Sugg. Retail: $599.99 (CAN)
Distributor: Sony of Canada Ltd.
115 Gordon Baker Road, Toronto,
Ontario, M2H 3R6
(416) 499-1414 FAX 497-7147
(Reprinted from the Almanac 02 Audio Ideas Guide)
There are those who still debate the merits of (or need for) higher resolution digital formats, but I am not one of these, having mastered numerous CDs over the past few years on my 96 kHz DAT recorder, and having also worked at 192 kHz on occasion. The real question is whether two currently incompatible hi-res formats can coexist and find an audience that is large enough to sustain each format. I’ve pretty much said my piece about that (Vol. 20 #3), so here I think I’ll concentrate on the format at hand, SACD.
This entry level player from Sony is a 5-disc carousel based on a proven CD mechanism, and has full remote control and programming facilities. It operates like almost any other multidisc player, but is not only an SACD player, but one of the first multi-channel SACD players. The rear panel has not only stereo RCA outs, but also a full set of 6-channel outs, so you can feed separate stereo and home theatre systems, though you may need some special interconnect wiring if they’re in different rooms. The SCD-CE775 also offers a single Toslink optical output that emits only 44.1 kHz digital audio. There are also 2 miniplug jacks to allow communication and control from other Sony components.
What you’ll find in this player that isn’t seen in most multidisc players is front panel title and other information display from SACDs; you can also program information into the player using the keypad on the remote control.
This long, narrow remote does all the normal CD things, and also allows control of multichannel levels and balances; there is also a Direct mode that disables the adjustments, and probably provides better sound, since it gets rid of a half-dozen potentiometers. Random play among 5 discs is an option, as are selecting CD or SACD layers on hybrid discs, but you can’t do it in play, since it involves changing laser focal length, and possibly the laser itself.
I listened to quite a few SACDs, most of them the earlier 2-channel format, and several multichannel ones. So far, the labels represented in my growing collection include Sony (of course), DMP, Opus 3 of Sweden, and Telarc, who recently sent me a selection of their recent releases after being impressed by our web site’s music reviews.
But I started my listening with the multichannel release of Miles Davis’s Kind Of Blue, not knowing quite what to expect from the recording I’ve listened to more than any other since 1960. I know I’ve joked about how many music formats I have this recording in, but I really didn’t think I’d hear the 2-channel SACD topped in sound quality.
I was wrong. As I listened to the multichannel SACD I heard a more solidly placed centre image that made bass and trumpet/flugelhorn much more palpable. I guess it stands to reason that a true 3-channel recording will sound better that way, rather than having the discrete centre channel mixed into the right and left. Stereo separation is much increased, with drums in particular extending outside the right speaker; and did I never notice that lower pitched ride cymbal before?
The centre bass and trumpet have greater dynamics and power in 3 channels. And new subtleties in the piano emerge: you can hear the quite different touch of Wynton Kelly in Freddie Freeloader, and then hear the nuances of Bill Evans’s fingers as he returns in Blue In Green. It’s too bad, though, that the piano is still clustered in the left speaker, rather than spread more naturally, like the drum kit at right. I had that piano sound, but with more space to it, in mind when I set up mikes in Bellingham three years ago.
I also heard more sax subtleties, reeds, and little trills of vibrato in Cannonball’s wonderful solos. Coltrane’s hard edge provides even greater contrast, though we find a gentler, kinder Coltrane in Blue In Green.
And I’m starting to think of the more contemplative extra take of Flamenco Sketches as integral to the recording after all these years of being without it. It was hard enough to get used to the idea that this tune really wasn’t All Blues as originally labeled on the LP. But this is turning into a record review, but that tells us something, too. This budget player from Sony had the power to get me back to listening to the music again. If it’s sound quality that holds your interest, then all we need is more good music.
I listened to a lot of music on the SCD-CE775 over the weekend, including a great sampler from DMP, the first track of which is a choral piece, Ubi Caretas by the Gaudeamus choir that puts you right in a lovely sounding stone church, and an Opus 3 disc by acoustic folk group Tiny Island that has a wonderful open space sound around acoustic guitars and a variety of percussion. I’ll say more about all of this and more in SuperSounds.
I guess I can simply conclude by saying that Sony, has, with the SCD-CE775 multichannel player, made SACD not only affordable, but very, very attractive to audiophiles. If you want multiplay CD with with a big badda bonus (and no boom), get yourself one of these, and a few SACD discs.