Musical Fidelity Tri-Vista SACD player Page 4

CD Playback: Nu-Vista 3D vs Tri-Vista
No point comparing either of these to dCS's upsampled-to-DSD CD performance. I've heard nothing like it. Period. The real issue for me was, could Musical Fidelity build an SACD player that would not sacrifice CD sound quality. It was easy enough to compare the Nu-Vista 3D to the Tri-Vista in CD mode.

A few dozen discs later (including many of the ones I used for the dCS review): Whether it's because of the different sonic character of the "trivistor" tube or the Tri-Vista player's lower claimed jitter or distortion, the Tri-Vista sounded slightly richer, warmer, and darker than the Nu-Vista 3D. At first I was disappointed, but I eventually came to appreciate the Tri-Vista's smoother sound and greater resolution of low-level detail and spatial information. It was like listening to a speaker with a flatter HF response: At first it can sound dull and lacking in resolution, because the ear can confuse edgy peaks with "resolution."

The Tri-Vista actually sounded somewhat more spacious on CD than the Nu-Vista 3D, but only slightly so. The biggest improvement was the removal of a slight edginess I'd noticed in my review. Writing about the Nu-Vista 3D's rendering of the 20-bit SBM edition of Miles Davis' Kind of Blue (Columbia/Legacy CK 64935), I noted: "There was also the usual CD 'mechanicalness' that is endemic to the medium, in my analog-addled opinion, and a trace of upper-midrange lift or brightness, as well as a bit of unnatural edge definition to the images, but not so much that I'd characterize it as sounding 'etchy'."

When I compared both players using that disc, I still noted the usual CD "mechanicalness," but the midrange lift or brightness and the bit of edge definition I heard with the 3D was gone with the Tri-Vista, which sounded less mechanical, less edgy, and much more smooth—though of course it still sounded like a CD player. While John Coltrane's The Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings (Impulse! IMPD4-232) didn't sound nearly as convincing as it had through the dCS trio, the Tri-Vista's rendering was a small step up from the Nu-Vista 3D's. It was richer, more reach-out-and-touch-it supple, and yet, at the same time, somewhat more transparent. I've certainly heard speedier, more rhythmically assured CD delivery, from such players as the Naim CD5 and the CD side of the Accuphase DP-85 (too fast)—but the Tri-Vista's overall rhythmic delivery was compelling enough, and its richness without sogginess was well-suited to the sound of most CDs—at least, the ones I own.

Musical Fidelity has done it again: The limited-edition Tri-Vista SACD player is a complete success. Look for aspects of the technology to find their way into far less expensive MF products. As a CD player, the Tri-Vista offers a marginal improvement over the already exceptional Nu-Vista 3D, though if you're not ready for SACD, I wouldn't recommend trading up. Given the price difference between the two players, when you consider the even higher build quality, the more sophisticated power supply and "trivistor" output section, the 192kHz upsampling, the improved digital filtering, and the addition of SACD, it's not such a high price to pay.

However, that still leaves open the issue of DVD-Audio incompatibility and the lack of surround sound. It's difficult to say how important DVD-Audio will end up being for audiophiles. So far, there are few recordings available, but that might change. Then there's the "watermarking" issue. Universal multichannel players are already available, but do any of them sound as good as the Tri-Vista? Not so far. Most are lower-priced units that trade sound quality for universal compatibility.

And surround sound? I've played some multichannel SACDs on a very nice Sony player I have in my home-theater system, using various speaker arrays I've reviewed. I find myself entertained and amused by surround sound, but, as my recent experience at Avery Fisher Hall reaffirmed, surround sound is not as necessary to getting the "you are there" sensation as its proponents claim. And for pop and rock, it's a novelty I can easily live without. To me, it's more important to get what's in front of me right than worrying about what's to the sides and behind. [See Barry Willis' "As We See It" on this subject on p.5.—Ed.]

On that count, the Musical Fidelity Tri-Vista scores points. Your take on surround sound may differ from mine, but if you audition the Tri-Vista, I'm sure you'll agree that it's an enticing-sounding CD player—the best-sounding Musical Fidelity has come up with yet—and it's an even better-sounding SACD player. Will Musical Fidelity have a multichannel player soon? And a universal player? I'd bet on both. Will either match the magic of the Tri-Vista? I'm not waiting to find out.

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