Vincent Audio C-60 CD player Page 2
The Vincent's superb resolution of low-level detail was a big part of how it re-created this live feel, and one way that it distinguished itself from most other CD players I've heard. Many CD players, even some of the very best, struggle at the very softest end of the volume spectrum, losing the finest, lowest level of detail in a digital silence that feels a bit electromechanical. With the Vincent, those tiny details were there, distinctly drawn yet coherent, with a realistic surrounding ambience, just as they are with a top-flight analog front endor a live performance.
Even more unusual among CD players, and even more impressive, was the C-60's ability to resolve and distinctly render these low-level details beneath and behind much louder voices and instruments. Track 1 of the Zevon disc, "Splendid Isolation," was a great example of this. Zevon's 12-string Ovation guitar was miked much more closely than his voice, so there is relatively little ambience information around the guitar. All spatial cues and information about the audience and venue are superimposed on the vocal track. The guitar is also balanced very high in the mix, so with most CD players I've heard, the volume and sheer presence of his guitar overpowers all the spatial and ambience information, leaving no clear picture of the stage or venue.
The Vincent beautifully sorted out all of this. The guitar chops rang brightly, with the power and energy that the instrument has live, and all of the instrument's complex harmonics and body resonances were rich and distinct. At the same time, Zevon's gruff, hoarse voice, while lower in level, was perfectly reproduced, and the way it spread out and filled the space painted clear pictures of the different recording venues.
The ability to re-create three-dimensional images and soundstages was a consistent strength of the C-60. With smaller venues, such as on the Zevon and Jones discs, I could close my eyes and be there, in the audience. Jones' "Chuck E.'s in Love"or, more correctly, the audience's applause, laughing, and whoops during the songwere goose-bump moments. The combination of Jones' voice and Rob Wasserman's double bass drawing the stage, and the audience defining the venue, described the space so precisely that I felt the hairs on the back of my neck rise with the electricity and excitement in the air. And with works of larger scalesome of my favorite opera and orchestral recordings, for exampleI felt as if I could stand up and walk around the hall and out onto the stage, among the performers.
The Vincent's reproduction of multimiked studio recordings was superb as well, and again, felt more analog than digital. Regardless of the mix, it created solid, well-defined, three-dimensional images that were precisely located in a soundstage, albeit an often artificial one. Also, the C-60 consistently captured the harmonic richness and complexity of instruments and voices, and beautifully reproduced the fine, inner detail that distinguishes individual voices in a chorus, or individual violins in a large orchestral section. Trio II, a collaborative album by Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, and Dolly Parton (CD, Asylum 62275-2), had never really impressed me through other players, but I absolutely loved it through the Vincent. Listening to "High Sierra," I noticed how realistic the voices sounded, and how "right" it felt when the three merged during the choruses.
John Coltrane's classic 1958 recording with the Red Garland Trio, Settin' the Pace (CD, JVC XRCD2 0207-2), really showcased the C-60's strengths. Arthur Taylor's faint cymbal strokes at the opening of "I See Your Face Before Me" had a gorgeous mix of ringing, overtones, and metallic swish, and faded perfectly into the surrounding space. Coltrane's tenor sax reminded me anew of how masterfully he simultaneously worked every aspect of the instrument, getting a level of expression that far transcended other, even virtuoso, players' work. Throughout the recording, I was impressed with the level of natural, organic detail in each of the instruments, but I kept coming back to Taylor's brushed cymbals and how perfectly the succeeding waves of sound cascaded over each other, each with exactly the right mix of a bell-like ring decomposing into a bright, metallic hiss.
Dynamic transients through the Vincent were satisfyingly large, if not unusually so. Smaller works again fared best, with the guitars on Learning to Flinch and Naked Songs being great examples, both having a good portion of the power and presence they do live. Both the leading and trailing edges of sharp transitions were always crisp and clean, and the C-60 did a great job of reproducing the pace and flow of a performance. This latter characteristic was especially evident on temporally complex works, such as much of Settin' the Pace, where dramatically different lines need to mesh for the piece to work. Each player, heard on his own, seemed to be using different timing and chord structures, yet from a step farther awayand through the C-60they all came together as a coherent whole.
All of the these strengths were evident on large-scale performances as well, even if the overall illusion wasn't quite as realistic. Performances don't get much larger than Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony's of Sunrise, from Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra (CD, RCA Living Stereo 61494-2); while the Vincent didn't re-create the CSO and Orchestra Hall in my listening room, it certainly captured enough of the thunder and bombast to take my breath away!