Disc Players

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Paul Miller  |  Nov 19, 2011
Swiss player combines SACD replay, digital inputs and sumptuous aesthetics to great effect The new 540 SACD ‘Digital Player’, a snip by Soulution standards at £17,850, benefits from the trickle-down of technology from its flagship 745 model. Finish is sumptuous, and the curved edges of top panel and front fascia combine to soften the 540’s physical presence, making it disappear more than most big hi-fi boxes, leaving one to focus on a single rotary dial, a meagre trio of buttons and a slender disc drawer. Screw heads, heatsinks, logos, etc are absent. Digital inputs include coaxial, optical and balanced connections which can all handle incoming data up to 192kHz/24-bit.
Paul Miller  |  Nov 19, 2011
SACD capability and a clever variable output make the McIntosh a strong performer The SACD won’t go away because enough of us realise that it sounds fabulous. It still has an important market in Japan, and supporters in unlikely places which keep the software flowing. McIntosh is one: as traditional a manufacturer as you can name, and not tempted towards controversy. Mac’s approach to SACD is almost matter-of-fact: it eschews 5.
Paul Miller  |  Nov 19, 2011
The latest Evolution drops SACD to focus on CD Krell’s first non-amplification component was the SBP 64X DAC. Twenty-two years on we have this high-end player, following on from the Evolution 505 but this time it doesn’t play SACDs. The two look pretty much the same: the front panel layout is virtually unchanged, although the transport drawer is replaced here by a disc loading slot. Above this is a bold, blue-lit dot matrix display.
Ed Selley  |  Nov 17, 2011
How does the original CD player stand up nearly thirty years after its introduction? It was in March 1983 that the compact disc system officially arrived in Europe. With it came the first European-made CD player, the top-loading Philips CD100. Four years before, in March 1979, Philips had given a first press demonstration of a Compact Disc player prototype, using 14-bit digital encoding. Philips was already marketing 30cm video discs but believed that there should be a separate, smaller disc format for audio.
Ed Selley  |  Nov 16, 2011
A heady combination of state of art digital and a valve output results in impressive performance A DAC that offer non oversampling (NOS) output options alongside conventionally filtered ones is a rarity, making the AMR CD-777 – which is both CD player and outboard DAC – an unusual beast indeed. In fact it offers two NOS options, called Direct Mastering I and Direct Mastering II, two oversampling modes, 2x and 4x, and two upsampling modes, to 96kHz or 192kHz. The CD-777’s top plate incorporates the CD mechanism under a sliding panel; a small magnetic puck holds the disc firmly. To either side are ventilation slots.
Ed Selley  |  Jul 08, 2011
Well thought out and far more than simply a 'budget' product Designed by The Audio Partnership in central London and manufactured in large volumes in the Far East for distribution worldwide (including an exclusive deal with Richer Sounds in the UK), Cambridge Audio products have become synonymous with good performance at a competitive price. The Azur component range was revamped substantially a couple of years ago. Soon after its introduction we featured this Azur 650C player alongside its partnering 650A integrated amplifier in our Nov ’09 Group Test. To recap, while a bit more expensive than the 640 models they replaced, they featured a fresh-up and wholly improved design with wrap-around casework and substantial alloy fascias that belied their (still modest) price tags.
Ed Selley  |  Jul 08, 2011
A sophisticated design with many likeable features Although the most affordable player in this Canadian specialist’s Moon range of components, the CD. 5 nevertheless is a solidly built machine with a sculpted front panel and sturdy metal casework enhanced by fluted detailing in the side cheeks. Its PCB has pure copper tracings and gold plating, and while the digital and analogue audio circuits are mounted on a single circuit board the company is at pains to point out that is in order to minimise signal path lengths – and each has its own respective ground plane to reduce interference and signal degradation. Simaudio claims its proprietary CD drive system comprises hardware and software developed in-house, while the DAC employed is a 24-bit/192kHz-capable Burr-Brown PCM1793 with 8x oversampling digital filter.
Ed Selley  |  Jul 08, 2011
A svelte Swede with performance to back up the looks Replacing the CD31, this new CD32 has been designed alongside the I32 integrated Class D amplifier [HFN Jun ’11]. Sweden’s Primare company has always had an eye for handsome design and while the appearance of these latest 32 models is broadly the same as the products they supersede, each component has been enhanced by the inclusion of a white-coloured, variable-brightness organic electroluminescent display (OLED) panel that adds real finesse. The CD32 is housed in an alloy/steel chassis and is beautifully finished; balanced outputs match the balanced inputs of its partnering amplifier. Separate PCB modules featuring SMDs are used to isolate signal paths while keeping them as short as possible, a regulated power supply employing an R-core transformer with separate windings for mechanical, analogue and digital audio circuits, while a separate switch mode supply powers the player’s microprocessor.
Ed Selley  |  Jul 08, 2011
The Danish brand continues to be as unconventional in sound as appearance Danish company Densen has updated its top CD player, the Beat 440, to include a coaxial digital input, so that its internal D-to-A converter and output stage can be used for an external source ‘like a Sonus system, a Squeezebox or another digital source’, to quote the company’s recent announcement of this latest B-440XS model. Despite its slim profile and svelte cosmetic design, the player is quite a heavyweight at 8kg. Under the brushed aluminium casing its regulated power supply employs a 300VA transformer alongside substantial reservoir capacitors. Densen states that the digital and analogue stages, microprocessors, and front panel dot matrix display all have individual supply arrangements designed to avoid interference.
John Bamford and Paul Miller  |  Jun 08, 2011
Rugged construction, distinctive cosmetic design and the inclusion of a valve output stage combine to make this luxurious CD player stand out from the crowd Ever since the introduction of the compact disc format – the early 1980s, if you can remember so far back – audio perfectionists have argued there’s something ‘not quite right’ about the fidelity of sound it produces. The fact is, despite CD’s finite resolution capability, we’ve all got at least a few discs in our collections that blow our socks off. Wouldn’t you agree? Nevertheless, to tweak its sound, to ensure that CDs sounded more organic and less matter-of-fact, specialist manufacturers far and wide have long experimented with various digital filter implementations and designed proprietary analogue output stages for their players in an attempt to sweeten the sound of what analogue lovers disparagingly refer to as ‘digititus’. The first to make a CD spinner with high-end pretentions that employed valves in its output stage was California Audio Labs.
Ken Kessler and Paul Miller  |  Mar 10, 2011
A CD player with a valve displayed in the front panel: Luxman references its own past for the D-38u, a machine that oozes retro, right down to its chunky wooden sleeve Compact Disc was only launched in 1982/3, which – though its demise is perhaps now in sight – doesn’t seem that long ago. Yet here is Luxman with a player that is decidedly two-channel-only, its digital outputs are limited to coaxial and Toslink optical, it arrives with a wooden case, and it features a design touch that refers directly to one of its ancestors. If that’s not retro, what is? But Luxman, cleverly, has never been shoehorned into a genre, having excelled in every area save speaker manufacture. Its amps have a cult following, as did the vacuum-hold-down turntables, and the company always delivered decent CD players.
Paul Miller  |  Oct 14, 2010
It is no longer sufficient to offer a mere CD player, or even a CD/SACD player when time comes to tempt the well-heeled and digitally-inclined audiophile. Instead, the modern disc spinner must also service a wide range of alternative and necessarily higher resolution digital sources. Machines like the Chapter Audio Sonnet-S featured here are better described as flexible outboard DACs equipped with a mechanism to support the 16-bit granddaddy of all 5in discs. The CD player is dead, long live the CD player.
Keith Howard & Paul Miller  |  Jul 16, 2010
The man with 16-bit ears, Barry Fox, is going to love this one: ‘the first true 32-bit fully asynchronous digital audio playback system’, otherwise known as the Simaudio Moon 750D. More of this anon. For now it’s enough to appreciate this flagship product encompasses both CD player and DAC, replete with digital outputs and inputs to service existing digital separates. When you free the 750D from its packaging the first thing you notice is its reassuringly solid construction.
Paul Miller  |  Jun 16, 2010
So far there’s been no answer from Yamaha, Pioneer or Sony to the universal Blu-ray behemoths launched by Denon and Marantz. Since they were exclusively reviewed inHi-Fi News [Oct ’09 and Dec ’09], the £4500 DVD-A1UD and £5000 UD9004 have only been joined by slightly cheaper variants from the same stable. Although Marantz’s £2450 UD8004 could hardly be described as ‘cheap’. Instead, the first truly entry-level universal disc player has been launched from leftfield, from where no-one was looking – courtesy of the restless but hugely talented engineering team at Cambridge Audio.
Keith Howard & Paul Miller  |  Jun 14, 2010
From almost anybody else, the launch of a new outboard DAC would rate as one of the audio industry’s more mundane events. But a DAC from Naim Audio – called, yes, the Naim DAC – is a development of more moment. Not so much for what it is but because it unravels what was, until now, one of the marque’s design dogmas. Naim was late to the digital audio party, launching its first CD player in 1991, almost a decade after Compact Disc’s arrival.

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