In 2007, the well established French hi-fi brand Micromega was acquired by the flamboyant ex-motorsport man Didier Hamdi, leaving the company’s founder Daniel Schar to engineering duties. The 2010 CD-30 was one of the first products of the new epoch.
On the face of it, it didn’t look particularly special. A neat enough player alright, but it didn’t compare well in terms of physical size and weight to other £1,600 machines. At 430x265x69mm and 4.5kg it was a tad flimsy, although the fascia finish was nice enough. The rear panel showed poor attention to detail though, with larger panel gaps than we would like to see – if that was a Japanese machine then the engineer responsible would have been invited to commit seppuku! Also, the casework was too resonant, a damping panel or three wouldn’t have gone amiss here.
The CD-30’s bright blue ten-character dot matrix display proved easy to read from a distance, and the buttons had a positive if slightly clunky action. Indeed it is pleasingly simple and unfussy to use, largely because it is pretty much devoid of features – it’s just a straight, old-school CD player, which some may actually rather like! What I didn’t like was the nasty draw loader, which is rough compared to rivals at half the price. For example, Audiolab’s 8200CD does better here.
Inside, an R-core transformer fed the drive mechanics, servo, decoding circuits and user interface section; it got linear regulators with high power noise rejection. The mech was either a Sony KHM313 or Sanyo SFH850 DVD-ROM unit, via a Philips SAA78247 and Micromega proprietary software running error correction optimised for sound quality rather than mobile use; the code drove the mech for optimum data retrieval in real time. Upsampling was done to 132.3kHz (three times that of CD’s 44.1kHz); the data word length also being upscaled to 24-bit. This then went to the Analogue Devices AD1853 DAC, an eight times oversampling multibit Delta Sigma design.
You’d never call this CD player a winner on hi-fi dealers’ shelves, because it’s neither achingly good looking or rugged and robust. But as soon as you listen to it, things take a turn for the better. It has a clean, open and powerful sound – quite ‘widescreen’ in its presentation, neutral and three dimensional. It’s certainly not euphonic, but still sounds fractionally warmer than the aforementioned Audiolab. It has real sophistication, both in its tonality and in its exceptionally deft handling of rhythms. For example, it snaps cymbals into amazing focus and carries their subtle dynamic inflections. It punches rim shots out like a machine gun, showing great grip, and has a wonderfully taut bass guitar sound that combines intricacy and authority.
Bass isn’t the most powerful you’ll hear – it’s a thorough performer in the low frequencies, although not a remarkable one. It is nicely articulated, tuneful and drives along the song in such a way that surprises its rivals. This links up to that lovely, spacious and clean midband, giving an assured performance. The CD30 makes things sound easy; it’s very cohesive and doesn’t have any obvious weak points. Confident and commanding with excellent rhythmic flow and superior dynamic articulation, this is what will charm prospective purchasers, if they haven’t been put off by its mediocre casework. Yes it’s French, so yes it has character – and a très charmant one at that!