences? The CS 2.2’s chassis is smaller, has all solid-state circuitry rather than tubes, lacks balanced inputs, doesn’t offer any DSD decoding, and has less output power. Specifically, the CS 2.2 delivers 110Wpc into 8 ohms and 165Wpc into 4 ohms. The CS 2.2 lacks the CS 8.2’s modular construction and hardware upgradeability, but it does have one feature the big boy doesn’t: an integral phonostage. Speaker output is on recessed banana jacks. It’s all wrapped up in a highly compact, beautifully made aluminum chassis.

The optional RC9 remote control ($695) is a large comprehensive component with a built-in display. The remote’s batteries are integral rechargable types, which means you’ll have to remember to put the remote back in its charging cradle. As Steven discovered, however, controlling the CS Series components through AVM’s app is much easier and more convenient than using the remote control. This is particularly true because the remote, which works across all products in the AVM line, is packed with tiny buttons. The downside to using the app exclusively is that if your iOS device turns off automatically after a period of non-use and you want to adjust the volume, you have to wake up your phone or iPad to do so. With the remote, you simply press the volume up or down button. I liked having both the app and physical remote handy. I also liked that the CS 2.2’s software allows you to name inputs, skip unused inputs, apply gain/tone-control/balance settings to particular inputs, and access other advanced functions.

AVM says that the phonostage in the CS 2.2 is suitable for any moving-magnet cartridge or higher-output moving-coil. The phonostage gain is 45dB, with an input impedance of 47k ohms and 10pF of capacitive loading. As with the other inputs, the phonostage’s gain is adjustable by –10dB to +9.5dB. I drove the phono input with a Sumiko Blue Point No.2 cartridge—a moving-coil with a high (for an mc) output of 2.5mV.

The CS 2.2 drove the Monitor Audio Silver 300 ($2000 per pair, reviewed elsewhere in this issue) or the $25k Piega C711. Through both speakers, the CS 2.2 had a consistent sound that suited these very different speakers equally well. The CS 2.2’s Class D output stage provided iron-fisted grip in the bottom octaves along with a remarkably full and rich midbass. Unlike some components that have a generous bass balance and can sound bloated at worst or overly ripe at best, the CS 2.2’s entire low end was taut and well defined. The CS 2.2 offered an extremely satisfying combination of weight and authority, coupled with very precisely defined pitches and lively rhythmic articulation. On the Duke Ellington LP Duke’s Big Four Louis Belson’s kickdrum packed a wallop, and the CS 2.2 revealed all the tonal and dynamic nuances in Ray Brown’s unparalleled bass playing. The richness and solidity of timbre from the bass up through the lower mids was particularly enjoyable. On Gerry Mulligan’s baritone sax on Lonesome Boulevard, the CS 2.2 captured the warmth and texture of the instrument. The CS 2.2 also nailed the timbre of instruments such as bass clarinet. These bass-range qualities were apparent across all sources from the CS 2.2’s integral DAC to the phonostage.