Combak's Reimyo CDP-777 CD Transport / Player
The Reimyo CDP-777 bills itself as the "Finest Transport/CD Player Ever Invented". Whenever I hear about a product that claims to be the best, my curiosity is piqued. As long as I can remember, I have been impressed with the quality and workmanship that goes into making a world-class product whether it be a motorcar, watch, camera or a piece of audio equipment. Whenever I evaluate such I product, the one question I have is whether or not the manufacturer has achieved their goal.
The CDP-777 is the result of the combined efforts of three large Japanese corporations. The Combak Corporation provided resonance control technology as well as all the cabling used in the player. Japanese Victor Corporation (JVC) contributed their revolutionary Extended K2 Processor (Version 2.0). This processor is also used by JVC in the creation of the well-regarded XRCD's. JVC also contributed the legendary XL-Z900 transport mechanism. Kyodo Denshi, the largest Japanese manufacturer of precision measuring instruments, designed the mechanical structure and is responsible for the assembly of the CDP-777. According to Combak's president, Kazuo Kiuchi, 70 percent of the components used in the player were specifically designed for the application.
While each of the corporations contributes to the overall sound of the Reimyo, it is the K2 processor that gives it its heart and soul. The K2 processor, operating with 24-bit resolution, takes the incoming digital signal and oversamples it to 176.4kHz. From there the digital signal is passed on to the digital filters, which upsamples the signal 4 times to 705.6kHz before being passed on to the twin PCM-1704 digital to analog converters. The DAC's are multi-bit in operation. As a result, every CD that is played through the CDP-777 is reproduced at an incredible 705.6kHz, which is among the fastest sampling rates available from any CD player on the market today.
The CDP-777 is a top-loading player. The disk is inserted by sliding back the smoke colored cover and is held in place by a magnetic clamp. It is in the insertion of the disk where I experienced my only ergonomic problems with the player. Several times I inserted a disk and the CD player was unable to read it. Removing and reinserting the disk seemed to solve the problem.
The Reimyo comes with a full-featured remote, which is very nicely laid out. Like so many players of this caliber, the plastic remote is not up to the level of the player in terms of build quality. I really do not understand why so many manufacturers skimp on the remote. When you are dealing with a product of this quality and cost, it is inexcusable.
The Reimyo replaced my Theta Transport/Pass D-1 DAC that has served as my reference for the last two years as well as a Marantz SA-14 that provided SACD playback. Several different interconnects were tried during the course of the review with the superb Silversmith Audio Silver Interconnects spending the majority of the time in the system. Whenever cables were changed, they were changed throughout the entire chain to keep things consistent. The balanced outputs were used exclusively throughout the course of the review. Harmonic Technology Pro AC11 power cords were used exclusively.
Nizar Akhrass, the head honcho of May Audio the Reimyo's importer, told me the unit that I received was the only one in the US since it had been to several shows was pretty well broken in. As a result, I let the player warm up for 24 hours before I did any serious listening. My initial listening impressions were rather ho-hum. Other than a tipped up treble, the Reimyo was rather ordinary sounding. Given my rather lofty expectations for this player, I felt additional break-in time was warranted. As the Reimyo played continuously over the next two weeks, the hot treble slowly cooled bringing it back in step with the rest of the frequency spectrum.
The stage produced by the Reimyo also had a superb three-dimensional quality to it. Images within the stage were locked solidly into place. Within the space created by the CDP-777, you were clearly able to differentiate the space between the rows of singers that make up the Turtle Creek Chorale and the Woman's Chorus of Dallas on the aforementioned "Pie Jesu". The Reimyo's state of the art reproduction of the dimensions of the soundstage in all three planes allowed the reproduction of very complex orchestral passages with clarity and detail that was unlike anything I have ever experienced from a CD player. As a result, it is very easy for the listener to be so drawn into the music that they get lost. I know I did.
The Reimyo is very balanced from top to bottom. The CDP-777's bottom end is reproduced with tremendous impact and weight. Take the reproduction of the pipe organ on the aforementioned "Pie Jesu". The pipe organ is reproduced with tonal accuracy and weight that gives this piece its majesty.
Another example of the bottom end performance of the Reimyo is of Cristiana Pegoraro's piano arrangement of Astor Piazzolla's Primavera Portena Tangos (Diva Productions, DP-2001). Pegoraro's performance is powerful, yet delicate. The Reimyo exhibits exceptional control in that no one part of the spectrum overpowers another.
The midrange performance of the Reimyo is state-of-the art. Charlotte vocalist, Beth Chorneau's voice continues to be a reference for me since I get to hear her perform live on a fairly regular basis. Ms. Chorneau has just released a new album that was recorded live at a local Charlotte club. Of all of her albums, this one is the most faithful to what her voice actually sounds like. After having heard "A Night In Tunisia" from Stage Presence: A Night At The Evening Muse (Pamona Records BC5194CD) performed live, I was amazed at how well the Reimyo recreated all of the traits that make her one of my favorite vocalists.
The extended frequency response provided by the K2 process also allows the CDP-777 to shine in its performance of the upper frequencies. It provides a clear vision of brass instruments and retains harmonic information that gets glossed over by other digital products. Transients start and stop on a dime without any sense of ringing or overshoot. To hear what I am trying to describe, listen to any recording of a high hat as a brush is stroking it. Through the Reimyo, you are presented a wealth of air and sheen.
While the CDP-777's reproduction of the upper frequencies is state-of-the art, it is also one of the player's only weaknesses. Poorly recorded disks can sometimes sound particularly harsh in the mid to upper treble. My reference digital system tends to roll off the highs somewhat, which glosses over hardness and makes disks that were unlistenable on the Reimyo more enjoyable. Most of the disks that this trait manifested itself on seemed to be older disks in my collection. To put this in perspective, the number of disks in my system that exhibited this trait was very small indeed.
The Reimyo also equally reproduces male vocals. My acid test for the reproduction of male voices remains Aaron Neville. Neville's voice has a special quality that seems almost hypnotic in nature. One of my favorite selections by Neville is "La Vie Dansante" from Warm Your Heart (A & M Records, 75021-5354-2). Neville puts his heart into this song as he sings of the road of life. I have played this selection on every digital system I have auditioned and the Reimyo brings more of the spirit of this song through than any other player.
This particular tract also demonstrates the exceptional resolving power of the CDP-777. "La Vie Dasante" is actually a duet. Rita Coolidge provides the accompaniment and is also jointed by two more female vocalists during the French section. Many digital systems have difficulty separating the various voices particularly the trio. The Reimyo easily separates Neville and Coolidge's voices.
But Is It Worth $17,000?
I also cannot answer the question as to whether or not the Reimyo is the "Finest Transport/CD Player Ever Invented" as I have not heard all of the top contenders in my system. I can say without a doubt that it is the finest player ever to grace my system. Until the arrival of the CDP-777, my listening time was broken down 75/25 between vinyl and digital. With the Reimyo in the system, this ratio dropped to 50/50. That in itself says a lot. My hat is off to Kazuo Kiuchi and the rest of the Reimyo's design team. Well done.