CD Player/Transport Reviews

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Robert Harley Posted: Dec 04, 2010 Published: Mar 15, 1994 0 comments

It seems to me that it should be possible to make a perfectly jitter-free CD transport without resorting to elaborate, expensive mechanical structures. This idealized transport would ignore all mechanical considerations of disc playback—vibration damping and isolation, for example—and simply put a jitter-free electrical driver at the transport output. If such a circuit could be made, it wouldn't care about how bad the signal recovered from the disc was (provided the recovered data were error-free). The circuit would just output a perfect, jitter-free S/PDIF signal. The result would be the sound quality of the $8500 Mark Levinson No.31 Reference CD transport in $200 machines. Such a scheme would provide an electrical solution to what has been considered largely a mechanical problem.

But back in the real world there's no doubt that attention to mechanical aspects of transport design affects sound quality. Examples abound: listening to Nakamichi's 1000 CD transport with its Acoustic Isolation door open and closed; playing the Mark Levinson No.31 with the top open; and putting any transport on isolation platforms or feet are only a few of the dozens of experiences I have had that suggest that mechanical design is of utmost importance.

Robert Harley Posted: Nov 29, 2010 Published: Jan 15, 1994 0 comments
So many things in this world are designed for convenience, not for excellence. That's all right if you have a choice, but it becomes a problem when products designed for convenience become universal standards and are thus foisted on everyone—including enthusiasts, who must then live with a product aimed at the lowest common denominator.

The digital interface between CD transports and digital processors is a perfect example of this dilemma. The Sony/Philips Digital Interface Format (S/PDIF) standard was designed so that connecting two digital products required only one cable. This single cable carries left and right audio channels as well as the timing clock essential to making the system work.

Robert Harley Posted: Jun 06, 2006 Published: Jul 06, 1993 0 comments
I find it astonishing that two products built on completely opposing engineering principles can both have musical merit. Design goals exalted by one company are considered anathema by another, yet both components produce superb sonic results.
Robert Harley Posted: Apr 11, 2008 Published: Jun 11, 1993 0 comments
At a "Meet the Designers" panel discussion at the 1992 Los Angeles Stereophile High-End Hi-Fi Show, I asked a group of successful digital designers (footnote 1) each to state how much of a digital front end's sound quality they believed was due to the transport, digital processor, and interface between the two. There was virtual unanimity: Nearly everyone agreed that a digital processor accounts for about 50% of a digital source's sound quality, the transport 30%, and interface 20%.
Corey Greenberg Posted: Aug 29, 1998 Published: Aug 29, 1992 0 comments
I think I've finally figured out the secret of Stereophile's success. You, cherished reader, don't read this mag because it's chock full o' reviews of tantalizing audio gear (even though it is). And you don't read this mag because JA and RL strive so hard to keep the literary quotient as hi as the fi (even though they do). And I know you don't read this mag cuz trusting yer own sensory input is a mighty scary proposition indeed so you look to Stereophile as to a Holy Bible that eases your Earthly burden by telling you, Ah say Ah say TAILING YEW what to buy (do you?).
Robert Harley Posted: Feb 08, 2010 Published: Aug 08, 1992 0 comments
"A reasonable man adapts himself to the world around him. An unreasonable man expects the world to adapt to him. All progress, therefore, is made by unreasonable men."
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jul 11, 2014 Published: Mar 01, 1992 0 comments
The letter we received was innocent enough. It asked for our recommendations on laserdisc combination players. You know, the ones that play all of your optical, laser-read entertainment, from CDs to videodiscs. Had the question been a verbal one, our answer would have begun with a long silence. As it was, we could only jot down a few generic references to features, followed by an admission that we had, collectively, no firsthand experience with these all-purpose devices. Only a few members of our staff have any interest in video stuff—monitors, surround-sound, and the like—among them J. Gordon Holt and yours truly.
Corey Greenberg Posted: Apr 17, 2014 Published: Mar 01, 1992 1 comments
On the mantel sat a stuffed Culo snake from Nuevo Laredo, with a red rubber tongue in freeze-frame flick. Above the bookcase hung the mounted head of a wild poi dog, killed in self-defense in Sri Lanka with only a Phillips-head screwdriver. A table-lamp made from a shellac'd, puffed-up frog wearing a sombrero and playing the contrabassoon bathed the room in a soft cream glow.
Robert Harley Posted: Jan 28, 1995 Published: Jan 28, 1992 0 comments
When the Compact Disc was first introduced nearly ten years ago, many were critical of the sound quality from this medium that promised "Perfect Sound Forever." To many sensitive listeners digital playback was a travesty that paled by comparison to even modestly priced turntable/arm/cartridge combinations. Ironically, those listeners who first praised CD sound have been forced to recant when confronted by the huge improvements in digital to analog conversion (and A/D conversion) seen in the past few years.
John Atkinson Posted: Aug 24, 2011 Published: Jun 01, 1991 0 comments
"I don't like Mondays!" sang Bob Geldof some years back, and I'm beginning to hate Mondays too. No, not for the obvious reason. You see, Monday is "hate-mail" day. Every day I get letters from Stereophile's readers. But for some reason known only to the mavens (or should that be Clavens?) of the US Postal Service, the ones pointing out my stupidity, dishonesty, and sheer incompetence as a human being arrive on Mondays.

For example: "Bits are bits, and it is therefore dishonest for Stereophile's writers to continue to insist that they can hear any differences between CD players or digital processors!" recently wrote an angry reader, canceling his subscription. (They always tell me they're going to cancel their subscription.) "Yeah, right!" thought I, having just sat through a comparative audition of, would you believe, digital data interconnects in Robert Harley's listening room. Some of the differences I heard were not trivial. They might even be audible in a blind listening test.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Dec 07, 2009 Published: Jan 07, 1991 0 comments
The face was different, but the look was familiar. It should have been. The $2395 Aria Mk.III is a close cousin to the Aria II that I'd hung around with for about two years. Same sense of style, same heart of tubes. CAL Audio apparently made it what it is today, from the ground up. They even designed its transport and transport-drive circuitry in-house (footnote 1). In a high-end world which has gone increasingly to separate digital processors, CAL has been, up till now, a conspicuous holdout. They've only recently introduced their first outboard converter, and have in the past argued in favor of the all-in-one player. Something about reduced jitter from all the timing circuits being under one roof.
Robert Harley Posted: Jun 08, 2009 Published: Dec 08, 1990 0 comments
The whole idea that different CD transports have different sonic characteristics when driving the same digital-to-analog converter is a vexing problem. It is easy to prove that even the cheapest CD players recover the data stored on most CDs with bit-for-bit accuracy, thus disproving the widespread and erroneous belief that errors in the digital code are commonplace and affect presentation aspects such as imaging, soundstage depth, textural liquidity, etc (footnote 1). If the datastream driving the digital converter is comprised of the same sequence of ones and zeros, regardless of the transport, what other factors could account for the sonic differences between CD drives reported by many listeners?
John Atkinson Posted: Jul 04, 2004 Published: Dec 01, 1990 0 comments
"Desperation is the Mother of Invention." Isn't that how the proverb goes? Certainly it applied ten years ago in the case of the Philips engineers working on the development of the Compact Disc system. Given a specification that had included a 14-bit data word length, they had duly developed a 14-bit DAC chip, the TDA1540, only then to be informed that the CD standard decided upon after Sony joined forces with the Dutch company would involve 16-bit data words. (Thank goodness!)
Robert Harley Posted: Oct 04, 2011 Published: Feb 01, 1990 1 comments
666proceedcd12.jpgThe Proceed CD player is the first digital product from Madrigal Audio Laboratories, a company known for their Mark Levinson preamplifiers and power amplifiers, including the very highly regarded No.20.5 power amplifiers. Given Madrigal's track record of producing ultra–high-end (and expensive) components, I was surprised and encouraged that the Proceed CD player is so affordably priced.

The Proceed was a long time in development, reflecting Madrigal's care and thoroughness before releasing a new product. Many technical innovations have been incorporated into the Proceed, and the machine's unusual appearance exemplifies the "start from scratch" attitude behind its development. With its nearly square proportions, grey cabinet, and sparse front-panel controls, the Proceed may set a new trend in audio component styling.

John Atkinson Posted: Aug 07, 2005 Published: Jan 07, 1990 0 comments
A strange disguise; still, write it down,
it might be read. Nothing's better left unsaid.
—Keith Reid

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