47 Laboratory 4704 PiTracer CD transport Page 2

When clamped down to the turntable—two-and-a-half twists of the wrist, and don't make it too tight—the CD is supported at its inside and outside edges only, thus "minimizing the effect of the turntable material and any possible overdamping that may occur." I think that's a very clever idea, and a good way to flatten out the CD.

But man, is there a lot of sled movement required to keep the laser in the pits. Watching the PiTracer's quick-reacting, high-torque, coreless motor shimmying wildly as it moved the sled back and forth to keep the information under the optics—even with the CD held flat—gave this astounded user a good idea of just how big a problem it is. The laser assembly in a conventional player does a lot of gymnastics to bring you your music.

The sled mechanism is machined from aluminum block. The pickup optics are sourced from C.E.C., says the manual, and control buttons on the top panel can be used in conjunction with the remote to control the sled's movements. In fact, the top-panel buttons are a bit odd. (No kidding, he thought to himself.) Toward the center is a white button marked with arrows pointing both ways. (I thought you couldn't have it both ways!) If pressed deeply, it moves the sled all the way back, where it holds position. If pressed about halfway down, it moves forward, almost to the spindle, reads the disc's Table of Contents, then glides back slightly to track 1 and waits for instructions. (I understand that the remote control's operation and cosmetics are being upgraded; I found it adequate to its tasks.)

The next button is Play. After you've loaded and clamped the CD, just tap this one and the PiTracer does the rest. Next to Play is Pause, with two track forward/track back buttons next to that.

Facing the user is an LCD display that's one of the worst I've seen on a high-end product in all my experience as a reviewer. For 25 grand, this is what 47 Lab gives its customers for track information? Very cheesy. The entire row the big, fat lo-rez pixels are active on becomes visible, as if the contrast had been turned up too high. Sorry if I'm causing any loss of face, Kimura-San. I have been assured, however, by importer Sakura that a better display is in the works and will debut shortly.

Two wires run out from beneath the sled. One is for the motor drive, the other for the pickup circuitry. You can run the PiTracer with one of 47 Lab's cylindrical 4700 Power Humptys, or use a second Humpty to run the two sections separately. You know me—I used two, and yes, there was an improvement in sound. The Humptys are extra, by the way: $1800 each.

Setup
I pulled the heavy Accuphase DP-100 transport off its Bright Star Air Mass and sand-filled Big Rock stands atop the PolyCrystal rack and replaced it with the PiTracer. Although I leveled the transport, it still moved the air stand about a bit as the sled moved around over the platform. No matter—there was plenty of isolation from the environment. I ran XLO The Limited RCA digital cable to the Purcell D/D converter, connected to the Elgar Plus D/A via another pair of XLO The Limited for dual-AES operation (required for 24/192 conversion).

On the PiTRacer's rear panel are two pairs of S/PDIF data output connectors: two on RCAs and two on BNCs. One of each pair is DC-coupled, the other AC-coupled. (AES/EBU output via an XLR is an option.) The outputs aren't labeled, and at first the dCS Purcell D/D converter couldn't lock on the signal. Changing to the PiTracer's other RCA output connector solved the problem. The dCS gear is apparently very sensitive to voltage transients as a matter of course—and, I suppose, to DC as well.

I had great results with the Lamm L2 preamplifier, but listening to the PiTracer into the Purcell/Elgar Plus directly into the Krell FPB 350Mc monoblocks was utterly fantastic. Comparisons with the $12,995 Accuphase CD/SACD transport or the $20,000 Linn CD12 was cumbersome running direct, but wahoo, what great sound...

Final auditioning was with the L2 and the 350Mc monoblocks or Cary V12 stereo amp, rotating around the other players and DACs that I had available. As great as the big Krells were, the Cary sounded alarmingly fine in this setup. Alas, the low 10k-ohm input impedance of the Linn Klimax 500 Solo monoblocks limited them to partnering the Mark Levinson No.32 Reference. Which I also tried. Which was another sonic gas.

I paid special attention to both Humpty power supplies. All digital components were plugged into a PS Audio Power Plant 300, itself plugged into one side of a Power Plant 600. (I use the other side for analog components.) To get the two Power Humptys into this all-digital power struggle, I plugged 'em both into a star-wired power extender, the Ensemble Power Point, which in turn was plugged into the '300.

COMPANY INFO
47 Laboratory
US distributor: Sakura Systems
2 Rocky Mt. Rd.
Jefferson, MA 01522
(508) 829-3426
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