Accuphase DP-85 SACD player Page 4

Too Much Information?
Recently, I reviewed two projectors for Stereophile Guide to Home Theater. Both of these fixed-pixel displays used the same DLP "engine" from Texas Instruments. One had a glass lens supplied by Minolta, the other a less sophisticated plastic lens. The one with the better lens seemed to produce more unwanted artifacts ("jaggies"), but it was only doing a better job of passing on the information supplied to the light-processing chipset. The plastic lens's softer focus created a smoother picture, but at the expense of detail. Which image a viewer might prefer is a personal matter, but which display produced greater clarity wasn't subjective at all.

It's very possible that the DP-85's CD performance was actually so highly resolving and transparent that it passed on CD's inherent flaws along with the abundance of detail. Whatever the cause, as a CD player, the DP-85 beat what I heard with the Marantz SA-1 or Sony SCD-1 playing plain ol' CDs, but I guess I prefer a bit less information. I tried a variety of interconnect and AC cables; they effected subtle changes, but the basic character remained. Still, the DP-85's CD performance was detailed, fast, and exciting, even as it sounded a bit stingy with harmonics and somewhat bass-shy. Ripe systems might prove a perfect match.

The DAD Connection
Dozens of DVD-V-based 24-bit/96kHz DADs are available from Classic, Turtle, Chesky, Water Lily Acoustics, and, more recently, Hi-Res, which has licensed titles from Concord Jazz and the adventurous Palmetto jazz label, among others. Running the 24/96 bitstream from a good DVD player to the DP-85's processor produced impressively dynamic, full-bodied sound from discs such as Muddy Waters' Folk Singer (Classic DAD1020), Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington (Classic DAD1031), The First Turtle Records Sampler (Turtle 098105), Herb Ellis and Freddie Green's Rhythm Willie (Hi-Res HRM2010), and Herb Ellis and Joe Pass's Seven, Come Eleven (Hi-Res HRM2005). Even some of Hi-Res's digital masters "upconverted" from 16-bit/44.1kHz, such as Ben Allison and Medicine Wheel's Riding the Nuclear Tiger (HRM2007), sounded weightier and richer than the CD versions.

Having access to the DP-85's 24/96 DACs for playback of these DADs is an attractive bonus for digital-only audiophiles, though it's not clear how well this format will be supported in the future. I tried playing some DVD-Audio discs, which also have 24/96 bitstreams, but without a screen to access the menus, I couldn't get the Accuphase DP-85 to output the data. That's why DVD-A and audiophiles don't least not now.

The DP-85's rear slots permit too many input/output connection options to go into here in detail, especially if you're into surrounding the player with Accuphase's amplifiers, digital preamplifier, and digital crossover network, in which case you can keep the signal in the digital domain until it has to be amplified. Optional cards can provide an HS-link input to the DP-85's SACD processor and 24/192 DACs, as well as AES/EBU, BNC, and ST-type glass-fiber optical cable. (Remember what a big fuss that last was a few years ago?)

Close to deadline time, ABKCO Records threw an old-fashioned listening party at the Russian Tea Room in Manhattan to announce the release of the 22 SACD/CD Rolling Stones remasters. The press kit included a 21-track sampler, and with the Accuphase DP-85 in my system, the timing couldn't have been better. I've got clean vinyl versions of most of the original UK Decca Stones albums, so I thought I was well prepared for what these carefully mastered SACDs might sound like.

I wasn't. The detail revealed by the DP-85 was jaw-dropping. I heard things in very familiar tunes I'd never heard before, and going back to the original vinyl was a bit of a shock to my systems, both personal and electronic. The SACD edition of "I Am Waiting," from Aftermath, recorded by Dave Hassinger at RCA Hollywood, was more dynamic, more detailed and present, than I remember ever hearing from UK vinyl—though, to even the score, the vinyl had a few attributes the SACD lacked. Hopefully, there will be 180gm vinyl from either the DSD master or, preferably, the 30ips, ½" analog transfers made simultaneously.

In any case, in every performance parameter you can think of, the SACD layer through the DP-85 positively smoked the CD layer through my reference Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista 3D CD player, though I preferred the CD layer through the 3D. But forget about comparisons—the DP-85's SACD performance set a new standard for digital anything in my system and in my experience. It produced the ease, relaxation, transparency, air, bloom, space, and—most important—plain old musical pleasure I had heretofore associated only with fine analog playback. Twenty years of CD playback, no matter what tricks are played with it—laser-disc transports, glass-fiber optic cable, oversampling, upsampling, reclocking, green paint, outer rings, inner rings, smoke rings, you name it—has always fallen short, and has always required an asterisk and an excuse.

The Accuphase DP-85 put an end to that, at least in SACD mode. While I was somewhat disappointed with its CD performance, the results in your system might be different. If you're shopping at this price point, be sure to check out the DP-85.

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