dCS Purcell D/D converter Page 3
As the Purcell and the 972 are D/D processors, all listening impressions were, of necessity, in combination with the Elgar Plus.
Even maximized for audiophile needs, the 972 imparted a slightly different character—or lack thereof—to the music than did the Purcell. The sound was very pure and direct straight out of the Elgar into the Linn Klimax Solo 500 monoblocks, almost hidden from view behind the big JMlab Utopias. I got the best sound with no preamplifier at all, no question. The Elgar's output stage worked wonders into the Linns via long runs of Synergistic Research Designer's Reference Discrete Shielding interconnect, plus Designer's Reference2 power cords run either "poor man's balanced" (both phases of positive), or into the same well-grounded 30A hospital-grade duplex receptacle. I did try the stable of balanced preamps on hand during the review period, tubed and solid-state, and got some wonderful sound—but nothing so close, so breathtakingly transparent and palpable, so communicative as was managed by the Elgar direct into the power amps. The midrange was among the best I've ever enjoyed, analog or digital.
The Krell FPB 350mc monoblocks sounded fabulous in direct mode as well, especially with the slightly cooler TARA Labs The One interconnects (with ISM modules) replacing the long run of Synergistic Research Designer's Reference. But the little Linn Klimaxes did it for me this time, and in a very big way.
The Elgar Plus imaged slightly but noticeably more solidly via the Purcell, and was more harmonically developed in every way than the 972. Listen to Milt Jackson's vibes on Bags Meets Wes (DCC Compact Classics GZS-1093). Milt Jackson, Wes Montgomery, Wynton Kelly, Sam Jones, and Philly Joe Jones in December 1961...does it get any better than that? With the Purcell it took just that little bit pleasingly longer for the acoustic to fade into the noise floor, already so textural and explicated as 24/192 manages.
Notes: "There's a fine luminosity to the sound of the Purcell/Elgar Plus via its direct outputs that matches the midrange delights—some kind of magical, almost single-ended-triode inner light coming off Bags' vibes. This upsampling combo gets the initial tap and shimmer so well—it's so engaging! There's a bell-like clarity overlaying that gorgeous and textured midrange; it's soft and velvety yet quick and accurate, taut and controlled but musically effusive."
The sound was at once smooth, liquid, very natural, yet fast and revealing. And that drum kit! The snare sounded so perfect that I was dumbstruck! The roundness, the full tonal palette, the loveliness of it all left me gasping with pleasure. That special inner light was also evident on female vocals, opening the upper midrange and above with sparkle and projection.
Speaking of inner light, cast an eye on the slinky dress lead singer Beth Gibbons glitters around in on Welcome to Portishead (Go! Live GLCD001). The CD booklet is minimalist, to say the least, but "All tracks recorded from the soundboard" gave me hope.
The recording comprises two club dates, tracks 1-9 from the Empress Ballroom in Blackpool, 10-15 from Le Cigale, in Paris. "I jus' wanna be a woman," Ms. Gibbons breathes on the provocatively titled "Glory Box" (track 7). "Give me a reason to love you, give me a reason to be...a woooo-man..." Jeez, my kinda lyrics! Just as she's wringin' this out, precisely at 2:25, a catcall splits the air at mid-right rear, and it was wonderful how the Purcell/Elgar Plus set that up: I don't blame the guy, she appeared so palpably and attractively between the my Utopias!
The Blackpool date is the better-sounding of the two venues—watch out for a mean ground-loop buzz in Paris—but that's part of the charm of a live date, no? The air and space of the Blackpool gig, the smoothness and the midrange jollies, with Gibbons' voice so well-developed—it's a great CD, and the Purcell/Elgar Plus let me savor every moment of it.
I got the same you-are-there shivers listening to "In Our Sleep," by Laurie Anderson and boy toy Lou Reed, from The Laurie Anderson Anthology, the recordings on which have been brilliantly selected and remastered (Warner Archives/Rhino R2 76648). The sense of transparency and presence was captivating. "Night in Baghdad" begins with a driving bass beat that illustrated the roundness and tautness of the midbass; "chunky-thunky but tight," I tapped on my laptop. Notes: "Listening to this combo on this particular Sunday afternoon is producing sounds the likes of which, even as good as it gets around here, I've rarely enjoyed before." Did the Purcell-driven Elgar Plus deliver? Indubitably.
Then I racked up the title tune of Radiohead's Kid A (Capitol CDP 5 27753 2) and listened to the defining transients and follow-on weight of the bass. It was taut, athletic, rounder via the Purcell, somewhat more dry via the 972. It was a quick and beautifully defined acoustic envelope with real power and drive, each distinct drum thwack trailing off into the noise floor. Dynamics were also covered perfectly, both micro- and macro-.
Alfred Brendel playing Haydn piano sonatas (Philips 412 228-2)? I'd never heard them better—so present and powerful, so perfectly scaled, so utterly harmonic and true. Brendel's restraint and expressiveness were enchanting, my involvement total. Then I sat in rapt attention listening to Kiri Te Kanawa singing my favorite "Laudate Dominum" from Mozart's Vesperae solennes de Confessore, K.339 (Philips 412 873-2). It was breathtakingly beautiful; I couldn't even breathe until it was over—and that's 5 minutes and 11 seconds! The Purcell/Elgar Plus favored no particular genre of music over another, handling everything with ease, grace, charm, and aplomb.