dCS Purcell D/D converter Page 4

It's difficult to characterize the overall SACD-like liquidity of the 24/192 presentation, a bit less obvious with the 972 than the Purcell. Imagine making a casting of the music with a material whose very atoms are liquid, filling every tiny nook and cranny of the mold with the sound. Pull it off, and you've got a perfect replica of the notes, down to what seems like way below the noise floor, so the music emerges whole. In direct comparison, the 972 sounded slightly less liquid and lacked a certain musically ebullient character that the Purcell embodied. The audiophile version of the upsampler was more colorful, more full-bodied, sexier, more fun, and certainly less clinical, although I don't want to call the 972 "clinical" per se. It pours that same impossibly small musical-molecule mold material between the notes too, but I found the 972's slight overall dryness a tad less involving than the Purcell, even though they both sounded wonderful. If it turns out the 972 has less jitter, well...this time I won't eat my shorts, but I won't be happy about it.

In the end, the Purcell just sounded more like music to me, which makes it much harder to answer the pressing digital question of "Which sounds better, SACD or upsampling?"

A 24/96 digression
Before tackling the ticklish question of SACD vs upsampling, I listened to a few Chesky and Classic Records 24-bit/96kHz DVD-Video recordings. I set up the Technics DVD-A10 DVD-A/V player and dug out the CD and DVD-A of Dave's True Story's Sex Without Bodies, a recording I know intimately (Chesky JD164 and CHDVD174). No surprise: Running 24/96 directly into the Elgar Plus was better than sending the datastream through the inputs, outputs, and everything in between of the Purcell (or 972) with no format conversion.

The sound was quite different when upsampled to 192kHz, which I preferred by quite a lot. At 24/96, the edge definition of the imaging razored up from the background acoustic more sharply, in greater relief. But it sounded somewhat less round, more two-dimensional, than a fully upsampled 192kHz output. And the entire acoustic construct was smaller, confined more to the space between the speakers and extending not nearly as deeply behind them. Though less liquid and airy, less transparent, the presentation still sounded very precise and synchronized, especially when playing material recorded at 24/96.

Same with Art Davis on A Time Remembered (Jazz Planet JPCD-4001 and DAD-1001). I always relaxed into the music more when I looped in the Purcell, or the 972 for that matter, and dialed up the Full Monty of 192kHz.

For whatever reason, the 16/44.1 "Red Book" CD datastream from the Accuphase DP-100 SACD/CD transport sounded best upsampled, as opposed to the same recordings on 24/96 DVDs from the Technics DVD-A10. Keep in mind that the Accuphase DP-100 runs a cool $12,995—yet you'd think the math to convert 24/96 to 192kHz would be easier. Another anomaly in logic that forces me to rummage in my Platitude Cache and come up with "Shit Happens." I hope to try an audiophile-grade DVD-A player sometime soon. I'll let you know what I find.

One audiophile's upsampler is another's oversampler
For ultimate sound, for the best there is, I vote for SACD. Whenever I compared one to a similar recording in CD format upsampled to 24-bit/192kHz, I always fell for the SACD on the Accuphase DP-100/DC-101 combo. That's 28 grand of front-end digitalia, my friends. The cutting edge is an expensive place to take your shot! A Purcell/Elgar Plus combo isn't chump change either. That's $4995 for the Purcell and a hefty $11,995 for the Elgar Plus. Of course, you can find the same Ring DAC used in the Elgar in the $6995 dCS Delius and save yourself a bundle of digital bucks.

But (and I've got a big one) that's for SACD recordings, of which there were 160 at time of writing. Yeah, SACD sounded best, but hey, what about Radiohead? What about Moby? What about St. Germain's Tourist (Blue Note 5 25114 2), which is trip-hop balm for you Left Field/Chemical Brothers/Sneaker Pimp fans? What about all those Horowitz recordings? Ansermet, Ellington, and the rest? Well, with the Purcell/Elgar Plus, you can upsample them all and right now—a compelling argument in any digital language.

So at this time, if you want to eat your cake and have it too, you need to have both types of player—as yet, no single audiophile machine does it all. But if you already have a large collection of CDs, the Purcell/Elgar Plus could be your long-term solution. It always sounded great, and should give new life to your entire collection of music. It was gratifying to hear so many recordings again in their best light, and in some instances to be able to appreciate them musically as never before. Don't care for the sound? Pick up the remote and play with the filters. You don't even have to lift your mighty audiophile ass! Just as with the Sony SCD-1 SACD player I reviewed in November 1999, you can tune the Purcell's sound with the press of a button to change between filters. And you're bound to find a filter that pleases.

Ahh, but do CDs on the Sony sound as good as SACDs, filters be damned? Er, no. Will the Accuphase DC-101 sound better with CDs or SACDs? The latter, of course. But for everything else, this classy combo from dCS is ready to rumble now, and it works on all those CDs on your saggin' shelves. So if these little musical nuances are what get you up in the morning and put you to bed at night—if having the best is really important to you—this might be it.

The Purcell/Elgar Plus is a very sophisticated combo for connoisseurs with wallets large enough to pay for the most sophisticated filtering. Journalists get to play at it; but you, you Masters of the Universe, get to actually go out and buy this stuff! Live the dream for us! And don't forget to write...

In the end, for me, the Purcell/Elgar Plus is an upsampling digital reference of the first order.

US distributor: Audiophile Systems
8709 Castle Park Drive
Indianapolis, IN 46256.
(317) 849-5880