Thursday, August 25, 2005

Simaudio Moon Andromeda and dCS P8i

Source: Haute Fidelite September 2005

Actually this was not an head-to-head shoot-out of two players. The HF tested both players using different reviewers, but the same rig consisting of ATC SCA-2 pre-amp, FM Acoustics F-30 B amp and Pierre-Etienne Leon Kyoro speakers. BTW, especially in France FM Acoustics brand still enjoys quite a mystical reputation.

Moon Andromeda Redbook CD player is part of brand's new Evolution series, other components in the series are P-8 pre-amp and W-8 power amplifier. The HF review confirmed what can be observed from the pictures in manufacturer's Web-site - this cost-no-object, two-chassis player is built like a tank and looks and feels worth of its retail price of €€13.950 (no typo). Other interesting design note is upsampling up to 24-bit/705.6kHz. Reviewer Monsieur C.H. Lucy was exhilarated: "When listening Corsican polyphonies I was transported on the precipitous coastal roads of Isle Of Beauty. The intoxicating and captivating timbers were reproduced with sensation of spaciousness, air, subtleties of harmonic tonality and deep soudstage uncommon for any other competitive player." His listening notes describe extensively the subjective charasteristics of Andromeda: the ease and liquidity of sound and a remarkable subtlety in reproducing the variety of shadings from each instruments. He wrapped up poetically. "The result of listening can be summarized as appearance of three dimensional universe, intimate, sensuous, tactile, futuristic, zen, baroque." Ah, the way Les Francais can describe sound of audio equipment ;)

As for dCS P8i, the review left me at a loss. Although review had some 2 pages of technical information about P8i, the actual listening notes didn't make any refernce to its SACD performance, nor was in-built digital volume control evaluated. Strange. What I could establish was that P-8i is highly capable (CD?) player, but as said, not the best review. Stereophile has on-line Art Dudley's January 2005 review of dCS Verdi La Scala CD/SACD transport and Delius D/A converter, which hint that single chassis P-8i should sound pretty phenomenal.

Viewpoint: Even if you have financial means to buy a CD/SACD player costing over €10.000, value should be a basic factor in evaluating it. Truthfully, most audiophiles expect (and hope?) not to hear an appreciable difference between their existing Redbook CD only players and the latest generation of high-end multi-format players. Or if they hear a difference, it would be so incremental that a new player could not justify the high price. Personally, I assign a higher priority to CD-playback than for new formats per se, for a simple reason that I have no intention to re-purchase yet another copy (whether it is in DVD-A or SACD) of disks I already own. Having said that, some DVD-A demos have left me convinced about that format, and similarly all SACD demos have left me wondering what the fuss is all about. And yet trend seems to be that future high-end playback system shall be either traditional two-channel hifi components utilizing DSD (think dCS or EMM Labs) or computer based with external DAC. As for the latter, in the September 2005 Stereophile Art Dudley did a good job in evaluating Wavelenght Audio's Brick DAC with a portable computer and uncompressed music.

As an IT professional I'm OK with computer based approach, but what I would like to see are i) audiophile grade downloads, ii) capability to rip and store DSD data on a computer's hard-disk and output it to external DAC, and iii) Digital Rights Management and copy protection methods that work. The latter is annoying, e.g. copy protection used in Blue Note Records Rudy Van Gelder (RVG) Series CDs results in audiple cracks when ripped into iTunes, and also create occasional read errors in my Levinson CD-player and CEC transport. You see the logic here, i.e. re-mastered jazz classics are typically bought by the audiophiles exactly for the reason that they sound great, and yet the copy protection system prevents them to be used in high-end playback systems. Overall, whole DVD-A/SACD roll-out and marketing mess and aforementioned example of record companies annoying their best customers (read audiophiles) really makes me wonder from where they find their "management talent".

Search Popdex: