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March 2004
Superior Audio Equipment Review
Combak's Reimyo CDP-777 CD Transport / Player
A Worthy $17,000 CD/Transport?
Review By Rufus Smith

 

Combak Reimyo CDP-777 CD Transport / CD 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.

 

Visuals
The cosmetics of the player may not appeal to everyone but I found them to be elegant in a sort of a utilitarian way. The front panel is a brushed aluminum plate that is 8mm's thick. From the left to the right, we have a fairly large power button, a mute indicator light, a Sync-In indicator, which indicates that the CDP-777 is receiving input from an external DAC, and a play indicator. Directly below this line of indicator lights are the normal control function switches. The manufacturer has thoughtfully included indicator lights above the play and pause buttons, which can easily be seen across the room. In the center of the panel is a large display, which glows an easily readable shade of blue. The back panel features both single ended and balanced analog outputs, a coaxial digital output and a Digital input via a BNC connector. The far right side of the player features the IEC connector for the power cord, which is not included.

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.

 

Listening
The first CD to hit the player after the lengthily break-in was the superb Rutter's Requiem as performed by the Turtle Creek Chorale and The Woman's Chorus of Dallas (Reference Recordings, RR-57CD). The first thing to hit me after hitting play on Track 7, "Pie Jesu" was the sheer size of the soundstage. It extended far outside the width of the Nearfield Pipedream 924's,which were dominating my listening room at the time. With my reference digital front end, I was never able to get the soundstage to extend beyond the outside edge of the "Pipes" no matter what disk I played. I found this to be somewhat annoying, as I did not experience the same phenomena whenever I was able to play the same recording on my analog front end. But here it was, a soundstage that seemed to extend way beyond the boundaries of my listening room.

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.

 

Comparisons
During the course of the review, I was able to compare the "Redbook" performance of the Reimyo with the SACD track of a hybrid disk using the Marantz SA-14. Disks used for this comparison were the Red Rose Music Sampler (Red Rose Music, RRM-01), Sonny Rollins Saxophone Colossus (Analogue Productions, CAPJ-7079-SA) and Allison Krauss' Now That I've Found You (Rounder SACD 11661-0325-6). In every instance, the Redbook tract played through the Reimyo was more natural sounding than the comparable SACD tract played through the Marantz. The SACD tract was harsh sounding, which made the listening experience less enjoyable.

 

But Is It Worth $17,000?
The last issue that must be considered by anyone considering this player is its perceived value. After all, we are talking about a player that will not play any of the new formats and costs $17,000. Unfortunately, that is a question that I cannot answer. Only you can decide. However, for the person who has put together a large Redbook CD based collection and is looking for that final player purchase, the CDP-777 should be on your short audition list.

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.

 

Specifications
Format: CD (16-bit/ 44.1kHz)
Signal Processing LSI: "EXTENDED K2 Processing Version 2.0" LSI (JVC Original IC)
Sampling Rate: 24-bit/176.4kHz
Digital filter: 24 bit with  4 times oversampling (176.4kHz x 4)
D/A converter: 24 bit with data rate of 705.6 kHz (176.4kHz x 4)
Digital Output: RCA coaxial (CD standard format 16bit/ 44.1kHz)
Frequency Response: 2Hz to 88kHz
Outputs: Balanced (XLR) and unbalanced (RCA)
S/N Ratio: Better than 117dB
Dynamic Range: Over 100dB
THD: Less than 0.003%
Dimensions : 430 x 116 x 391(WxHxD in mm)
Weight: 15 Kgs.
Standard Accessories: Remote control, CD stabilizer
Warranty: One-year parts and labor
Price: $17,000

 

Company Information
Combak Corporation
4-20, Ikego 2-chome
Zushi-shi
Kanagawa 249-0003 
Japan

Voice: 046-872-1119
Fax: 046-872-1125
Website: www.Combak.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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