● MFR: 2 Hz - 88 kHz (DVD-A), 2 Hz - 20 kHz
Output Impedance: 50 Ohms
Size: 3.6" H x 17" W x 15" D
Weight: 17 Pounds
Available Finishes: Black Case with Silver or
Adcom was founded in 1979, and has produced many products that have become
standards well known to audiophiles. In 2002, two employees, Matt Lyons and Dan
Donnelly, bought out the company. Dan was the President and Chief Engineer at
the now defunct California Audio Labs (CAL), and is currently the VP of Engineering
at Adcom, while Matt is the President. It seems like Dan brought over most of his team from CAL
with him to Adcom. The link to CAL is
significant to this review, because the team there had built quiet a
reputation for digital products.
Regarding the DDV-850,
I had to ask the essential question, which in my mind begs to be asked of all
limited-format disc players today, “Why not a universal player?” Well, the
answer was very similar to the one Mike Creek gave me when I interviewed him for the
Creek CD50 MkII review. Adcom would rather not make a
universal player, than make a compromised one. To make a universal player to
the satisfaction of the folks at Adcom, you would need two chipsets; one for
PCM (Redbook CD, DVD-Audio) and one for DSD (SACD). This would
disproportionately add to the complexity and cost, and that is why they have
built a player with PCM processing only, and recommend an SACD player for
playback of that format. Matt further explained, "There are hybrid chips
available that can handle both PCM and DSD, but those chips simply convert DSD
to PCM first and then to analog".
(That may have been true a year or so ago, but I believe there are chips
now available that
discretely convert DSD and PCM without format conversion, such as the
Burr-Browns in the new Denon universal players.)
The GDV-850 is a fairly large and handsome looking unit, available in black
The left front face has a large round switch to turn the unit on and off/standby. The disc drawer is in the center of the unit, under the display
window. Six buttons on the right side control stop, play, pause, eject,
forward ,and rewind. Sorry, no headphone jack.
Aside from video and control connections, the rear panel has one set of RCA
analog jacks for stereo output and one set for 5.1. Digital outputs are
provided via coax and optical jacks (naturally, they do not output DVD-A or SACD signals). There also is a switch to select between 120 and 220-volt
operation, and finally a rocker-style main power switch and an IEC AC input.
The remote is replete with the standard audio and video commands. However, it does not
have the ability to control other Adcom products or be programmed to control
other devices, and is not backlit. Some day soon backlit programmable remotes
will become standard issue with devices at any price point.
The technical details provided here are based on my interview with Matt Lyons.
The audio formats compatible with the GDV-850 are Redbook CD and DVD-Audio.
The player was designed around three Crystal 4396 chips, each of which handles
channels. According to Matt, the GDV-850 is not a rebadged player from one of
the larger brands, but instead is designed ground up from the chipset, with
particular attention to the layout and power supply. To that end, the circuit
boards were designed in-house and custom built to Adcom's specifications. The
output stage is an op-amp biased into Class-A operation.
This player features a separate power supply for the digital, analog, and video
sections. The power supply
includes a toroidal transformer, filter capacitance, and a bridge rectifier.
As you can see in the pictures of the inside of this unit, the two toroids,
heat sinks, and several capacitors are as generous as I have ever seen in a
disc player. Matt was quite emphatic about the importance that power supplies
the quality of playback. And indeed the components inside the box back up his
words. Matt explained that a common (and cheaper) alternative is a digital switching
supply, the easiest way to recognize which is the ring-box shaped transformer
instead of the donut shaped toroid. We shall see in an upcoming review that a
player costing multiples of the Adcom is using a switching power supply. One
of the problems of a switching supply is that it can introduce RF into the
it is very satisfying to know that this product was not just thrown together
on a whim, the layout was not compromised by the layout of off-the-shelf
circuit boards, components were not scrimped on, and it is not simply a
mass-produced player rebadged with some minor namesake changes. In the end it
is the sound that matters, and we shall see the results of that below.
As always, all listening test were done after the comparative components
matched for a variety of sound levels using a reference tone and a Radio Shack
The evaluation of the CD format was done by comparing with the previously
reviewed Creek CD50 MkII ($1,500). These findings were published in that
review, but I have repeated them here for easy reference.
Havana Cafe (Paquito Rivera; Chesky Jazz and Audiophile tests
Vol2; Chesky JD68)
The Adcom presented a little less detail than the Creek. The soundstage on the
Adcom was comparatively a little pushed back, almost distant, while the
Creek's presentation was more pulled-in, intimate, and warmer sounding.
Coming of the Mandinka (V.M. Bhatt, N. Ravikiran, Taj Mahal; Mumtaz Mahal;
Waterlily Acoustics WLA-CS-46-SACD)
This was a much more revealing test, perhaps due to the impeccable quality of the
recording. The stage width on the Creek was much narrower, which is a likely
indicator of poorer channel separation. However, the Creek's presentation was
more forward and intimate and much more preferable to me. The resonance of the
sympathetic strings on the Mohan Vina was more prominent and richer sounding
on the Creek. While the resonance was audible on the Adcom, it was less
pronounced and thin sounding in comparison.
I have listened to this track many times, but for the first time I noticed a
very high-pitched resonance from the Chitra Vina at about 4:15 into the track.
It actually sounded like feedback, or the sound you get by circling the rim of
a wine glass with a wet finger. A quick call to Kavichandran Alexander of
Waterlily Acoustics confirmed that sound was due to the extreme excitement of
the sympathetic strings. This high-pitched sound was definitely more
pronounced on the Adcom, and was rendered from far stage right. With the Creek
it seemed almost center stage and less noticeable.
Rimshot (Eryka Badu; Baduism; Universal; UD53027)
The Creek considerably outperformed the Adcom in terms of detail and punch
with the very low synthesizer notes, and sounded warmer and more detailed on
the delicious vocals from that delicious vocalist.
The final set of comparisons was done against the $700 E.Sound CD-E3 (review
Coming of the Mandingo (V.M. Bhatt, Tag Mahal; Mumtaz Mahal; Waterlily
Differences were difficult to pick out on this track, but were there nonetheless.
The E.Sound had slightly better dynamics, especially noticeable in the ‘woah's
and ‘hey's that Taj Mahal shouts out. I might not have noticed a shortcoming
with the Adcom by itself, but when directly compared to the E.Sound the
difference was evident. The vocal peaks seemed higher and more natural on the
E.Sound; only in comparison did the Adcom seem like it was compressing the
peaks a bit.
Yesterdays (Dave Bruebeck; Nightshift; Telarc CD83351)
The E.Sound had a lot more detail in the higher frequencies. The resonance of
the piano notes seemed to last longer and were slightly better separated from
each other. The Adcom made the piano sound a bit more distant and smaller in
size, compared to the upfront and expansive instrument the E.Sound painted.
Here personal taste probably matters more than an absolute edict.
Comparing the DVD-A format playback on the Adcom to that on the Lexicon RT-10
($3500, review upcoming) universal player, revealed a big surprise. I expected
to have perceived larger differences on the CD format and smaller differences
on the hi-rez formats (DVD-A in this case). I found the opposite to be true,
the differences between players on the DVD-A format were much more obvious and
easier to spot.
The Four Seasons – Autumn, Allegro (Antonio Vivaldi, I Solisti Italiani,
Sonic Boom, Denon COZ17156).
Listening to this track on the Lexicon made me realize how much tactile
low-frequency information a string section can generate, I could feel the
bodies of the larger instruments in the section resonating from where I sat.
With the Adcom that experience was muted to the point of omission. On the
other hand, the Adcom did seem to have more detail in the mid and high
frequencies, but it is not that easy to make that determination. Often, when a
component is weak in a certain range of frequencies, it seems to shine in the
rest of the spectrum when compared to units with a more balanced presentation,
and it is easy to be fooled into that conclusion. Re-examination of the
Lexicon revealed that it seemed to present all the mid and high frequency
detail that the Adcom did, but seemed less obvious since my ears had to share
that detail with more low frequency material. The Adcom did present me with a
much wider and deeper soundstage. I had experienced this strength of the
player in the CD format when comparing to the recently reviewed Creek CD50
mkII. In the DVD-A format, that difference seemed significantly larger, when
compared to the Lexicon.
Whirly Bird (Count Basie Big Band, Sonic Boom, Denon COZ17156).
To settle the detail issue touched on above, I picked a track without a lot of
low frequency information to distract my ears. To my surprise the Adcom
trounced the Lexicon here. The detail seemed to be about equal in both
players, and reinforced my findings above. The Adcom again pulled off its
awesome soundstage, being wider and deeper than the Lexicon. The real surprise
was in the macro-dynamics; the Adcom was superlative and significantly better
than the Lexicon.
We have a bit of a mixed bag here. The price point of the player, especially
considering the outstanding performance of the entry-level Panasonic units,
did not justify the previously evaluated video performance.
The CD format playback more or less justified the price point compared to the
Creek, but was no comparison to E.Sound. But then again, that upstart from
China has surprised us all in this series.
The DVD-A format playback compared to the Lexicon was excellent in terms of
soundstage and dynamics, but lacking in bass response. Keep in mind the
Lexicon retails for three and a half times more.
- Arvind Kohli -
Speakers: Dynaudio Contour 1.3 MkII; Triangle Electroacoustique Titus 202
Subwoofer: ACI Force
Integrated Amplifier: Cayin 265Ai
Digital Source: Creek CD50 mkII ; Sony DVP-NS755; Lexicon RT-10
Power conditioner: PS Audio P300
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