Accuphase DP-85 SACD player Page 3

When I switched to the Musical Fidelity 3D, I heard what the Frankfurt folks were complaining about. It was almost as if the DP-85 was so interested in keeping my foot tapping that it was more concerned with musical flow than with letting the harmonics ripen and develop. That's not necessarily a bad thing—compared to the CD performance of the first Sony and Marantz SACD players, the DP-85 injected a welcome shot of adrenaline into the music's veins. But it also seemed to skim the harmonic surfaces of instruments, suggesting rather than delivering their full timbral expression.

The pace seemed to slow a bit with the Musical Fidelity 3D, allowing the picture to linger on the overtones, and on the aftermath of the events actually producing the sound. The result was a richness of tone and a roundness of images that more than compensated for the more leisurely pace—at least in my system. However, there's no doubt that the DP-85's brand of sonic performance will be superb in warm, slightly "ripe" systems.

The JVC XRCD2 of Jacintha's Lush Life (JVCXR-0217-2) arrived mid-review, giving me access to four versions of this superbly recorded, arranged, and performed set of standards. With Bill Cunliffe's ingenious string arrangements augmenting his trio, and the addition of the multifaceted guitarist Anthony Wilson among the many musicians, this set transcends "audiophilia." The sensual singer has never sounded more assured, nor has her phrasing been as alluring. Lush Life is the Jacintha album to have if you're having only one. In addition to the new XRCD, the album is available in two versions on a hybrid SACD/CD, and on 180gm vinyl—including a bonus 45rpm.

First, I compared the CD layer on the hybrid (Groove Note 1101-3) to the XRCD through the Accuphase and the Musical Fidelity 3D. Through both players, the XRCD had more warmth, texture, and image three-dimensionality, without stunting transients and with no loss of fine detail. Darek Oles' bass had greater weight and definition, and the image of Jacintha standing before the microphone was far more convincing. Cunliffe's piano sounded more woody and nuanced, less tinkly. As you might expect, the 3D's richer presentation made the Groove Note CD's leaner sound more pleasing.

Yet when I compared the Groove Note's SACD layer to its CD layer on the Accuphase, or to the XRCD through the 3D, it was no contest: the SACD layer through the Accuphase was the most convincing, fleshing out the rich ambient field behind the music and portraying its decay with analog-like assurance. Jacintha's sibilants might have been smoother via the XRCD played on the 3D, but they sounded more real from SACD via the Accuphase. The soundstage opened and deepened, and the images became more focused and more three-dimensional, yet pushed farther back in space. In other words, the Accuphase is a stunning SACD player combining exciting rhythm and pacing, full harmonic development, high resolution, and precise imaging and soundstaging. The presentation reminded me of good vinyl. Playing the Jacintha vinyl confirmed it.

All of my comments about the Groove Note hybrid were also true of Mobile Fidelity's superb SACD/CD transfer of Patricia Barber's Café Blue (UDSACD 2002). The CD layer was richer, weightier, and generally more pleasing through the 3D, but the SACD layer transformed the DP-85, giving the picture depth, dimensionality, weight, and harmonic richness, but not at the expense of the player's transient purity and snap. The bass line of "Ode to Billy Joe" was sensationally rich yet perfectly focused, and Barber's finger-snaps were fast and tight while still sounding like flesh—not wood, as they did on the original CD compared to the 180gm vinyl issue.

Even though Clark Terry's wonderful One on One (Chesky SACD231) was probably recorded in 24/96 LPCM and upconverted to SACD, the difference between it and the CD version (JD198) was enormous. Whatever advantage the Musical Fidelity 3D had over the Accuphase as a CD player, the DP-85's SACD side easily won the shootout with this disc of duets. The Accuphase convincingly placed the trumpeter and a series of pianists in the recording venue's rich, delicate ambience, offering palpable, precisely focused, three-dimensional images of the instruments and suffusing them with a plausible tonal palette. The CD layer (or the regular CD) through the 3D presented Terry's horn as warm yet brassy, and the Bösendorfer 290 Imperial Grand with plenty of bottom-end weight but with satisfying attack. The SACD layer through the Accuphase made the 3D's presentation sound like a lumpy MP3 by comparison. The SACD's musical flow and harmonic and textural delicacy rivaled those of vinyl. When I switched back to the CD layer through the DP-85, the delicate picture turned to an almost ghostly but detailed gray.

I played the CD layer of Telarc's SACD/CD of Mahler's Symphony 5, with Benjamin Zander conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra (2SACD-60569), through first the 3D, then the Accuphase, before switching to the SACD layer. I drew the same basic conclusions: The CD layer sounded harmonically richer and weightier through the 3D, and leaner and somewhat bleached-out, though very detailed, via the Accuphase. But switching to the SACD layer revealed the DP-85's greatness.

The first movement of Mahler's Fifth opens with a trumpet solo followed by a tumultuous orchestral eruption. Only the SACD layer convincingly portrayed the subtle, airy, brassy sound of the instrument, pinpointing its location in orchestral space and placing it well back on the soundstage within the volume of the hall. When the orchestra swelled, the SACD produced the sensation of the ensemble opening up and delivering more information. The overall musical flow felt relaxed and natural. Through either player, the CD layer portrayed the trumpet in simpler harmonic terms, though more fully fleshed out through the 3D. But when the orchestra exploded, instead of opening up as it might in concert, it became congested, as if it was about to close instead of blossom. Instead of flow, there was chop.

Those differences explain why I was able to sit through the entire symphony and enjoy listening to the SACD, and was bored and distracted within minutes of trying to listen to the CD layer—with either player. To those who say such feelings aren't scientific, I say get stuffed. Music is about feeling.

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