Disc Players

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Paul Miller  |  Apr 05, 2009
So you want to enjoy the best that Blu-ray has to offer but you’re loathe to part with that ‘legacy’ AV receiver, a fine-sounding and perfectly serviceable multichannel amplifier but one that pre-dates HDMI connectivity? Thanks to Pioneer’s flagship BDP-LX91, your options just got broader. You see this is one of the very first BD players with sufficient on-board processing power to decode both Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. It’s also one of the first to offer a full 7. 1 channel analogue output – perfect for direct and unencumbered connection to the multichannel analogue inputs of that treasured AV amplifier.
Dave Berriman & Paul Miller  |  Apr 05, 2009
Bel Canto’s little CD-2 strikes an ultra-minimal pose, with its diminutive green display, single rotary knob, brushed solid aluminium front panel and top-loading mechanism. The digital display shows the track number but precious little else, just a pause or play symbol alongside it, but pressing ‘Time’ on the handset, while in play or pause, shows the track time played. The player is more versatile than it seems: the secret lies in the remote handset, which controls or sets everything. The CD-2 can be used without a preamp, as it has a built-in volume control, which can be operated either by the rotary knob, while in ‘Stop’ or ‘Play’ mode, or from the handset.
Ken Kessler & Paul Miller  |  Mar 05, 2009
Though CD players now bear a whiff of fin de siècle, this is a ‘golden age’ for silver discs. Despite sales pointing to CD’s demise, some of us still prefer CD to downloads and servers. Ironically, recent gems from Nagra, dCS and others recall the raft of sublime turntables of the late 1980s. Perhaps 10 years hence, CD will be to downloads what vinyl is to CD.
Richard Stevenson & Paul Miller  |  Mar 05, 2009
Just occasionally very creative people can pair two otherwise completely incongruous items and come up with something truly special. Take strawberries and cream: who would have thought mixing a ground fruit with the soured milk of a lactating mammal would sire an international tennis tournament and two weeks of eastern European girls running around in short skirts? Marvellous. But an SACD player with a traditionally video-centric HDMI connection? I’m not so sure. The reason is multichannel SACD audio and getting that data to an external DAC with almost zero jitter.
Paul Miller  |  Mar 05, 2009
If CES 2008 sounded a warning shot across, if not into the bows of the HD DVD fleet then there was always the consolation that its players were, on the whole, far cheaper than their Blu-ray competition while boasting full compatibility with both the software-driven and web-enabled functionality of its discs. Not all Blu-ray players can currently promise that. Sony’s BDP-S300 is one of those players that neither fully conforms to the BD1. 1 video profile (which means that picture-in-picture, ‘Blu-Scape’ games and other bonus features may not function wholly as intended) nor deliver Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio bitstreams over its HDMI 1.
Andrew Harrison & Paul Miller  |  Feb 05, 2009
It’s always heartening to find a product that gives a taste of high-end sound performance at a realistic price. And if that’s a giveaway to the outcome of this CD player’s all-important listening tests, so be it. Before we get there though, it’s worth looking over the mechanics of what’s on offer here. Like other products in the company’s range such as the entry-level AT3000 CD player and the pre/power amplifers, the AT3500 is built around a sturdy metal chassis with extruded alloy side panels with a heavy-gauge top plate.
Ken Kessler & Paul Miller  |  Jan 05, 2009
Canny audio manufacturers never seem to run out of new takes on old formats. Because of such lateral thinking, the humble and now familiar CD has weathered (easily) a few dozen silver disc variations, up to and including SACD and DVD-A, which achieved minimal market penetration. Leema’s equivalent of CD Viagra is to add so many DACs that you have to marvel not at the technological achievement, but at the price: the updated Stream still sells for under £1200. As the company puts it, ‘Sixteen 24-bit/192kHz multi-bit Delta-Sigma converters are used in Leema’s unique MD2 Active Differential Multi-DAC to produce an incredibly real and tactile musical performance with almost no noise and distortion.
John Bamford & Paul Miller  |  Jan 05, 2009
With its design team headed up by Dominique Giner, Metronome Technologie is a French high-end audio company founded in 1987. Alongside world famous hi-fi marques such as Koetsu, Audio Research, Krell Industries and Sonus faber, Metronome’s products are imported and distributed in the UK by Absolute Sounds of south-west London. Recent visitors to hi-fi shows at Heathrow may have come across Metronome’s magnificent Kalista Reference CD transport with matching C2A two-box DAC making sublime music in one of Absolute Sounds’ ‘Absolute Studio’ demonstrations, partnered with DarTZeel amplification and Magico speakers. While Metronome produces some slightly more ‘real world’ CD spinners such as the CD3 Signature (a mere £6900 for the transport), the Kalista line-up represents Metronome’s no-holds-barred statement products.
Ken Kessler & Paul Miller  |  Jan 05, 2009
It amuses me immeasurably that there’s a flood of new high-end CD players when the format is under serious threat. Even that über-geek bible, Wired, recently ran a blog titled ‘Vinyl May Be Final Nail in CD’s Coffin’ – rich stuff coming from the most digitised read on earth. So, are audiophiles now being implored to buy our ‘final’ CD players? In the face of MP3, high-def discs and other threats, there are still billions of CDs out there. And I can tell you right now that many of us will not be replacing our collections again.
Ken Kessler & Paul Miller  |  Jan 05, 2009
Predisposed as I am toward Nagra, the long-awaited CD player presents a quandary: Although this brand has a hold on my heart – I would gladly live forever with their valve electronics – I am increasingly distressed by the ever-spiralling pricing of high-end audio. Nagra, being both Swiss and high-end, is as guilty as any of widening the chasm between reality and sanity. £8500 for any CD player is to take the mickey. Yet something so ‘right’ about the wee Nagra CDP almost makes me want to forgive the pricing.
Andrew Harrison & Paul Miller  |  Jan 05, 2009
Italian hybrid amplifier specialist Pathos Acoustic unveiled its first CD player last year, the stylish Endorphin top-loader and has now already followed it up with a lower-priced alternative. Now while no-one could mistake the new Digit in its shoebox aspect case for the sci-fi statement of the Endorphin, Pathos says that the two CD players share the same technology inside, with the differences between them limited to the transport mechanism and the power supply. The Digit is designed to sit alongside the similarly-proportioned Classic One integrated amplifier, itself a more affordable version of the company’s more extended range of high-end valve/solid-state hybrid amplifiers. It’s a cleaner design than the Classic amp, though, without any bright red capacitors or transformer to populate the top board, nor the figured wood frontispiece.
Christopher Breunig & Paul Miller  |  Jan 05, 2009
Named after the ‘Bringer of Old Age’, the Saturn builds on the strengths of the outwardly identical Apollo reviewed in February 2007. Both come in black or silver sculpted aluminium casework. Here, improvements have been made to transport, master clock, analogue conversion and power supplies. With a 435 x 270mm footprint (wd), the player needs a minimum height clearance of 180mm to allow the damped lid to lift – it angles back as it is raised.

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