Musical Fidelity X-Rayv3 CD player January 2006
I spent many hours listening intently to my favorite music on the Quad 99 CDP-2. On "I Know Love Is All I Need," from Rodney Crowell's The Houston Kid (CD, Sugar Hill 1065), Crowell's voice rides out front of the intertwined acoustic guitars and brushed drums. It's personal and natural, although you can clearly hear that the drums were slightly compressed to make 'em pop out of the mix a bit. The bass is a shade woolly, but that's the recording—for all its warmth and natural timbre, it isn't audio verité. Of course, when the Quad reports all of that, it's just doing its job.
When I played Rodney Crowell's "I Know Love Is All I Need" on the Musical Fidelity X-RayV3,1 it tightened up the woolly bass but also made the acoustic guitars sound leaner, too. The X-RayV3 had more bite but less bloom—not a lot, but enough to make me find the 99 CDP-2 truer to my experiences listening to The Houston Kid on my Ayre C-5xe.
I was less sure of my preference with Gary Burton's "The Colors of Chloë" (from Ring, CD, ECM 1051), primarily because the X-RayV3's deeper, tauter bass gave the track more heft—and a modicum more forward momentum. On the other hand, the 99 CDP-2's refined sound was very seductive. Close call, advantage Musical Fidelity.
However, on the Arturo Delmoni Ysaÿe track (from John Marks Records JMR 14), the Quad's suave, extended top end sounded much more like Delmoni's in-room violin tone than the X-RayV3's crisper, slightly steelier presentation. The X-RayV3 again had a bit more bodily heft than the Quad, which shaved a bit of that body off the sound in favor of a smoother presentation.
I can't quite shake the suspicion that the Quad may have been dumping the smallest amount of detail in favor of tonality, but that's probably the way I'd call it if I were "tuning" a product myself. Was it more "accurate" than the X-RayV3? Well, it isn't an either/or question, because both sounded different from the original event (that's the nature of recording, if not reproduction). But if I had my druthers, I'd choose the 99 CDP-2.—Wes Phillips