CD Player/Transport Reviews

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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  |  17 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  |  4 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  |  13 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.
John Atkinson  |  Nov 18, 2016  |  3 comments
It has been 20 years since I first became aware of the British company Data Conversion Systems, which manufactures audio products under the dCS brand. Rather than use off-the-shelf conversion chips, the groundbreaking dCS Elgar D/A converter, which I reviewed in our July 1997 issue, featured a then-unique D/A design that they called a Ring DAC. This featured a five-bit, unitary-weighted, discrete DAC running at 64 times the incoming data's sample rate—2.822MHz for 44.1kHz-based data, 3.07MHz for 48kHz-sampled data and its multiples—with upsampling and digital filtering and processing implemented in Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs). Oversampling to a very high sample rate allows the word length to be reduced without losing resolution, and use of a low-bit multi-bit DAC makes for very high accuracy in the analog voltage levels that describe the signal. (If this seems like voodoo, for a given signal bandwidth, bit depth and sample rate are related. To oversimplify, double the rate, and you can reduce the bit depth by one bit while preserving the overall resolution.)
Thomas J. Norton  |  Nov 10, 2016  |  First Published: Jan 01, 1991  |  2 comments
Like its Prism I predecessor, which I reviewed in May 1988, the Mod Squad Prism II is based on a Philips player: the same 16-bit, 4x-oversampling converter, the same general control layout. But The Mod Squad does their own extensive remanufacture, both on the internal circuitry and on the cosmetics—the latter involving a handsomely sculptured case and metal front trim-panel surrounding Philips's command center.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Oct 20, 2016  |  First Published: Jan 01, 1991  |  3 comments
With Sony's latest flagship single-box player ($1700), we find yet another variant on 1-bit D/A technology—High Density Linear Converter, or HDLC. At the heart of this Pulse Length Modulation (footnote 1) D/A technique is Sony's CXD-2552 Pulse D/A converter (two per channel in complementary mode in the CDP-X77ES). This complex LSI chip incorporates a third-order noise shaper, the PLM converter, and a digital sync circuit receiving its input from the system clock.

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