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TEAC PD-501 Digital Player Review

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System set-up and listening

I used two systems for this review: my personal reference system which consists of David Slagle’s Silver Remote Autoformer, a Wavac EC-300B SET amplifier driving the Teresonic Ingenium XR speakers, with DX4 silver drivers. Cabling in the system was entirely from High Fidelity Cables. The second system was my digital/video system, which consist of my Teresonic Magus A55 with Lowther Alnico A55 drivers, driven by my Electrocompaniet PI 2D Prelude Integrated Amplifier.

Description

TEAC says the PD-501 HR CD Player is High-Resolution Audio Without a PC. In this day of internet streaming and computer digital systems connected to DACs that cost five figures, TEAC brings us this not so humble CD player. It uses a slot-loading transport that uses what TEAC calls “VACS” (Vibration Acoustic Control System) to eliminate stray vibrations, and reduce read errors.

The PD 501 can play computer-created DVDs encoded with DSD 2.8/5.6Mz audio content, and it does so without converting the DSD to PCM, thereby preserving all the integrity of the original DSD signal. It uses an onboard D/A converter; a Cirrus Logic CS4398. This same chip also allows replay of conventional software and audio sources up to 24bit/192kHz.

All of this seems quite remarkable for a $850.00 player that is only eleven and a half inches wide, three inches tall and nine and a half inches deep, and weighs a whole nine and a half pounds. By the way, I love the look and feel; it has a very professional look in a nice small and solid as a rock package.

I’m the first to admit that I find computer audio frustrating and difficult. What’s interesting about this is the young guys who are so good with this stuff feel the same way about vinyl and have me come over and set up their turntables. Life is funny, isn’t it? Anyway, my point is I’m going to talk about how the PD-501 HR sounds. I listened to it with CDs and some DSD files on DVDs that were created for me.

The Sound

Let’s start by talking about how it sounds on RedBook CDs. I have heard very few RedBook players that I enjoyed listening to long term. A couple of exceptions were the 47 Labs Midnight Blue, Audio Note DAC 5 Special, Ypsilon CDT 100 Transport & DAC 100 Digital System, and to a lesser extent the Marantz SA-11S2 SACD Player. These range in price from $3,000 to $60,000. None of these were as good as a VSEI Level 6 modded Sony SACD player, playing SACDs, and none came close to a $5,000 turntable playing vinyl LPs. Still, the 47 Labs Midnight Blue, Audio Note and the Ypsilon do play digital recordings in a very musical way.

To be honest I was shocked the TEAC sounded as good as it did. Playing ordinary RedBook CDs I would place it nearly as good as the Marantz. It sounds more like the Marantz in that it has a warm sound, but with a little more detail than the Marantz. It’s not quite as detailed or dynamic as the more expensive players I have mentioned.

When it comes to DSD files burned to disc, it was even more impressive. In this way it sort of reminds me of the latest Oppo player. They both sound good on RedBook but they sound much better with SACDs or DSD files. The TEAC has a very liquid sound when playing DSD files. There is no doubt that it sounds much better in every way playing DSD files than RedBook CDs. The music flowed better from note to note and with greater dynamics than when playing RedBook CDs. The sound seemed more full range with a more musical sounding bass, and a midrange that sounded much less digital.

The foundation for this less digital sound comes from the rich, harmonic mid-bass that flowed and still allowed the sound to be fairly detailed. Still the overall sound is warm and overall very seductive-sounding. Voices sounded natural and quite realistic, if not quite as right in the room with you as they are with the most transparent sources. The top-end was also very beautiful. It was well extended and silky smooth. The way it plays strings was nice. It was especially good with plucked strings. It got the leading edge pretty close to right, and had adequate decay. I would like to hear more air around the instrument and from within the instrument. I think it is this over all combination of virtues and mostly subtractive weaknesses that make this player so seductive.

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Conclusion

The TEAC PD-501 delivered more music in my systems than I would have expected from an $850 CD player. This was especially true when playing discs burned from DSD files. The TEAC is a very special product for a special need. If you want to play CDs and DSD files without having a computer in the system, then this player offers you something special. I should add that if you have a friend who can purchase the DSD files and burn them for you, you won;t need to have a computer.

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