Review: CODA CSib Integrated Amplifier- CODA Technologies has recently renewed its model line, in which, among other things, new FETs with an even lower intrinsic noise than could be purchased before. Thanks to the importer, the new CODA models are now also available in the Benelux. The first product to get attention is the CSib integrated amplifier.
CODA? Never heard of it…
CODA Technologies is a 100 percent American company that designs under the radar amplifiers for third parties and also produces amplifiers under its own name. The brand originated from Threshold where they collaborated with Nelson Pass on the Stasis designs. In March 1985 three men left Threshold and started Continuum Electronics, renamed CODA Technologies in 1989.
Of the three pioneers, two are left, because CODA did not always have it easy and even seemed to disappear from the radar in the first decade of 2000 after a forced move and an attempt at a hostile takeover. True to their roots, CODA still only produces class AB amplifiers according to a proven principle, fully adapted to the current state of the art.
The fact that CODA remains under the radar is not only due to the company philosophy and the fact that they have enough work in the factory in Sacramento, it has partly to do with the American audio press. It seems to be bad practice on the other side of the Atlantic journalist to more or less confiscate review equipment and use or sell it for personal gain. CODA does not cooperate in this and a conflict was quickly born. Being ignored by the press, no longer wanting to advertise yourself, then word-of-mouth advertising remains. And apparently there is a loyal customer base, otherwise you can’t keep it up since the 1980s.
If you look at the CODA website, you will notice that there are quite a few similarities between the devices. Same type of housings, same type of arrangement of components, same printed circuit boards, same 3 kVA transformer, CODA looks like a car manufacturer where the customer can have the model built to specification on the same chassis. For example, the CSib that stands in front of me is a composite amplifier based on the No8 power amplifier and a 05x preamplifier. Available in a Version 1 of 150 Watt, a V2 of 250 Watt and a V3 of 400 Watt, all at 8 Ohm per channel. The smart thing CODA applies for this is to increase and decrease the bias and tension. The V1 works up to about 18 Watts in class A, the V3 only up to 8 Watts, because the higher output power takes up the available cooling capacity of the chassis, which is the same in all three versions.
The CODA CSIB Integrated Amplifier
Okay, back to the CSi Balanced V1 in front of me. The output power of 2 x 150 Watt neatly doubles to 2 x 300 Watt at 4 Ohm, made possible by the 3 kVA transformer in the power supply with 80,000 uF of buffer. The power supply includes EMI and RFI filters. The power supply of the preamplifier part is kept separate from that of the output stage. The amplifier has a discrete JFET differential input stage, a VMOSFET DC coupled voltage amplifier, followed by the bipolar transistors in the output stage. A circuit with little negative feedback (6dB) and a wide bandwidth up to 30 MHz. The output stage has 20 transistors per channel, good for a current of 130 amps if needed. The total gain of the CSib is 26 decibels
Furthermore, the CSib PRP contains resistors, Multicap capacitors and high speed rectifiers. The printed circuit boards are plated with gold, partly because of the reliability, partly because of the EU standards according to which lead-free soldering must be done. The fully anodized chassis is made of aluminum in various thicknesses. The amplifier has been opened by the undersigned and is an example of amplifier construction. As much as possible everything with discrete circuits, neatly placed on the printed circuit boards. I do not find a few ribbon cables, loose wires. Symmetrical construction for both channels. The fat transformer pontifical in the middle at the front. This is a kind of construction that betrays that the CSib is almost indestructible. That is why they dare to give a 10-year warranty to the first owner, of which 5 years is transferable when resold.
The front of the CSib is quite different from what everyone is used to. Only 7 push buttons provide input selection, tape monitor, subwoofer output on / off, volume up / down and switching the volume control to balance and subwoofer output level. The last button is for switching the bias on and off, which is the standby mode. The indicators and volume indicator will not turn off until you turn the power switch on the back to Zero.
At the rear we find double speaker terminals from WBT. Subwoofer and pre-out, Tape monitor in and out, three RCA inputs and one balanced input. The mains socket also contains the on / off switch and the fuse holder. A universal remote control is included for remote control. Neatly programmed, a bit overdone with all its unnecessary buttons. Is there more to tell? Yes. The price of this beautiful device is 6,799 euros. Available in black and silver.
In addition to the stated output power and gain, the spec’s are:
Frequency range: DC to 100kHz at -3dB
Distortion: <0.04% between 10Hz and 20kHz at full drive
Internal noise: -130dB
Input impedance: 50kOhm through RCA and 10kOhm through XLR
impedance : 0.04 Ohm between 20Hz and 20kHz Dimensions: 43 , 2 x 35.6 x 15.3 cm
Weight: 25 kg
Consumption standby: 10 Watt
Consumption idle with bias on: 60 Watt
Kick off in 12m2
The kick-off with the CODA CSib is, as is often the case, done in my small listening room where it can take the place of a Metrum Acoustics combination of Adagio DAC with volume control and a Forte power amplifier. I just fix the DAC on the volume and from that moment on, I arrange everything with the CSib. Source is a Metrum Ambre Roon endpoint, coupled to a Bonn N8 ethernet switch and Forester F1 power supply with AudioQuest Vodkas. Speakers have recently been upgraded to Gold Badge level Falcon LS3 / 5a on Custom Design stands and Gaia decouplers. Each Falcon has a Townshend Maximum super tweeter for extra space in the stereo image and speed.
Power supply consists of an AudioQuest Niagara 1200 mains filter and all Monsoon mains cables . RCA interlinks and speaker cables are Inakustik NF-2404 and LS-2404. This gives you a rough idea of what is going on. The little Falcon looks like a dwarf to a giant of an amplifier like the CODA, but make no mistake, the little one is able to reveal the deepest details in the small listening room, recreate a stereo image more beautiful than expensive floor stands and especially voices right up to to revive the finer points. The power of the CODA with its 2 x 150 Watts at 8 Ohm halves to 2 x 75 Watts at the 15 Ohm LS3 / 5a, but that is still enough power. Very welcome power, as it turns out in comparison with the Metrum that only manages to deliver 25 Watt at 15 Ohm.
From plugging in and after a warm-up period of one hour, the CSib immediately proved to be an amplifier with unlimited power, worthy of a potent ‘USA amplifier’ and fitting in the Pass Labs, Levinson, Krell, Ayre and others list. That has not changed in the listening sessions, including the moment when I take these notes. Not only strength is a quality, subtlety, distinctiveness, stereo image, finesse and tranquility are matters that will be discussed. Take, for example, the replacement of the Silent Angel Bonn N8 standard power supply for a Forester F1. If one amplifier could clarify the differences between the power supplies, it would be the CODA CSIB Integrated Amplifier.
Let me start with lullabies, in French “Berceuses” played by Nathalie Darche, beautiful solo piano recorded with care. Piano is an instrument that with its long sustained notes should be able to sound tender and subtle as well as grand and overwhelming in power. Put the LS3 / 5a in a large room and nothing will be left of it, listened to at a distance of 2 meters in a space of 12m2, a grand piano should offer every part from the hard sound of the highest string to the dark fuselage sound at the low notes. That requires the power hidden in the CSib, combined with the speed of the amplifier, the resolving power, the creation of a stereo image with which the grand piano is credibly large and at the same time able to fill the space for me.
The CODA CSIB Integrated Amplifier ticks every box with Darche’s music. Pure sound, open, intense, sometimes deliberately almost cheated, especially grand and realistic as far as this is possible in a room with reproducers that do little on paper below 80Hz. In practice, making a subwoofer completely unnecessary in this setting.
More famously, the works of Eric Satie were performed by Alexandre Tharaud. Also solo grand piano and a bit more difficult to reproduce. The CSib cuts through the works without any discord and continues to ensure that the music is immensely fascinating. The attack of the note is dynamic and fast, the decay and hold of the sound can last endlessly without the CSib truncating the note by disappearing into electronics, because the small volume that remains does not get bogged down in the own residual noise of electronic parts. Thanks to the DAC and its unprecedented low noise threshold as a source, because that is where it must come from if the CODA is to be able to do anything with it.
Melody with Melody
I still think her older work like “The rain” and “My one and only thrill” is the best of Melody Gardot. It puts chills on the back with the CSib. Wonderful how big the piano is behind Gardot’s distant penetrating voice. Powerful and controlled bass, all laced with a floating tenor sax next to the singer. A track that floats through space, completely detached from the reproducers that don’t even seem to exist, in a deep, high and wide stereo image. Raised to a real height with Gardot. Where in the next track violins, cello, harp and more are added, a wall of sound is created for which and against which Gardot is depicted. The LS3 / 5a is originally a voice monitor and that’s where the CSib shows itself at its best, without detracting from low and high tones, it gives a voice all the natural space that can be imagined. A sound like an EL34 or EL84 tube, but without any debris or obfuscation at the ends of the frequency range. The CODA reminds me of an Audia Flight 50 class A amplifier, a Pass Labs XA30.5 class A, but also an Ayon 300B XL. A synergy is created in the CSib of the best that transistor class A and tubes class A can offer. Packed in a black box in which no tube is active and where class A only applies up to 18 Watt. “Over the rainbow” that starts with small sounds is a party to which you just have to dance. Joy and warmth, zest for life and longing, it speaks from the voice and the music. Wonderful to be able to enjoy it without the lady having to come by in person. A sound like an EL34 or EL84 tube, but without any waste or obscuration at the ends of the frequency range.
On the hunt for some genuine jazz with saxophone in the lead role, “Eternal” by Branford Marsalis is a great choice. It immediately exposes the limitations of the space and the LS3 / 5a, low tones from Eric Revis’ bass push the subtle drumming into the background. The CSib cannot do much about this, however tight it is, it must and will push out the intensity recorded in the image. If a speaker struggles with that, then so be it. Don’t blame the messenger. What remains is the wonderfully singing sax placed right in the middle, the quiet percussion on the right, the piano on the left and the bass that fills the bottom. With a rhythm that is well maintained, at the same time knows how to keep calm in the first track, makes the music subdued so that Marsalis is completely free in his playing.
Come on with the goat, Miles Davis with “Blue in green” behind it. DSD64 converted by Roon to PCM 24/176 versus ripped 16 / 44.1 does the CODA show that kind of difference? Anyway, from a recording with no sharpness to a CD version that is messy, smaller, with an almost shrill trumpet, looking unnatural after the DSD64. Note for note, the CSib continues to convince that it is only a conduit and does not want to omit or add anything. Obviously I don’t know what was done with the mastering and the final mix in both recordings, they don’t have to sound the same so again it goes without saying that the messenger is not to blame.
Figaro here and Figaro there
Unaware of the difference in recording level between Miles Davis and cellist Ophélie Gaillard, I reach for the remote control when I play her rendition of Vivaldi’s “Cello concerto in G minor, RV416” next, it thunders through the listening room at war strength. Could the CODA CSIB Integrated Amplifier handle voices, solo instruments and jazz, classical is just such a breeze for this powerful and pure all-round amplifier. Ophélie ‘s Cello sings throughout the entire work, whether you want to reproduce it at a high volume level or just softly later in the evening. When the orchestra comes in, it is set up broad and loose behind her. She forms part of the whole while her solo cello continues to attract attention. The Pulcinella Orchestra doesn’t get her off the stage either subtly or at full power. Violins cheer on both the left and right, far beyond the physical arrangement of the two speakers in a full three-dimensional stereo image. Almost at the same time as I bought this CD in France, I took home the French magazine Diapason. The free CD supplement that month was a recording of Mozart’s “Le nozze di Figaro”, recorded in 1964, with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, among others, singing along. Normally not my genre of music at all, but curious about what Diapason gives to his readers, I become fascinated by the quality of the performers, the recording, the installation and the CODA amplifier. I accelerate with the CSib and that brings the voices to life, in the first parts mainly singer Fernado Corena.
It seems crazy to use an amplifier of almost seven grand for a pair of small speakers, with a bunch of other electronics and cables so that a whole is created with a value of 30 grand while the speakers cost “only” 3,000 euros per pair, but I guarantee you that it delivers. The CODA CSIB Integrated Amplifier knows how to prove itself completely and makes itself virtually indispensable in this set-up. Haren stand on end during a duet by Corena with Elisabeth Sönderström.
Back on Earth, I move the CODA CSIB Integrated Amplifier to my living room where a pair of Spendor Classic 2/3 speakers are waiting. On open frame stands by Stand Design, separated from the wooden floor with Townshend Podiums and, just like the Falcon’s, expanded with Townshend Super Tweeters. The same DAC but without volume control (Pavane van Metrum) is controlled by an Auralic Aries G1 set as Roon endpoint. Music is retrieved by Roon software running on a NUC from a Melco N10 storage via a Melco S100 ethernet switch with SBooster power supply. Here I am using the CODA CSIB Integrated Amplifier balanced over Yter XLR interlinks. Ethernet and digital cables are AudioQuest Vodka and Diamond, power cords and speaker wire are from Crystal Cable. The mains filter is an AudioQuest Niagara 5000. Different set, different acoustics, partly different music. A week to get used to and discover what the CODA CSib is showing here and then make notes. What a wonderful hobby I have.
If you want to know what three virtuosos can achieve on their guitar, The Guitar Trio with Paco de Lucia, John McLaughlin and Al Di Meola is highly recommended. Especially on an amplifier like the CODA. Now I sit about three meters from the speakers in a cross-section living room and again I get a wonderful stereo image. Three guitars, each with its own sound and each with its own place. In which strings and body can be recognized as separate elements. There is depth, width, height and the music can be separated from the reproducers themselves.
A serene calm is created in the sound image, so that the instrument is fully illuminated, in which no smearing takes place, music is presented easily and naturally. Underneath the skin lies more than enough power in the CSib V1 to follow a dynamic jump of a plucked string without any problems. It’s the kind of view you get to get me out of bed for. The almost endless reserve, grip of an end box full of power transistors and a more than thick power supply.
If you want a little more spice and details, an Auralic Aries G1 can be set to four different filter modes, from smooth to dynamic and so you can “color” the display according to your needs. The CODA CSIB Integrated Amplifierlets it all pass easily without creating a uniform sausage. Differences in source, DAC even cables can be directly identified and recognized. With music as just played or with “Soñj” by Seven Reihz. “Soñj” is really a track with which a system has to prove that it can play big. To remain tender and pure at the same time. A wall of sound has to swell and then shrink, blows have to put the hair on end. Leave it to CODA, it is hard to imagine how deep the CSib can take a Spendor of this size to go, while remaining pure and continuously both balanced and controlled.
Instruments and voices emerge here and there in the stereo image. It may continue like this. I still hang out in strange music, although I switch to jazz from the Tord Gustavsen, supplemented by a trio with Simin Tander and Jarle Vespestad. A track like “I see you” is dark and dark. Slowly creeps under your skin, evokes images of dense forests in which, according to Scandinavian thrillers, evil is hiding. A credit to the set and the amp for putting my imagination to work. “Journey of life” starts just as dark, the percussion drum on which the voice is placed. Only when the piano mixes do points of light emerge, although it never becomes an album to listen to a party. Very beautiful and impressively well recorded by ECM. Typically something for an audio show if we are going to have it again next year. A bit more cheerful jazz to close off with the Tingvall Trio that chases “Spöksteg” through the listening room with verve. Fast percussion, fat bass, clear piano, a composition that makes source, amplifier and speakers very happy to play together.
Goodbye with a pain in the heart
With pain in my heart I will have to repack the CODA CSib V1 and hand it over to the importer. The amplifier has managed to prove itself in two systems and especially with a small loudspeaker such as an LS3 / 5a, the hidden power provides impressive dynamics mixed with fine-meshedness in a generous stereo image. Place it in a large room with a larger speaker system and it will just as easily fill the room with sound. With no preference for any kind of music, as I write this the works composed by Biber and performed by Combattimento roll out before my ears.
One can argue about the appearance and operation of the CODA CSIB Integrated Amplifier, the black milled front in which a number of LEDs never go out will not be to everyone’s taste, just as the lousy remote or the absence of a rotary knob for the volume. There is no arguing about the quality in the assembly of parts, PCBs, output transistors, power supply and used connections. Exemplary is too weak to put it, the amplifier radiates externally and internally that it will work exemplary for years and years. The electronic volume control will certainly help with this, the CSib does not know wear and tear of controls and switches. The power delivered with a reserve that feels like a 3.5 liter V8 under the hood should be enough for even the most demanding loudspeaker, the types with erratic impedance and thirst for power.
Nothing but praise about the display itself in the price range. Flexibility can be combined with detail, power with subtlety, captured in a sublime stereo image that time and again separates itself from the reproducers and places instruments in three dimensions as if the builders of CODA themselves were sitting at the mixing desk. I consider CODA CSIB Integrated Amplifier V1 an asset to our market; you give him the space to prove himself in the store or at home. It is an amplifier built according to the manual that says on the cover: “How to realize the great American sound”.
PLUS POINTS of CODA CSIB Integrated Amplifier
- Representation exemplary on all points
- Power with finesse
- High build quality
- Belongs at home among the USA classics
- 10 year guarantee
MINUSES of CODA CSIB Integrated Amplifier
- Universal, very large remote control
- Indicators continue to light up in standby