“The Monster” is what Block Audio calls the CVR-200 Amplifier, located in Hude, Lower Saxony. Not internally behind closed doors, but quite officially on the website. Hmm, that doesn’t sound affectionate. Still, it should probably be meant appreciatively – as we here occasionally refer to devices with an above-average range of functions as “feature beasts.” What can it do, the block CVR-200 (1,699 euros )? Well, it would probably be easier to list what our monster loaded for testing cannot do…
The Block CVR-200 is a streaming receiver with a drive that can read just about any silver disc, namely Blu-ray, DVD, CD, HDCD, CD-R, or CD-RW. Consequently, the CVR-200 also has an HDMI interface connecting a television set. Handy! You can stream via Bluetooth or WLAN(2.4 and 5 GHz, unfortunately, no RJ45 network connection is on board). In addition, the CVR-200 offers several analog inputs, including a phono MM input, five digital inputs, and a headphone amplifier. But that’s not all: FAT32-formatted storage media can also be connected via the front USB port, which, like the headphone output, is hidden behind a small flap; WAV files, MP3, WMA, and FLAC up to a maximum of 16-bit / 48 kHz can be played. For the DAC section, Block Audio relies on a converter chip from ESS-Sabre, the ESS 9023P, which can process digital material up to 24 bit/192 kHz.
The eye-catcher and human-machine interface is a 6.5 cm wide and 4.8 cm high graphics-capable color display. The CVR-200 block is operated either via the front buttons, the supplied remote control, or – that’s how I did it – the Undok app for the smartphone, which also allows the integration of DLNA/UPnP sources/ drives, for example. Block Audio has not yet offered its app. The Undok app has a tidy layout, stability, and various functions. Still, a separate app with native integration of high-res streaming services would enhance the whole thing and better suit the CVR-200’s claims.
The amplifier section is completely analog – according to Block Audio, it uses a self-developed Class A/B circuit that can handle up to 100 watts of RMS power per channel. If you like, you can also connect two pairs of loudspeakers, which can be operated individually or simultaneously, whereby the output power is reduced accordingly if two pairs are operated simultaneously.
I think it’s a particularly good idea to equip the CVR-200 block directly with a DVD or Blu-ray player. I think the somewhat longer read-in time for classic audio CDs can be accepted if you can “do away with” a separate device such as a DVD player – for example, in the living room. In addition, the CVR-200 can also receive terrestrial radio; there is a tuner for DAB+ and FM. With this variety of functions, the CVR-200 can show itself as a real top dog in apartments where it is important that not too many technical devices “stand around.”
I also like the look and artistry: The cleanly crafted front panel of the CVR-200, developed in Germany and produced in the Far East, is made of solid, brushed metal. Overall, the “metal block” weighing almost ten kilograms looks extremely solid – and so does the distribution of the controls, and the display follows both ergonomic and aesthetic principles. You don’t have to hide the CVR-200 in the rack. In addition, the supplied remote control shines with its good design and flawless usability (clear pressure points of the buttons).
Incidentally, the initial start-up is pleasantly simple: the CVR-200 guides you through a coherently designed configuration menu, and a multifunction rotary and push button is very helpful in making the appropriate settings (e.g., for the network). In any case, I was ready to go after about five minutes and could start immediately. How does it sound now? Let’s start with the digital section, i.e., the built-in streamer (here I listened uncompressed via Amazon Music Unlimited since my “house streaming service” Qobuz is not yet supported) or the CD drive, which both differ in sound.
“Fresh, crisp, playful” were the first words in my notebook. The Block CVR-200 is not a euphonically fussy earworm, but it is also not a gimmicky halloumi. No, the liveliness of the sound immediately catches the ear; it’s fun to listen to spontaneously.
Let’s break this down in more detail: In terms of tonality, the Lower Saxony hi-fi system is fully there in the usual volume range. Nothing is missing in the low-frequency range, mids, or highs. On the other hand, an emphasis on the upper bass, which is to be expected with devices in this class, is also not discernible; it is drawn from below. Towards the top, the sound tends slightly towards the fresh, yet not (over)present side. Well balanced overall – that’s what I mean when I say the block CVR-200 does without showmanship.
Sure, more is always possible in terms of transmission range: My Abacus Ampino 20 Dolifet: (4,500 euros) and my Valvet A4 MKII monoblocks (6,400 euros) push – logically, I have to say – in the sub-bass range with audibly more emphasis and also stamina with long-lasting bass tones. And if desired, at significantly higher levels – but be honest: Of course, we’re comparing apples with pears here.
Depending on the listening taste, the size of the room, or the loudspeakers, the bass foundation of the CVR-200 is sufficient for a tonally complete music experience because it is also contoured and agile. For example, when the Murder Capital’s track “Crying” (Album: Gigi’s Recovery) has driving, very emphatic drums asserting themselves against towering walls of guitars, the simple but effective bass drum/snare drum figures work well in their dotted rhythm experience, although the guitars and the quite substantial bass counteract properly. That sounds through my Tsakiridis Aeolos+ integrated amplifier (2,150 euros) in the end, even a notch less rhythmic and compelling, although the Greek amp makes the colors of the guitars shine a little more.
This brings us to the middle band: As mentioned, this is tonally inconspicuous, neutral in the best sense of the word, and sufficiently well resolved. A little more richness of tone and resolution is conceivable, but given the price tag, what’s on offer is more than okay. In the treble, the CVR-200 shows even more detailed information than in the mid-band, which is not only suggested by the tiny quantum of tonal freshness mentioned – no, the Block’sche compact system resolves pleasantly well here.
This is easy to understand with Sonic Youthsmanic-driving “Incinerate” (Album: Rather Ripped). Here drummer Steve Shelley plays almost unleashed – with the precision of a drum machine but with the stamina of a driven person. The sound drivers in Sonic Youth have mixed the heavily used drum kit a bit darker and put a low-pass filter over it so that the cymbals, beaten with rage, don’t miss the entire song. And I like how the block CVR-200 allows the different cymbal types to shine through despite this intentional little darkening. Sure, my Valvet power amps also manage this balancing act – and they resolve the sound textures even more finely (especially if there are other instruments in the same frequency range, making it even more difficult to unravel). Nevertheless, the CVR-200 does more than bravely in this matter. Respect.
Coarse and fine dynamics
As I said, the CVR-200 block is fun to play with. If you are particularly into a mildly swinging, not too alert “triode sound,” you have come to the wrong place. In any case, load changes take place without delay; when the snare is maltreated in staccato style on old punk discs by the Wipers (e.g., “Is this Real”) or the guitars are blow-dried from zero to one hundred, then the CVR-200 doesn’t take long to ask and delivers what you want almost unmoved.
On the other hand, a little more would be possible in terms of fine dynamics, even in the price range. For example, Marantz PM-7000N, priced at 1,199 euros and does not have a CD drive, can present dynamic gradations a little more sensitively, especially at low listening volumes or even quiet passages. Take Donald Fagens, for example, the track “The Nightfly” (album of the same name). This piece may only seem to ripple, but it shows rich instrumentation with drums, bass, guitars, organ, choir singing, and accentuated percussion work. However, since none of the sound sources stands out, it takes a good deal of fine dynamic qualities, especially at low listening volumes, to hear all these instruments in the mix and distinguish them from one another. The Japanese streaming receiver is a bit ahead here. On the other hand, the CVR-200 can do better in terms of coarse dynamics.
The stage representation is quickly told: the block CVR-200 builds the stage exactly on the baseline and plays pleasingly spacious and precise in width, which promotes an appealing sound image. The North German all-in-one system distributes the individual sound sources in the previously mentioned Donald Fagen track very precisely and clearly in the stereo panorama: This pleasantly clicks into place and results in both involvement (“much to discover”) and also relaxation: You don’t have to pay attention with pricked ears, but get all the important information about the room playfully. Which instrument is playing where? How is it physically outlined? How are the instruments and sound sources related to each other spatially? Overall, however, the CVR-200 focuses more on the width than the depth of the image. Those who primarily value
And otherwise? Phono and line-level inputs
There are still a few things to share. Firstly, the phono MM input is fine, considering the price tag and not an alibi bonus. Regarding quality, I would rank the built-in equalizer preamplifier roughly on par with an uncomplicated plug-and-play device such as the Phonobox S2 from Pro-Ject (149 euros). On the plus side are low background noise, tonally clean definition, and a pleasantly gripping, graceful gait. The stereophonic depth and width gradation could also be a little better here.
Secondly, the analog high-level inputs are the “hidden champion”: If you own high-quality source devices, you can get a little more out of the CVR-200 block regarding fine dynamics and stereophonic depth gradation. My theory: The converter section and peripherals installed in the CVR-200 represent the limiting element in this regard, while the class AB amplifier can show what it’s made of even better via the high-level inputs.
The CVR-200 is the equivalent of the classic “Swiss Army Knife.” Here and there, it is not about excellence in all areas taken to the extreme: Of course, you can buy “better” scissors and cutting instruments separately, but with the pocket knife, you have everything you need in a compact form. With the CVR-200, Block Audio is launching a versatile device that shows no real weaknesses in the audiophile discipline. On the contrary: Good rough dynamics, appealing performance values , and the real joy of playing are paired with a tonally neutral and overall conclusive and clean performance over long stretches. A little more would be possible in color richness in the middle band or the fine dynamics. Nevertheless, even discerning listeners should be able to enjoy this device,
Characteristics Block Audio CVR-200
- Tonally basically airy and well-balanced. There is sufficiently substantial and fast-paced bass at reasonable listening volumes, cleanly defined mids, and well-resolved highs with a minimal extra shovel of freshness. In addition, the high-frequency range is pleasing, with an above-average number of details and fine definition; in the middle band, it’s more typical for the price class.
- The CVR-200 can certainly do solid coarse dynamics but is pleasantly not a hyperactive warhorse. Fine dynamics, on the other hand, is not its central strength. Still, it can make up for this to a certain extent with its well-resolved treble and the very precise horizontal localization of the sound sources in the stereophonic image: Both help to enable sufficient differentiation between different instruments or sound sources, even at low listening volumes.
- Overall, the stage is wide rather than deeply lit, starting at the baseline and offering enough structure and size to create a life-like atmosphere.
- Considering the price range, clean processing, independent look, and good connectivity. A small wish for the manufacturer: I want to see a LAN connection and a dedicated app in the next incarnation.
- Concept: compact system/all-in-one device with Blu-ray/CD player, phono, and streamer
- Analog inputs: 3 x high level, line-in, 1 x phono MM
- Digital inputs: 3 x S/PDIF optical, 1 x S/PDIF coaxial, 1 x USB
- Outputs: 2 pairs of speakers, Pre Out, Rec Out, Video Out (analog cinch, digital HDMI), headphone output (6.3 mm stereo jack)
- Streaming: via WLAN and Bluetooth
- Dimensions & Weight: 43 x 12.15 x 33 cm (WxHxD), 9.8 kg
- Power consumption: 300 watts (max.), 2.5 watts (standby)
- Price: 1,699 euros
- Colors: silver, black
- Warranty: 2 years, warranty extension to 5 years possible