CD Player/Transport Reviews

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John Atkinson Posted: Nov 18, 2016 3 comments
It has been 20 years since I first became aware of the British company Data Conversion Systems, which manufactures audio products under the dCS brand. Rather than use off-the-shelf conversion chips, the groundbreaking dCS Elgar D/A converter, which I reviewed in our July 1997 issue, featured a then-unique D/A design that they called a Ring DAC. This featured a five-bit, unitary-weighted, discrete DAC running at 64 times the incoming data's sample rate—2.822MHz for 44.1kHz-based data, 3.07MHz for 48kHz-sampled data and its multiples—with upsampling and digital filtering and processing implemented in Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs). Oversampling to a very high sample rate allows the word length to be reduced without losing resolution, and use of a low-bit multi-bit DAC makes for very high accuracy in the analog voltage levels that describe the signal. (If this seems like voodoo, for a given signal bandwidth, bit depth and sample rate are related. To oversimplify, double the rate, and you can reduce the bit depth by one bit while preserving the overall resolution.)
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Nov 10, 2016 Published: Jan 01, 1991 1 comments
Like its Prism I predecessor, which I reviewed in May 1988, the Mod Squad Prism II is based on a Philips player: the same 16-bit, 4x-oversampling converter, the same general control layout. But The Mod Squad does their own extensive remanufacture, both on the internal circuitry and on the cosmetics—the latter involving a handsomely sculptured case and metal front trim-panel surrounding Philips's command center.
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 20, 2016 Published: Jan 01, 1991 3 comments
With Sony's latest flagship single-box player ($1700), we find yet another variant on 1-bit D/A technology—High Density Linear Converter, or HDLC. At the heart of this Pulse Length Modulation (footnote 1) D/A technique is Sony's CXD-2552 Pulse D/A converter (two per channel in complementary mode in the CDP-X77ES). This complex LSI chip incorporates a third-order noise shaper, the PLM converter, and a digital sync circuit receiving its input from the system clock.
Bill Sommerwerck Sam Tellig Posted: Jul 05, 2016 Published: Aug 01, 1986 2 comments
There's a race on between Sony and Matsushita, to determine who can build the smallest battery-operated CD player with the most features. Sony currently holds the lead with its second-generation D-7 ($300), about 30% smaller than the first "pocket" CD, the D-5. Most of the reduction is in height; both players have a horizontal cross-section only slightly larger than the CD itself. The illusion of smallness is further enhanced by an angled front panel with beveled edges.
J. Gordon Holt Posted: Jun 09, 2016 Published: Oct 01, 1984 1 comments
CD player prices continue to go down and, surprisingly, sound quality goes up; the Yamaha CD-X1 is an example of both. It's a front-drawer loader with some interesting innovations. Pushing the Open/Close button opens the drawer; it can be closed either by pushing the same button again or by pressing lightly against the end of the open drawer. (We understand this was done because many such players have been damaged by users trying to force the drawer shut by hand.)

The unit has three operating modes: Auto, Manual and Single. In Auto, play begins as soon as the drawer is closed, or as soon as the AC is turned on if a disc is already loaded. In Manual, play begins only when you press the Play button. Single is the same as Manual except that the unit goes into Pause after playing a single selection. Pressing Pause then plays the next selection.

Art Dudley Posted: Mar 24, 2016 8 comments
Described by manufacturer April Music as an "all-in-one music center," the Aura Note Version 2 ($2500) is a 125Wpc integrated amplifier with a built-in CD player, USB DAC, and FM tuner. The Aura Note is further enhanced by a Bluetooth receiver, a pair of line-level output jacks, and a headphone jack.

The hackneyed but not inappropriate comparison to a Swiss Army knife comes to mind—but where that well-loved tool does a great many things with less than perfection, I've now heard the Aura Note V2 do at least two different things well enough that no excuses need be made on its behalf.

Art Dudley Posted: Feb 24, 2016 0 comments
I don't listen to music when I write, even when I write about listening to music: When there's music playing, it almost always gets my full attention—and I'm no good at multitasking. (And if I'm around music that's awful and I'm powerless to stop it, I have to leave the premises.) A rare exception is when I listen to CDs while proofreading, because proofreading is fairly brainless stuff—and as playback formats go, the Compact Disc isn't the most musically compelling.
Corey Greenberg Posted: Feb 16, 2016 Published: Feb 01, 1992 4 comments
The $800 JVC XL-Z1050TN 1050 is the Bitstream successor to JVC's popular 18-bit XL-Z1010, which got an enthusiastic thumbs-up from Robert Harley in April 1990 (Vol.13 No.4). Its styling is, in my opinion, much improved over the older player's, with the distinctive brushed-bronze finish of the rest of JVC's XL-Z line. The rear panel sports fixed and variable outputs (footnote 1), as well as Toslink optical and coaxial digital outputs. As with the 1010, the JVC features their proprietary K2 Interface, a circuit that reduces jitter by resampling the pulses with a short-duration gate just ahead of the single-bit JVC JCE-4501 DAC chip.
Art Dudley Posted: Dec 29, 2015 6 comments
I don't know much about horses, but I've been given to understand that dead ones don't respond to even the severest beating. In light of that, I'll make only this brief statement—Even with the best playback gear of my experience, I don't derive as much pleasure from CDs as I do from LPs.—and move on to a simpler truth: Regardless of what I think, CD players are still a necessity for most music-loving audiophiles.
Dick Olsher Posted: Dec 18, 2015 Published: Jun 01, 1995 5 comments
In 1995, as the compact disc enters its second decade of commercial reality, it's fair to say that the associated hardware has come of age, exorcising at last the digital gremlins of time-base jitter and quantization noise. Digital-processor maturation is particularly evident in the design of the all-critical D/A processor. The simplistic digital circuitry of yesterday has given way to considerable design sophistication that deals directly with jitter and low-level nonlinearities.
Robert Harley Posted: Dec 08, 2015 Published: Oct 01, 1993 0 comments
It's easy for reviewers to become jaded by the high prices of some audio products. We get the products in our listening rooms—albeit temporarily—without having to part with our own money. Consequently, we get enthusiastic about products that offer real breakthroughs without, perhaps, fully considering their cost.
Thomas J. Norton Sam Tellig Posted: Nov 12, 2015 Published: Oct 01, 1988 0 comments
Let's go back a few years. Well, more than a few, actually. The electronics end of high-end audio consisted of two companies—Marantz and McIntosh. If you were not up to shopping at their stratospheric price level—even though the industry hadn't yet invented components priced to compete with automobiles—you could always fall back on Dynaco, the poor man's high end in kit form. You hooked all this together with two-dollar connecting cables and 16-gauge zip cord purchased from the local electrical supply house, or—if you felt particularly flush—you'd spend a few (very few) bucks more at Fred's Stereo for the cables with the fancy molded plugs. Hoses were used for watering the lawns.
Robert Harley Posted: Apr 17, 2015 Published: Nov 01, 1991 4 comments
"In the fields of observation, chance favors only the mind that is prepared."

When Louis Pasteur uttered these words more than a hundred years ago, he must have speculated that they would apply equally well to future circumstances as to the events of his day. What he couldn't anticipate, however, was the technology to which his insight now seems so appropriate.

J. Gordon Holt Steven W. Watkinson Posted: Feb 26, 2015 Published: May 01, 1985 4 comments
Publisher's Note: For the first time since I've published Stereophile, we are running two completely different—and opposed— reports on the same product. Normally, we try to reach some conclusion as to why reviewers come up with opposite views on a product, and resolve the problem prior to publication. In this case, the problem lies in the differing sound systems used for review. Since some readers will have systems like SWW's, and others will have systems more like JGH's, I felt it was valuable to run both reviews.

For the record, SWW's reference system consists of Dayton Wright XG-lO speakers, BEL 1001 amplifiers, a Klyne preamp, a SOTA Star Sapphire turntable, the Well-Tempered Arm (or Sumiko Arm), and a Talisman S cartridge. The sound on analog disc is far preferable to that from CD, being much more alive and present, and with a tendency to exaggerate sibilants. The low end of the system is awesome, the high end extended, and transients are rendered with a great feeling of immediacy and quickness.

Michael Fremer Posted: Nov 13, 2014 5 comments
Can a power-supply upgrade produce audible sonic benefits? If you've upgraded the power supply of a phono preamplifier, you probably don't need to be convinced that it does, and those usually cost only a small percentage of the price of the model they power. But to add Simaudio's Moon Evolution 820S power supply ($8000) to the Moon Evolution 650D DAC–CD transport ($9000), which I reviewed in the November 2011 issue, almost doubles the latter's cost—though the 820S can be used to simultaneously power two Moon Evolution components, like the 750D DAC ($14,000), 740P preamplifier ($9500), and 610LP ($7500) and 810LP phono preamplifier ($13,000).