Sony SCD-C555ES SACD changer Page 3

The SCD-C555ES took 15 seconds to change between different discs in its carousel, and about five to toggle between SACD and CD layers or from two-channel to multichannel areas of a hybrid disc. Track changes were almost instantaneous.

I found the C555's Multichannel Management System (MCMS) essential for proper setup of the player. However, it works only when a multichannel SACD is selected for play. Once that's done and you set the C555 for Multichannel and SACD, pressing the Menu button and turning the AMS jog control dial will display eight options for loudspeaker setup (footnote 2). These determine which channels are activated, and whether full- or restricted-range (120Hz and up) signals are sent to the speakers. This system will also automatically turn off all channels except the front left and right if a stereo signal is chosen from a hybrid SACD. Because I had five speakers and a subwoofer, I chose the setting that redirected all bass information below 120Hz to the subwoofer.

While the C555's built-in MCMS system did a lot, it didn't do enough. Despite the fancy images of slider controls on the C555's display, it was impossible to trim the level of each channel independent of the other channels using MCMS. It just shifted the levels, taking away from one pair of speakers and giving to the other. "So near [to getting it right], and yet so far," said David Ranada (Sound & Vision, July/August 2001, p.40).

What I needed to complete my multichannel installation was a multichannel, analog line-level preamplifier with level controls for each channel—like the EMM Labs Switchman 2 I saw at HE 2001. Sony had already devised a solution in the form of a multichannel analog preamplifier, the TA-P9000ES (see sidebar). Before I could plug that unit in, however, I began the two-channel installation.

I connected the SCD-C555ES's front-channel analog outputs to the line-level input of a Krell KCT CAST preamplifier using Ultralink Performance Audio single-ended cables. The KCT drove a Krell FPB 600c power amplifier via CAST interconnects, which in turn drove the Krell LAT-1s, Revel Ultima Salons, or Dynaudio Temptations, which served as front-channel speakers. These were connected to the amplifier via PSC Pristine R-50 biwired double-ribbon speaker cables. I placed the Revel Salons and the Krell LAT-1s in my favorite speaker locations: 63" from the rear wall and 36" from the side walls, sitting out in the room on a circular area rug. The Dynaudio Temptations were placed 48" from the back wall and 44" from the side walls. All two-channel speakers faced the long axis of my narrow listening room, which is 26' long, 13' wide, and 12' high, with a semi-cathedral ceiling; one long wall is covered with bookshelves, and the other is a glass bay window. The opposite end of the room opens into a 25' by 15' kitchen through an 8' by 4' doorway.

For multichannel mode, I added a Mirage HDT-FCH-1 center-channel loudspeaker, a pair of B&W 805 Nautiluses for the right and left rear surrounds, and a Velodyne HGS-18 powered subwoofer. The center speaker was placed atop the Velodyne subwoofer next to the rear wall. Level adjustments were made using the Sony TA-P9000ES preamplifier's individual channel controls.

To complete setup, I dredged up a dozen pairs of interconnects from my cable bin: six pairs of interconnects running from the SACD player to the TA-P9000ES preamplifier, six more running from the P9000 to two amplifiers and a subwoofer. The P9000's outputs drove two power amplifiers—a Mark Levinson No.334 for the Revel Salon or Evidence Temptation front speakers, and a five-channel Bryston 9B-ST for the Mirage HDT-FCH-1 center and B&W 805 Nautilus surrounds. One interconnect ran directly to the Velodyne subwoofer.

I then turned on the C555's built-in tone generator to set the six speaker levels. Its wideband test tone automatically toggled through the channels, driving each speaker in turn for five seconds. That gave me time to zero-in my RadioShack Sound Pressure Meter to 80dB, running back and forth between my listening chair and the front panel of the preamplifier to set the level controls. Each channel's level was zeroed (80dB, C-weighting, Slow mode) on the meter using the P9000ES's corresponding front-panel rotary volume control. Within 10 minutes, I had all six channels producing exactly the same SPL—80dB—at my big blue velvet listening chair.

Footnote 2: Besides the standard MCH Direct setting with level fixed, Sony MCMS offers the following setup options: 1) all speakers run full-range with subwoofer active; 2) all five speakers run full-range with subwoofer inactive; 3) five Small speakers plus subwoofer; 4) front speakers run full-range, center and surrounds Small, subwoofer active; 5) front full-range, center and surrounds Small, subwoofer inactive; 6) fronts and surrounds run full-range, subwoofer active, no center; and 7) front speakers and surrounds run full- range, no center or subwoofer. All settings except MCH Direct allow the user to balance the levels between the front and surround speakers, or the front and center, or the front and subwoofer.