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February / March 2010
Superior Audio Equipment Review
Enjoy the Music.com 20/20 Award

World Premiere Review!
Oracle Audio Technologies CD 1500 MK III CD Player
Able to extract minuscule detail from my killer resolution test disc.
Review By Ron Nagle

 

Oracle Audio Technologies CD 1500 MK III CD Player Review

 

  Oracle CD players have always reminded me of that classic Sci-Fi movie, The Day The Earth Stood Still and the ship that landed in the park. I can still see Klattu (Micheal Rennie) descending the spaceship ramp and delivering an ultimatum to the people of earth to end war or perish. Another way to look at the $9950 Canadian dollars CD 1500 MK III is simply to note the massive satin aluminum no nonsense construction. The appearance is a testament to a very serious engineering effort that seems to say, we have held nothing back. From my humble point of view the ultra high end components from this Canadian Company might just as well be made from unobtanium; however I can borrow one for a listen, yes that I can do.

Note: The manufacturer wanted to list the price in Canadian dollars because of the varying exchange rate.

 

Nuts and Bolts Rundown
What you get is a large heavy double walled cardboard box with cut to fit plastic foam inserts that cradle the 48 pound CD 1500. Peel away all the packing and inside you will find the following; a well written manual, an AC line cord, a shielded umbilical power supply cord, a bottle of cleaning fluid two spare fuses along with an aluminum remote, a CD clamp and the round top cover. And let's not fail to mention the separate chassis housing the 800VA DC transformer power supply. There is not a heck of a lot of information on the power supply. A visual inspection reveals the following; the power supply is 16.5 x 6 x 14 (WxHxD in inches). At the back there is the main on/off switch an IEC power cord socket and a 15 pin D plug for the umbilical cord going to the CD player. The shape of the CD deck reminds me of the form factor of the VPI HRX turntable. The CD 1500 MK III is designed with an isolation/vibration control system. The CD transport is isolated from the chassis by a urethane rubber ring. The four corners are rounded and extend slightly beyond the sides of the chassis. At each corner the deck is supported on very large compliant vibration damping urethane feet.

 

Oracle Audio Technologies CD 1500 MK III CD Player

 

The slant front panel houses the business side of the deck that has a rectangular dot matrix display and five control push buttons. The buttons are marked by symbols; the functions are from left to right, load/read, skip back/repeat, fast and skip forward, play, and stop. The left side pushbutton needs to be activated each time you load or change the CD. That's because the CD 1500 is top loaded and has no CD drawer. You must first spin up the newly loaded CD to read the TOC track i.e. Table of Contents. On the brushed aluminum remote the front panel controls are duplicated with a few additional functions. The A/B button lets you loop CD selections for a comparison, the Program button lets you select tracks on a CD to replay in the order you have selected. The remaining Repeat, Pause, Play, and Stop controls are conventional and work just as you would expect them to work.

Looking at the back of the CD 1500 we will see how we output music to the rest of the system. The 15 pin locking D connector from the power supply sits in the center. There are balanced left and right channel analog out XLR connectors left of the center. Right of center is a locking 75 Ohm BNC plug with a digital 0.5 volt output, and next to that are the conventional left right channel RCA output jacks that I used.

 

Set Up And Listening
Interestingly Jacques Riendeau of Oracle Audio advised me to play the CD 1500 as much as possible. I gather from that advice that the deck should sound better over some indeterminate length of time. I remark about this because I have never heard a CD player change much if at all. But on the other hand not knowing what they put in it and of course anything is possible so let's just go with it. Connect all the wires turn on the power supply first and then following the manufacturers advice leave the supply powered up permanently. To load a CD lift the round top cover off, position a CD on the drive hub, then place the magnetic clamp on the CD spindle/hub and replace the heavy black felt lined top cover and actuate the left side Disc Reset button.

Let us start out by trying it in a system setup I was evaluating when the player was delivered. It consisted of a digital class T amplifier and a compact Op-Amp based preamplifier. For all subsequent tests I used my Audio Quest 12TC speaker cables connected to Aurum Cantus Leisure 2SE speakers. The music played in this set up reached higher than a dog whistle and was faster than a speeding bullet. The bass was exaggerated down to the subsonic just like the San Francisco earth quake. The resulting sound had lots of excitement and fireworks but over time it became a strain on the synapse of the brain. An important lesson was learned at that time.

The lesson reminded me that a CD player is a source component. Therefore it is at the beginning of a complex electronic chain and every thing that comes after it will affect the sound. What I needed to do was some component swapping to find a marriage that would last. Since my long time friend and reference buddy the Audio Research SP-9 MK3 Preamplifier was in the hospital getting repaired I dusted off my Prima Luna 2 Integrated Amplifier. Now the PL 2 is a 35 WPC all tube integrated that has KT 88 output tubes and has never gotten a bad review anywhere from anybody.

It takes about 650 milliseconds to know that a tubey duo like the PL2 gets along very nicely with the Oracle 1500 24 bit 128 oversampling CD player. The main thing that smacks you in the pineal parts is the sound stage. The stage between you and your speakers opens up like a flower, the sound space gaining image depth width and height. Now with the added S.R. Factor (Spatial Resolution) we can now join the performance.

My newest CD resolution test disc is: LOVE The Beatles Cirque du Soleil sound track album [Capitol EMI 9463-79808]. The very first cut on this album is the vocal track of the song "Because". At a volume level far below the vocal portion are faint sounds of bird calls, wings flapping and insects buzzing. Some sounds traverse the stage from the right side then move to the center and disappear far left. The combined Oracle CD 1500 and the Prima Luna 2 Integrated Amplifier is now a big improvement, all the subtle nuance and placement of sounds between the speakers are located just where they should be. I could leave this system set up just as it is and be quite content for a time but, that is not my definition of an AUDOIPHILE.

 

My Reference Returns
My old buddy the Audio Research SP9 MK3 tube hybrid preamplifier came back from the doctor so now we can get down to some serious sound screening. The combination of the AR SP9 feeding my Sanders ESL (360 wpc @ 8 Ohms) muscle amplifier is at the heart of my reference system. A meaningful evaluation has to be with the same Beatles sound track we listened to before. But now a tougher test with an additional parameter called Edge Definition. Harry Pearson coined that phrase some years ago. What it asks is can we locate the position of a single musical element in the sound field? And can we see and hear the individual space surrounding that element? As an example we should be able to hear the initial attack of a harpsichord string and the harmonic overtones of the instruments wooden body separated and in its own acoustic space apart from all the other instruments in the performance. This is one hell of a tough system imaging test and I don't know of anything more demanding.

 

Oracle Audio Technologies CD 1500 MK III CD Player Review

 

Let us return to the same Beatles sound track with the Oracle CD 1500 MK III the AR SP 9 and the Sanders ESL amplifier as a system. The spaceship Oracle is certainly up to the job, it is dead quiet and nimble defining each and every musical note. Let's cue up track one, Because from the Cirque du Soleil album once again. At exactly 50 seconds into the track you hear the faint sound of bird's wings moving from the right speaker traveling toward the rear behind the left speaker. Then at 1 minute and 8 seconds there is the almost imperceptible buzzing of insect's wings appearing first just inside the left speaker than quickly moving to the right speaker. What I at first thought was the sound of a bee I now believe it is just the buzzing of a fly. I can better hear the frequency of the sound and the rapidity of movement; this seems more attributable to a large fly. Now I can conduct a direct CD player comparison to the Oracle CD 1500 MK III using my own CD players and the same Because CD track. A turn of the SP 9 source selector brings my Marantz DV 8400 SACD/DVD-A/CD player on line. The change over doesn't get me more inner detail what I hear is a top to bottom tonal shift. The bass is more pronounced and everything above that is slightly warm and mellow by comparison. One more turn of the AR SP 9 source selector brings me too my hot rod Cambridge Audio CD transport and S700 D/A converter. The analog out of the two piece Cambridge system is fed into an ART Audio A/D and D/A 48/96 upsampling converter. To get right to the point the up sampled Cambridge system is far more detailed than my Marantz player but also far more jitter prone. The jitter rides along with the music and obscures with noise what should be a dead quiet black background.

 

Wrap Up
My personal preference has always been to mix a tube preamplifier with a clean solid state power amplifier so that we might combine the best of both designs. But this will only provide a competent conduit to what goes on up front and as we all know its what's up front that counts. Now the Oracle CD 1500 MK III has a sampling rate higher than Beta, i.e. which is defined as more than twice as high as the highest frequency. Therefore it is an oversampling 24-bit/128kHz CD player not just an upsampling CD player. Interestingly there is a limit to just how much you can oversample or upsample any CD. It varies; some CD's can tolerate higher oversampling rates than others. What can happen when the clock rate climbs? The sound can get cool and brittle to the point of, "Feet's get me outta hear." Apparently the Oracle engineers knew just when to stop, because they found the sweet spot. The Oracle flat out beat my two reference CD players. The Oracle is able to extract every little minuscule detail from my killer resolution test disc and put it out there with Edge Definition. It will take some time and another leap of technology to surpass it. Bottom line is this system setup makes a big advance toward inner image resolution and reality. If you own a large CD library and you are on a hunt for a more accurate CD player buy the CD 1500 MK3.It is a cutting edge red book reader and the last CD player you will need. Go forth and uncover hidden nuance, listen long and prosper.

Semper Hi-Fi

 

Specifications
Type: Oversampling compact disc player
Single ended SP/DIF, digital audio signal
Format: BNC 
Digital Load impedance: 75 Ohms 
Digital Output impedance: 75 Ohms 
Output Level: 0.5 Volts, peak to peak @ 75 Ohms load 
RCA (Cinch.) analog audio signal
Analog Output: 5k Ohms minimum, 50k Ohms maximum 
Analog Output Impedance: less than 100 Ohms 
Analog Output Level: 2.4 Volts effective 
Conversion: Crystal CS4390, 24-Bit 
Type: Delta - Sigma 
SNR: 115 dB 
Dynamic Range: 106dB 
Oversampling: 128X
Price: $9950 Canadian dollars

 

Company Information
Oracle Audio Technologies Inc.
6136 Boulevard Bertrand Fabi
Suite 101
Sherbrooke, Quebec
Canada J1N 2P3

Voice: (829) 864-0480
E-mail: info@oracle-audio.com
Website: www.Oracle-Audio.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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