Accuphase DP-80L CD player & DC-81L digital processor Review System

Sidebar 1: Review System

You might well feel that the system in which the Accuphase was auditioned was a little unbalanced in that its total cost was less than that of the player. Yet it is capable of giving a considerable degree of musical pleasure with high-quality sources and I had every confidence that its resolving power would prove equal to the task set it. Celestion SL700 loudspeakers, sitting on their own spiked stands well away from room boundaries, are driven by a pair of VTL 100W Compact monoblock amplifiers (each sitting on a Mission Isoplat and plugged into one half of an Inouye power line conditioner). The speakers are bi-wired with Monster M1 speaker cable.

The wall behind them is almost all covered, first with three layers of records, then with bookshelves up to the 9' ceiling. The speakers are sited along the longer wall of the slightly asymmetrical 20' by 16' room, and the sidewalls have bookcases strategically positioned where the primary reflection from the speakers would occur. Three corners are fitted with Tubetraps, the floor is carpeted, and there is a minimum of flat featureless surfaces facing each other. The single listening chair is some 2.5m from the speakers, with the wall behind it alternating between picture window concealed by blinds and 16"-diameter Tube Traps, with a 2'-high planter running almost the full width.

My idea was to create a reasonably live room—I feel that totally dead rooms are not the ideal speaker environment—but with the furnishings and Tubetraps used to ensure that no one frequency band is too prominent.

All signals are routed through a Mod Squad Line Drive Deluxe AGT passive control center, with AudioQuest LiveWire Lapis interconnects used between it and the CD players as well as to feed the power amplifiers. The Accuphase was therefore auditioned from its single-ended outputs, but from my experience with Mark Levinson amplification used in balanced mode, I suspect that using the Accuphase's balanced outputs will provide a slight improvement in overall transparency.

The Accuphase units come fitted with two-pin mains plugs that can be inserted into the wall socket either way around. Madrigal's Michael Wesley recommends feeling the enclosures for the level of very slight mechanical vibration and using the orientation which gives the lower level. I have to say that I could feel no difference either way, but this may be due to the fact that the mains waveform in this part of the country seems to be a good sinewave, with no distortion or DC offset apparent.

For comparison purposes, I used the first sample of the Theta DS Pre reviewed by Lewis Lipnick elsewhere in this issue and the Sony DAS-R1 digital processor, both driven from the Accuphase DP-80L transport's coaxial digital outputs. (The Sony transport had ceased to work except for intermittently while in transit from J. Gordon Holt's listening room, and as the DAS-R1 processor has a unique, twin-optical input, comparisons with the optically connected Sony system were not possible.) The DC-81L processor, however, was driven from the DP-80L's optical data output to allow easy A/B'ing. The final reference was a California Audio Labs Tempest II CD player, which offers a familiar, highly musical standard of CD reproduction. All the players were isolated from vibration with AudioQuest Sorbothane feet.

Needless to say, all levels were carefully matched for comparisons using a 1kHz test-tone track and a millivoltmeter. This procedure may well have introduced some sonic changes itself, as the Accuphase had to be operated with its digital volume control set to –4dB and the Theta with its analog volume control in circuit, both of which might be thought to add a slight handicap. The levels of the Sony and the CAL were matched to the other two by using the Line Drive's volume control. There was no way around these compromises, however. A more serious source of error became apparent when the Accuphase was compared with the Theta processor, as the latter seemed to sound too bright and thin, but in an inconsistent manner. Its measured frequency response did feature a tiny bit more HF energy, being flat to 20kHz, whereas the Accuphase has a very slight droop in its top octave, but it turned out that the Theta's de-emphasis characteristic was wrong, pre-emphasized discs being replayed with an error that reached a maximum of +1.4dB at 10kHz. All the comments concerning the Theta therefore involve non–pre-emphasized CDs.

It also transpired that the Accuphase's analog output has inverted polarity, which will be expected to introduce an audible difference between it and the other three reference decoders/players, which are polarity-correct. For long-term listening, I compensated for this by reversing both sets of speaker leads, but for A/B purposes with all but the Theta (which has a digital polarity reverse switch), this was out of the question. I hope, therefore, that I have adequately compensated for this factor in my comments.—John Atkinson

Accuphase Laboratory Inc.
Distributor: Axiss Audio, 17800 S. Main, Suite 109
Gardena, CA 90248
(310) 329-0187

volvic's picture

If someone has moved over to computer audio and has an Accuphase they want to offload I am willing to help out. Great gear! Love em! Always have, always will!