Sony SCD-1 Super Audio CD/CD player Page 7

When I listen to a component with my eyes closed and find I've been transported to another time and place, then, as far as I'm concerned, I'm listening to a pretty special piece. One of these pieces was certainly the Sony, even in PCM mode. SACD recordings, on the other hand, were always suave, startling, and more palpable than my mother-in-law. And when she's in the building, she's present!

SACD vs upsampled CD
So lemme ask you: Which version of "fabulous" do you want? Super Audio CD or CD upsampled to a 24-bit/192kHz datastream with the dCS 972 digital-to-digital converter and driving the dCS Elgar D/A converter? They're both great, and miles ahead of straight 16/44.1.

Overall, I'd rate the SCD-1 playing Super Audio CD a tad less involving than the dCS upsampling front-end. The Sony at its best—ie, with SACD recordings—still had slightly less air and transparency than the more expensive dCS duo. But I was surprised to find I could play SACD louder than I could 24/192. One day, switching to the dCS, Kathleen remarked that it sounded tighter and yet more "tender" than the Sony. I think she was referring to the slightly greater detail and accompanying expressiveness found in dCS-upsampled Red Book CD. My wife is an amazing person.

Let's leave it that SACD discs sounded absolutely their best on the SCD-1, but standard 16/44.1 recordings had the best chance of sounding great when upsampled. Regardless, the Sony wasn't far behind. The SCD-1, with judicious use of its filters, was more voomanly and beautiful than the dCS—like a gorgeous babe poured into a slinky cocktail dress, homina homina. In some way the PCM-based dCS was more intellectual-sounding than the more overtly sensual Sony.

I think I'll keep listening to my CDs through the dCS gear. But don't forget—the dCS rig costs almost $20,000 list, while the Sony goes out the door for $5000. And there will be lots more software coming out soon. I'd say it's starting to look good for Sony. No baloney.

What's it all about?
For me, and I suspect for many audiophiles, the full harmonic tapestry that some components mete out makes me kvell. I feel something physical when I hear the sound of a flute, an oboe, or a cello played a certain way. I experience an ineffable and strong attraction toward what's stroking my ear cilia. [shiver]

How do you quantify a thing like that? I suppose if I plugged you into the Orgasmatron, from Woody Allen's Sleeper, and hit the switch, you'd know what I mean. But for the moment, I'm limited to words. And I'll just use them to say that the Sony is one of those components that did it for me. At $5k, the Sony gives a topflight virtuoso performance. SACD recordings sound phenomenal, and Sony's got a big catalog to draw on, you know. Given the SCD-1's solid build quality and circuit implementation and those useful filters, I'd say it represents quite a bargain when held up against CD-only players in this tough, competitive little market. So: highly recommended for the purist two-channel device that it is.

Rejoice! This is indeed a lucky time to be an audiophile.

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