Cairn Tornado review

This French-built CD player delivers an exciting, dynamic sound but the treble can sound bright and build quality is a tad flimsy Tested at £900.00

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

There's plenty to like, but the tonal balance and average build mean it's not quite the complete package


  • +

    Exciting and dynamic

  • +

    big, open soundstage

  • +

    punch and precision


  • -

    Flimsy, clunky build

  • -

    bright treble

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Cheese, yes. Wine, naturally; but we wouldn't associate CD players with the French. Cairn, though, is a French company - all mechanical products are built in France and the units are hand-assembled there.

Despite its name, as we get to grips with the Tornado, it strikes us that one thing it isn't when it comes to usability is fast and responsive. Commands are answered in the Cairn's own time, and we're not blown away by the overall build quality - the disc tray is flimsy and buttons clunky.

The remote control is pretty uninspiring, too, though there is an optional ROC3 remote on Cairn's website that looks far more appealing.

Technically, it's very similar to its more costly sibling, the Fog 3. It uses the same DAC, the Crystal CS4398, and has a similar analogue output stage and power supply. As well as the standard analogue outputs, there are optical and coaxial digital outputs, the volume of which you can change on the player - though lowering this digital volume does lower the sound quality.

Tone down the treble
The most striking aspect of the Tornado is its treble, which is a touch edgy and can sound a little forward in the mix. As a result, listening to Radiohead's 15 Step the crashing cymbals used throughout are a touch too much for our ears.

That aside, there's much to enjoy here. As a result of the tonal balance, there's never any possibility of a lack of excitement. Dynamics have plenty of reach, too, R.E.M.'s Hollow Man rising from the acoustic opening to the all-out attack of the finale.

It's an open, expansive sound; listening to The Bridge of Khazad-Dum from The Lord of the Rings soundtrack, the soundstage is impressively broad, while those dynamics get a good workout again.

This Cairn CD player is undoubtedly capable, ticking nearly all our performance boxes - but it suffers from a forward, bright treble. Couple this with the average build and design, and you can see why we're not completely blown away by this Tornado.

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