Musical Fidelity Tri-Vista SACD player Page 2

Rare and Beautiful
Because the supply of the military-spec 5703 triode tube is limited—four are used in the output stage—Musical Fidelity will build only 800 Tri-Vista SACD players. (The nickname "trivistor" for this tube was apparently coined after the fact; it does not appear in manufacturer Raytheon's literature.) That leaves enough for spares in the unlikely event that one of the tubes fails before you do, and enough for the two other Tri-Vista products: an integrated amplifier and the kW, a 1kWpc dual-monoblock amplifier with separate dual power supply.

Before we get to the Tri-Vista's innards, how 'bout them outards? The Tri-Vista is one gorgeous piece—easily Musical Fidelity's most elegant-looking product ever. Gone are the 24K gold accents and other fascia busywork found on original Nu-Vista models. The Tri-Vista's silky-smooth, lustrous, silver "moonstone" finish is the product of nine steps of hand polishing. And at 51.5 lbs, this is one substantial, rigidly constructed player. The Tri-Vista rests on four feet—turn it on and the feet glow red. When the output stage switches on, they turn amber. After about a half hour, when warmup is complete, the feet glow a cool blue.

Okay, for $6500 you get substantial chassis work, jewelry, and a light show. What really counts is what's inside. Although the manual warns that popping the Tri-Vista's hood voids the warranty, I had to have a look. Inside is one beautifully packed chassis, the Tri-Vista's many transformers and chokes contributing to its considerable mass.

Musical Fidelity starts with a few off-the-shelf parts, including a Philips transport with a souped-up tray mechanism flanked by two cylindrical supports, a Burr-Brown 24-bit/192kHz upsampler chip (the Nu-Vista 3D used a 96kHz version), and a new, improved 24-bit version of the 3D's Crystal Semiconductor DAC. There are separate digital paths for the SACD and CD signals: each digital output has its own separate, optimized, choke-regulated power supplies, DAC, and filter.

What Musical Fidelity does to differentiate its player from others using the same or similar parts begins with a unique power supply regulated with a dual-layer choke. A "choke" is a large iron-core inductor that acts as a noise filter. They're big, heavy, and relatively expensive (some had to be custom-made for MF; no off-the-shelf choke could do the job), but MF claims that they reduce power-supply noise to "almost nothing."

Is there a contradiction in paying fanatical attention to reducing power-supply noise while using a tube-driven output stage? Maybe. But there are advantages. As Michaelson pointed out to me, the Tri-Vista's output stage is actually a 5W class-A amplifier with low output impedance and high damping factor. Long runs of cable should present no problems, and the output is high enough to make "passive" preamplifiers feasible.

Features and Use
In addition to a set of RCA analog output jacks, the Tri-Vista includes coaxial and TosLink digital inputs and outputs for digital recording, and for using the internal DAC with outboard devices such as DVD players for decoding DAD discs. The manual erroneously says the internal DAC "will also handle digital data from an external SACD, CD or DVD-Audio source." In other words, CD and 24-bit/96kHz DVD-based DAD discs yes, DVD-A yes but downsampled to 16/48, but SACD, no!

When you play a dual-layer SACD, there's a lit cluster on the left side of the display panel that reads "Stereo, CD, SACD." A pinpoint red LED lights up next to "CD" or "SACD," depending on the layer being played. It's so small you can't see it unless you put your nose to the panel. Aside from a short "PCM" or "DSD 2/0" readout at the beginning of the disc, the only way you can be sure of what layer you're hearing is by looking at that tiny red LED. The transport reads a disc's Table of Contents quickly compared with first-generation players—with those, you could read a chapter of a book while waiting for the ToC to be read, or for the layers to switch.

MF's new multi-purpose remote control is a big step up from the Nu-Vista 3D's. The Tri-Vista's remote can control a MF tuner and the Tri-Vista integrated amplifier as well as the SACD player. Unlike those on the Nu-Vista remote, the Tri-Vista remote's buttons are well-placed and nicely differentiated in size and shape, though backlighting would have been a nice touch.

Musical Fidelity
US distributor: Kevro International
902 McKay Road, Suite 4
Pickering, Ontario L1W 3X8, Canada
(905) 428-2800