Kinergetics KCD-40 CD player J. Gordon Holt June 1993
To get a handle on how the Sony CDP-X799ES CD player ranked with the competition, I borrowed from Santa Fe two higher-priced players that garnered enthusiastic reviews from TJN in February: a Kinergetics KCD-40 Platinum ($2295) and a Proceed PCD 3 ($2995)...I had auditioned the Kinergetics at an earlier date but, because of my "reference" system at the time, had judged it intolerably cold and analytical. (Subsequently, a more neutral system changed my perspective on that judgment.)
I started with the pink-noise comparisons. Spectrally, the Kinergetics and the Sony were a toss-up with the pink-noise source, so similar that I couldn't decide whether there were any differences at all. I decided there weren't. The Proceed was less soft at the top than the earlier PCD 2, but was still a little more closed-in than either the Sony or the Kinergetics.
For musical material, I used my Dubois recording on Stereophile's Test CD 1 (God, I'm getting fed up with that!) to judge absolute tonal accuracy, and JA's Gerontius on Stereophile's Test CD 2 for tonality, soundstaging, and low-end weight and extension. I also used several commercially available recordings for making one-on-one comparisons between the players: Reference Recordings' Malcolm Arnold disc (track 3) for soundstaging, inner detailing, and bass-drum heft, Robert Harley's drum-set recording on Test CD 2 for articulation and rhythm, and the Chesky Beethoven 9th (vocal section, track 4) for scrape-flutter assessment. (Scrape flutter, due to "violining," where the tape continually snags then releases, like a violin bow drawn across a string, is common to all analog-mastered recordings, and it is exacerbated by any hint of "digititis" from a player.)
The Kinergetics had slightly less low-end heft and authority than the Sony. The Kinergetics sounded a shade lean...and just a shade more forward than the other two. Scrape flutter sounded the same from three of the players, but was subtly softened by the Proceed, which didn't surprise me a bit. In terms of sit-back-and-relax musical enjoyment, I found the Proceed the easiest player to listen to but also the least involving, while the Kinergetics sounded very fast and alive but also just a shade dry. The winner here was the Sony, which managed to sound at once easy and alive.
Don't get me wrong: There are differences between these which were great enough that they could make or break the sound depending on the rest of the system they are used in. (An overly analytical system, for example, could be abetted by the Proceed, a laid-back one by the Kinergetics.)—J. Gordon Holt