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Audio Player Reviews

Olive 03HD Music Server

Olive O3HD Music Server for the Audiophile

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.

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Audiolab 8200CDQ CD Player with Built-In Preamplifier

Audiolab 8200CDQ Dac for the Audiophile

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.

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Bowers and Wilkins Zeppelin iPod Amplified Speaker Dock System

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.

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Cary Audio Design CD-500 CD Player

Cary Audio Design CD-500

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.

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Marantz SA-15S2 Reference Series SACD Player

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.

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Sony SCD-XA5400ES SACD Player

Sony SCD-XA5400ES 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.

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Emotiva ERC-1 CD 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.

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Marantz SA-KI Pearl SACD player

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.

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Cambridge Audio 840 Series CD Player, Stereo Preamplifier, and Stereo Power Amplifier

Cambridge Audio 840 Series

My wife, who I affectionately refer to as "the music Anti-Christ" often calls me "He without Brains" when it comes to purchasing audio gear. Our latest interchange of pleasantries began when I announced that I needed a new CD player in the $1500 to $2000 range.  She found one at Costco for considerably less than a hundred bucks and thought I would be very pleased.  "You just don't get it" I said, to which she replied "Neither will you".  I think she meant it in so many ways.

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McIntosh MCD500 SACD Player

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.

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Marantz SA-7S1 SACD Player

Marantz SA-7S1 SACD Player

Marantz has been a renown audio company for a better part of the 20th century. Although it changed hands several times over the years, the quality never wavered from being superb. The average consumer these days may think of mass market receivers when the name Marantz is mentioned, but they also build some of the best high performance products in the consumer arena. The SA-7S1 is Marantz' top-of-the-line SACD player. It is fully balanced throughout - thus having XLR outputs along with the standard RCA unbalanced outputs - and has some of the lowest distortion bench test results I have ever measured. It sounds as smooth as satin whether playing SACDs or standard "old fashioned" CDs, and is built to make sturdy equipment racks creak when you place it on the shelf. Last, but not least, it is beautiful to look at whether it is playing or not.

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