Sony SCD-1: First Impressions

Sony SCD-1: First Impressions
Lewis Lanese
9 November 1999

Following are a few comments about Sony’s Super Audio CD/CD Player that I would like to add to Perry’s review.

I had the fortunate opportunity to audition the SCD-1 at both Bill Brassington’s and Clement Perry’s home. One look at the unit and you know this is a serious piece of electronic equipment. Sony has spared nothing in introducing the Sony-Philips, Direct Stream Digital featured in its Super Audio CD player. It is beautifully finished and built like a battleship – a piece of equipment to treasure. In the world of High-End Audio, it would command a price far greater than the asking price of $5,000. In a way it seems like a bargain!

But aesthetics and build quality aside, $5,000 is a lot of money and begs the question of whether or not it lives up to its advance notices. Let me put your doubts to rest – it does live up to its press ballyhoo and then some!

My immediate impression was a sense of ease in the reproduction of music, a lack of CD artifacts, as close to live as I have heard! That is not to say that it was like listening to live music but relatively speaking it had some of the aspects of a live experience. It reminds me of my reaction many years ago when I first heard “Direct-to-Disc” analogue compared to conventionally recorded LPs; the same experience of the LP having eliminated the obvious electronic artifacts of the procedure of recording- to-tape-to-master-to-pressing – the feeling that “Direct-to-Disc” had gotten closer to the sound of “live”. Is SACD better than the best analogue? No, it is on a par with analogue, but with a different sonic presentation. You might say at their best here are two great methods of reproduction –both valid but each providing a different emphasis. Listening to the SCD-1, I never felt that I had to go back to analogue to experience the sound as it should be. Mariah Carey’s voice was just “there’, Yo-Yo Ma’s cello gave a feeling of being in the room, shorn of its “veil” – and all the ambience there as it should be. This is what we had hoped the “perfect sound” of CD would be when it was introduced nearly twenty years ago. In a way SACD is the “Direct-to-Disc” of CDs. But how would Sony’s SCD-1 perform with ordinary CDs?

This is an important question since there are only a handful of SACD discs available while many of us have a large collection of regular CDs. Well, I have good news for you! I listened to a number of regular CDs and was struck by the outstanding job the SCD-1 did. No, they didn’t match SACD reproduction but I thought that the reproduction at least equaled and in some cases bettered the reproduction from the Meitner transport and DAC. And believe me that is quite a compliment since I consider the Meitner among the finest available – especially when you consider that the Meitner DAC (that Bill, Clement and I have) has been upgraded by Ed as a result of his development for Sony’s SACD.

Let me cut to the quick. How much do I like this new CD component? Enough that I ordered it last week!

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