Pioneer DV-47A vs. Sony SCD-C555ES

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Dzung Pham, Aug 12, 2002.

  1. Dzung Pham

    Dzung Pham Second Unit

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    Last night I did some A/B testing between my 47a and a Sony SCD-C555ES. I tested with the one track that I own on two different discs: Rebecca Pidgeon's Spanish Harlem, which I have on both her album The Raven and Chesky's Introduction to SACD. This is a stereo SACD track. My system consists of MBL 111A main speakers passively biamped with a Sunfire Cinema Grand and a Sony TA-P9000ES preamp.

    Initially I thought the Sony sounded a bit more open and more smooth. However, after I did some level-matching (by ear),I found that I would be very hard pressed to hear a difference between the two players on that track. Switching back and forth, both players sounded practically identical to me. The 555ES is brand new while the 47a is several months old so if you believe in burn-in, perhaps that would make a difference. I tried to notice some differences but was never able to convince myself fully there were actually any.

    The 47A has received mixed reviews on its SACD performance while the Sony unit is pretty much universally praised. Based on this experience, I believe sonic differences between the two are subtle at best. The 47A's output was by default about 5dB lower than the Sony player and I had to increase it within the setup menu to make a more valid comparison. I believe this may be the source of some the inconsistency in the reviews.

    With that said, the 555ES has some advantages in its feature set which made me decide to get it (phantom center mode on multichannel SACDs, setup navigation does not require you to turn on the display, carousel). I will probably pick up a separate DVD-A player in the near future.
     
  2. Doug_B

    Doug_B Screenwriter

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    Dzung,

    Interesting observations. I can tend to think that differences between players can be more subtle than one might otherwise believe.

    Based on your testing methodology, I do have a couple of comments based on my own experience. When I have A/B'ed CDPs by "rapidly" switching back and forth, I have had a hard time discerning differences. I think the method is good to validate levels between the two (in addition to a meter), but I have had more success comparing CDPs when I listen to an entire selection on one unit, then playing the selection on the other unit. I think this gives me the full flavor and feel that the unit imparts on the selection. Another way of saying this is that a song is more than a sum of its parts. Maybe you should try this method as well.

    As for the selection itself, I have no experience with it. Do you consider it a high quality recording? If you try the method of comparison I am proposing, you won't need two copies of the selection, so try to pick the highest quality SACD you have. Personally, I think the Spyro Gyra SACD I have is the best quality one I possess (but I only have about 10 SACDs).

    Doug
     
  3. Dzung Pham

    Dzung Pham Second Unit

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    Hi Doug, thanks for your comments. I do consider that track to be a high quality recording, although it is probably not a direct DSD recording. I'll check on that later. The track does feature a nice combination of vocals, piano, violins, acoustic guitar and string bass.

    Regarding testing methodologies, I agree that this approach is just one way to compare players. But this is the approach that would give me the most confidence in any differences I thought I heard. I am wary of the power of suggestion and the possibility that I might be biased by previous reviews. I don't think my evaluation is definitive by any means, but I've heard the 47A get trashed on more than one occasion for its SACD quality. I believe that this comparison indicates that this is unwarranted, at least on my system and according to my ears. I think if Pioneer had used a larger, heavier chassis, it might get better reviews even if the sonics were the same.
     
  4. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

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    I had the same impressions! I temporarily owned a 555ES then compared it to the 47A in the store. I heard no difference. I went with the 47A because I wanted DVD-A capability and personally preferred having one machine do everything.
     
  5. Howard_S

    Howard_S Supporting Actor

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    First of all. The unit does tend to need a while for breakin but in. Got some questions.

    Did you use the same cables? Did you connect the analog cables to the 2ch part of the 555ES and not the multichannel part of the 555ES?

    I would suggest you play other stuff as well.

    And this is obviously stupid. Are your speakers properly positioned?
     
  6. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Doug,
    I agree with you when it comes to comparing players. Discerning differences when A/B'ing on the fly for a couple measures of music is problematic. I find that I need to listen to a song, familiar or otherwise, for at least a couple of minutes to get a feel for a player's sonic qualities. Then I will switch to the other player in question.
    Regarding Rebecca Pidgeon The Raven, which contains "Spanish Harlem", the recording is excellent in my opinion. If you want to hear some excellent vocals, grab this disc.
    Dzung,
    I have not yet heard the '47A extensively, so I am in no position to give an opinion regarding its standing relative to the 'C555ES. However, my issue with the '47A is the build quality, which I feel is lacking for the price. That doesn't mean it is lacking in sonic ability.
    The reason so many people have been talking up the 'C555ES is because people like me have been telling everyone to buy one for months. [​IMG] A number of people have recommended the 'C555ES for those looking for a good SACD/CD player at under $1000, and many here have grabbed one as a result and then gone on to recommend it themselves. The popularity of the 'C555ES has spiraled in the past year. It's one of those "And they told their friends, and so on, and so on, and so on..." situations. [​IMG]
    On another subject, Rebecca Pidgeon The Raven is a PCM recording. The booklet makes mention of this. Still, I find the SACD to be better, though the difference is not marked. There is a slight edge or "glassy" quality to the vocals on the CD layer.
     
  7. David Judah

    David Judah Screenwriter

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    I never understood why the 47A got trashed for SACD performance in some circles. Perhaps it was an audiophile bias against a DVD player being a decent audio piece(and a lightwieght one at that)? In the comparisons I've done it performed well.

    I couldn't readily discern a difference between the 555ES and the 47A, either, in SACD performance although I did prefer the former for CD playback(I own a 555ES).

    DJ
     
  8. Dzung Pham

    Dzung Pham Second Unit

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    Howard, I believe my speakers are properly positioned but I suppose you can judge for yourself. There's a picture of my system here. There's acoustic foam on the back and at the first reflections on the side walls. I also placed an acoustic blanket over my display during my listening. Regarding interconnects, with the Pioneer I am using Radio Shack interconnects, with the Sony I was using the stock ones included with the player. I have XLO interconnects from the pre to the amp. I'm not a big believer in differences between interconnects but I can swap some nicer ones in for the Sony to see if it helps. I am using the multichannel outputs but I can easily switch to the stereo ones and see if it makes a difference. There seems to be some disagreement in the community on whether there is a difference.
    Keith, thanks for your comments. I believe the Sony is undoubtedly a superb value and as I stated earlier, it will probably become my main music player in my system. The main reason for performing this experiment was to see if the Pioneer was really as bad at SACDs as some people seem to think. Some of these reports led me to believe that switching to the Sony would unveil layers of detail and music that would not be apparent with the Pioneer. There may indeed be differences between the Sony and the Pioneer under different circumstances, on other music, in other systems, and with different listeners. Nevertheless, my experience has led me to believe that the Pioneer is a decent SACD player with comparable sound quality to the Sony. There are of course, some good reviews of the Pioneer as well so I'm not alone in this thinking.
    My comment about build quality was only an attempt to hypothesize as to why there might be some bias against the Pioneer's sonics. Build quality is certainly a legitimate feature one should look for in their equipment.
     
  9. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Dzung, no problem.

    You said:

     

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