Kalista DreamPlay XC CD/SACD Network Player Page 2

More consistent, however, was my preference for using the DreamPlay XC merely as a player/streamer, rather than invoking its digital volume control in preamp mode. Here I found the sound softer and a shade less dynamic, so I stuck with the fixed output. Metronome/Kalista's suggested control app is ConversDigital's familiar mConnect running on a tablet or smartphone. I also used several other UPnP packages on a tablet and computer with no problems whatsoever.

Nevertheless, my early sessions with the DreamPlay XC involved spinning more than a few CDs and SACDs – something of a nostalgic experience, given that so much of my music these days is stored on my servers. The DreamPlay XC proved simple to use, with snappy disc-loading and access times with both kinds of disc, and an easy pushbutton layer-switch for hybrid discs via the remote handset.

Loading up Frankie Goes To Hollywood's Rage Hard: The Sonic Collection [ZTT ZTT177SACD] and playing 'Welcome To The Pleasuredome', I was impressed by the detailed handling of the track's opening, with its ambient birdsong effects, but slightly less enamoured of the pounding beats of the main section of the track. There was bags of information here, but the pace was tempered – the drama of Trevor Horn's thundering production restrained rather than relentless.


Rear of the Elektra PSU has separate outputs for the transport and DAC sections of the DreamPlay XC

The player was seemingly much more at home with one of the mainstays of the early days of CD – Dire Straits' Brothers In Arms both from my original 'free with a CD player' 1985 CD copy [Vertigo 824 499-2] and the 2005 remastered 20th anniversary SACD [Vertigo 9871497]. The added clarity, impact and detail of the CD layer of the remastered disc was built upon when switching to SACD, but even the original sounded crisp and clean via the DreamPlay XC. That was true whether with all seven minutes of 'Money For Nothing', which bounced along impressively with good clarity in the rhythm section behind that trademark Knopfler guitar sound, or the more contemplative title track closing the set, which saw this French disc player doing a fine job both with the husky vocal and the guitar solos.

Superior SACD
The detailed sound of the player is also well suited to the Dunedin Consort's 2018 'small ensemble' recording of Bach's St John Passion on SACD [CKD 419]: again, the Super Audio layer brings out more of the sense of space in the acoustic, and especially in director John Butt's solo keyboard additions framing the main work. But the sound here is a little darker, and arguably a little less free-breathing, than I am used to, whether comparing the DreamPlay XC's disc playback or its streaming capabilities. This doesn't detract from the very fine way the player handles the textures of the instruments and voices, but in some systems it might diminish the sense of drama in the performance, and the feeling of a liturgical event the recording usually conjures up.

For all that, this is a balance many will surely find exceptionally pleasing for the DreamPlay XC is never anything other than big, rich and generous in the way it plays music, whether that's from disc, network stores, USB or even online streams. Indeed, it even sounds rather special when playing concerts from Radio 3's Internet stream. On more than one occasion I dropped into the beginning of the channel's Afternoon Concert strand and found myself still contentedly listening when the programme ended a couple of hours later.


The 'fully loaded' DreamPlay XC has two PSU inputs, wired/wireless network ins, a USB-A port for external drives (and one for service) plus digital outs on HDMI (I2S), XLR (AES/EBU) and coax (S/PDIF). Fixed/variable analogue outs are on RCAs and XLRs

As I mentioned earlier about these streaming services, they may not offer the sheer quality available elsewhere, but they're a useful function to have – in the case of vTuner, it's free music after all, and a lot of it from around the world – and the DreamPlay XC delivers it in a consistently enjoyable fashion. Radio 3's stream may only be 320kbps AAC at best, but the music still communicates well via this player.

Push up into the DXD and DSD resolutions the DreamPlay XC supports via its network connection, and while that warmth and smoothness remains, the player is fully able to demonstrate the advantages of more data being moved to deliver the music. Play trumpeter Angelo Verploegen's relaxed When Night Falls set, a typically intimate recording from the Just Listen label [JL028; DSD256], and the result is a remarkably effective evocation of the three musicians – Ed Verhoeff on guitar and Eric van Der Westen on bass – just sitting down and playing together, recorded straight to DSD256. Yes, there are other network players that might bring out more of the studio ambience but very few will match the wonderful late-night cosiness going on via the DreamPlay XC, entirely befitting the gentle theme of these sessions.

Breaking Glass
Similarly, the 2021 Metropolitan Opera live recording of Philip Glass's Akhnaten [Orange Mountain Music, Bandcamp download; 48kHz/24-bit] packs quite a wallop in the hands of this player. It's heard in the repeating rhythms of the Prelude, the thundering ritualist percussion and deep voices of the funeral sequence opening Act 1, and also in the chimes and soaring duet of countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo and mezzo J'Nai Bridges in 'The Window Of Appearances'.


Partnering all-alloy remote offers direct track access, skip, search plus CD/SACD and digital input selection. Volume and menu are also accessible

In short, it all sounds gloriously unusual and extremely dramatic in its other-worldliness, a sentiment that might just as easily be extended to the visceral visual impact of the DreamPlay XC itself!

Hi-Fi News Verdict
Operational foibles aside, the DreamPlay XC looks and sounds every bit as 'dreamy' as we might have hoped. Maybe it's not quite the 'four in one' its manufacturer claims – the lack of external inputs beyond networking and USB counting against it as a preamp. Nevertheless, as a standalone player it is superb – the characterful sound matching those striking looks to produce a true statement machine.

Métronome Technologie
Supplied by: Airtaudio Ltd, Cambs, UK
01354 652566