Disc Players

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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.
Keith Howard & Paul Miller  |  Feb 16, 2010
Odd timing, you may think. As SACD and DVD-A celebrate – if that’s the word – a decade of underachievement as CD’s putative successor(s), with DVD-A now moribund and SACD reduced to the status of a niche music carrier, Mark Levinson releases its first CD/SACD player. Not a universal player, note – the No512 has no truck with music on DVD-V or DVD-A, let alone BD – nor even one able to unlock the full potential of multichannel SACDs, since it is stereo only. Ironically, Mark Levinson the man, as opposed to Mark Levinson the company (with which he has had no association for many years), has long been a vocal advocate of SACD, but only now does a product bearing his name support the format that, in the interim, has become a cul-de-sac in audio’s tree of life.
Paul Miller  |  Dec 16, 2009
It’s not a coincidence that the second ‘universal’ CD/SACD/DVD-A/BD disc player on the market is from Marantz, the first hailing from Denon in the form of its revolutionary DVD-A1UD [HFN, Oct ’09]. Industry watchers will already know that Denon and Marantz both come under the umbrella of D&M Holdings [see boxout, p37] and that certain core technologies are shared – but only to a point. So let’s be clear at the outset: the £5000 UD9004 is not simply one of Denon’s £4500 DVD-A1UD players housed in black Marantz livery. And what finery, Marantz relocating the litany of logos that underlines Denon’s fascia to its top surface for a more sober facade clearly modelled on its exclusive KI Pearl series [HFN, Sept ’09].
John Bamford & Paul Miller  |  Nov 05, 2009
Audiophile jewellery for the home’ is how Chord Electronics’ founder and CEO John Franks describes the company’s ‘Brilliant’ finish option available for its less costly – but still reassuringly expensive – Choral Series components. It’s an apt description sure enough, pretty much all of the brand’s products exhibiting a quality of fit and finish that is nothing short of immaculate. Nevertheless to describe them as somewhat ‘macho’ would be a considerable understatement. As our own Ken Kessler said in his description of Chord’s original RED Reference player [HFN Jan ’08], ‘… it oozes Chord-ness – that over-engineered, Terminator-meets-Rolex look’.
Steve Harris & Paul Miller  |  Nov 05, 2009
But that would take millions of tubes!’ said a puzzled high-end distributor back in 1986, on first hearing that an American company had launched a valve CD player. He’d have been right, if anyone had really envisaged replacing all the player’s integrated circuits with glowing bottles. It turned out, of course, that California Audio Labs had just added a tube analogue output stage, with gentle passive filtering, to an otherwise conventional player. The CAL Tempest was the first of more than few.
John Bamford & Paul Miller  |  Oct 05, 2009
It’s a fact that McIntosh gear has never been hugely popular this side of the Atlantic as its bold, retro styling appeals only to a minority of European consumers today. If you’re trying to integrate a high quality music system discreetly into a family-friendly living room it’s unlikely you’ll be shopping for a McIntosh. Which is something of a preamble to make the point that McIntosh’s latest MCD301 CD player is every bit a ‘big Mac’, sporting the marque’s traditional livery and looking as ‘macho’ as ever. It’s as American as a Hummer or a Harley alright.
Paul Miller  |  Oct 05, 2009
Convergence between national markets is fueling the development of new, one-size-fits-all AV products at an unprecedented pace, often reducing shelf life to a few short months. New BD players are a case in point. Such is the pace of technology, and the scramble to patch both HDMI and Profile standards, that no sooner had we completed our review of Panasonic’s DMP-BD30 Blu-ray player than its replacement, the DMP-BD50, was announced. So one review was shelved and another immediately instigated.
John Bamford & Paul Miller  |  Sep 05, 2009
One of my less endearing traits, of which I have several according to my long-suffering wife, is that I’m inclined to show off now and again. So when chatting to an acquaintance on the telephone recently I simply couldn’t resist dropping into the conversation that my living room was currently ‘cluttered’ by two outrageously expensive CD players: the £8000 Wadia 381i [see HFN July ’09] and the new £10,000 Oracle CD2500 MkII. Moreover I was going to have to spend several days listening to music on them, using the familiar Wadia as a point of reference, and subsequently write a critique on Oracle’s new baby. Such is a reviewer’s lot.
Keith Howard & Paul Miller  |  Aug 05, 2009
An all too real fissure is developing within the specialist audio industry between those who embrace the emerging paradigm of hi-res music downloads and those who view the whole development, and the role of computer audio in general, with suspicion. Well, here’s a product that bridges the divide. The PS Audio PerfectWave Transport and DAC can – or rather, soon will – meld optical disc replay with the streaming of audio files in a way that will quickly seem natural to anyone familiar with conventional audio components. Actually, each is a stand-alone unit that can be used without the other, but only when they are combined are all their features exploitable.
John Bamford & Paul Miller  |  Aug 05, 2009
There’s something about the look of Wadia components that says, ‘This is mighty serious’. It goes without saying that at £6500 – which is a pretty penny for an integrated player – the 381 is indeed a serious piece of work. But then Wadia CD transports and DACs (and players) have always cost top dollar, much like the products from those cutting-edge British digital specialists dCS. So this is actually Wadia’s ‘budget’ offering, a cost-down version of the £9800 581se CD/SACD player.
Ken Kessler & Paul Miller  |  Aug 05, 2009
However hard they may try, proponents of multichannel music are not going to convince certain audiophiles that anything more than just two channels are needed for sonic bliss. Canadian company Classé, a manufacturer that also produces multichannel players, has taken the decision to produce a top-end two-channel-only CD player – despite its internals employing multichannel components. What it has done, in a breathtaking display of lateral thinking, is force-feed all this capacity into optimised stereo playback. As a result, the CDP-202 has odd capabilities, such as DVD-Audio playback mixed down to stereo, and you can – if you’re the sort who doesn’t object to watching a feature film on a mobile phone – view a video DVD on its front-panel LCD control panel.

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