Product Review - Myryad MC-100 CD Player - November, 1997

By Karl Suager


Myryad MC-100
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Myryad MC-100 CD Player; 1 bit PLM D/A converters; 8x oversampling; Frequency response 20 Hz - 20 kHz, +/- 0.3dB; THD 0.003% @1kHz; S/N ratio 104 dB; Dynamic range (like every linear system with 16 bit resolution) 96dB; Output impedance 250 ohms; Dimensions 17" (436mm) W x 3 3/4" (95mm) H x 11 1/4" (286 mm) D; Weight 12 1/2 lbs. (5.6 kg.); Suggested Retail (U.S.A.) - $1,200; Europe: Myryad Systems Ltd., 2 Pipers Wood, Waterberry Drive, Waterlooville, U.K. PO7 7XU. Tel: (01705) 265508 Fax:(01705) 231407; Distributed in U.S.A. by Audio Influx Corporation.

Have you ever heard this?: "DVD audio is just around the corner! Digital sound at 96 kHz and 24 bits is going to be sooooo much better. Buying any digital product now is a waste of money." Oh, is it now? Where is it DVD audio now? How many 96 kHz/24bit-sampled recordings do we have anyway? I can't assume personal knowledge of everyone else's CD collection, but I don't have any. It's probably going to be a while before I do. The DVD audio standard, to the best of my knowledge, hasn't solidified. When it does, you can be pretty sure that it's going to take some time to sell 99% of the population on the idea that they're going to benefit from a quality substantially better than the current CD format. Not to say either that 96/24, or even 96/20 won't yield improvements in digital design, but don't hold your breath for it to become a "defacto" standard.

I certainly understand the reluctance to buy into current technology when new standards seem eminent, so caution certainly warrants attention. But if you've got the rest of your system settled, and you want to upgrade your CD player, what's stopping you? If and/or when DVD becomes an audio standard, you'll still have your old CDs, just as some kept their vinyl after the previous technological turnover. DVD players can play current CDs, it's true, but that's not the issue squirming in our hands, now, is it? What do we have to choose from now, and how do we make the selection once we know what the choices are? If you're not into video as much as musical reproduction, it doesn't seem to make much sense to pay for video features in a component. If you don't have 96/24 recordings, and neither is the playback equipment available, then where does it leave you? If playing CDs now and for the next few years is your primary goal, a CD player is the most sensible choice. It may not be 96/24, but the recordings are 44.1/16 which sound pretty good to me.

Yes, a sampling rate of 44.1 kHz vs. 96 kHz does mean that ultrasonic filters must be nearer the audio band, but there's a lot more to playback quality than the digital filters. Although the quality of the DAC section in any component is of critical importance, of equal importance is the circuitry around it which keeps noise from various sources out of the analog signal. Regardless of the recording resolution, or the DAC resolution, the integrity of the analog path is one of the determining factors in sound quality.

And so we come to the Myryad MC-100 CD player. A first glance might cause one to mistake it for your average CD player with the exception of a stylish heavy face plate and well-designed ergonomics. Aesthetically, it appeals to those who prefer clean and functional. No fancy flashing lights or gizmos, just the basic operational functions, and a handy comfortable remote with the same front functions in addition to programming, display settings, and a bunch of number keys. A closer look reveals a very solid chassis. Well-built, but not overbuilt.

When I removed the cover, I noticed a few points of interest. Aside from a rather standard Sony transport, the build of this unit is simple but excellent. The metal screws were not simply threaded directly into the meatier-than-most sheet metal, they fit into machined inserts which then are embedded in the inner chassis. A steel plate separates the control PCB which houses the display and control buttons, shielding the other circuitry from possible detrimental noise. Inside, a conspicuous low EMI-generating toroidal transformer with a bunch of secondary taps feed a small PCB. (The higher bandwidth of toroidal transformers provides less filtering from AC line noise, but this can be addressed with power conditioning.) I learned from Chris Evans, the technical whiz at Myryad, that there are three separate secondary taps for the analog circuits, the digital circuits, and the transport functions. From here it gets even more interesting.

On that PCB, fed by those three secondaries, are eleven separately regulated power supplies for the master clock, the left channel DAC output, the right channel DAC output, a pair for the 6 pole (36dB/octave) low pass filters and DC servos, and the output stages. The ribbon cable, connecting the main circuit board to the power supply board, wears a ferrite bead for additional noise filtering, both from RF on the AC line, and from EMI that otherwise might leak onto the AC line and affect other components. How considerate! All of this ensures maximum noise isolation so that each set of components can do its job with minimal interference via their power sources. Otherwise, digital switching noise could make its way into the analog signal, noise could adversely affect the master clock, introducing jitter, and all the nice digital parts would be for naught because the analog product has degenerated. Obviously, the designers of the MC-100 addressed this. It may seem a little extreme at first, but wait, there's more.

The master clock, running at 8x over-sampling (over 33 MHz,) controls both the servos on the transport and 1 bit PLM DACs (Sony's method to take advantage of the inherent linearity of bit-stream.) These DACs, four of them, operate in dual-differential (push-pull). The active filters are also dual-differential, Class A, for lower distortion and better noise immunity, as are the output stages operating on 60 V rails, (that's power amplifier voltage) just to be sure the rated 2V output at the maximum 0dB is never strained. The outputs are sturdy gold-plated RCAs.

There's a standard 75 Ohm coaxial digital output, and a couple of RCAs for MyLink operation which allows you to control player (DELETE ON/OFF) with the MI-120 integrated amplifier REMOTE. At Secrets, we support family values, so we reunited the pair (MI-120 and MC-100) just for this occasion. The power switch is also on the back, leaving a standby switch on the front for day to day operation. I'd like to get back to that later.

The literature I received made a big hubbub about great error correction and the ability to track damaged discs. In this regard, however, I found the player to be unexceptional. A scratched disc, which the current Harman Kardon changers could also not track properly, (not skipping but the fffft, fffttt, fffft, sounds imposing on the recorded material) gave the MC-100 player an equally hard time. My Pioneer laserdisc player and the Cary CD-302 which uses the Pioneer stable platter mechanism, as well as a Yamaha CD changer, had no difficulty with the same disc. Not a big deal, and it should be noted that tracking ability has very little, if nothing, to do with jitter and the subsequent audio performance. It is, however, something to take into consideration if you have a lot of scratched discs you don't want to replace.

With that blurb out of the way, how did it sound? What? You care about sound? The specs are nice and respectable, isn't that enough? For some people it might be, and although I believe many sonic differences between accurate components may be indeed subtle, I'm not in the "less than 0.5% THD sounds the same" camp. If you've gotten this far, you're probably maintaining a similar frame of thought. Hmm.. How to describe. Don't forget about that rear power switch.

When I first plugged it in, I noticed how this player just sounded pretty clean. It wasn't bright, harsh, extraordinarily in-your-face detailed. As I settled in with it, I met more things in some of the music I previously took for granted. The sense of space was good, but what really wicked my whiskers were aspects like the flow of air in a saxophone, migrations along strings by fingers, picks, and bows, and the decay of ambient information. High-hats and cymbals simmered like an anxious dinner without hotness or irritating grain. Higher frequencies might be this player's forte - clean, exact, effortlessly apparent. On the other side, though, when it comes to the MC-100's bass, it's as subjectively tight and extended as program material dictates. The mid-range, well, it seemed to depend, which is why I'm bringing up that rear power switch.

When I first turned the unit on, the middle of the spectrum took the role of slightly polite and fairly detailed, not exactly a perfect match to its brethren above and below but, for the most part similar. Perhaps just a little less opened up than I'd prefer, but entirely acceptable, except for one funny nut. I thought, just maybe, that the upper mid-range could turn just a bit hard. Not harsh, not forward, but perhaps just overly deliberate. I hesitate to bring it up because I don't consider it a problem. Ever since a day or so after I first powered it up, I haven't been able to foster that impression at all. In fact, after a couple weeks, I can't pick a flaw to complain about. Either I was imagining it in the first place, got used to it, or the power switch is in the rear for a reason. Perhaps this implies that it is best to leave the player turned on to "Standby" because it sounds better warmed up.

Is it a perfect player? I never said that. The MC-100 doesn't have the Holy Shiite dimensionality of the over $10,000 Wadia combos (but the extension on the top end might prove superior.) It doesn't quite have the bare and brutal transparency of an Aragon D2A mkII driven by an EAD transport, (but possibly could prove more enjoyable for most recorded pieces of music.) It doesn't have the seductive sweetening of a Cary CD-302 (but arguably may be more accurate.) It also costs less money than any of them, takes less space and is, in my opinion, nicer looking. After living with this player for a month, I can't find anything to complain about. To put everything in a more banal sonic context, it stomps up and down my laserdisc player without even giving the poor thing a chance to gasp (and it does gasp on certain difficult transients.) As for the vanishing upper mid-range hardness, it's not of huge concern to me, but keep in mind to plug it in and switch it to standby for a day or so before getting critical if you decide to pursue a home evaluation. If you're in the market for a CD player in this price range, or even somewhere slightly below or not so slightly above, I really think you should audition the MC-100. I'm not one to rave, but I really like it.

Let the record show that the MC-100 was evaluated with the following associated components:

Passive preamp based on a 50kohm Nobel Potentiometer
Myryad MI-120 integrated amplifier, Aragon 8008BB power amplifier
Infinity Renaissance 90 full-range loudspeakers
2 pairs 1/2 meter DH Labs Silver Sonic interconnects
3 pairs 5' braided DH Labs Silver Sonic speaker wire
Bybee/Curl Power Purifiers (Prototype Modules)
Audio Power Industries Power Pack V AC line conditioner

Karl Suager

Copyright 1997 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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