- Written by John E. Johnson, Jr.
- Published on 19 April 2010
I tested the MCD500 with a BAT VK-5i preamplifier, McIntosh MC1201 power amplifiers, and Carver Amazing Mark IV ribbon speakers. Cables were Legenburg and Emotiva. I used the XLR balanced connections for all the components in the signal chain.
Hiromi's Brain SACD is a masterpiece not only of music and performance, but also the recording engineering. It has a combination of electronic synth music and acoustical instruments. I switched back and forth between the CD layer and SACD layer and listened for the differences. Basically, the CD version was more "in my face" than the SACD version, which had a very smooth, silky texture. But, the in-my-face sound was not harsh or edgy, it was simply more up front.
The difference was quite noticeable, probably because the recording has some intense high frequency electronic sounds. In this particular case, I think I preferred the CD version, probably because at my age, I don't hear high frequencies like I did when I was young, and the smoother sound of the SACD seems to have less "presence". But, that is my ears, not the SACD. A younger person with full spectrum hearing very well may prefer the sound of the SACD. It's nice to have a choice, with both versions sounding terrific. In fact, I have never heard CD sound any better than with the MCD500.
When I put Dukas' La Peri in the player, at first, I had to check the cover art to make sure I wasn't listening to an SACD. The first few notes of the overture were so much more detailed than I had heard before, I was shocked that it was coming from a CD.
Human voices are always an appropriate test for any audio component, so I used two of my favorite albums, shown below. The sound quality was marvelous. Not too hot, not too cold. Just right.