Although prolific, the Norman manufacturer never releases a product lightly. If he does, it is because he has good reasons, and especially within the range, this new achievement will bring an obvious advantage. Launched almost 20 years ago, the 100 series is now available in Signature mode. All the new products, the three integrated amplifiers and the three CD players, have a regenerated, elegant look and, above all, a very enviable flexibility, made possible by the use of optional boards for both amplifiers and players. As we like historical little winks, we opted for the two 80 models that when they were released nearly 20 years ago had made the headlines for their insolent price-quality ratio.
The new Atoll Signature 100 series are available for the same price in black or silver. The quality of construction does not suffer criticism, especially since we are here on a product 100% made in France. Atoll has intelligently modernized both its devices by changing the silkscreen printing, the position of the controls, and the position of the logo. No more small windows, but welcome to the pretty asymmetrical curve that highlights the front face from left to right and that can be found on the higher-end models. As always with our Norman, no frills but a real attention to the small details that make the difference in everyday life. Thus the pretty potentiometer is curved to make the handling more smooth, and the integral remote control allows you to control all the functions of both devices without moving from your chair. The two «80» are delivered on request in standard version, or with a set of options that we will detail as we go through this article. This vision is intelligent and pragmatic and allows the user to adapt his product to his constraints.
Inside the new Atoll drive is equipped with a Teac 5020 mechanism fully compliant with the Red book, which implies that it reads CDs, CD-ROMs and everything they contain. The converter is a Burr Brown PCM 1793 with a differential voltage output flow; this allowed the Norman manufacturer to design a discrete components home output stage but above all to ensure that this output stage is totally free of any link capacitor. Compared to the previous generation, in addition to the coaxial S/PDIF output, there is an optical output on a toslink connector. It should be noted that the new display is of the oled type, which implies that it consumes only 5 V. This has great advantages, as less voltage is equivalent to less radiation disturbing the fragile audio stages. On the old 24 V displays, the management of excessive voltages was not always easy to understand. The CD player can be optionally equipped with a DAC card to accommodate three digital streams, one on coaxial plug, one on optical plug, and the last on USB. This card will be charged 200 €. The new IN80, like all the other new models in the Signature range (IN50 and IN100), was designed from the outset to include several optional boards. The idea is to offer a fully customizable product. On our test model, we were able to have a DAC card of excellent quality, the same as the one on the IN200 and IN300, which is charged 300 €. In the same vein, our IN80 had a phono P100 card worth 100 € on board. Consumers wishing to opt for less expensive options can choose the «small» DAC card with all coaxial and optical S/PDF inputs but without USB or Bluetooth for only 150 €. Same for the phono, the P50 card is still available at a much lower price (60 €).
On the IN80, the audio stages have evolved. They are now equipped with Vishay link capacitors and Nippon Chimicon filter capacitors. The settings of the scheme have been revised except for the rest currents, which have not changed. Thus the level of counter-reaction has decreased. There are now pairs of IFRP 9140 and 140 complementary transistors instead of IFRP 9140 and 150. The structure of the schematic is always based on bipolar transistors used as input and driver, and MosFet transistors as output. A simple push-pull per channel is used to develop power. The power supply is always based on a toroidal transformer built to specifications with a value of 340 VA. The 10 additional VA observed compared to the previous generation are devoted to the logic and motor of the potentiometer. The general printed circuit board is placed lower in the chassis, so the designer was able to use higher heat sinks, thus improving the dissipation of excess calories. He also decided to use a thermal sensor that automatically lowers the power to counter the runaway in the event of an excessive increase in temperature within the chassis.
THE SET UP
As always, Atoll devices are very «user friendly» and to continue on an Anglicism, totally «Plug and Play». The connection system is simple but of excellent quality. The cabinets are perfectly rigid and well ventilated. In daily use, Atoll are totally forgotten. Depending on the optional cards you have chosen, the modularity of your devices will range from simple to sophisticated. We will appreciate the very quiet phono input, the headphone output that can work with many models, and really powerful DAC cards. The IN80 is a powerful amplifier that can power pretty speakers in a 25 to 30 m² room.
In the more than 20 years that Atoll has been in business, its sound personality has evolved in continuity from an essentially neutral musicality to a linearity that places greater emphasis on spontaneity, balance and fluidity. This very subtle evolution has always been in the right direction and each new generation contributes to the building by offering more binder, softness and intensity. To tell you the truth, we are quite struck by the level of performance delivered by this new pair of 80 Signature. Associated with Dali Opticon 2 speakers, but also with DP 77 Diptyque panels that are much more difficult to power, the 80 have delighted us with their cocktail of musical fluidity. Compared to the previous generation, the listener seems much more involved in musical reproduction. There is a more exacerbated sense of dramatic intensity. In this new series, neutrality does not exclude sensuality. Typically, on stringed instruments, on voices, or on percussion, the sensations are more physical, the sound is palpable. The reproduction of these two devices has a textured side that we did not necessarily expect to find on devices at such a reasonable price. In addition, this player and amplifier complement each other admirably. The first search at the bottom of the microcuvettes of the compact discs to obtain as much information as possible without distorting them, only by respecting them scrupulously. The second faithfully exploits this signal and applies gain to it without adding its color, but without ever impoverishing it either. We are therefore witnessing a reproduction that remains very human, that does not seek to have an effect, but that knows how to enhance the sound recordings with great honesty. So of course. This desire not to tamper with sound does not help recordings of poorer quality. Even more now than in the past, Atoll devices will allow you to sort through your discotheque. It’s sometimes cruel, but it’s a very good sign. It is a sign of maturity, and integrity. With this new 80 series, the music reveals itself even more, in all its subtlety, and its many small components without which emotion would not be there. We deliberately omitted to talk to you about its products in purely «characteristic» terms, because we felt that their designers were obviously looking for sound coherence and when a listening focuses more on the «everything» than the «parts», the bet is won. One more time!
This duo CD80 and IN80 Signature is the most obvious proof that you can compose an extremely musical system for a very reasonable price. For our part, we have succeeded in doing so by combining these two products with a pair of Dali Opticon 2, a complete series of Esprit Alpha cables, and an Actinote Mezzo power strip for a complete price well below 4.000 €. This is just one example, of course, and many other excellent combinations will certainly be offered by your favorite reseller. But the important thing is the potential of his products and the way they present recorded music without any frustration, deeply respecting the musicians’ intentions. And believe us, at that price it’s a small miracle.
TECHNICAL SHEET CD 80
440 x 90 x 280 mm
TECHNICAL SHEET IN 80
440 x 90 x 280 mm
80 W /canal /8 Ω120 W /canal /4 Ω