Accuphase DP-100 Super Audio CD transport & DC-101 Digital Processor Page 4

Speaking of which, it's only natural that Glenn Gould should bring tears to the eyes, and that he did. From the opening notes of the Goldberg Variations (SS 37779), I could hear his ghostly voice breathing and humming along with God's music—so deeply felt, the musical intents of composer and artist seeming to sail through the system wholly unimpeded. The timing of Gould's playing, the trueness of the piano sound, even the interplay of his voice with the music—the you-are-right-there of SACD rang true, like a well-tempered blade slicing through the electronics and projecting the music at the listener.

Probably the SACD I most enjoyed playing was Thelonious Monk's Straight, No Chaser (Sony CK 64886). A few notes I took while listening with the ML No.32/Linn Klimax kombo: "This recording has everything any jazz lover and audiophile could want. The detail on the opener of 'Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea' is mindblowing, the mechanical action of the piano is so much a part of being there, in such a relaxed and natural way. Not hyper-detail thrust in your face, but part of the ambience of the recording venue. 'This Is My Story, This Is My Song' is amazing! The natural and elegant decay of the long struck notes, the drop of the muting pedal to end the phrase, the superb timing, the clarity, yes, the sexiness of being that close to Monk, is just superb."

I focused on these many small acoustic details not as distractions from the music but as part of the fabric of the whole—that which made it live. I listened to "I Didn't Know About You—Take 1" (a bonus track); at the sound of the first plucked bass note, 30 seconds into the track, I felt glad to be alive! Music should be uplifting, and sometimes it is. With the Accuphase combo, it was uplifting all the time.

Notes: "The piano's fullness of tone and power are so unforced and expressive. Monk's baritone bullfrog mutterings and utterings as he plays make it all happen now in front of me—a perfect showcase for his towering talent. The sense of fleshly hands on keys, of strings struck, of soundboard resonating, puts me directly in the frame. 'We See' is joyous beyond telling, Charlie Rouse's tenor sax sounding so far beyond 'hi-fi' that I literally felt it in my bones. There's such harmonic fullness and 'completeness' in the midrange, so much that's so finger-lickin' good and alive about it all! My involvement is total. Enjoying music like this is a privilege. I know it and I'm humbled by it."

The hubbub and chatter of the musicians heard throughout the recording is pervasive and enjoyable, and served to heighten the sense of participation that is one of the goals of setting up a high-end system. "Green Chimneys," another bonus track, is a real delight, with a beat that Jack Kerouac could dig, man: my personal soundtrack for the Beat Generation On the Road. I could almost hear Kerouac back there between the speakers, intoning one of his stream-of-consciousness commentaries. Is that Allen Ginsberg back there too? Talk about emotive!

Hey, I understand. You wanna be a part of it. Me too. Playing DSD recordings at least, the Accuphase SACD combo put me there more easily and reliably than any other SACD component I've auditioned to date.

And Red Book CDs...?
Well, 16/44.1 CDs were fab, all right. I'll put it this way: Switching from CD to SACD with the Accuphase duo proved something of a small miracle. In SACD, the Accuphase lost an ever-so-slightly misty and slightly obscured quality that was evident on plain CDs, whether upsampled, oversampled, or whatever. With a spring of the music's mighty haunches, SACDs leapt to a higher musical plane. Change from CD to SACD and you're just up there, like an express elevator to the executive suite. SACD recordings sounded sweeter, more ambient and round and harmonic, more focused, deeper in the bass, more extended in the highs, and much more detailed. The ease of presentation was something the mind and body picked up in some way at the edge of understanding. By comparison, CDs lacked something of that superb ebb and flow, that involving, smooth, and velvety quality.

The DP-100/DC-101 was almost a victim of its own success at so brilliantly playing SACDs; 16/44.1 couldn't help but come off second-rate in comparison. Does this mean the DP-100/DC-101 was a schlepper when it came to CDs? Certainly not! But in retrospect, although the Marantz SA-1 wasn't on hand for direct comparison, I preferred the way it did 16/44.1, even as I acknowledge that the Accuphase was better at playing SACDs than any other unit I've auditioned. In fact, the Accuphase sounded more like the Sony SCD-1 than the Marantz in either mode. Does this invalidate the Accuphase digital duo for general use? Of course not; it's all a matter of priorities.

Ultimately, for "Red Book" CDs I preferred the dCS Elgar driven at 24/192 by the 972—or, better, by the Purcell. A question of digital filters? Perhaps. In any case, I'm not in the least ambiguous about it. Like many of you, I've got a lot of CDs, and they mostly sound fabulous through the upsampling dCS gear.

Are you an Accuphase audiophile?
While I would never "accuse" Accuphase of delivering the ultra-transparent clarity of the Marantz SA-1, the DP-100/DC-101 betters the Marantz in so many other ways. The Accuphase way of life is certainly more voluptuous and indulgent than anything Marantz had in mind. Overall, the Accuphase duo's presentation is more refined than the Sony SCD-1's, and even more so when run direct from its line-level outputs into the amp of the moment. However, as the Accuphase DC-101 offers only volume control and no balance or mute (the dCS Elgar offers all three), I think it's better used into an active preamplifier, despite the slight loss in transparency.

If the dCS 972/Purcell/Elgar weren't sitting so close to hand, I could find happiness with the Accuphase combo for all digital media and wouldn't give it a second thought. That's the way it oughta be for $27,990.

But reviewers are lucky—we get to play with all the toys. If you want the best of everything just now, you'll need both! Sorry. But if SACD floats your boat, you're an LP fan who remains somewhat ambivalent about your current CD collection, and you've got the scratch, I say...go for it!

US distributor: Axiss Distribution
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