It's a brave group of souls who run today's audiophile music labels. Sane business minds would likely deem it foolhardy to start a new specialty label these days, but sometimes one's passion for music overrides the rational impulse to try something a little bit more secure (like perhaps an Internet company?).
Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you. This is especially true for music lovers who have begun to fear that record companies purposely corrupt the data on audio CDs in an effort to restrict their use as a source for copies or MP3 files.
Many audiophiles are incensed that the digital outputs on high-resolution disc players are limited to the 16bit/44.1kHz standard of the "Red Book" CD when playing DVD-Audio discs. To read some postings on audiophile newsgroups, you'd think it's a massive conspiracy to prevent people from adding their own processors to the playback chain. Putting as many boxes as possible in an audio system is a constitutionally guaranteed right, isn't it?
Jonathan Scull tackles the Pioneer DV-AX10 SACD/DVD-A/CD player, revealing the strengths and weaknesses of one of the first "universal" disc machines. Scull carefully compares the DV-AX10 to stand-alone SACD, DVD-A, and CD players to assess whether, in fact, you can have it all in one tidy package.
Although audiophiles may muster little enthusiasm for the home-theater-driven audio marketplace of the 21st century, its prerequisites have inspired manufacturers to cram as wide a range of flexible programming features into as highly resolved a set of performance packages as possible. Thus we're now witnessing a new generation of exceptionally musical electronics with high-end performance targeted at two-channel enthusiasts, but all primped and prepped for integration into an expanded audio-video rig.
At the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2001, Pioneer announced the US launch of the DV-AX10, the first of their long-awaited "universal" disc players, previously available only in Japan. Right out of the box, it plays SACD (two-channel only), DVD-Audio, DVD-Video, CD, and CD-R discs. For two-channel operation—which is exclusively how I examined it—and via its easy-to-navigate menus (footnote 1), I set the DV-AX10 to two channels as the default for all modes, including SACD. Except for hybrid discs, which I'll come to presently, the DV-AX10 is, blessedly, a set-it-and-forget-it machine.