Three SACD/CD Players

Technics SL-G700 SACD/Network Player, Arcam CDS50 SACD/Network Player, Yamaha CD-S1000 SACD Player

Equipment report
Categories:
Disc players,
Multi-format disc players,
Music servers and computer audio
Three SACD/CD Players

The Yamaha CD-S1000 has been around the block a few times—it’s been sold for about a decade now, and the price is $1799. (Yamaha makes a higher-end model, the CD-S2100 at $2999, with an ESS DAC, better build, balanced outputs, and USB inputs.) With a weight of slightly over 33 pounds, the CD-S1000 is even more massive than the Technics player. There are dark wood panels attached to either side of the chassis and, depending on your perspective, you may consider the look to be bachelor-pad retro or hopelessly out of date. The disc drawer employs a gearless mechanism in a steel/wool chassis and has the smoothest, quietest operation I’ve ever experienced from a front-loading disc player. The buttons on the remote control seemed impossibly tiny at first, but I got used to them within a few days.

Four discrete power supplies are used for the analog and digital sections, the disc drive, and the display. That display doesn’t do text, which gives you an idea of how long-in-the-tooth this model is. The CD-S1000 uses a pair of Burr-Brown PCM 1796 DACs that can handle sample rates up to 192kHz though, as implemented here, can only output the Red Book specification 44.1kHz via the coaxial and optical digital outputs on the rear panel. The analog outputs are single-ended only. Another reflection of the component’s age is the absence of either networking or streaming capabilities. There’s an option called “Pure Direct.” When engaged, no signal is sent to the digital outs and the front-panel display is turned off—a process, Yamaha tells us, that results in unadulterated “transfer from disc to terminals.”

To audition the three players in a comparative manner, I connected each in turn to the analog-bypass inputs of my Anthem D2v with a ten-foot pair of balanced Cardas interconnects. A pair of RCA-to-XLR adapters were used with the Yamaha. Transparent cabling connected the Anthem to a pair of Pass XA60.8 monoblocks and from the amps to Magico S3 Mk2 loudspeakers. An SPL meter was employed to get the levels of the players within 1dB of each other. 

I did plenty of general listening, but made a point of auditioning the same six selections on all three players. Three were from CDs: David Grisman & Tony Rice: Tone Poems (“Turn of the Century”/“The Prisoner’s Waltz”/“Sam-Bino”), Kevyn Lettau: Songs of the Police (“Every Breath You Take”), and Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band: Act Your Age (“Hit the Ground Running”). Three were from SACDs: Shostakovich: Symphony No. 15 (Haitink/Concertgebouw); Wayne Horvitz: Sweeter Than the Day (“LTMBBQ”); and Al Jarreau: All I Got (“Jacaranda bougainvillea”).

As a point of reference, I used a fourth player, my trusty Oppo BDP-103, a “universal” machine that handles DVD-Audio and Blu-Ray discs as well as Red Book CDs and SACDs. Usually, I employ the Oppo only as a transport, connecting it to either the Anthem or a T+A DAC 8 DSD for digital-to-analog conversion. The performance of all three of the players considered in this review surpassed that of the Oppo, which cost $499 when it was available. 

On the Shostakovich symphony, the Yamaha CD-S1000 demonstrated better image specificity and spatiality than the Oppo, and more appealing massed string sound. With the Arcam CDS50, the soundstage was flattened and screeching woodwinds were screechier than they were supposed to be, though I preferred the impact of a hard mallet striking timpani with the British machine. The Technics SL-G700 performed best with this disc, evincing much of the air I’m used to when listening to the recording as a multichannel DSF file on a Baetis Reference 2 music computer. Using the SL-G700, I could appreciate the focused purity of the glockenspiel notes that open Shostakovich’s final symphonic work.

With the Wayne Horvitz SACD cut—piano, guitar, acoustic bass, and drums—the Arcam bested the Yamaha in presenting the bass as a dimensional object. There was less detail than I heard with the Yamaha, however—it was harder to discern that the guitar doubled the piano melody at several points during “LTMBBQ.” The Technics player excelled at revealing subtle dynamic gradations, and bass had the greatest sense of volume.