Accuphase DP-100 Super Audio CD transport & DC-101 Digital Processor Page 3

In explaining the apparent marketing de-emphasis on upsampling at Accuphase, Kawakami highlighted several points. First, when playing 44.1kHz material, the DC-101 "runs the digital bus as it is," which I take to mean that the datastream appears as a 16/44.1 S/PDIF signal at the RCA S/PDIF output or at the HS-Link digital output. "But," he goes on, "it is upsampled (oversampled) to 352.8kHz in the Multiple Delta Sigma DAC." In other words, industry-standard 8x oversampling.

Kawakami goes on to say that the actual signal content of 16/44.1 is the same whether upsampled to 176.4kHz, 192kHz, or even higher. "Please remember that upsampling does not mean improvement of the original signal but just the change of digital interface which is convenient for D/A conversion and digital interface." When upsampling in several operations, he argues, there's a greater chance for signal degradation at each stage: "We delete the middle stage conversion and achieve a one-time direct conversion in the MDS DAC from 44.1kHz (or 48kHz) to 352.8kHz."

"When playing SACD (DVD-Audio), original music signal contains a wider frequency range up to 100kHz. In order to carry such wide frequency signal, higher sampling rates such as 176.4kHz and 192kHz, a digital bus is required"—as implemented in the DC-101, and as available for the DP-75V as an option card with HS-Link. "In the meantime, original music signal content of CD is up to 20kHz and no higher. Even if the CD is converted to 176.4kHz sample rate, the contents of the music signal remains up to 20kHz, no change, no improvement." He went on: "The high sample rate of SACD (DVD-Audio) is a different story from upsampling of CD."

Okay, I hope that's all straightened out! Once again, it seems that the main difference in sound quality between upsampling and oversampling can be attributed to the digital filter.

Ministry of Sound
Putting the Accuphase DP-100/DC-101 through its paces meant playing a lot of SACDs. And with yet another shipment of same having arrived from David Kawakami at Sony, plus SACDs from Chesky, Linn, AudioQuest, DMP, Telarc, and classical music from Lyrinx, a small European label, there was finally plenty to enjoy. Where I had the same recording on both SACD and "Red Book" 16/44.1 CD, I played both in the Accuphase and compared that to the dCS Elgar upsampled by the 972 or the Purcell. (See my review in the January 2001 issue for more on the 972/Purcell/Elgar upsampling combo.)

In a few cases, I was able to compare both the SACD and the 16/44.1 layer of hybrid discs to their straight CD versions. This was especially telling with Chesky's new SACD release of The Raven (SACD205), by Rebecca Pidgeon (or "Mrs. David Mamet," as she never stops repeating in concert). The CD layer on the SACD hybrid was mastered in DSD, and there's some scuttlebutt that the 16/44.1 hybrid sounds better than the straight-ahead CD version. We shall see...

The best way to give you an idea of the overall SACD presentation of the DP-100/DC-101 is to talk about ambiance. We might say a room or a restaurant has a nice ambiance, referring to the lighting and furnishings, and leave it at that. Hey, there's the bar--that's all the ambiance some of us need! But ambiance can mean so much more. In a Paris Bistro, ambiance might refer to the atmosphere as well as the lighting, the smell, the linen, the presentation of the food, the size of the room, the noise level, the number of people and how they're dressed, the mood, and so on. It's about feelings and perceptions that are almost subconscious, as well as anything else.

In those special ways, the Accuphase combo delivered ambiance like nothing I've ever heard in our system before. Totally remarkable. The sounds from the many SACDs I played all displayed, to one degree or another, an ability to gently, naturally, relaxedly take over the acoustics of our listening space. The experience was always very circumaural, but never vulgar or cheap in effect. Mrs. Mamet was just there, and particularly breathtaking on "The Raven" and "Spanish Harlem." The palpability wasn't so much awesome as it was naturally stunning, the sheer level of unforced and liquid detail creating the all-too-believable presence of Madame Mamet in our loft. (I almost asked her to leave!) This gentleness and natural ease of presentation was in no way the result of rolling off the highs or recessing any part of the frequency response. In fact, Pidgeon, like most female vocals through the DP-100/DC-101 (try to resist Carla Lother on Ephemera, Chesky SACD207), shimmered with a soft, beckoning light from within. Very single-ended triode.

I could enhance this liquidly voluptuous, immersive presentation by listening in our Ribbon Chair, designed in 1965 by French architect Pierre Paulin. Kathleen rescued it from a used-furniture store and restored it. But this supremely comfortable chair is a little low for critical listening, and lately I've been dropping my audiophile ass into one of a set of Frank Lloyd Wright Midway 2 chairs we've had for years . They raise my ears to tweeter height and make for a larger, more layered and transparent soundstage with more precise imaging.

Running the Accuphase duo with the Mark Levinson No.32 Reference preamplifier and Krell FPB 350Mc monoblocks, with all-Synergistic Designer's Reference cable—first Discrete Shielding only, then with the fabulous Active Shielding module—produced a powerful yet beautiful, "pretty" sound. The Raven's midrange and highs were sweepingly convincing and relaxed—pure velvet. Notes: "The midrange and luminous transition to the upper midrange and above is so seductive, open, fast, illuminated, sunny, and liquid! A real delight." The 16/44.1 layer on the hybrid disc did sound better than the straight CD, but the difference was much smaller when either was upsampled into the dCS 972 or Purcell/Elgar.

Switching to the BAT VK-50SE preamplifier into the Krells with TARA The One and Cardas Golden Cross on the JMlab Utopias produced a sweet and musical presentation. The midrange was rich with detail, the midbass transparent yet retaining weight and speed, with superb imaging, again with great ease and musical "projection." And the bass was big and impressive. Substituting the Linn Klimax monoblocks for the Krells was practically a cinematic experience: Lights! Camera! Action! Clear and pellucid, the musical and acoustic clarity was superb. I don't think I ever heard Rapsodie Espagnole, on the Boulez Conducts Ravel SACD (Sony SS 89121), sound so wonderful, so dynamic, so you-are-there present in our listening room. You want a demo to show your friends why you bother with high-end audio? Play track 6 of the Rapsodie and stand back; the sound of the oboe is enough to make any music-loving audiophile kneel in appreciation. It was the same listening to Mozart's Symphony 40 (Sony SRGR 703). It's wonderful when the music reaches you, when it captures your emotions and imagination.

COMPANY INFO
Accuphase
US distributor: Axiss Distribution
17800 South Main Street, Suite 109
Gardena, CA 90248
arturo@axiss-usa.com
(310) 329-0187
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