Accuphase DP-85 SACD player Page 2

Power up the DP-85, hit the Open/Close button, and the disc tray slides out silently, slowly (but not too slowly), and oh, so smoothly. You deserve that for $16.5k. Unlike most players—especially first-generation ones—when toggling between SACD and CD layers, the DP-85 worked fast, thanks to its single-lens, twin-pickup mechanism. It's able to scan a disc's table of contents in a few seconds, as opposed to the forever that early SACD players took. You deserve that, too, for bleeding your savings account. The transport also includes a digital servo with dedicated DSP for "highly accurate signal pickup," according to an Accuphase blurb. The DP-85 plays CD-Rs but not CD-RWs.

The front panel is laid out cleanly enough to make using the DP-85 a pleasure. With the disc in, you push Play to start at track 1, or, after hitting Play, rotate the Track knob clockwise or counterclockwise to move through and select a track, which will then play automatically. Text information is automatically displayed. From Stop, you can rotate the knob to a chosen track, then access it by pushing in the button. The rectangular buttons of the remote's number pad access tracks conventionally.

Hold in Stop for more than a few seconds and the Track button becomes a function control that allows you to adjust the brightness of the display, set the unit to go into Play mode on power-up if a disc is in the tray, and select an Auto Pause mode with intervals of 1-5 seconds. Or you can easily revert to factory default settings. All of the common CD playback and programming functions, such as track sequencing, A-B repeat, and Shuffle play, are included. There's also a digital volume control good to -60dB, but there's no switch for inverting polarity (or absolute phase, or whatever you wanna call it)—something many buyers at this price point insist on having.

To use the DP-85 as a processor, connect an outboard transport's digital output to the rear panel's digital input and select the appropriate input via the Input Selector switch. The internal Multiple Delta Sigma (MDS) 1-bit D/A converters (two sets of six run in parallel) can process up to 24/96 multibit digital audio signals via the rear-panel inputs, or—with an optional card in one of the rear panel's slots—2.83MHz DSD data and 24/192, even though the unit's front panel is engraved "192-24." The DACs can do 24/192, but the standard coax/TosLink inputs can't crunch that many data. I never did learn whether the unit "upsamples" or "oversamples" 16-bit/44.1kHz signals. Accuphase doesn't discuss this in the instruction manual or the product brochure—probably a good thing, given the confusion the subject generates.

Curiously, the instructions mention CD, MiniDisc, DAT, or "other" digital signals as possible sources for the processor's optical and coaxial inputs, but not DVD-based 24/96 audio. So one of the first things I did was to connect the DP-85 to the coaxial digital output of an Arcam DV27 DVD-V player (which doesn't downconvert the 96kHz bitstream to 48kHz, as do some DVD players) to see whether the Accuphase would process 24/96 DAD discs like those from Classic, Chesky, and Hi-Res. It locked on to the signal. This makes the omission from the instructions even more curious, given the market segment at which this product is aimed. Here, with the addition of an inexpensive DVD player that can output a true 24/96 bitstream—Panasonics, Pioneers—is a semi-universal player, at least for devotees of two-channel sound.

Tightly Sprung CD Sound
Since most digital discs in my collection are CDs, I'm most interested in how an SACD player processes those. So, after a week's warmup of casual listening— I did all of my listening single-ended, by the way—I spent my first audition day comparing the DP-85 to my reference Musical Fidelity 3D, which, at $4995, costs about a third the price. To keep the playing field level, both players were fitted with identical lengths of Wireworld Gold Eclipse interconnect and Wireworld Silver Electra power cord.

I went into this comparison somewhat prejudiced: while at the Frankfurt hi-fi show back in May, I heard grumbling from a number of exhibitors who were using DP-85s as their CD source component. Their biggest complaint that the sound, though highly resolved and abundant with detail, wasn't fully developed harmonically, and that the full sonic picture did not hang together. That I heard this complaint in more than one room was surprising, but I wasn't sure what these folks were getting at, and besides, you can't draw reliable conclusions about unfamiliar systems by listening under show conditions.

The biggest beef I had with the early SACD players I auditioned was the soft, almost soggy and uninvolving sound delivered from plain old CDs. Almost as if overcompensating for that performance deficit, the DP-85 delivered the opposite: fast, lively, tightly sprung CD sound, as if the music was bouncing off of a piece of fabric stretched almost to the ripping point. The DP-85 produced ultra-resolution of inner detail, razor-sharp transients, firm deep bass, and an exciting, almost Naim-like rhythmic swagger. But it was free of grain, etch, and other negatives you don't want to be hearing from a $16,500 anything.

Axiss Distribution, Inc.
17800 S. Main St., Suite 109
Gardena, CA 90248
(310) 329-0187