|The answer: xrCD² technology.
To my knowledge, the Combak Corporation is the only firm in the world licensed to incorporate both the K2 processor and the actual transport mechanism that's employed during the mastering of JVC's famed xrCD² recordings. The JVC technology -- implemented in a Kyodo Denshi chassis tuned and voiced by Kiuchi San for neutrality and natural presentation -- makes for unparalleled digital performance and not a bad looker either.
The CDP-777 is substantial, sleek and handsome. It measures 17 x 15 x 5 inches and weighs in at 33 pounds. The entire unit sits on four Harmonix feet chosen as part of the overall tuning and voicing procedure. The silver front faceplate, substantial without being ungainly, is simple and sensibly laid out. At the extreme left is the black power switch followed, left to right, by large buttons for output/on, sync-in/stop, pause, play, reverse track and forward track. The output, stop, pause and start functions have green LEDs above them to confirm active status. At the right of the faceplate is the JVC K-2 processor emblem, above that the inscribed Reimyo font. The name also appears engraved on top, just beyond the smoked glass sliding door that provides entry to the hard-mounted transport mechanism.
Above the function buttons, centered on the faceplate and behind smoked glass sits the program display, which can be turned off altogether. All the usual program options are available and indicated when engaged. All programming functions are accessible from the remote only.
A silver plate matching the front fascia dresses the back panel. This nice touch contributes not only to a sense of a well- conceived and polished product but one that is easy to use as well. Compared to the world of modern universal players, it's a joy to face the uncluttered business end of the Reimyo outfitted as it is only with well-spaced AES/EBU and RCA analog outputs and BNC and coaxial digital outputs which, in turn, are equally well-spaced from the IEC power inlet for after-market power cords. (More on this below.)
Both sides of the chassis as well as the top left and right quarters are finished in black. Between the top two quarters sits the silver-finished and quite substantial top-loading transport mechanism. A damped smoked-glass lid grants access to the top loader. Place your silver disk atop the spindle, affix the magnetized puck and close the sliding glass door. Forget the clamp or fail to shut the door and you will hear but the sound of silence, with the front panel display indicating the error of your ways with three letters, Err. It feels worse than it looks - often the case with rank incompetence.
Complete the process correctly (which is a rather trivial task) and prepare yourself for Redbook playback that very likely will far exceed your expectations about what could possibly still be extracted from the venerable silver disc.
|Transport & Processor
The story goes that JVC was looking to outfit their xrCD studios with new cables and cords. If you've ever been in a recording studio, you know that we are not talking about a meter here and there plus the odd power cord over yonder. We are likely talking about hundreds of feet of cabling and more than a handful of long power cords. JVC held something of a competition, inviting cable manufacturers from all over the world to participate by submitting long cable runs for evaluation. The thinking was that whatever distortions or anomalies were inherent in a particular cable design would be exacerbated in the longer runs required for studio use. At the end of the day, JVC chose to outfit their studios with cables and cords from Harmonix. Thus this extraordinary collaboration between Combak and JVC began.
|Whatever the exact truth about these beginnings, the eventual fruits borne from this collaboration with the Reimyo CDP must have exceeded the expectations of even these collaborators themselves. No one could have anticipated that their unprecedented teamwork would have yielded a player of this performance.
The CDP-777 employs the latest version of the xrCD² K2 processor and in doing so provides synchronous 176.4kHz/24- bit performance and an effective data rate in excess of 700kHz with its 4 x oversampling. This is the kind of resolution mentioned normally in the context of so-called high-resolution formats.
|The Reimyo DAP-777 stand-alone DAC employs a slightly earlier iteration of the K-2 processor and, along with the Zanden Model 5000 MkIV, represents one of the truly great commercially available DACs. Alas, however wonderful digital playback through the Reimyo DAC may be, it does not equal the performance of the one-box player. The performance difference seemingly has much less to do with the difference in chip sets than with the employ of the extraordinary JVC transport mechanism of the xrCD mastering process which, as noted and outside their mastering facility, is available only in the Reimyo player.
This transport mechanism is amazing to behold. It reads disks more quickly than any other mechanism I have seen or heard. It spins disks
|silently and accurately. It starts and stops on a dime and stands to most others much like a Simon Yorke or SME platter and motor stand to a Radio Shack turntable.
Without ignoring transports altogether, fans of two-box digital playback over the years have denigrated their contribution to digital playback. The average audiophile can of course list several preferred transports, from the CEC belt drives to the various iterations of Teac's VRDS mechanism to parallel implementations of the Philips Pro2. But the general view has long since been that once you get above a certain threshold in transport performance, the remainder of the sonic gains are to be had from better DACs and digital interconnects. Though not without truth, this conventional wisdom is misleading.
In fact, designers have once again directed their attention to transports. There is no shortage of high-end transports from the likes of Esoteric, Ensemble, mbl, Accustic Arts, Orpheus Labs, Meitner and most recently, Zanden (on which our Editor will soon report). The big news? Better transports can translate into gigantic sonic improvements. Not long ago I had the opportunity to listen to the highly regarded Zanden DAC played through two very different transports. One was the transport of a very fine CD player used as transport-only for which this particular player is often recommended. The second was the brand-new and very pricey Zanden Model 2000 transport. The difference between the two was simple to detect - magic in the second case, none in the first.
No transport I have heard (including my prior Audiomeca) bests the one in the CDP-777. I've used the Reimyo player as a transport with my former digital DAC reference, the Audio Logic 24MXL. In addition to fronting Audio Logic, Jerry Ozment is the design genius behind digital products from Thor, Jadis and Altis among others. Audiophiles in the know have long admired his work and especially his converters offered under the Audio Logic brand. Our own Jeff Day has long employed an earlier Audio Logic DAC as his digital reference.
Mated to the Reimyo for transport duty and connected via my reference Stealth Varidig, the Audio Logic came to life and revealed itself to be one of the truly great bargains in high-end audio. While the performance of the Reimyo/Audio Logic fell short of the Reimyo as a stand-alone player, it surpassed the performance of many high-end DACs including a variety of Audio Note units I have listened to here and elsewhere. All would have benefited, I am quite sure, by a similar mating to the Reimyo/xrCD transport mechanism that can elevate the performance of a very good DAC to near state-of-the-art.
Of course, with the CDP-777 there is no need to scour the high-end in search of suitable DAC - it's already outfitted with a SOTA converter. The results are nothing short of dazzling.
|Why Do You Say That?
If you insist, I'll tell you. There are three features of the Reimyo that set it apart from every other player I have yet heard. The Reimyo provides absolutely no audible indication that the music is being played back through a CD player. The CDP-777 adds nothing to the music. It doesn't flavor or color it, hype it up or slow it down. It adds no haze or glaze, no electronic or mechanical overlay. It's just about not there.
Relatedly, the Reimyo presents music in the most relaxed, natural fashion that I have ever heard from CD playback. In this regard, the Reimyo surpasses, for the very first time in my experience, all but the very best turntables. Coming from an analogue guy, this sounds so odd that I have to repeat it just to make sure that I realize exactly what I am saying:
"The Reimyo CD player presents music in a more relaxed and natural way than the vast majority of turntables." In fact, I now use the Reimyo as a reference for transparency, ease of presentation and naturalness not just to evaluate digital performance but to take the measure of turntables as well.
Third, whereas many CD players sound their best by shelving
|down the high frequencies just a bit to avoid digital nasties while bumping up the midbass, the Reimyo is the most complete and extended CD player I have ever heard. You will be shocked by how much more high-frequency musical information your silver discs really possess. No glare, no tizz, no edge, no etch; no spotlight, no need for SACD bandwidth; nothing but musical detail and a bottom end to die for.
More importantly, the presentation is as coherent as it is extended. If it's on the disc, the Reimyo will deliver it to you not in parts but as a cohesive whole. This is one of the genuinely few non-hifi-ish products on the market. So many products are built around catchy but essentially artificial features. Whether by a speaker company whose tweeters call attention to their presence by emphasizing an unnatural airiness or informativeness; or a well-known and admired preamplifier that projects the midrange forward yet at the expense of a coherent and more honest dynamic presentation - these products over time simply loose their persuasiveness. Sometimes the artificiality of the presentation is obvious from the outset. Often it takes longer to notice it. However, in time it will make itself known to disappoint and disillusion.