At Friday night, my friend SMSed me. He asked me to join the CD Player comparison test at Audio Lifestyle magazine, Sunday 13 January 2008. Why not? 😉
I arrived at 13.00pm, and here is the system setup. The event was started around 14.30pm.
There were 3 contenders on this comparison test:
1. Consonance Opera Reference 2.2
2. Rega Jupiter
3. Madrigal Proceed PDT 3 CD Transport
Mr. Didik also brought his NAD CD Player (542 series, if I remember correctly). This CD Player has been upgraded on the rectifier section (with ultra fast Avalanche SF5407 diode) and on the coupling caps (with Nichicon Muse). He only wanted to benchmark his NAD compared with the rest three. So his NAD was excluded from the contenders.
We use two tracks. One is Mitt Hjerte Alltid Vanker (Skruk & Rim Banna) from 30 Years Fidelity (KIRKELIG Kulturverksted), while the I forgot the other one. Sorry.
Below is the photo of the contenders, one by one.
We start from the Consonance Opera Reference 2.2.This is a tube based CD Player (the only tube based CD Player on this comparison test), with a very good appearance. We can see from the photo below that it has a wood chassis with aluminum plate on the front. It uses tray loading mechanism with small blue display on the front. The control menu is quite unique. Though you see a button like a volume control on the front, but don’t try to turn it. On the right is a 4-way navigation joystick (up for play, down for stop, left for previous track, and right for next track), while on the left is 2-way navigation joystick (up for power and down for open/close tray). Price over US$ 1000.
Next (below) is Rega Jupiter. This is the top-of-the-line CD Player from Rega. Very expensive (over US$ 1500, I think). It has top loading mechanism (because Rega is specialized in turntable design, so even its CD Player should have a turntable-like design). It has orange display and it looks very elegan with black finish.
The last one is a very “poor” looked design CD Player, it’s Madrigal/Proceed Audio PDT 3 CD Transport. It’s quite old (made around 1993 or 1994, if I don’t lose my memories). Made by Madrigal/Proceed Audio (now under Harman Specialty Group with others famous brand like Revel, Lexicon, and Mark Levinson). It has a very bad design (we were joking by calling it as a UPS or Stabilizer rather than a CD Player). It has tray loading mechanism (very soft and smooth). It has small display with blue color. The rest is nothing special, as you can see on the photo below.
Below is the photo of judges/reviewers for this session. You can see Mr. Arif H., Mr. Fabi, Mr. Najib, Mr. Jimmy, Mr. Akok, and Mr. Didik. There are some not shown on the photo, like Mr. Arif W., Mr. Oggy, Mr. Gatot, and some more.
The result (based on my judgement, though it’s similar with others):
The ugly-looked Madrigal/Proceed Audio PDT 3 won this comparison test in a very significant margin. It has very smooth sonic characteristics, very rich in harmonics with good details, excellent separation, very good staging, and excellent tonal balance. This was not too surprising since it was a very expensive CD Player on its era (around US$3000). But the surprising thing was this old CD Player could compete with a better technology, younger, and even tube based CD Player like Consonance. It’s like a race between your old Mustang with your new Honda S2000 or Nissan Skyline.
The Consonance got the 2nd place. It has tube characteristics, but overall not too detail and not as rich as Proceed in terms of harmonics. It’s high extension also a little bit dark for my taste and average separation. With some upgrades, this CD Player has the potential to get better sound.
Surprisingly, Rega Jupiter sounded the worse in this comparison test. It sounded very boxy (poor staging) and really dead sound (just like no harmonics). Compared to the others two, it’s just like listening sound from MP3 player. Yes it has sound, it’s quite detail, it’s quite silent in background, but no soul from it. Just produced sound and sound, but we simply couldn’t enjoy what we heard. It also has good mid, just like most British products. Absolutely not a level with Consonance or Proceed.
Mr. Didik’s NAD performed very good. I would rank his NAD between 2nd or 3rd place (it has good and bad sides compared to Consonance). Considered this CD Player is very cheap (around US$ 350), simple hi-fi design, and no tube device inside (just some upgrades on rectifier section and coupling caps). On some music, it sounded a little bit too fast (just like in hurry). But on the rest, it has quite good harmonics and adequate details.
Some more photos:
I also took some photos (not related with this session). Below is Pre-Amplifier with Tube #26. One of the best tube for Pre-Amplifier. Hard to find.
Below is Amplifier with Tube #45. Low power output around 3 Watt RMS.
This is one of the most sophisticated design by Mr. Arif Hidayat. It is a 300B Push Pull design with 6SN7 phase splitter, tube rectifier (I forgot the type), and option between CV4024 or 6SL7 input stage (you can change it instantly by using a selector provided on the top). We also can see expensive stuff like Wondercap, SFernice, Hero, and BlackGate. Mr. Arif also use independent transformer for each tubes filament (so you can see so many transformer inside). This is simply a crazy design from him.