Sony CDP-101 Compact Disc Player Comments On First CDs

J. Gordon Holt's comments on the first CDs also appeared in August 1983, Vol.6 No.3

We have now received our first shipment of Compact Discs for review, and have gotten commitments from CD producers to supply us with future releases. So, beginning with this issue, our usual reviews of conventional analog stereo discs will be supplemented by coverage of every CD we can lay our hands on...

I am delighted to report that I am finally able to listen to CBS recordings without getting a head ache or cringing at the shrill, steely high end. They have finally become reviewable again. However the laser disc is clearly not the magical solution to all recording problems. Deficiencies in mikes are obvious, bad mixing is still as annoying as it ever was, if not more so, and for some reason or other, even heavy-handed gain riding is more blatantly evident than it used to be.

In short, as high as the potential fidelity of the CD may be, the realization of that potential is still going to elude recording engineers, perhaps for some time to come. So the critical reviewer need not worry about being reduced to a mere arbiter of performance. On the contrary, the potential of the CD medium, and its virtual elimination of any lingering doubts about the absolute accuracy of the reviewer's phono system, will demand that he or she be even more critical of sound quality than ever before.

At first, the choice of available software will be limited enough that CD aficionados will probably buy anything, just to have a variety of program material on hand, but if the CD is accepted by the public, this situation will soon change. Hopefully, record critics will not sell out, but will come down heavily on the companies who put out badly engineered software, so that the state of the art can be approached in the techniques of recording as well as in its technology.

The danger here is that most reviewers for magazines with large enough circulations to have clout have lived with mediocre phono units for so long that even the worst CDs will probably sound better to their ears than anything they have heard in their homes. This will prompt an unwarranted tolerance for CD sound that is by perfectionist standards abominable.

The time has come, I believe, for all magazines which take their record reviews seriously to impose minimum listening-equipment requirements on their reviewers, helping them as necessary to pay for the purchase of better systems. Only in this way can the reviewers hear what is being done to recorded sound, in order to make valid criticisms of it.—J. Gordon Holt