Accuphase DP-100 Super Audio CD transport & DC-101 Digital Processor
Fortunately, we have Accuphase, the first "outside" company to hitch its technical wagon to the Sony/Philips SACD technology with the world's first two-box SACD player—not that Accuphase wouldn't be happy to provide a DVD-Audio transport at a later time, if software appears and the marketplace demands. (The DC-101 comes equipped with the requisite 24-bit/192kHz chipsets for DVD-A signals.) That begs the question of the so-called Universal Player, an entity I think is destined to remain a myth, forever galloping over our upturned, dreaming, perennially optimistic audiophile kissers. I just don't see it. In my experience, optimizing for one or another format always yields better sonic results than a jack-of-all-trades machine. So far, anyway.
Should we be mad or sad about this? Is it just an excuse to sell you yet another box? No doubt many of you feel that way, and I don't blame you. But so far, no one-box solution has presented itself. We're still in the age of specialization.
But if you've got deep pockets from your long and faithful service to one of those lumbering T. rex multinationals and you want the best there is right now, the Accuphase DP-100 Super Audio SACD transport and DC-101 Precision Digital Processor should be on your short list. You can use the DP-100 into Accuphase's DP-75V one-box player ($11k), which I reviewed in July 2000, as long as the right option card is slipped into the latter's rear-access bay. But if you're going for it in a big way, then $28k is what you'll drop on this "statement" audiophile-grade transport and converter. And that doesn't include a PS-1200 Clean Power Supply power-regenerating unit ($8900, reviewed in Vol.23 No.2), or one of Accuphase's four analog or new all-digital preamps ($5500-$16,500), or a couple of bruiser amps like the Accuphase M-2000 monoblocks ($30k/pair, reviewed in Vol.23 No.2). We're talkin' big bucks here.
"Well, Jonathan, people will pay for quality," Accuphase importer Arturo Manzano patiently explained to me. "We wouldn't build it if they didn't want it!"
Slowly I turn, step by step...and ask the musical question: Could it all really be worth it?
Ministry of Transport
The DP-100 was a pleasure to use in almost every regard and embodies many white-glove-and-doily Japanese Luxo-touches. The faceplates are large, slab-like, gold-toned affairs, and the controls are reassuringly precise in use. It's interesting—the first time or two—to press Open and watch the top cover slide to the side, as does that of the Sony SCD-1 SACD player (reviewed in November 1999). But the DP-100's cover doesn't first rise, as the Sony's does. Look into the well as the top plate opens and you'll see a black metal lens cover that glides out just far enough to cover the dual-laser pickup heads, allowing your contaminated audiophile fingers access to the spindle.
Before "zipping it up" (hah!), you must drop a chunky gold-toned "stabilizer" atop disc and spindle. Once the disc is loaded, the well-heeled music-lover presses Play—the transport automatically selects SACD or CD operation—and looks for the remote and the nearest snifter of vintage Armagnac. Don't worry, there'll be plenty of time to savor the digestif's nose and find the remote: while buttery-smooth and unruffled in operation, the Sony-type mechanism takes an excruciatingly long time to read the darn ToC. [Yawn]
As if you couldn't tell, I much preferred the zippy initial read and access times of the front-loading Marantz SA-1 (reviewed in September 2000), but the DP-100's longueur enforced on me a certain required "stillness" as I waited for the music to begin—and waited, and waited...Seriously, I found it built up almost the same expectant tension as occurs just before a live performance. Over time, I adapted. After all, how long does it take to cue up an LP? Nothing worthwhile is easy.
The DP-100 will read single- and dual-layer SACDs, SACD hybrids (SACD and CD layers), "Red Book" 16-bit/44.1kHz CDs, and, happily, CD-Rs (something the Marantz can't do). The SACD/CD layer selector for hybrid SACDs is in the upper right of the vault-like faceplate, the Play button to its left. Beneath, in a rather illogical (to me) array, are, from left to right, the Pause, Back/Next, and Stop buttons. You have to get used to the layout for manual control, but the high-class, gold-toned metal remote is comprehensive and easy to use. The Power switch sits lower left on the fascia, lighting up a big, attractive, informative display module set in the center. The rest of the case is liveried in a discrete brown Nextel finish that's attractive, acoustically damped, and easy to clean. It's built like a tank, no two ways about it, and weighs a hefty 57 lbs.