47 Laboratory 4715 D/A processor & 4716 CD transport Page 2
There are no big ease-of-use issues here, apart from the aforementioned need to clamp the disc and to coax the system into manually reading the ToC, and the fact that you can hear some motor noise if you keep this exposed-hub player close by and at ear level. (I don't think that intruded too much, and in any event the noise can be avoided with a bit of placement ingenuity.) A small toggle switch powers up the 4716 transport, and the 4715 DAC remains powered up all the time. (The same model of 12V power supply is included with each; these, too, are enclosed in gray Shigaraki ceramic boxes that match the converter and the base of the transport.)
As with the Final Laboratory components I wrote about in the January 2003 issue, I admire the fact that these and other 47 Lab products are no bigger or heavier than they need to be: Energy-storing bulk has been banished, and there is no more vacant real estate inside either box than might be required to maneuver parts for servicing.
The only downside is that the DAC, in particular, is too light to be conveniently used with certain cables. The Green Hornet digital cable from Creative Cable Concepts, which I like, is so stiff that it tends to push the little Shigaraki DAC around, and I have a hard time getting both the transport and the DAC to face the same way on my table. Is that why some manufacturers put such thick faceplates on their gear?
I spent a longer time listening to the 4715 DAC than to the 4716 transport, partly because the former has been on the market longer, and partly because I had reviewed the DAC a short while back, for Listener (Vol.8 No.3). Taken together, the Shigaraki DAC and transport imparted the same qualities to my system that I heard using just the DAC with a variety of other transports: Music sounded softer, more distant, and altogether a bit less hi-fi than when I use my Sony SCD-777ES SACD player as a standalone CD player. Yet, ironically or not, the 47 Lab combination rendered music just a little bit more involving, with slightly improved rhythmic capabilities in particular.
Take, for example, the Brandis Quartet's recording of Beethoven's String Quartet in B-flat, Op.18 No.6 (Nimbus NI 5353): It's hard to find a CD player anywhere, of any technology, that makes music like this compelling enough for me to listen with total concentration all the way through—not that I don't enjoy the genre, but rather because, for me, most of this music's appeal is carried by the rhythmic subtleties brought to it by first-rank musicians, and subtle rhythmic distinctions are the sorts of things that digital audio, in general, creams. The Sony SCD-777ES, for instance, does only a fair job: Its ("Red Book") CD performance simply isn't good enough to get at the heart of this stuff.
But the Shigaraki was just better enough to say so in that regard. Although I hesitate to use the word, charged as it is with so many unpleasant Ben Sidran-isms, the Brandis played with more verve when heard through the 47 Lab combo. I thought that the instruments lost a bit of color through the Shigarakis by comparison, but that difference was small.
In general, the Shigaraki was also well-textured, and could sound rich enough when called on to do so, although its version of "richness" was different from that of other hi-fi gear: It sounded deeply but not brightly detailed. The lowest cello strings thrummed well through this player, as did the strings of Tony Rice's famous old Martin guitar on his recording of Bill Monroe's "Jerusalem Ridge" (Church Street Blues, Sugar Hill SH-CD-3732).
There were other differences between the Sony and the 47 Lab combo, of course. The Shigarakis sounded more midrangey, even to the point of some not-unpleasant pungency on certain instruments and voices. Looked at another way, the Sony, which is not at all bright-sounding in the pejorative sense—and a great many other players of my experience—reach further into the frequency extremes. The very full, sumptuous electric bass in Aimee Mann's "Humpty Dumpty" (Lost in Space, SuperEgo) was less so when played on the Shigaraki combo. At the same time, the Shigaraki had less shimmer and sense of air, and there was less precision in stereo image placement.