|SACD at an affordable price
| Pioneer Elite Pure
Audio SACD Player Model D6 (PD-D6MK2-K)
Some time ago, I mentioned that Sony and many other manufacturers
have abandoned the SACD format in favour of the much-improved Redbook.
I also stated that mass manufacturers likely abandoned 2-channel
SACD’s in favour of multi-channel that is still dominated
by the Dolby folks. However, I always maintained that SACD is better
when done correctly and manufacturers such as Teac, EMM LAB, Audio
Aero, Marantz, NAD (Master Series) and the earlier Musical Fidelity
(now discontinued) are still subscribing to SACD technology. The
SACD format is alive and doing well in the upper class of the audio
industry where harmonics rule and affect a system’s performance.
In the lower, run-of-the-mill range, two channel SACD is usually
ignored, while multi-channel players are still being sold. The
resurgence of two channel audio, though most apparent in the higher-end
category, is likely the result of maturing consumers who are beginning
to understand that HT is not going to replace audio. I suppose
Pioneer thought the same when they introduced a player and other
electronics to the two channel audio market and the D6 is now available
and introduced at a very reasonably price.
It’s difficult to tell the receiver apart from the CD player
of the same series, as the curved faceplate and subdued refinement
ooze elegance. The clean lines of this receiver is repeated thus
making the D6 part of a system configuration with Pioneer’s
Elite Series’ trademark. The slightly curved and rounded
faceplate features (from left to right) the on/off switch, a standby
indicator next to a small display window and the disc drawer. A
small indicator shows when the D6 is operating in the SACD playback
mode. The design is simple, functional and classy, complementing
any system configuration.
I have about one hundred SACD reissues from earlier recorded Redbook
CDs on the Concord label. As the player allows choosing SACD or
Redbook, it was a breeze to audition them. I began listening seriously
after a two hundred hour burn-in and decided to listen to the player’s
Redbook format with the help of The Ultimate Mancini (Concord CCD
2237-2.) For SACD auditions, I used Ray Charles’ last album
Genius Loves Company (Concord SACD-1033-6, and Carmen Mac Ray’ Fine
and Mellow (Concord SACD 1005-6).
To say that the player is good would be an understatement. The
player lives up to its name — Elite — with sound that
cannot be assigned to a class as it delivers music in an altogether
natural and effortless tone. I was especially taken by the unit’s
tonal equilibrium, a trait that permits an unobstructed view into
a musical performance and underscored Carmen’s mellow vocals.
The player’s all-round tonal attribute also allows its backup
components to emerge, thereby adding compatibility with existing
systems and enough options and equipment choices. Let’s not
forget that the D6 plays only as well as the back-up system’s
weakest link(s), so making mistakes can be costly in terms of performance.
Though organic in nature, the player does have sonic characteristics.
First off, it handles highs with a distinctive and very conspicuous
smoothness, a characteristic found only in a few players — all
more expensive. The player’s entire midrange is well refined
though not up to the likes of an Audio Aero at about $12K.
In the SACD mode, midrange blossoms with more harmonic potency
than in the Redbook mode, but both are musically pleasing with
not a trace of glare, often apparent with low-priced players.
Bass energy is right how it should be, perhaps not as richly textured
as one will find in highly priced player, but then again, it does
provide enough texture to enjoy the music. The D6’s all-round
performance is excellent; the sound has proper rhythm with good
speed and impact, but without attention-grabbing resolution or
overly opulent force. I’ve heard better bass resolution from
a few players, but I’m talking about players in the 10K price
range. The Pioneer does everything a good player should when it
comes to imaging and inner detail. What sets it apart from so many
other player is that it manages to convey its neutral, organic
character without emphasizing or diminishing the musical information.
The Elite D6 is a surprisingly good player and one that delivers
much more bang than I expected from a low-priced component. While
it doesn’t stand up to high-end SACD players, it certainly
has enough of their sonic characteristics. But most of all, this
player offers a high degree of musicality and I can almost guarantee
that you wont’ find a worthy competitor in its price range.
SACD stereo is, after all, affordable.
All I can tell readers is that two channel SACD, until now was
available only in highly priced players — all well above
the 2K mark. It turns out that the format will survive and rightfully
so, because it’s not only about digits, it’s also about
harmonics — and SACD proved to deliver more of them, thus
coming closer to the sound of an analogue turntable/cartridge arrangement.
The D6 offers an unheard-of bargain without diminishing what this
business is all about.
|| Pioneer Electronics
|| Pioneer Canada
This player offers a “quick response” power supply
circuit, which employs no feedback and low impedance parallel main
capacitors, usually used in professional audio monitoring. A low
jitter clock guaranties stability, using an integrated circuit
with a high performance oscillator. As other Elite components,
the player feature the company’s own Legato Linc conversion
system, which restores high-frequency dynamics, resulting in minimum
phase shift across the audible spectrum. A Pure Audio listening
control allows listening to analogue audio sources with digital
output disabled and the front panel display switched off. That’s
a feature I appreciated and enjoyed when I was testing the player.
A Burr Brown dual 192kHz/24-bit D/A converter is employed in this
relatively low priced CD player which earned Pioneer an AIR Studio
certification (Air Studio is a professional laboratory-based pro
audio design firm). Pioneer provides a slim-line remote that features
a long life lithium battery. The unit weighs in at 9lb 15oz, and
measures 16.6 (w) x 4.4 (h) x 14.8 (d) inches.
The specs state the signal/noise ratio at 118dB (Redbook) and
110dB (SACD). Dynamic range is quoted at 99dB (Redbook) and 108dB
(SACD). Total harmonic distortion is 0.002% and 0.003% — Redbook
and SACD respectively. The unit sports coax digital as well as
an optical output.