Toshiba SD-9200 DVD-Audio/Video player Page 2

The SD-9200's basic layout is simple and elegant. In a configuration reminiscent of the old Luxman Servo-Face components, the SD-9200's faceplate slides down to reveal the front-mounted disc tray, which recedes into the unit when the faceplate slides back up the front panel. The display indicates Title/Group, Chapter/Track, Play mode, HDCD, disc format, operating status and messages, memory-random-repeat playback, angle indicator, and time. To the far left is a power button, to the right of the faceplate the Open/Close, Skip, Pause, Stop, and Play buttons; just above Open/Close are the Video On and Direct Audio indicators.

On the back panel, from left to right, are: a set of component-video out jacks, a single composite video out jack, and an S-video out jack; six 5.1-channel surround analog audio outs, a pair of two-channel analog audio outs, and bitstream/PCM digital outs, on both optical and coaxial jacks.

Before I could thoroughly road-test the Toshiba SD-9200, I was required to undergo an attitude adjustment. As a devotee of the proscenium-arch effect, I was frustrated by the necessity of employing a video monitor to execute even the most elemental aspects of music-system setup. Here's a new digital format heralded as the last word in high-resolution music reproduction, but it obliges two-channel music lovers to plug it into a TV just to use it. Curious.

Oh, well—with the dawn of a new day come new complications. I've always kept my TV and audio worlds separate, but fortunately, my venerable NEC 2070S 20" stereo receiver-monitor has a useful array of audio and video inputs. I hooked it up to the SD-9200 with a 12' S-video cable from RadioShack. Alas, while I now had access to the SD-9200's setup menu, I also had a ground-loop hum, even with my preamp's volume turned down.

The problem: When a cable company comes into your building, they're required by law to put a ground at the cable-box entrance to the building. That ground is what comes up through the cable company's cable, whereas your stereo system is plugged into the building's electricity, which is grounded through the electrical boxes. However, the audio and video system grounds are not at the same electrical potential, which creates a hum when they are joined with the video interconnect. (For more information, see past installments of Jonathan Scull's "Fine Tunes" column in Stereophile's online archives.)

The solution was a handy-dandy device called the MAGIC Splitter. "MAGIC" is short for Mondial Antenna Ground Isolation Circuit, a patented design that eliminates ground-induced noise and hum from cable TV and outdoor antenna connections by breaking the ground in the cable/antenna line prior to its connection to the audio/video system, with virtually no signal loss. The MAGIC is built into a die-cast aluminum box with gold-plated F-type connectors. Inside is a double-sided glass-epoxy circuit board with more than 30 surface-mounted components; and to prevent damage to your system at its most vulnerable point, the MAGIC also contains a gas-discharge suppressor to eliminate static-electricity buildup on the cable line.

Another advantage of the MAGIC, according to Paul Rosenberg of Mondial Designs, is that "it can improve video signals by eliminating the voltage on the cable shield; it can reduce hum-bars and background hash, thus allowing a more three-dimensional presentation." The MAGIC is available in a single-input version or a two-output version containing a military-grade splitter and two MAGIC circuits on the output. (The MAGIC Box retails for $100; there is also a MAGIC Splitter available for $150; both are available though all Aragon and Acurus dealers. For more information, visit the Mondial website".)

System Context
The hum gone, I broke down the system I'd used to evaluate the Philips SACD1000 SACD player in April: Joseph Audio RM7si Signature loudspeakers, Mesa Baron power amp, Blue Circle Galatea preamp, Sony SCD777-ES SACD player, and Monster Cable Sigma Retro interconnects and speaker cables. To evaluate the Toshiba SD-9200 I hooked up a Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista preamp and Nu-Vista 300 power amp, a California Audio Labs CL-20 24-bit/96kHz DVD/HDCD player, Synergistic Research Designer's Reference interconnects and Designer's Reference2 AC Master Couplers, JPS Labs Power AC Outlet Centers, and a single run of JPS Labs Superconductor 2 speaker cables. I also replaced the stand-mounted RM7si's with a remarkable new pair of full-range three-way speakers, also from Joseph Audio: the RM33si Signatures, on which I'll report in the October 2001 issue.

Sound matters
After several weeks of listening, I began my final evaluations by A/B-ing the SD-9200 against the CAL CL-20 with CDs and HDCDs, then progressed to a shoot-out with DAD 24/96 DVD-Vs before alighting in the brave new world of DVD-Audio. Finally, for a rough comparison of the merits of SACD and DVD-A masters of the same recording, I listened to a track (the execrable scooby-doo-wah of Dave's True Story's "Dear Miss Lucy") common to a pair of compilation discs: An Introduction to SACD (Chesky SACD204) and The DVD-Audio Collection (Chesky/Pioneer HE726).

Jumping back and forth between the SD-9200 DVD-A and the CAL CL-20 DVD-V with my sturdy 16/44.1 CD reference, "Opalesque," from Ralph Towner and Gary Peacock's A Closer View (ECM 1602), I was struck by how similar the sounds of the two units were in terms of clarity, resolution, soundstage depth, lateral imaging, harmonic detail, bass extension, midrange articulation, and transparency. The SD-9200 portrayed the nuances and dynamic range of Peacock's bass in a manner befitting a $2000 CD player, though I thought the CL-20 excelled in its retrieval of low-level ambient information—there was just a little more of a halo around Towner's nylon-string guitar, and the overall presentation of the CL-20 was slightly more forward, which at first tended to make it sound somehow fuller. However, over repeated listening, the SD-9200's more laid-back presentation and smoother treble reproduction proved just as inviting.

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