The person looking to upgrade their digital front-end is faced with a lot of tough questions. Are you going to stick with the traditional CD player or are you going to try one of the new formats? What about two-channel versus multi-channel? Now let's not even get into software availability or what happens if you happen to choose the wrong format (remember the Sony Betamax and Elcasette). No wonder many people have been putting off upgrading their digital front-ends.
Not surprisingly, the manufacturers are facing the same dilemmas that we consumers are facing. Do they embrace one or more of the new formats or do they try to wring the best out of the large number of CD's that are currently in consumer's hands? Several manufacturers have jumped on the new format bandwagon, while the majority of high-end manufacturer's have chosen to concentrate their efforts on advancing the state-of-the-art in "Redbook" CD performance. The Redbook is the technical reference book to what a music CD should technically be. Very few of these companies have been successful in bringing a new format player to market while, at the same time, advancing traditional CD technology. One of the most successful of these manufacturers is Accuphase.
The DP-55V, at $4,800.00, is Accuphase's entry-level two-channel Redbook CD player and is a further refined version of the highly acclaimed DP-55. The DP-55V is finished in the traditional livery of a dark brown chassis with a brushed gold faceplate. The single disk drawer and the tasteful display where the word "Accuphase" is highlighted in blue-on-black whenever the unit is powered up dominate the center of the faceplate. This display also provides track/index information, processor operation, sampling frequency, playing time, and the output level in a very tasteful orange that contrasts nicely with the blue "Accuphase" The front panel controls are nicely laid out on either side of the drawer and are easy to use even in the dark.
The rear panel of the DP-55V features both single-ended (RCA) and balanced (XLR) outputs as well as a removable power cord. The Accuphase offers the user a great deal of flexibility as it comes fitted with both digital inputs as well as outputs on both coax and toslink connectors. The digital inputs are controlled from a front panel switch and allow the processor section of the DP-55V to be used with a variety of digital sources. The digital outputs naturally allow the user to use the player as a transport with an external DAC.
The processor section of the DP-55V features a revolutionary Multiple Delta Sigma (MDS) processor that provides superb 24-bit resolution. By using this new processor, Accuphase is assured of a player that provides ultra-low distortion and an outstanding signal-to-noise ratio. The MDS principle makes use of several delta sigma type processors operated in parallel to increase the resolution over traditional delta sigma designs. In the DP-55V, this results in a performance improvement of 1.4 times according to the manufacturer. One important benefit of using multiple delta sigma converters is that the performance benefits are achieved regardless of the signal frequency and signal level. As a result, noise that was difficult to contain in the past with conventional delta sigma converters is now drastically lowered. The result is music that emerges from utter darkness with an impressive sense of clarity.
As noted previously, the DP-55V has a pair of digital inputs, which allow the user to make use of the high quality processor section with any component that can supply a digital signal such as a transport or DAT recorder. According to Accuphase, all internal processing of the digital signal is carried out at 24-bit resolution. The digital outputs allow the direct connection of the DP-55V to a variety of digital sources. Demodulation of the digital signal received through these inputs is carried out by a Crystal Semiconductor CS8412 chip, which is known for its inherently low jitter. This chip also has the ability to absorb any jitter that is contained in the input signal. The chip also operates with 24-bit resolution, which allows the advantages of MDS operation to be realized with any type of program source.
The output section of the Accuphase features completely balanced circuitry that is totally isolated from the ground line. This has the benefit of removing any traces of noise that may infect the signal path, so that the sound remains undiluted by extraneous noise. Meanwhile the transport used in the DP-55V is totally digitally controlled, which allows for the servo's performance to be optimized for each individual disk. Accuphase has further reduced noise in the DP-55V by using a RF amplifier in conjunction with the laser. This assures that the high-level output signal remains as free from noise as possible.
The DP-55V replaced a Theta transport/DAC that have been my long-term reference for several years now. The player was placed on top of a Michael Green Deluxe rack using its factory-supplied feet. Cabling consisted of SilverSmith Audio's Balanced Silver Interconnects while the stock power cord was replaced with a Harmonic Technology AC-11.
It is hard to believe that one can get this quality at the DP-55V's price point. Given the pace at which the digital medium has been progressing, this type of performance would have easily cost twice the Accuphase's asking price. Right out of the box, I was surprised how good the DP-55V sounded. It was a bit polite and warm sounding with just a touch of bloom that was not at all unpleasing. After a break-in period of approximately 200 hours, the DP-55V really spread its wings and began to fly. The first thing I noticed about the DP-55V was its ability to deliver more of the "musical goods" than the Theta transport and DAC that I was using for a reference at the time. Transient attacks were much more precise starting and stopping on a dime. The soundstage was considerably more spacious with images locked firmly into place within the stage. The Accuphase handled bass lines with a solid grip that allowed the midrange and highs to be reproduced more cleanly.
Patricia Barber's Companion [Blue Note/Premonition, 7243 5 22963 2 3] seemed to constantly find its way into play during the time I spent with the Accuphase. Recorded live at "The Green Mill" in uptown Chicago during the summer of 1999, the album features Barber playing a Hammond B-3 organ. My favorite cut is her cover of "Black Magic Woman". The cut starts out with the drone of the Hammond punctuating the haunting quality of Barber's voice. 24 seconds into the cut, bells float out of an utterly silent background to mix delightfully with Barber's voice and the Hammomd. The percussion then joins in. Bass notes are full and cleanly reproduced with weight and authority. You can literally follow Barber's fingers as they move across the keyboard. Instruments are clearly placed within the soundstage. There appears to be no slurring of the harmonics of the various instruments.
It is in the area of soundstaging and imaging where the DP-55V really struts its stuff. "Sama" from The Absolute Sound [Hearts of Space, HS11103-2] has a ton of depth. On a system that is capable of producing a deep soundstage that extends way beyond the back wall of the listening space. When playing this cut recording through my reference transport and DAC, the soundstage never seemed to extend much further than a couple of feet behind the rear plane of my speakers. While it always sounded pleasing, I knew that both the Wilson Watt/Puppy 5.1 and the Nearfield "Baby" Pipedreams that I use as my reference speakers are capable of producing a tremendously deep soundstage when the recording calls for it. With the Accuphase in the system, the depth of this recording seemed to increase ten fold. The scraping rocks that open this piece seemed to be coming from my neighbor's back yard instead of from inside my fireplace.
The Accuphase not only improved the distance of the soundstage depth, it was also wider. Prior to the Accuphase, I never was able to get a soundstage to extend beyond the outside edge of the speaker when using a digital source. This never really was a problem as my speakers are eight feet apart but I knew they were capable of much more as I was able to get much wider soundstages out of my analog front end. Once the DP-55V hit the system, I was blessed with a soundstage that rivaled the analog system.
The DP-55V is coherent from top to bottom with no one part of the frequency spectrum being emphasized over the other. As noted previously, the bass reproduction is tight with plenty of weight and authority. The Accuphase's bass performance is shown in its best light on "Montezuma" from Cusco's Apurimac II, Return to Ancient America [Higher Octave Music, HOMCD 7067]. This cut begins with the sound of a wood flute followed almost immediately by a pulsating bass line that continues throughout the piece. This bass line never gets congested and dull.
It is in the area of the midrange where the Accuphase really sparkles. Mark Levinson's Live Recordings at Red Rose Music, Vol 1 [Red Rose Music, RRM1] is a hybrid SACD that seems to find its way into conventional Redbook CD players in my house. To get the best out of this disk it should be played on a SACD player, but the recording quality of the Redbook layer is also pretty good. Shane Cattrall's reading of "Psalm 23" was very transparent in nature with the temple bells played by Mark Levinson floated around it.
Complaints And Conclusion
It is in the area of the highs that the Accuphase may show a weakness. While the highs are not emphasized over the other areas of the frequency spectrum, they do have a tendency to sound a little bright at times. This was particularly noticeable on cymbals, which were reproduced with just a touch too much sheen. As noted, this trait was never musically distracting. My main complaint with the DP-55V has nothing to do with the sound quality but with its remote. For $4,800 one would expect something better than a plastic remote. That just does not fit with a product of this caliber.
For the audiophile looking for a new digital front end who does not want to deal with the problems inherent with the new formats, I recommend he look no farther than the DP-55V. It never failed to take me on a musical journey. Highly recommended.
Sampling Frequency: 44.1kHz
Error Correction Principle: CIRC
Quantization: 16-bit to 24-bit, linear
Sampling Frequency: 32kHz, 44.1kHz, 48kHz
Digital Inputs: Optical via TOSlink and coax via RCA
Digital Outputs: Optical via TOSlink and coax via RCA
Frequency Response: 4Hz to 20kHz (±0.3dB)
D/A converter MDS type, 24-bit
Total Harmonic Distortion: 0.0009% (20Hz to 20,000Hz)
Signal-To-Noise Ratio: 114dB
Dynamic Range: 110dB
Channel Separation: 105dB
Output Voltage: 2.5V balanced (XLR), 2.5V unbalanced (RCA)
Volume Control: 0 to –40dB in 1-dB steps (digital)
Dimensions 18-11/16 x 5.5 x 15-1/8 (WxHxD in inches)
Weight: 26 lbs.