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New Pioneer SACD player.

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Posted (edited)

Promised a review of my player today and here it is. The first thing I should clarify is that I do not pretend to have the knowledge or expertise others on this site clearly have. I have learnt so much in a few short months from others here and appreciate their reviews and opinions that have helped me learn.

 

My hifi journey to date includes only two cdp’s prior to the Pioneer - a yammy cdp purchased in 1990 and an Arcam cd73 purchased in 2006. I loved both of them for different reasons.

 

I recently got back into hifi this year and my entire system has now changed. It now consists of a Luxman SQ38 amp, Rega Planar6 tt, a Bluesound Node 2 and the Pioneer cdp. My interconnects are some new Gary Cawsey and Wyewires. It all sits on a four tier ExtremA stand. My speaker cable is Synergistic Research Core Cable – bi Wire version.

 

My speakers remain the same since 2006, Monitor Audio GS60’s.

 

Why did I purchase this Pioneer? Based on my reading, the excellent reviews on here, including @maximus and the SNA editorial, together with my research on youtube etc. I was not able to listen to the player first. I was also attracted by the price. I paid $2965 delivered to Melbourne from Digital Cinema in NSW. Much better than offered in Melb.

 

It took about 10 days to arrive. It came in a single box only but had the most bubble wrap I have ever seen – seriously (see my earlier pics).

 

It is very, very heavy. 18.5kgs. It looks and feels like a solid unit. It looks like quality. It came with a remote and a thick Aus power cable. The remote is fine but nothing special. Plastic with heaps of small buttons. It’s range is great. I replaced the cord with a Cawsey power cord I purchased in the classifieds.

 

My Arcam was a noisy bugger, much more than many other cdp’s I expect. I was shocked how silent the Pioneer was. Its tray is also made of aluminium but opens and closes with a deliberate action that again screams quality.

 

I let the Pioneer burn in. I really don’t know if that is hocus pokus or real – I have read both sides of the argument, but an (un)timely ear infection saw me not in a position to listen with any clarity so why not let it “run in”. It would have at least 150 hours before I sat down for my first real session.

 

I don’t really have a reference cd per se, but I am familiar with a CD enjoyed by my wife and I called “She will have her way” – a collection of female Australian artists covering Crowded House / Split Enz singles. It is an excellent recording and sounded wonderful on the Arcam.

 

Wow. There is a sense of depth and realism on the opening track. I hear the artist’s breath adding to the feeling of a live experience. The separation of instruments is far clearer than the Arcam. The highs are clear without being harsh – I think my tube amp assists in this respect.

 

The mids are simply beautiful. I know I could listen for hours and indeed I have now. I experience no fatigue.

 

Track 4 is Renee Geyer’s retake of “Into Temptation”. It has a heavy bass and again I am blown away by the Pioneer. I feel every beat when asked to go there. I love my indy music and am an old Joy Division / New Order fan. Sadly, everything except my first CD purchase ever (Substance 1987), is on vinyl. I am off to Japan in September and I cannot wait to obtain some JD/NO discs.

 

A change of genre to Silverchair’s Young Modern – Straight Line is played. I have found this CD in the past to be very “digital” with not a great sense of anything other than “noise”. Similarly, there is a greater sense of space making it far more enjoyable to listen too.

 

Falling Joy’s Psychohum now playing. Incinerator, Black bandages and Challenger sound better than I have experienced prior. To me it is the depth.

 

SACD – I went to purchase Brothers in Arms as I thought I didn’t own any SACD. Amazon asked if I wanted to purchase AGAIN? Seems I bought in 2008 along with Tubular Bells. Great, found in a box upstairs.

 

I own the Music Fidelity vinyl version which is awesome.

 

The Pioneer automatically knows it is SACD and switches to such with a message across the screen.

Everything I have said above is doubled. I love it. The pioneer renders the SACD on par with my vinyl version that I simply adore.

 

DAC – I had the Musiclab M-Dac which was my first and only ever stand alone DAC. I was attracted to the Pioneer purchase I should add as both use ESS Sabre chips for such purpose. The Pioneer uses the Pro version chips.

I also wanted to find a better solution to play streaming music from Tidal. I was also keen to find a solution to more “couch time”, not having to get up and down all the time to change songs.

 

After much research, I purchased a Bluesound Node 2 ($728 from Audio Trends in Mlb) which is connected two ways.

 

First, direct from the Node to the Amp. This is for MQA music.

 

Secondly, the digital coaxial from the Node to the Pioneer. I can easily select which output is playing via the Amp.

This allowed me to determine the sound from each DAC and MQA v Pioneer.

 

I play Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Green Day. It is MQA.


On the Pioneer it plays at 88.2 kHz. The pioneer does not play MQA. It sounds excellent.

 

I swap to MQA via the amp (just changed input from CD to Line 1).  I have done this many, many times. Different songs. I challenge anyone to tell a difference. I cannot, nor my wife. In blind testing I have no idea when swapped over. This leads me to conclude three things:

  • -  My hearing is shot (possible);

  • -  MQA is marketing garbage; and/or

  • -  The Pioneer’s DAC is that good it renders a normal stream the same as MQA.

 

Nobody wants to drop $3K and say they bought a crappy device and there may be a tendency to say it’s the best thing ever. Pioneer I do not consider “fancy” or “high end.”  I don’t have the knowledge of a lot of SNA’s and my own references to sound quality is hampered by my limited exposure to quality players.

 

All I can say is the Pioneer is very impressive and I am glad I own it.

Edited by rodders3
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Great w rite up Rodders, glad you're enjoying it, wait til it hits 300-400hrs, it becomes even more  nuanced, timber of instruments, just beautiful.

I do a lot of shift work and on some evenings I don't want to leave the lounge and go to work, it's so addictive.

 

cheers Frank

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@rodders3

 

Excellent feedback. Congrats on the purchase.

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Posted (edited)

Great review.

 

Seems like a superb player for consideration.............................

Edited by rantan

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4 hours ago, rodders3 said:

I don’t really have a reference cd per se, but I am familiar with a CD enjoyed by my wife and I called “She will have her way” – a collection of female Australian artists covering Crowded House / Split Enz singles. It is an excellent recording and sounded wonderful on the Arcam.

OT: One of my favourite CDs.  I use Kasey Chambers' duet "Better be home soon" to test for brightness/harshness (but I don't actually like this version!). Her voice is really grating in the wrong system.

 

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Thanks guys. Appreciate the comments. @sakabatou yes that is a great CD. There is a male version as well out there as well that is also excellent. 

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11 minutes ago, rodders3 said:

Thanks guys. Appreciate the comments. @sakabatou yes that is a great CD. There is a male version as well out there as well that is also excellent. 

Yes, it’s on Tidal too. But I prefer the ladies 😉

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2 hours ago, rodders3 said:

Thanks guys. Appreciate the comments. @sakabatou yes that is a great CD. There is a male version as well out there as well that is also excellent. 

Great review and a great player. Sorry if I misread but did you say the mqa using the dacs in the node 2 and the sound using the dac of the pioneer sounded pretty much the same?

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1 hour ago, Hi-Fi Whipped said:

Great review and a great player. Sorry if I misread but did you say the mqa using the dacs in the node 2 and the sound using the dac of the pioneer sounded pretty much the same?

Hi mate, just got home from Suzanne Vega concert. Wouldn't say I was a fan bit am now. She is amazing for almost 60!

 

Anyway, yes. The Node plays MQA direct to the amp. If tidal detects non MQA then plays the song but standard. That goes to the Pioneer. Honestly sound exactly the same. I can switch inputs easily and silently. You cannot tell it has changed if someone else is switching inputs. I have double checked I am actually playing MQA and I am. It switches on Bluesound app to standard so know when through Pioneer if looking at amp.

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Posted (edited)
On 03/08/2018 at 1:19 PM, rodders3 said:

 

I play Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Green Day. It is MQA.


On the Pioneer it plays at 88.2 kHz. The pioneer does not play MQA. It sounds excellent.

 

I swap to MQA via the amp (just changed input from CD to Line 1).  I have done this many, many times. Different songs. I challenge anyone to tell a difference. I cannot, nor my wife. In blind testing I have no idea when swapped over. This leads me to conclude three things:

  • -  My hearing is shot (possible);

  • -  MQA is marketing garbage; and/or

  • -  The Pioneer’s DAC is that good it renders a normal stream the same as MQA.

 

Nobody wants to drop $3K and say they bought a crappy device and there may be a tendency to say it’s the best thing ever. Pioneer I do not consider “fancy” or “high end.”  I don’t have the knowledge of a lot of SNA’s and my own references to sound quality is hampered by my limited exposure to quality players.

 

All I can say is the Pioneer is very impressive and I am glad I own it.

Thanks for the review. I don't have a strong view one way or another about file formats, but is your MQA conclusion really valid. Have i got this right — aren't you comparing a relatively cheap all-in-one streamer/dac bluesound playing MQA with a highish end cdp/dac here playing PCM? 

I think i'd be disappointed if the highish end Pioneer didn't trounce the bluesound whatever file format it was playing. 

Edited by buddyev

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You're welcome @buddyev.

 

The Node 2 still sells for around $1k - it's not so cheap. I understand it uses  a burr brown PCM5122 chip. I have no idea how that compares to the Ess sabre chip in the Pioneer. 

 

To me there is a noticeable difference in sound when playing the Node only. Most of the MQA songs are also available standard so you can do a direct comparison. I believe also MQA plays at different kHz levels depending on the song - I saw an article about it which interested me as I can see on the Pioneer what kHz the song is playing at. I cannot see any info on the Bluesound app.

 

End of the day all I can say that MQA and Pioneer both sound magnificent to me.

 

I have never been a huge "how much it costs" type of guy so that means little to me when judging something. I used to play a fair bit of golf and have seen putters, drivers and shafts costing thousands of dollars (especially the JDM stuff). At a certain level of quality it means little and was more about being exclusive or looking a certain way. Nothing wrong with that, I have some pretty $$$ golf gear but it really meant squat to any noticeable improvement.

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