CD Player/Transport Reviews

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Art Dudley  |  Jan 23, 2018  |  1 comments
For all its faults—complex grammar, inconsistent rules of pronunciation, burdensomely endless vocabulary—English has proven itself a commendably plastic language. This is good for audio enthusiasts, in the US and elsewhere, whose choices in playback gear continue to evolve not only in substance and function but in name: Unlike many of the people who speak it, English can keep pace with the changes.
John Atkinson  |  Jan 18, 2018  |  4 comments
MBL's Corona C15 monoblock has been one of my amplification references since I reviewed it in 2014, and as I've been reviewing DACs the past year or so, it was high time I spent time with one of the German company's digital products.

"Black shiny products are tough to photograph at shows, so trust me when I say the new N31 is dripping with gorgeousness not reflected in this photo," wrote Jon Iverson in his report from the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show. And when I unpacked my review sample of the Noble Line N31 ($15,400), I was indeed taken with its looks.

John Atkinson  |  Nov 28, 2017  |  0 comments
Back in May 2014, I reviewed NAD's Masters Series M50 Digital Music Player ($2499) and M52 Digital Music Vault ($1999 with 2TB storage). At the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show, NAD announced the M50.2, which is almost identical to the original M50 but now incorporates two 2TB hard disks, arranged as a 2TB RAID array, to ensure data integrity, and adds TosLink and coaxial digital inputs, Bluetooth with aptX for streaming music from a smartphone or tablet, and two single-ended analog inputs—all for $3999, or $499 less than the combined cost of the two earlier products. Like the M50, the M50.2 offers WiFi and Ethernet connectivity, and has a CD drive, accessible via a slot on the front panel under the color TFT touchscreen, that can be used to play CDs, or rip them as FLAC, WAV, or high-bit-rate MP3 files.
Art Dudley  |  Nov 02, 2017  |  10 comments
By no means could I undertake a survey of candidates for Your Last Perfectionist-Quality CD player—so far, my ongoing series of reviews has focused on models from Audio Note, Bryston, EAR, Luxman, and Metronome—without including Naim Audio. After all, it was Naim that brought to market the first really good-sounding CD player of my experience: the two-box CDS, introduced in 1991 at a then-staggering price of $6999. In doing so, they convinced me that a digital future might not be so bad after all.
Kalman Rubinson  |  Oct 31, 2017  |  22 comments
For some months now, I've lived mostly without music. To survive the dust and grit of the renovation of our Manhattan apartment, all electronics had to be covered with heavy plastic, the speakers encapsulated in large green lawn bags, and the listening room partitioned off with a temporary wall. We could listen to music with our little 3.1-channel TV system in the den (eh) or through headphones (not!), or we could decamp to our house in Connecticut, which we did as much as possible. I felt deprived. Now that it's all over, I'm grateful to have it back—and grateful for the improvements in the main system, some of them direct byproducts of the renovation.
Robert Deutsch  |  Sep 26, 2017  |  6 comments
The first time I heard a CD player in my own system was in 1983, the first year of the format's introduction in the West. CD players were generally hard to come by, but I had a friend who worked for Sony, and he came over with his new toy: Sony's next-to-top-of-the-line CD player. (I think it was a CDP-501.) We connected it to my system—at the time, Quad ESLs driven by a Luxman tube amplifier, with a Linn turntable—and listened to some Sony demo CDs.
Corey Greenberg  |  Aug 03, 2017  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1992  |  0 comments
I'll give the Giant Japanese Conglomerates one thing: they build their CD players like Humvees. The Sony CDP-X555ES ($900) exudes pride in ownership; from the simulated-wood side panels to the copper-shielded chassis, the Sony is a very impressive-looking player. Typically, however, Sony chose to marry a very sophisticated digital section with what appears to be a standard mid-fi analog section featuring Texas Instruments 5532 dual op-amps, carbon composition resistors, and inexpensive electrolytic coupling caps. The 555ES has both fixed and variable outputs, and a Toslink optical output. There is no coaxial digital output.
Art Dudley  |  Jul 20, 2017  |  12 comments
The English saying "putting the cat among the pigeons" has an obvious meaning in a general sense, but when applied to commerce it conveys something more specific: bringing to market a product that will make mincemeat of the competition, presumed complacent by comparison.

The phrase winked at me from the margins of an e-mail I received last year from Gary Dayton, Bryston Audio's VP of sales and marketing, whom I know from my visits to the Montreal Audio Fest. Referring to my ongoing series of reviews of ca-$10,000 CD players—the best of which one might consider for the title The Last CD Player You'll Ever Buy—Dayton suggested I have a listen to his company's new BCD-3, which retails for the comparatively low price of $3495. I accepted almost at once, and set about adjusting an English saying for a Canadian product: With the BCD-3, has Bryston succeeded in putting the wolverine among the loons?

Corey Greenberg  |  May 04, 2017  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1992  |  2 comments
While many of the "modded Philips" firms simply replace the plastic "Philips" or "Magnavox" logo with their own after completing all their internal circuit mojo, for the Sonographe SD-22 ($895), Conrad-Johnson goes quite a bit further by wrapping the stock plastic flimsy-luxe box with their own heavy metal skin, making for a much stronger and nonresonant chassis. Unlike many of the modkateers, C-J doesn't replace the fairly flimsy stock RCA jack assembly of the Philips machine; in my experience, this is one of the first things to go bad on such a unit, as the contact integrity is usually poor and gets worse. Replacing the RCA assembly with high-quality gold RCAs would've raised the price of the SD-22 another $50–100, but I think the long-term reliability might be worth it. The SD-22 has no digital-out jacks, only analog outputs.
Herb Reichert  |  Apr 25, 2017  |  8 comments
Someone on Audio Asylum wrote, "When it comes to hi-res audio, Herb is a babe in the woods." This is true, though probably not in the way this person imagined. High-resolution master David Chesky has been my friend forever, and I used to write for his website HDtracks.com. Todd Garfinkle, founder of and producer for M•A Recordings, and Kavichandran Alexander, of Water Lily Acoustics, are not only valued friends, but I own most of their stunning recordings. In short, I'm no stranger to SACD or 24-bit/192kHz playback. But compared to most audiophiles, I've been a bit slow in appreciating the intricacies and virtues of hi-rez computer audio.
J. Gordon Holt  |  Feb 28, 2017  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1988  |  7 comments
Two of the most cherished terms in the lexicon of high end are "no holds barred" and "cost no object." These are usually applied, together, to the most expensive version of something currently on the market. But is either term really appropriate for an audio product? The answer is a flat, unequivocal No. No consumer product has ever conformed to the real meaning of those terms, and it is unlikely that one ever will.
Corey Greenberg  |  Feb 09, 2017  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1992  |  5 comments
One of my favorite parts of writing for Stereophile is reading all the heartfelt letters our readers take the time to write me. There's nothing I like better than to kick off my boots, stretch out on the futon-couch, and let the groovy love vibes just shine off the pages. Time doesn't always permit a reply, but for now...AS in MD: thanks! RP in CA: sure, why not? And SH in IN: I've tried that, but it chafed.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Feb 07, 2017  |  First Published: Jan 01, 1991  |  3 comments
The $499 NAD 5000 looks nothing like most inexpensive CD players. Its plastic trim doesn't look cheap. It doesn't look expensive either, but it certainly won't be embarrassed to show its face in polite company. The front panel is neatly arranged and easy to interpret and use. It's the smallest and lightest of the present company of players—the only obvious physical reflections of its low-budget heritage. Inside, however, NAD has done a lot to put your money where it counts.
Art Dudley  |  Feb 02, 2017  |  15 comments
In Stereophile's January 2016 issue, I began a series of reviews of $10,000 CD players and transport-DAC combinations: an informal and serial survey, the goal of which was to gather, over time, the likeliest candidates for one's Last CD Player Ever. My choice of $10,000 as the target price was more or less arbitrary, although, in retrospect, that's about what I've invested in my go-to combination of turntable, tonearm, and pickup head—so, who knows? Maybe my subconscious was acting out.
J. Gordon Holt  |  Jan 02, 2017  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1986  |  3 comments
The Danish Bang & Olufsen firm is the undisputed leader in audio when it comes to dramatic product styling and ease and versatility of use. Their designs have won more design awards than those of any other audio firm, and each new lineup of B&O models seems to offer even more control convenience than the last batch. Sonically, none of their components to date has been any better than "very good," and some have done significantly less well than that. In reviewing them, we have had to compare them with their pricewise competition among the brands we normally think of as "high-end," and B&O's components have not stood that comparison very well.

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