CD Player/Transport Reviews

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Thomas J. Norton  |  Aug 25, 2010  |  First Published: Nov 25, 1996  |  2 comments
It's conventional wisdom among audiophiles: Small, high-end audio companies build high-quality products in small numbers. Products which are often expensive. But not always. Big mass-market companies build cookie-cutter products in big numbers. They're usually cheap. But not always.
John Atkinson  |  Oct 26, 1996  |  0 comments
If there is a component category that causes the "objectivists" in the audio community to splutter uncontrollably over their cups of herbal tea, it is the high-end CD transport. For in their "bits is bits" world, all a transport is required to do is recover the digital data from a disc—much like a grown-up cousin of your computer's $25 floppy-disk drive. The thought of paying up to $10,000 for something so humble—and, in their eyes, unnecessary—typifies what these blinkered folks regard as the insanity of the High End.
Robert J. Reina  |  Feb 27, 2005  |  First Published: Jun 27, 1996  |  0 comments
I have always been a dyed-in-the-wool vinyl fan, committed to the superiority of analog over current 44kHz/16-bit CD technology. Nevertheless, I have been surprised at how greatly the sound of CD has improved over the past 10 years. By 1994, digital had gotten much closer to analog than I had ever expected, which was a good thing, as 1994 also saw the disappearance of the LP as a medium for obtaining new releases of mainstream recordings. But over the last two years, I've noticed some interesting phenomena: More turntables, tonearms, and cartridges started to become available, at least in the high-end arena. Audiophiles and, to a lesser extent, segments of the general music-loving public, began clamoring for new vinyl releases. Specialty labels, such as Classic Records and Acoustic Sounds, started to reissue premium vinyl releases of classical, jazz, and pop classics at reasonable prices. And major labels again began to offer vinyl versions of major pop releases.
Robert Harley  |  Apr 10, 2005  |  First Published: Jun 10, 1996  |  1 comments
All the action in digital playback for the past seven years has taken place in separate transports and digital processors. Nearly all high-end manufacturers have focused their skills on perfecting the individual elements of the digital playback chain—transports and processors—rather than on designing integrated CD players.
Wes Phillips  |  Aug 07, 2005  |  First Published: Dec 07, 1995  |  0 comments
Walking through the circus that was WCES '95 was like undergoing total neural-synaptic overload. I felt hard-pressed to just keep my head above water separating good sound from bad. Trying to piece together a coherent picture of the show, I jotted down the components in the best systems that I'd heard, and a few items popped up with astonishing regularity. One of these was Audio Research's single-chassis CD player, the CD-1.
Robert Harley  |  Dec 13, 2019  |  First Published: Jun 01, 1995  |  7 comments
Making digital audio sound good appears to be a much more difficult job than its developers first realized. When digital audio was in its infancy, there was a tendency to think that digital either worked perfectly, or didn't work at all. This belief led the engineering community to devise ill-considered and flawed standards that affect the musical quality of digitally reproduced music today.
Dick Olsher  |  Dec 18, 2015  |  First Published: Jun 01, 1995  |  5 comments
In 1995, as the compact disc enters its second decade of commercial reality, it's fair to say that the associated hardware has come of age, exorcising at last the digital gremlins of time-base jitter and quantization noise. Digital-processor maturation is particularly evident in the design of the all-critical D/A processor. The simplistic digital circuitry of yesterday has given way to considerable design sophistication that deals directly with jitter and low-level nonlinearities.
Jonathan Scull  |  May 18, 1995  |  0 comments
Fantasy review time. I first heard about the C.E.C. TL 0 in the May '94 Stereophile (Vol.17 No.5), in Audio Mogul Richard Schram's Manufacturer's Comment to my review of the C.E.C. TL 1. I wasn't sure if he was kidding when he threatened the world with a cost-no-object $17,500 CD transport. Just what we all need!
Robert Harley  |  Apr 03, 2009  |  First Published: Apr 03, 1995  |  0 comments
The Krell KPS-20i (KPS stands for "Krell Playback System") is essentially a CD transport and digital processor in one chassis. What make the KPS-20i different from a CD player are the unit's five digital inputs, which allow the KPS-20i to function as a digital/analog converter for external digital sources.
Steven Stone  |  Apr 05, 2018  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1995  |  9 comments
The Greek myth of Odysseus has always been a favorite of mine. For an audiophile looking for a CD transcription system under $2500, it seems to be an especially appropriate metaphor. Almost all the units I've heard since CD's inception fall into one of two camps: the Sirens or the Rocks.

For those of you not up on your Greek mythology, the Sirens were the archetypal seductresses whose sweet songs lured sailors to drive their ships upon the rocks. Siren CD players are those that soften and sweeten the sound. Their primary purpose is to seduce, to give a false sense of comfort to their victims; their fidelity to the truth is secondary to their desire to elicit a positive emotional reaction.

Sam Tellig, Various  |  Jun 30, 1995  |  First Published: Jun 30, 1994  |  0 comments
"You are not going to believe this."
Robert Harley  |  Dec 04, 2010  |  First Published: Mar 15, 1994  |  0 comments

It seems to me that it should be possible to make a perfectly jitter-free CD transport without resorting to elaborate, expensive mechanical structures. This idealized transport would ignore all mechanical considerations of disc playback—vibration damping and isolation, for example—and simply put a jitter-free electrical driver at the transport output. If such a circuit could be made, it wouldn't care about how bad the signal recovered from the disc was (provided the recovered data were error-free). The circuit would just output a perfect, jitter-free S/PDIF signal. The result would be the sound quality of the $8500 Mark Levinson No.31 Reference CD transport in $200 machines. Such a scheme would provide an electrical solution to what has been considered largely a mechanical problem.

But back in the real world there's no doubt that attention to mechanical aspects of transport design affects sound quality. Examples abound: listening to Nakamichi's 1000 CD transport with its Acoustic Isolation door open and closed; playing the Mark Levinson No.31 with the top open; and putting any transport on isolation platforms or feet are only a few of the dozens of experiences I have had that suggest that mechanical design is of utmost importance.

Robert Harley  |  Nov 29, 2010  |  First Published: Jan 15, 1994  |  0 comments
So many things in this world are designed for convenience, not for excellence. That's all right if you have a choice, but it becomes a problem when products designed for convenience become universal standards and are thus foisted on everyone—including enthusiasts, who must then live with a product aimed at the lowest common denominator.

The digital interface between CD transports and digital processors is a perfect example of this dilemma. The Sony/Philips Digital Interface Format (S/PDIF) standard was designed so that connecting two digital products required only one cable. This single cable carries left and right audio channels as well as the timing clock essential to making the system work.

Robert Harley  |  Dec 08, 2015  |  First Published: Oct 01, 1993  |  0 comments
It's easy for reviewers to become jaded by the high prices of some audio products. We get the products in our listening rooms—albeit temporarily—without having to part with our own money. Consequently, we get enthusiastic about products that offer real breakthroughs without, perhaps, fully considering their cost.
Robert Harley  |  Jun 06, 2006  |  First Published: Jul 06, 1993  |  0 comments
I find it astonishing that two products built on completely opposing engineering principles can both have musical merit. Design goals exalted by one company are considered anathema by another, yet both components produce superb sonic results.

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