CD Player/Transport Reviews

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Corey Greenberg  |  Mar 13, 2020  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1992  |  12 comments
My first CD player was a Denon DCD-1800, the grandpappy of 'em all. It was big, clunky, and sounded like, well, you can read back issues to find out what it sounded like. But I was living in a fraternity house at the time, the kind of place where you wake up the next morning after a blow-out to find five plastic cups half full of stale margaritas merry-go-rounding on your turntable because whoever broke into your room during the party snapped your cartridge's cantilever off trying to hear the backwards messages on The Wall and decided to leave you an artistic message to buy a better needle next time, dude.
Herb Reichert  |  Mar 06, 2020  |  18 comments
The Quad Electroacoustics Ltd. Artera Solus is a multifunction audio component that was designed to look smart on top of a bureau in a living room or office. It comes with a thick, removable smoked-glass top that complements its compact dimensions. It weighs 25lb, and, in addition to being attractive, feels genuinely solid and well-made. Like its Artera-series stablemates, the Artera Solus strikes an intriguing engineering and aesthetic balance between decorator-friendly lifestyle product and serious audiophile product worthy of the Quad name.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Feb 21, 2020  |  9 comments
In an era when polar opposites compete as absolutes, it can be a challenge to acknowledge the different and equally valid ways in which audiophiles approach musical truth. But the reality is that our perceptions of how reproduced music should sound are determined, to a large extent, by how we approach the live experience.
J. Gordon Holt  |  Feb 13, 2020  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1988  |  9 comments
Tandberg of Norway has a rather ambiguous corporate image among audio perfectionists. Long considered to make some of the best tape-recording equipment around, the firm has never been seen as a leader in electronics, despite some bold—and reportedly good-sounding—forays into the realm of $2000 preamps and $3500 power amplifiers. Perhaps this is why, when Tandberg started making CD players, high-enders were uncertain how to respond.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Dec 19, 2019  |  47 comments
What kind of creature is this? Gryphon Audio Designs' new Ethos ($39,000)—pronounced EE-toss by its Danish manufacturers—is marketed as a CD player and digital-to-analog converter. It's decidedly au courant in that it includes two 32-bit/768kHz ES9038PRO Sabre DAC chips—one for each channel—with each holding eight individual DAC chips; offers optional upsampling to either 24/384 PCM or DSD128; and decodes up to 32/384 PCM and quadruple DSD (DSD512) via its USB input, or up to 24/192 (and no DSD) via AES/EBU or S/PDIF.
Robert Harley  |  Dec 13, 2019  |  First Published: Jun 01, 1995  |  7 comments
Making digital audio sound good appears to be a much more difficult job than its developers first realized. When digital audio was in its infancy, there was a tendency to think that digital either worked perfectly, or didn't work at all. This belief led the engineering community to devise ill-considered and flawed standards that affect the musical quality of digitally reproduced music today.
Sam Tellig  |  Sep 12, 2019  |  First Published: Mar 01, 1989  |  55 comments
I once told Stereophile publisher Larry Archibald it might be worth, say, a 10% loss in sound quality with CD not to have to jump up and turn over the damned record. Sometimes a CD saves you from popping up twice—Mahler's Fifth or Bruckner's Seventh on a single disc instead of three LP sides—or three times—Mozart's Magic Flute on three CDs instead of 6 LP sides. That might be worth a 15% sacrifice.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Sep 11, 2019  |  First Published: May 01, 1988  |  6 comments
While it can't exactly be said that the folks from The Mod Squad invented the game of audiophile modifications of existing, current-production hardware, they certainly have grown to be one of the major leaguers. Their mods have a reputation for being well-thought-out, nearly always offering improvements over the originals. And while they weren't the originators of the concept, any company which brought the world Tiptoes (probably their most famous product) will probably have a niche in the 21st-Century Museum of High-End Audio.
Martin Colloms  |  Jun 04, 2019  |  First Published: Nov 01, 1997  |  0 comments
Exposure owner/designer John Farlowe graduated from the UK's University of Sussex at the end of the swinging '60s. He put his B.Sc in electronic engineering to use at HiWatt, manufacturers of tube guitar amplifiers. His keen interest in pro audio, particularly in sound reinforcement for rock bands, led him to Midas (studio mixing desks and systems), where, as director and designer, he designed and built mixing desks and got together with the late Dave Martin of Martin Audio. They became heavily involved in sound systems for Pink Floyd. Midas desks and Martin speakers were used at many live venues, including those at London's Rainbow.
John Atkinson  |  Apr 23, 2019  |  23 comments
The good-sounding products that pass through a reviewer's system fall into three categories: those he liked but felt little sense of loss about when they were sent back to the manufacturer or distributor; those he loved and could afford to purchase; and those he loved but that were financially out of reach. The Rossini Player from British company dCS, which I reviewed along with the Rossini Clock in our December 2016 issue, was an example of this last category: the Player costs $28,499, the Clock $7499.
Ken Micallef  |  Dec 06, 2018  |  6 comments
In the early 1990s, the Compact Disc was all the rage, and vinyl records were being executed en masse. Thirty years later, and oh, how our tables have turned. Mint first pressings of tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley's 1957 album Hank Mobley (Blue Note BLP 1568), which once could be had for $40, now bring upward of $8000. Each. Vinyl continues to enjoy a global resurgence of popularity, while CD sales have plummeted to all-time lows.

What happened? Apparently, yesterday's pops and ticks are today's "warmth," Record Store Day exclusives, and skyrocketing vinyl values. All things old . . .

Art Dudley  |  Aug 16, 2018  |  80 comments
Some of my reviewer colleagues would have you believe that negative reviews are the most difficult of all to write, and that positive reviews fairly write themselves. What nonsense!

As I write this, my copy deadline is three days away, yet I've succeeded at crafting little more than my heading (easy enough: it's just the product's name, followed by my name) and my Associated Equipment sidebar (also easy), leaving a great expanse of nothing in between. That's mostly because the Kalista DreamPlay One, a two-box CD player whose $43,000 price might once have kept me from even considering it as a real-world product, has stunned me into a sort of paralysis: I feel that anything I write will be inadequate to the task.

Art Dudley  |  May 17, 2018  |  3 comments
I've been looking at this all wrong.

My recent informal survey of ca $10,000 CD players has been based on two assumptions: that the people reading those reviews would be looking for their last-ever CD player, and that such a purchase would require Serious Money.

In addition to such things as the best available design and parts, the most luxurious enclosure, and the utmost in reliability, Serious Money is presumed to buy durability of value: Any appliance that costs $10,000 today had damn well better be worth more than nothing in five or ten years.

Robert Harley  |  Apr 12, 2018  |  First Published: Jun 01, 1993  |  2 comments
Whoever invented the adage "Good things come in small packages" wasn't into high-end audio. Most high-end products are huge and heavy, with massive power supplies, thick front panels, and battleship build quality. This dreadnought approach is justified if it directly affects the unit's sonic performance (as in the Mark Levinson No.31 transport, for example). In some products, however, the massive build can reflect a shotgun, overkill approach by the designer, or a mere fashion statement.
Steven Stone  |  Apr 05, 2018  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1995  |  9 comments
The Greek myth of Odysseus has always been a favorite of mine. For an audiophile looking for a CD transcription system under $2500, it seems to be an especially appropriate metaphor. Almost all the units I've heard since CD's inception fall into one of two camps: the Sirens or the Rocks.

For those of you not up on your Greek mythology, the Sirens were the archetypal seductresses whose sweet songs lured sailors to drive their ships upon the rocks. Siren CD players are those that soften and sweeten the sound. Their primary purpose is to seduce, to give a false sense of comfort to their victims; their fidelity to the truth is secondary to their desire to elicit a positive emotional reaction.

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