At the other end of the spectrum, the top octave struck just the right balance of liveliness and smoothness. The treble tended just a bit toward the softer side, taking the edge off many bright recordings. This character will match well with the speakers most likely to be driven by the CS 2.2, such as the Monitor Audio Silver 300, which leans slightly toward an incisive treble. Nonetheless, the top end was open and extended, with good resolution of transient detail. The many layered percussion instruments on the track “Are You Going with Me?” from Pat Metheny’s Upojenie were fully resolved and coherent. Compared with the $13,000 Esoteric F-03A integrated (which is 2.5 times the price and lacks a DAC and any digital features), the CS 2.2 wasn’t quite as pristine in the top octaves.
The AVM’s DAC section was superb. I fed one of the CS 2.2’s analog inputs with the output from the state-of-the-art $20k Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series 2 MQA, and one of the digital inputs from the same Aurender W20 music server driving the Berkeley. It was thus possible to quickly and easily compare the two DACs. Although the Berkeley was, not surprisingly, better sounding, the CS 2.2’s DAC wasn’t embarrassed. In fact, the CS 2.2’s DAC section was competitive with multi-thousand-dollar stand-alone DACs. It had excellent dimensionality, space, and depth, beautifully resolving the halo of air around instrumental outlines and resolving the sense of space behind the instruments. In addition, the midrange had a remarkable sense of presence and immediacy; vocals were tangible, and images were centered precisely between the two loudspeakers.
The phonostage was also superb, with very low noise, wide dynamics, and palpable rendering of timbre. It had plenty of gain for the 2.5mV Sumiko cartridge.
The AVM CS 2.2 offers a compelling array of advanced digital features, an excellent DAC, very quiet phonostage, and an outstanding control app—all in one compact and beautifully built case. Just add speakers and a source to the AVM CS 2.2, and you’ll have a highly capable and great-sounding music system.
Specs & Pricing
Power output: 110Wpc into 8 ohms, 165Wpc into 4 ohms
Analog inputs: Four line on RCA jacks
Analog outputs: One preamp out, one line out
Digital inputs: One each SPDIF, USB, TosLink, LAN, and WLAN
Other sources: FM-RDS tuner; Web radio: vTuner Internet Radio
Streaming formats: MP3, WMA, AAC, OGG, FLAC (192/32 via LAN), AIFF (192/32 via LAN), ALAC (96/24 via LAN)
Supported media server: UPnP 1.1, UPnP-AV, DLNA, Windows Media Connect Server, NAS
Control: Optional multifunction remote control; iOS and Android apps
Headphone output: 3.5mm jack, Class A amplifier
Dimensions: 13.4" x 3.62" x 23.78"
Weight: 22 lbs.