CD Player/Transport Reviews

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Robert Harley  |  Apr 11, 2008  |  First Published: Jun 11, 1993  |  0 comments
At a "Meet the Designers" panel discussion at the 1992 Los Angeles Stereophile High-End Hi-Fi Show, I asked a group of successful digital designers (footnote 1) each to state how much of a digital front end's sound quality they believed was due to the transport, digital processor, and interface between the two. There was virtual unanimity: Nearly everyone agreed that a digital processor accounts for about 50% of a digital source's sound quality, the transport 30%, and interface 20%.
Corey Greenberg  |  Aug 29, 1998  |  First Published: Aug 29, 1992  |  0 comments
I think I've finally figured out the secret of Stereophile's success. You, cherished reader, don't read this mag because it's chock full o' reviews of tantalizing audio gear (even though it is). And you don't read this mag because JA and RL strive so hard to keep the literary quotient as hi as the fi (even though they do). And I know you don't read this mag cuz trusting yer own sensory input is a mighty scary proposition indeed so you look to Stereophile as to a Holy Bible that eases your Earthly burden by telling you, Ah say Ah say TAILING YEW what to buy (do you?).
Robert Harley  |  Feb 08, 2010  |  First Published: Aug 08, 1992  |  0 comments
"A reasonable man adapts himself to the world around him. An unreasonable man expects the world to adapt to him. All progress, therefore, is made by unreasonable men."
Corey Greenberg  |  Apr 17, 2014  |  First Published: Mar 01, 1992  |  1 comments
On the mantel sat a stuffed Culo snake from Nuevo Laredo, with a red rubber tongue in freeze-frame flick. Above the bookcase hung the mounted head of a wild poi dog, killed in self-defense in Sri Lanka with only a Phillips-head screwdriver. A table-lamp made from a shellac'd, puffed-up frog wearing a sombrero and playing the contrabassoon bathed the room in a soft cream glow.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Jul 11, 2014  |  First Published: Mar 01, 1992  |  0 comments
The letter we received was innocent enough. It asked for our recommendations on laserdisc combination players. You know, the ones that play all of your optical, laser-read entertainment, from CDs to videodiscs. Had the question been a verbal one, our answer would have begun with a long silence. As it was, we could only jot down a few generic references to features, followed by an admission that we had, collectively, no firsthand experience with these all-purpose devices. Only a few members of our staff have any interest in video stuff—monitors, surround-sound, and the like—among them J. Gordon Holt and yours truly.
Corey Greenberg  |  Feb 16, 2016  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1992  |  4 comments
The $800 JVC XL-Z1050TN 1050 is the Bitstream successor to JVC's popular 18-bit XL-Z1010, which got an enthusiastic thumbs-up from Robert Harley in April 1990 (Vol.13 No.4). Its styling is, in my opinion, much improved over the older player's, with the distinctive brushed-bronze finish of the rest of JVC's XL-Z line. The rear panel sports fixed and variable outputs (footnote 1), as well as Toslink optical and coaxial digital outputs. As with the 1010, the JVC features their proprietary K2 Interface, a circuit that reduces jitter by resampling the pulses with a short-duration gate just ahead of the single-bit JVC JCE-4501 DAC chip.
Corey Greenberg  |  Aug 03, 2017  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1992  |  0 comments
I'll give the Giant Japanese Conglomerates one thing: they build their CD players like Humvees. The Sony CDP-X555ES ($900) exudes pride in ownership; from the simulated-wood side panels to the copper-shielded chassis, the Sony is a very impressive-looking player. Typically, however, Sony chose to marry a very sophisticated digital section with what appears to be a standard mid-fi analog section featuring Texas Instruments 5532 dual op-amps, carbon composition resistors, and inexpensive electrolytic coupling caps. The 555ES has both fixed and variable outputs, and a Toslink optical output. There is no coaxial digital output.
Corey Greenberg  |  May 04, 2017  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1992  |  2 comments
While many of the "modded Philips" firms simply replace the plastic "Philips" or "Magnavox" logo with their own after completing all their internal circuit mojo, for the Sonographe SD-22 ($895), Conrad-Johnson goes quite a bit further by wrapping the stock plastic flimsy-luxe box with their own heavy metal skin, making for a much stronger and nonresonant chassis. Unlike many of the modkateers, C-J doesn't replace the fairly flimsy stock RCA jack assembly of the Philips machine; in my experience, this is one of the first things to go bad on such a unit, as the contact integrity is usually poor and gets worse. Replacing the RCA assembly with high-quality gold RCAs would've raised the price of the SD-22 another $50–100, but I think the long-term reliability might be worth it. The SD-22 has no digital-out jacks, only analog outputs.
Corey Greenberg  |  Feb 09, 2017  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1992  |  4 comments
One of my favorite parts of writing for Stereophile is reading all the heartfelt letters our readers take the time to write me. There's nothing I like better than to kick off my boots, stretch out on the futon-couch, and let the groovy love vibes just shine off the pages. Time doesn't always permit a reply, but for now...AS in MD: thanks! RP in CA: sure, why not? And SH in IN: I've tried that, but it chafed.
Robert Harley  |  Jan 28, 1995  |  First Published: Jan 28, 1992  |  0 comments
When the Compact Disc was first introduced nearly ten years ago, many were critical of the sound quality from this medium that promised "Perfect Sound Forever." To many sensitive listeners digital playback was a travesty that paled by comparison to even modestly priced turntable/arm/cartridge combinations. Ironically, those listeners who first praised CD sound have been forced to recant when confronted by the huge improvements in digital to analog conversion (and A/D conversion) seen in the past few years.
Robert Harley  |  Apr 17, 2015  |  First Published: Nov 01, 1991  |  4 comments
"In the fields of observation, chance favors only the mind that is prepared."

When Louis Pasteur uttered these words more than a hundred years ago, he must have speculated that they would apply equally well to future circumstances as to the events of his day. What he couldn't anticipate, however, was the technology to which his insight now seems so appropriate.

John Atkinson  |  Aug 24, 2011  |  First Published: Jun 01, 1991  |  0 comments
"I don't like Mondays!" sang Bob Geldof some years back, and I'm beginning to hate Mondays too. No, not for the obvious reason. You see, Monday is "hate-mail" day. Every day I get letters from Stereophile's readers. But for some reason known only to the mavens (or should that be Clavens?) of the US Postal Service, the ones pointing out my stupidity, dishonesty, and sheer incompetence as a human being arrive on Mondays.

For example: "Bits are bits, and it is therefore dishonest for Stereophile's writers to continue to insist that they can hear any differences between CD players or digital processors!" recently wrote an angry reader, canceling his subscription. (They always tell me they're going to cancel their subscription.) "Yeah, right!" thought I, having just sat through a comparative audition of, would you believe, digital data interconnects in Robert Harley's listening room. Some of the differences I heard were not trivial. They might even be audible in a blind listening test.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Dec 07, 2009  |  First Published: Jan 07, 1991  |  0 comments
The face was different, but the look was familiar. It should have been. The $2395 Aria Mk.III is a close cousin to the Aria II that I'd hung around with for about two years. Same sense of style, same heart of tubes. CAL Audio apparently made it what it is today, from the ground up. They even designed its transport and transport-drive circuitry in-house (footnote 1). In a high-end world which has gone increasingly to separate digital processors, CAL has been, up till now, a conspicuous holdout. They've only recently introduced their first outboard converter, and have in the past argued in favor of the all-in-one player. Something about reduced jitter from all the timing circuits being under one roof.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Feb 07, 2017  |  First Published: Jan 01, 1991  |  3 comments
The $499 NAD 5000 looks nothing like most inexpensive CD players. Its plastic trim doesn't look cheap. It doesn't look expensive either, but it certainly won't be embarrassed to show its face in polite company. The front panel is neatly arranged and easy to interpret and use. It's the smallest and lightest of the present company of players—the only obvious physical reflections of its low-budget heritage. Inside, however, NAD has done a lot to put your money where it counts.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Oct 20, 2016  |  First Published: Jan 01, 1991  |  3 comments
With Sony's latest flagship single-box player ($1700), we find yet another variant on 1-bit D/A technology—High Density Linear Converter, or HDLC. At the heart of this Pulse Length Modulation (footnote 1) D/A technique is Sony's CXD-2552 Pulse D/A converter (two per channel in complementary mode in the CDP-X77ES). This complex LSI chip incorporates a third-order noise shaper, the PLM converter, and a digital sync circuit receiving its input from the system clock.

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