Starting with the D100 Pro transport, the next photo shows the display during playback of the SD card. The card's contents and the player's menu can be navigated with the five hard buttons on the face; or via the included backlit Chunghop preprogrammed remote which adds useful 'exit' and 'menu' direct commands to speed things up. In the deluxe version of this deck...


... the connectivity bay on the back gains two high-precision master-clock inputs on BNC connectors.


Altogether it's a tidy package with no exposed screw heads visible because the top panel secures with four long hex bolts from the bottom through channels in the rounded-corner extrusions.


Whilst items like display intensity and time-lapsed display off are set in the menu, a direct display-off function is also on the remote. Track back/next, mute/pause and such are thus controlled by infrared wand to render SD card playback no different than spinning legacy CD from the seat; except for the 80-minute limit and playlist freedom that culls from many different CD/file folders. Because the basic display renders its font suitably large, even navigating the menu by remote is well within reach of 50-some year-old eyes as long as the setup is within a few metres.


Using Apple's small metal remote, I could toggle back and forth between my Korean DAC's USB and AES/EBU inputs without running sequentially through all of its four inputs via the front panel button. Cueing up iMac and D100 simultaneously to sync up play of the same file, this was as close to instant gratification as hifi A/B get. Anyone who expected revelations despite the earlier track title—from The Khoury Project's eponymous album, a stunning example of virtuoso Arabic chamber music—must live on the 7th or 8th moon not yet discovered. On the terra firma of our six, nothing drastic happened. The iMac didn't get butchered. The D100 didn't impale. The Irish ponies on the meadow behind the speakers chewed the greener grass and crapped as always. Did that mean there were no differences? I assembled a playlist of 15 tracks on the iMac, copied that to memory card and got busy reading the tea leaves. Enter typical FAT32 nonsense. Instead of filing a playlist as you so carefully compiled it, FAT32 re-sequences according to original track numbers. When it encounters multiples, it then goes by alphabet. So if you put what was track 9 on the original album as track 1 on your playlist followed by an original track 15 as your list's track 2... you'll now find those at the end. After I made my card dump, I had to reorganize the iMac's playlist to match since I wanted to run both in sync. Unlike the Esther portable, the D100's display converted letters like 'ü' and 'ş' into Chinese characters but only in final play mode. In menu list mode, it showed them fine; a small housekeeping chore for Soundaware's code writers.


The eventual upshot? The iMac was slightly sharper, the D100 softer. Depending on track, this could play out as more raw, exciting and adrenaline driven for the Apple; or smoother and more organic for the Soundaware. The important thing was that once again, this offset was about as minor as attempting to suss out the magnitude of different digital filters. Something isn't exactly the same but our hearing adjusts so rapidly to such a tiny shift that calling out one as 'better' is a fool's errand especially when allegiances can shift from cut to cut. For massed violins like on Claude Chalhoub, I favoured the D100. On guttural stuff like Omar Bashir's "Crazy Oud" or the spiky staccato-infested Indian/Spanish duels on "Gangaquivir", the iMac had it. On the honeyed yet jubilant vocals of Amr Diab's prayerful vignettes on various names of God, the extensive reverb trails and minor sibilance favoured the D100. Pitingo's hoarse Soul/Flamenco vocals gripped me more with the iMac. And so forth.

iMac/Pure Music and D100 Pro connected to Fore Audio DAISy1 DAC via USB/AES-EBU respectively, feeding Vinnie Rossi's Lio as AVC passive.

Given the above plus the loss of nav functionality and what frankly was a pitiful display versus a hi-tech 27-inch 5K iMac, the D100 most certainly did not dethrone it. However, at 1/3rd its cost, the D100 was proudly left standing on sound to make a most valid alternative as SD card player. You'll of course still need means to get tunes onto a card. But that could be a sleazy budget laptop since it won't be used for playback, just as transfer gate between library and card. Of course, the majority of prospective buyers will pursue the D100 Pro for its networkability. Running it through those paces will be for another reviewer for reasons already given. To wrap up this page on a purely personal note, for bedside headfi use, I'd consider this type card player ideal. That neatly segues into the A280 which adds a DAC and headphone amp into a very similar box for modern multi-tasking draw.