Pro-Ject CD Box RS2 Transport
I have had a long history (thirty years), having highly-regarded CD transports in my systems to spin my vast collection of over 12,000 CDs. I have owned and enjoyed some of the most notable CD transports like the Mark Levinson 31.5, CEC TL1-TL2N, Ensemble Dirondo, Accustic Arts Drive 1, PS Audio PerfectWave, MBL 1621A, and Jay’s Audio MKII. Each one was quite good for its time. However, as time marched on, two noticeable changes took place. First, the quality of the digital playback through CD transports improved, resulting in a more “analog” presentation with a sense of liquidity, and an increase in the spatial qualities (three-dimensional imaging and an open, airy soundstage with space between the players), generally associated with vinyl records. Yes, resolution/clarity, control of overall dynamics, and more purity in timbres increased, but these qualities already existed in reference-caliber CD transports. But, what kept improving was that subjective quality of being more “musical” and sounding less like a mechanical device. Secondly, I discovered some affordable, well-built CD transports were suddenly outperforming my system’s reference-caliber CD transports. These improvements culminated into the excellent Jay’s Audio transport MKII that cost $2,300 (compared to the $28k MBL 1621A transport!)
Not long ago, I realized that StreamUnlimited, located in Austria, had designed a brand new CD transport that Phillips’s original team had developed. These are the same designers that built the highly regarded OEM CD mechanisms used by most CD players and transports worldwide. StreamUnlimited, calls this specific platform the Pro 8 drive with the Blue Tiger CD-84 servo card. This CD mechanism details that it’s designed using a high-quality aluminum chassis, carbon fiber cover, and a carbon fiber turntable. It uses a proprietary anti-vibration suspension using dampers mounted on its carbon fiber chassis which is then fixed on a solid aluminum block. A top-loading design uses a small, lightweight clamp to secure the CD to the spindle. At present, only three companies are using the Pro 8 drive/Blue Tiger CD-84 servo card, Accustic Arts, Gryphon, and Pro-Ject.
The Accustic Arts CD transport retails for $16,000, the Gryphon, which uses it in their Ethos CD player, costs $39,000. And lastly, the Pro-Ject CD Box RS2 transport, the subject of this review – retails for just $3,000. Pro-Ject, located in Austria, has an excellent reputation for building high-quality stereo equipment at reasonable prices. They are especially well-known for their turntables and phonostages.
The Project CD Box RS2 (herein Box RS2) transport comes in either black or silver. My demo unit was black. After years of using CD transports that are large and heavy (40 to 80 lbs.), the Box RS2 transport was quite a surprise, in that it only weighs 6.5 lbs. It is quite petite, and its dimensions are 3″ high by 8″ wide by 8.3″ deep. On the front are an on/off toggle switch, a large LED display, and small buttons that control all standard modes of operation. You can change the display’s brightness and reverse its color scheme from white text on a black background to black text on white background. I found the white on black to be much more attractive, matching the black chassis and the display was easier to read. Around the back, there are digital outputs that allow for XLR AES/EBU, optical, and RCA (coaxial) cable selection. For this review, a Black Cat Digit 110 AES/EBU connected the Box RS2 to all the DACs used. The input for the DC umbilical cord connecting the transport to an external power supply is next to the digital outputs. The top lid covers the entire top of the transport, and you just fold it up on its back hinges when placing a CD on the spindle, put the clamp on the CD, and then close the lid. Closing the lid further isolates the CD mechanisms from airborne vibrations. The Pro-Ject Box RS2 transport comes with a small aluminum remote control that I found quite functional. I liked the overall ergonomics of the Box RS2 transport and found it easy to use and quickly gets to the music. The appearance and build quality are at a high level, as they should be, for its price.
One strong recommendation for Pro-Ject is to dump the inexpensive external switching power supply, which comes standard with the transport. An audiophile who will spend $3,000 on a dedicated CD transport would be very motivated to spend a bit more to get the maximum performance out of the Box RS2 transport. Make a “bundle” of your upgraded linear power supply and offer it at a reasonable price. Yes, the Box RS2 transport “knocked the sonic socks off” my two reference CD transports with the standard switching power supply. However, when I upgraded to a linear power supply, the level of performance went exponentially higher musically-wise. I IMMEDIATELY DID TWO THINGS when I knew how superlative the Box RS2 transport was in its performance with a rather mundane power supply. First, I contacted Pro-Jet to send me their Power Box RS UNI 1-way and upgraded DC umbilical cable. Cost, $910. Next, I contacted Mark Schneider, owner of one of my favorite companies, Linear Tube Audio, located in Maryland. Linear Tube Audio builds some of my favorite tube-based preamps/amplifiers based on David Berning’s designs. They also make very high-quality linear power supplies that can be customized for other companies’ gear. I had Mark take their LPS+ linear power supply and change it from a 12V/3Amp to a 20V/3Amp to match the Box RS2 transport input level, along with building a DC umbilical cable. Total cost, $645. Both the Pro-Ject and Linear Tube Audio linear power supplies dramatically improved the performance of the Box RS2 transport. However, the Linear Tube Audio’s power supply effect on the Box RS2 transport was not just an increase in a quantitative fashion but a qualitative shift towards the illusion of live music. Since it outperformed the Pro-Ject power supply and costs $265 less, I highly recommend you purchase the Linear tube Audio LPS+ power supply and buy more CDs with your savings. One more piece of information regarding how to raise the level of performance of the Box RS2 transport. I experimented with three different isolation devices under the Box RS2 and found greater macro-dynamics, clarity, and bass extension when using three Krolo Design footers under the transport.
I would typically use my music selections in the review to give you the details of the different sonic attributes of the piece of gear I am reviewing. However, I’m breaking format this time because regardless of the type/genre of music I used to get my take on the Pro-Ject CD Box RS2 transport, the effects were strikingly consistent across the sonic palette. Also, I used three DACs in my reviewing process, the Audio Note UK 3.1 Balanced, the Pass Labs DAC-1, and Mhdt Lab Balanced Pagoda. The Box RS2 transport delivered “magic” to the performance of each of these DACs, allowing their sonic differences to be easily heard through my system.
So, what did I hear that was a vast improvement over any CD transport, regardless of price, when compared to the Pro-Ject CD Box RS2 transport?
Here’s the List:
A dramatic drop in the noise floor. The Box RS2 produced see-through transparency and allowed the smallest micro-details to be heard effortlessly.
The overall micro-dynamics increased, so you viscerally felt it when the music went from soft to a crescendo.
The purity of timbres/tonality was rendered with more refinement and nuance. With my Audio Note UK, 3.1 Balanced DAC vocals just floated into my listening room with breathtaking beauty.
The highest level of holographic imaging I have ever gotten out of a digital front-end.
The soundstage’s height and depth expanded, along with a better sense of the recording’s acoustic space.
The low-end extension and control of the lowest frequencies proved more accurate and tonally correct.
In addition to all those excellent sonic virtues came a sense of ease, along with a subjective experience that I could connect with more on an emotional level with my favorite music. If you still spin CDs and want the very best out of this format, you can see why I would highly recommend the Pro-Ject CD Box RS2 transport. It uses the latest technology to get the most “analog” sound out of the CD format. It is exceptionally well built, a pleasure to use, and will match any DAC you own. Yes, if you purchase the Box RS2 transport, you owe it to yourself to go for the Linear Tube Audio LPS+ linear power supply/DC umbilical cord to get to the highest level of performance out of the Box RS2. Also, add a set of Krolo Design footers to finish out this excellent transport’s “fine tuning.” I purchased both pieces and, if you spin CDs, I hope you do too!
CD, CD-R, CD-RW (finalized) and Hybrid-SACD
AES3 x balanced (AES/EBU) on XLR connector
1 x optical (TOSlink®) 1 x coaxial (RCA socket)
I2S + Master Clock
1 x HDMI connector
Outboard power supply
20V/3000mA DC; 100 – 240V, 50/60Hz
600mA DC, < 0,5W in standby
Replacement battery remote control
1 x CR2032 / 3V or 1 x CR2025 / 3V
Dimensions W x H x D (D w/sockets)
206 x 78 x 200 (210)mm
3.000g without power supply
9464 Hemlock Lane N
Maple Grove, MN 55369
Telephone: +1(510) 843-4500
TJ’s Associated Equipment
Audio Note UK 3.1 Balanced
Pass Labs DAC-1
Mhdt Lab Balanced Pagoda
Pro-Ject CD Box RS2 transport
Coda 07x preamplifier
AricAudio Motherlode MKII preamplifier
SPL Elector preamplifier
Coda #16 amplifier
Threshold 550e amplifier
Pass Labs XA-25 amplifier
NSMT Model 100
Tekton Design Ulfberth & Perfect SET
Wharfedale Linton 85th edition
Full loom Black Cat 3232 XLR’s & Digit 110 AES/EBU
Kirmuss Adrenaline speaker wire
Puritan Design Labs conditioner & grounding box
Audio Archon power cords
Krolo Design reference rack & footers
Stereo Times Masthead
Frank Alles, Mike Girardi, Key Kim, Russell Lichter, Terry London, Moreno Mitchell, Paul Szabady, Bill Wells, Mike Wright, Stephen Yan, and Rob Dockery
David Abramson, Tim Barrall, Dave Allison, Ron Cook, Lewis Dardick, Dan Secula, Don Shaulis, Greg Simmons, Eric Teh, Greg Voth, Richard Willie, Ed Van Winkle, and Rob Dockery
Carlos Sanchez, John Jonczyk, John Sprung and Russell Lichter
Site Management Clement Perry
Ad Designer: Martin Perry