It is hardly shocking, subsequently, that the parents from Leucadia would flip their consideration to that the majority modifiable of elements, the CD participantparticularly, the ever present Magnavox CDB 650. I had a terrific deal to say about CD normally, and Magnavox gamers specifically, in a current survey (Vol.11 No.3. March 1988), so I will not go into element right here regarding both. Suffice it to say that the inventory 650 is principally a great participant with loads of room inside to tempt a modifier, and loads of room for enchancment in its fundamental analog-output phasesthe world targeting by all modifiers, The Mod Squad included. It additionally wants enchancment in its somewhat clunky, plasticky transport mechanism. Fortuitously, Magnavox (manufactured by Philips) has solved that drawback within the new 470 collection. These less-expensive fashions have a silky-smooth, sturdy transport. The Mod Squad can also be engaged on mods for these gamers, however, for now, the topic at hand is their 650 mod, renamed the Prism.
On the floor, what The Mod Squad does will not be so completely different from what different modifiers do in its improve of a participant’s analog stage. However there’s one characteristic I have never but seen in different modifications I’ve examined: an exterior transformer drives a separate energy provide for the electronics, leaving the unique provide to drive the transport mechanism. The Mod Squad additionally considers power-supply polarity to be vital, and goes to the additional bother of correctly annotating the leads and offering directions for hookup; if your property shops are keyed with vast and slender slots (as is most up-to-date development), and assuming your own home or residence is correctly wired, right hookup shall be easy. The Prism additionally stays completely onthe exterior energy change is disabled.
The Mod Squad participant can also be designed with significantly increased output than different gamers I’ve examinedabout 8dB increased than the California Audio Labs Aria participant and the Audio Ideas/Brasfield modification of the Magnavox 650. The explanation for that is unquestionably to be used with passive line phasestogether with the Mod Squad’s personal Line Drive. I did not use it that means, however fed it by means of the high-level inputs of my Klyne SK-5A to facilitate comparisons with different gamers of extra regular output. No overload issues had been encountered with this setup, however a possible drawback would possibly exist with lesser preamps.
On a optimistic observe, a number of the extra not too long ago launched low-cost preamps have a switch-selected bypass of the high-level stage (the brand new PS Audio 4.6 and the Sumo Athena, for instance). I’ve discovered that the standard output of most Magnavox gamers, and modifications thereto, do not actually have sufficient output for passive drive; the Prism must be an exception. Each of the above-mentioned preamps not too long ago arrived for analysis; use of the Mod Squad participant with them is unquestionably on my agenda. Keep tuned.
The Prism, sadly, arrived with a faulty transport, becoming a member of the three different faulty Magnavox-based gamers I’ve encountered (out of a complete of seven models) in current months. Two of the opposite three flaws (see feedback on the Aria, beneath) had been undoubtedly within the unique, unmodified machines. The Prism’s drawback was a transport which, about half the time, refused to show the disc. It was promptly repaired by the producer (apparently, alternative of the transport is a straightforward process) and the analysis commenced (though the delay did postpone this assessment’s publication).
The Mod Squad recommends the usage of a CD damper (footnote 2), and Audioquest Sorbothane toes with quick Tiptoes embedded in them. I additionally used the damper together with customary Sorbothane toes with the gamers to which I in contrast the Mod, however made no try to characterize the particular results of the damper and toes. Let’s simply say I handled them like rooster soup.
Sound High quality
The Prism ranks with the perfect solid-state CD gamers I’ve but auditioned. It might be the greatest, however I will not make such a declare calmly; it has actual strengths, but in addition some minor weaknesses which solely grew to become obvious on comparability with competing gamers.
First, the good things. The Mod Squad was excellent at rendering midrange element and definition, along with glorious vocal copy. A number of of the cuts from Gordon Lightfoot’s If You May Learn My Thoughts (Reprise 6392-2) have lengthy been favorites of mine for naturally recorded pop vocals, and I used to be delighted to seek out the CD to be excellently remastered (footnote 3). The Prism supplies Gordon’s voice with a pure stability of physique and resonance. I discovered this on a variety of different recordings, instrumental and vocal; the palpable presence by means of the midband, if not fairly as much as the extent of the perfect I’ve heard (that distinction belongs to the CAL Aria), was nonetheless convincing.
A part of the credit score for the Prism’s midrange copy should concern its transient response and dynamics. I refer right here to the delicate shadings of degree and influence which make music come alive. Whether or not this concerned a transition between gentle and really loud (attempt the explosive dynamics of The Folia of SpainHarmonia Mundi HM 90.1050), the influence of a well-recorded piano as on Nojima Performs Liszt (Reference Recordings RR-25CD), or the delicate shadings of a gifted guitarist (Leo Kottke’s A Shout Towards MiddayPersonal Music 2007-2-P), the Prism did not fail to supply spectacular however completely pure copy.
The weaknesses of the Prism weren’t critical, however had been heard as compared with one other solid-state participant I’ve been not too long ago impressed withthe lesser-known Audio Ideas/Brasfield modification of the Magnavox 650. The latter participant was superior to the Prism on the frequency extremes. Listened to by itself, the Mod Squad was by no means poor at both finish of the spectrum, however the Audio Ideas had an open, ethereal transparency within the uppermost octave that the Prism couldn’t fairly match. It wasevery so often, accompanied by a slight dryness or high-quality graininess, however I believe it was merely revealing flaws in this system materials.
On the low finish, all the way down to about 35Hz, there was little to select from between these two gamers, although a delicate midbass leanness of the Audio Ideas barely improved its obvious readability by means of this area, whereas conversely drying out male vocals a bit. Beneath 35Hz, nonetheless, the Audio Ideas got here out a winner. Each gamers had a deep, prolonged low finish, however the AC had the higher definition. On Widor’s Toccata, Symphony V from Nonetheless French fashion (Telarc CD-80104), the deep, guttural shudder of the deepest pipes was extra clearly apparent by means of the Audio Ideas. The Mod was equally potent, however lacked the ultimate phrase intimately. In case your audio system give out beneath 35Hz, as do most, this distinction will imply little to you.
Each gamers had been additionally comparable in imaging and depth. I’ve to say that the improved top-end transparency of the Audio Ideas extra typically gave it a slight superiority on this space, however the variations weren’t pronounced, the improved “air” of the AC in all probability extra accountable for the subjective enchancment than any esoteric high quality. The soundstages of each models had been constantly well-defined; although neither fairly equalled the perfect of analog in copy of depth, each had been glorious in presentation of a lateral picture.
However the dynamic shadings and element within the all-important midrange had been particular winners on the Prism. Except the low bass, band three on the aforementioned At Folia was a capsule demonstration of the variations heard between these two gamers on a variety of program materials. Because the band begins, the softly performed devices and bells are extra open on the Audio Ideas, with a barely extra palpable depth. Because the midrange content material begins to predominate, the Mod Squad comes into its personal with improved physique and definition. Neither machine blew the opposite away; I really feel it is vital to emphasise this as there are fully too many issues being “blown away” in audiophile circles as of late. If I finally got here to want the Mod Squad due to its superior and all-important midrange, that does not imply I would not miss the improved frequency extremes of the Audio Ideas. I may reside fortunately (although maybe not ever after, given the unpredictability of progress) with both participant. Neither is probably going for use as a ship anchor any time quickly.
However the place does this go away the Mod Squad participant vis a vis my present champ, the CAL Aria? As I write this, an improved model of the Aria is due (a sonic replace, not simply the improved Philips transport, which my pattern would not have both), so any remark I make now should essentially be tempered. The pattern I now have can also be a barely more moderen pattern than the one I reviewed; that unit all of the sudden ceased making sounds in each channels in an obvious match of pique and was returned to CAL for repairs.
However the brand new pattern is each bit nearly as good because the returned unitmaybe higher. It was, merely and clearly, extra alive and open (an excellent expansiveness up and down the frequency vary), and extra three-dimensional (each between devices and within the copy of particular person devices and voices themselves), than both the Audio Ideas or the Mod Squad (excluding the deep bass, the place it was excellent however not fairly as taut because the solid-state gamers). It took solely a short audition, after intensive listening to the opposite gamers, to point the Aria’s superiority, at the very least to this reviewer. However that takes nothing away from my excessive regard for the Prism. Apart from, the Aria prices $400 extra.
Ought to The Mod Squad Prism be your CD participant? It will depend on your priorities and finances, and on the way you weight its strengths in opposition to these of the competitors. I’ve not but had, in my system, any of the $2000+ “tremendous gamers,” however the potential superiority shall be moot for many readers. In the actual world of right here and now, I discover it tough to imagine that some other solid-state machines at any comparable worth will considerably higher the Prism sonically. The actual world, nonetheless, is an unpredictable place. It is maybe sufficient to say that this analog-first fan is at the very least hopeful in regards to the digital future with such corporations as The Mod Squad striving to make it work.
Footnote 1: Using pointed spikes, particularly on loudspeakers, to couple a part to its supporting floor, appears to have originated within the UK. I witnessed Linn, Publicity, Russ Andrews, and different corporations demonstrating the thought in 1982.John Atkinson
Footnote 2: For these not too long ago returned from an extended house voyage, a CD damper is a skinny inflexible or semirigid disc positioned atop the CD throughout play for improved sonics. Or so the adverts saymany customers appear to agree, although it is nonetheless somewhat controversial. The damper won’t slot in all gamers, however appears to work in all these of Philips origin.
Footnote 3: That is, for me, far and away Gordon Lightfoot’s greatest recorded album for Reprise, earlier than the powers-that-be at that label determined to juice up his preparations with extra instrumental backing and synthetic reverb. Attempt “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Sit Down Younger Stranger” (the unique title of the album earlier than the a lot inferior “If You May Learn My Thoughts” went megahit), and “Pony Man.”