Pioneer DV-AX10 SACD/DVD-A/CD player Page 3

Then I played with Florent Héau and Patrick Zygmanowski's hybrid SACD/CD, Musique Française pour clarinette et piano (Lyrinx LYR2195), which I've enjoyed for so long, and bit right down on the fly in the potage. Comparing the SACD layer with the 16/44.1 layer proved something of a chore, due to the need to stop the disc, change the mode, then start playing the other layer. But to change the mode, there no SACD/CD button! Instead, you have to enable the video output, turn on your onscreen menu device, find the correct e-page, and tell the machine what to do when presented with a hybrid SACD disc: play the SACD or the CD layer. I quickly tired of this cumbersome procedure. A big, ugly fly in la soupe. ("Shhh! Everyone else will want one!")

Listening to the SACD of Keb' Mo's The Door (550 Music/Okeh/Epic BS 61428) via the Sony SCD-XA777ES proved a moving experience. Keb' Mo's voice was so well laid out, so physical and 3D, and the ease and roundness of the SACD-driven imaging, air, sense of place, and palpability were first-rate and keenly enjoyable. The pace, tonal color, and air from Swing Live (CHDVD222) was remarkable. This latest "2/4/6 Disc" from Chesky offers Bucky Pizzarrelli in a first-rate live recording in DVD-Audio at 24/96, or a separate DVD-V Dolby Digital "5.1 compatible, 4.0 mix." On the Pioneer, it swung! The excitement of the performance was contagious.

Yet for all that, when going from the Sony SCD-XA777ES to the Pioneer DV-AX10 in SACD mode, I was less engaged with the music than I was when listening to the same material on the Sony in SACD mode.

Even Keb' Mo' on SACD became a touch so what, in comparison to the Pioneer's DVD-A playback—slightly opaque, certainly without the flash-fast transparency of 24/96 or higher.

It was obvious that DVD-A was what made the DV-AX10's heart beat faster. I sat with mouth agape and arms akimbo, playing the Japanese sampler disc bundled with the Technics DVD AX-10 player I reviewed in November 2000. Playing 20/96 material almost shocked me, it sounded so wideband and loaded with tonal color. And in two-channel, the 24/192 Debussy Clair de Lune was simply astounding in its subtlety and its ability to swell to large musical surprises. As before, "My Love is Here" recorded at 16/48, just wowed my inner crowd as before, driving the point home with a sharp rap on the ice pick with an open palm. It sounded great, and stood as a testament to how well 16/48 can be recorded. The sampler showed just how fabulous DVD can be.

Although not as mind-blowing an experience as DVD, CD mode on the Pioneer was way more than adequate. It sounded generally linear, extended, timbrally correct, with the tonal colors complete and fast rather than fleshed-out. The liquid midrange was preserved, with a somewhat lighter overall bass than DVD-A. But you won't be disappointed with the Pioneer's playback of CDs.

The Pioneer's CD side just involved me less. At the same price, the BAT VK-D5SE just killed the 'AX10 in all matters audiophile re. 16/44.1. The Pioneer tended to sound a bit obscured, mostly in the midrange, though that did give the player a certain attractive smoothness. But I'm used to detail, and I want it. Up top, the Pioneer was still shelved forward, but sounded open, with good bass.

Playing my favorite song from Sex Without Bodies, "Daddy-O," on the Pioneer, I spent only a few seconds with the CD track before I just had to go back to 24/96 on the same player. Everything immediately popped out of an elegantly transparent soundstage populated by separate entities, each surrounded by its unique aura of air. It was much more sonically projective, to perhaps coin an audiophile phrase. The sound was more round, rich, airy, and palpable, and as fast as Excedrin at defining leading-edge transients.

In the game
Some of you have been waiting a long while for a do-it-all Swiss Army Knife player. Finally, here it is on our shores, built like a family heirloom. While the Pioneer's SACD playback was disappointing, you'll enjoy your CDs through it—and DVD-Audio, as you've gathered, sounds great. Highly recommended.

2265 E. 220th Street
Long Beach, CA 90801
(310) 835-6177