Audio Player Reviews

PS Audio PerfectWave Disc Transport

I was in a bind. CD and product reviews were due at multiple publications, and my Theta Carmen II transport's drive mechanism had failed. I may have bought the used unit directly from Theta Digital's founder and former owner, Neil Sinclair, but that couldn't change the fact that the Carmen II's defective drive was long out of production. With no spare parts available in at Theta's Southern California headquarters, I was in trouble. Paul McGowan came to my rescue by sending a PS Audio PerfectWave Disc Transport. And, wow, does this thing transport.

Bryston BDP-1 Music Server and BDA-1 DAC

Media servers usually contain a hard drive on which you store your music (ripped CDs). Bryston's new BDP-1 Music Server utililzes USB thumb drives or external USB hard drive. This way, you can carry your music around with you on a thumb drive and use with multiple devices to play the music. This music server is actually a computer with full operating system, and can be connected wirelessly to your iPod or iPad to choose and play albums. In fact, it really is designed to be used that way, so that the server itself can be a low profile component in your equipment rack. In this review, we test the BDP-1 along with Bryston's BDA-1 DAC, which is capable of handling 24/192 bitstreams.

Olive O4HD Music Server

Olive Media, Inc. has been in the business of digital music since it was started by Dr. Oliver Bergmann and Robert Altmann back in 2005. I have admired the Olive products for many years and had the opportunity to visit with Robert Altmann at CES 2011 this past January. I really appreciated his introduction to their products and I was especially impressed with his love of music. We recently reviewed the Olive 03HD, and here, we cover the 04HD.

Olive 03HD Music Server

Of all the gear that I reviewed last year, my favorite component by far was the Squeezebox Touch. Having instant access to all of my music, and high resolution downloads, was just a fantastic thing that led me to listen to far more, and varied, music that before. However, the one thing I always said about the Touch is that while I loved it, I wasn't going to buy one for my Dad since I'd have to install a PC server component, or hook up an external hard drive that I'd have to keep ripping his music to for him. For him, a simple, all-in-one solution would be what I would want.

Audiolab 8200CDQ CD Player with Built-In Preamplifier

Early adopters live in a world of potential. We latch on to a new paradigm shift significantly ahead of the adoption curve. As such, we're often saddled with legacy methodology or products. Solutions are never simple or straight forward. We push ahead and often have to improvise. Eventually the mass marketplace catches up and products appear addressing our needs. Audiolab markets a CD player called the 8200CD. The 8200CDQ, reviewed here, also contains a built-in preamplifier that can deliver 4 volts RMS through its fully balanced outputs. This eliminates signal loss in cables that would normally connect a CD player's outputs to the preamplifier.

Nixeus Fusion HD Digital Player (Multi-media Streamer)

It seems only appropriate that I follow my recent review of the Apple TV with a look at another digital player, the Nixeus Fusion HD. This product is another example of a multi-media streaming device. It has the ability to play back a wide variety of formats for video, still photos, and audio. To this it adds Internet functionality in the form of a web browser plus access to services like YouTube and Flickr. It also offers file management in the form of BitTorrent and easy connectivity with your networked computers via Ethernet or WiFi.

Cary Audio Design CD-500 CD Player

Every so often I get to review a product that sets itself apart from the "other guy" stuff. You know, the mass produced stuff that we often see in the brick-and-mortar stores. The special products are ones that are intelligently designed and built to exacting standards. It's sort of like comparing a Mercedes to a Chevy. Nothing wrong with a Chevy, but just slamming the door on the Mercedes can make you go, "Whoa! Now that's quality"! In this review, we cover the Cary Audio Design CD-500 CD Player.

Marantz NA7004 Network Music Streamer

Almost every manufacturer these days is including some type of network support in their products. From receivers that connect to home music servers and disc players that stream music and video from the internet, we have lots of options for enjoying content with our home entertainment systems. While Marantz has been including network support in their products for a while, they have not offered a stand-alone network streamer until now: The NA7004 streams music from your computer, the Internet, and even USB thumb drives.

Second-Generation Apple TV Media Streamer

Ever since Louis Daguerre took the first photograph and Thomas Edison lowered the needle on the first phonograph, media has been a part of our lives. The reproduction of still and moving images and sound is an art form that we are unlikely to see the zenith of in our lifetimes. Since the early part of the twentieth century, sound and video reproduction usually came in the form of magnetic tape, film or vinyl records. Now with the proliferation of digital storage methods, evolution has accelerated. The Apple TV second generation media streamer tosses the hard drive storage from first generation model. What does it add? Read our review to see for yourself . . . .

Sony SCD-XA5400ES SACD Player

Sony originally came out with the SACD format in 1999. Unfortunately for those of us that invested in the format, mass market support never really came around, though in the audiophile community the format still thrives. The SCD-XA5400ES is one of Sony's latest iterations, and is their current reference model.

Marantz SA-KI Pearl SACD player

The Marantz tradition has always been about enjoying music. The Marantz SA-KI Pearl is a limited-edition SACD player from the Marantz Reference Series product line. The "KI" in the product name refers to Ken Ishiwata, who is the actual designer of the SA-KI Pearl. Ken Ishiwata has an impressive biography. He fell in love with music as a young man. He pursued a career in fashion photography following in the footsteps of his father. In the late 1970's, Mr. Ishiwata started his career with Marantz. Today, he is an accomplished violinist, audio engineer, electronics engineer, and brand ambassador for Marantz in Europe.

McIntosh MCD500 SACD Player

McIntosh has been producing dedicated SACD players for several years, and their latest edition to the line is the MCD500. This iteration has a much lower noise floor than previous models, which allows for the presentation of greater detail in soft musical passages. Our bench tests proved this to be the case, as the measured noise floor was at least 20 dB better than the MCD201 that we tested a few years ago.

Bowers and Wilkins Zeppelin iPod Amplified Speaker Dock System

The iPod dock/speaker market continues to grow every year and more high end speaker manufacturers are joining the game. Products range from cheap and flimsy $20 plastic models to higher end models such as the Fatman iTube Red-i that lists for $649. Bowers and Wilkins, renowned British loudspeaker company, has created their own high end iPod speaker dock system called the Zeppelin, which lists at $599, and is the subject of this review.

Marantz SA-15S2 Reference Series SACD Player

Marantz can be thought of in two ways: the company owned by D&M Holdings with a huge market to satisfy, developing highly competitive consumer level products such as receivers and DVD players. Secondly, Marantz is an audio-first legacy from Saul Marantz, that produced vacuum tube gear in the 1950's, and leading the way to solid state in the 1960's. Here, we take a look at their SA-15S2 SACD player.

Emotiva ERC-1 CD player

The first thing you'll notice about the Emotiva ERC-1 CD player is that it looks great. The faceplate of the player and the remote are brushed aluminum painted black accented with unfinished brushed aluminum at the edges. Nice. When it's turned on the buttons on the face of the player light up with blue halos. This player would look right at home next to Macintosh gear.