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April 2014
Superior Audio Equipment Review
Accuphase DP-720 SACD Player
Capable of going incredibly deep into the recording, without losing sight of the whole.
Review By Wojciech Pacuła
Photos: Wojciech Pacuła & Accuphase
Translation: Andrzej Dziadowiec


Accuphase DP-720 SACD Player  There are experiences that change our thinking and our perception, once and forever. I have had such 'boundary' experiences in the context of literature, theater, film, painting and other arts to limit myself to the arts this time. Neurologists say that the deeper the correlation between our experience and emotions, the deeper it is burnt in our memory. This is the only way we have some fragmentary recollections from our early childhood, even though it is scientifically proven that our memory undergoes a sort of 'reboot' between age three and five. However, an event that is accompanied by an extremely intense emotional experience remains with us forever, lodged deeply in our subconscious and waiting for the next event acting as a trigger to release it back to our consciousness and thus making it accessible. In the world of audio, such initiation experiences are mainly shared by those who are just beginning their adventure with hi-fi sound. I think that each one of us could tell a story of our first 'real' sound and single out an audio component that in our opinion made it possible. I also have such memories. The only thing is that it was a long time ago. Since then, I have so often upgraded my system's components and so many times changed the whole system that these memories are nearly gone now and details once blazingly clear faded slowly away. It may have been helped by my subsequent delightful experiences - I was lucky that my passion for music became passion for high quality music playback, and then a way of life (and making a living).

For more than twenty years I have been professionally involved in audio. First, I worked in professional audio as a sound engineer in a theater, at concerts and in the recording studio, and then I became involved in home or audiophile audio. During all this time, I have auditioned and reviewed so many products used for sound reproduction that I lost count long ago. However, I do not think of myself as a jaded journalist who is insensitive to what he is doing. I will venture to say more I still buy albums after albums like crazy, curious about the music they contain and how it will sound at my home. For me, these two things are inseparable. When it comes to equipment for a long time already experiencing but not so big surprises, revelations, glare, as at the beginning. Until recently...

In recent times I have had a couple of mystical experiences that provided a solid framework for my thinking about what is possible in the audio world. The first, chronologically, was an audition of the dCS Vivaldi system conducted in my hometown at the Krakow Sonic Society by RaveenBava, export sales manager for dCS. The next was my audition of the Tech DAC Air Force One turntable. The third, actually the earliest chronologically, were my experiences with the Studer A807-0.75 VUK reel-to-reel recorder, both professional I used to have three such beasts in the recording studio and later at the Krakow Sonic Society. The source that was presented by Raveen sells for over a hundred and fifty thousand US dollars, including a rack and necessary cables. I am used to large sums of money and no longer see a difference between $5000 and $50,000 for a single audio component. The only thing that matters are the sound and build quality, brand, finish and customer service.

The dCS sounded insanely good. It was the best sounding digital system I ever heard. The experience was so strong that it redefined my understanding of the capabilities of such a limited format as the Compact Disc. That's right, I said CD. It is true that the Vivaldi is a SACD player, and while it is compatible with the CD its design aim is formally speaking a "higher" format, even though it is also capable of audio files playback. Yet it was the CD that sounded so spectacular that all of us present during the audition were truly shocked. We listened to a lot of audio files only to agree that it's still not the kind of technology that could compete head-to-head with the CD. Even Raveen confirmed that. The difference was clear and large, not to the audio files advantage. This may change sometime in the future, but not just yet.

We did not listen to SACDs. I have my own deep-rooted conviction about high-resolution audio formats, based on my work in the recording studio and my experience with the best SACD players, as well as D/A converters as part of computer audio systems. I know the strengths and weaknesses of both DSD and high-resolution PCM and invariably choose the format that is significantly older and technically inferior the Compact Disc. It is a proven format backed by many years of development, which has finally matured to become the high-end. In turn, the SACD format is shared, so to speak, with DVD technology, including the drives used. And it has its own problems. There have been, however, several players that provided satisfying enough SACD playback to shake my seemingly firm belief. One of them was the Mark Levinson No. 512 integrated player. It offered superb build quality and exceptionally smooth sonics that did not turn the sound of SACDs into a warm mush, nor made them into super-precise and perfectly focused hi-res PCM recordings. The other player that revived my interest in this format that was, incidentally, originally designed for archival purposes was the Accuphase DP-900/DC-901 combo. Built with precision typical of this manufacturer yet maintaining a healthy engineering sense, it offered a sound that I found interesting not only for its own sake, but also because of how it built up on everything that the company achieved previously.

The DP-900/DC-901 combo signaled a new Anniversary series prepared with a view to Accuphase's 40th anniversary, celebrated in 2012. The first product in this series was the C-3800 preamplifier, but it was the two-piece player and the A-200 monoblocks that brought a noticeable change in the paradigm of thinking about sound. All these changes were then consistently introduced to less expensive products. The DP-720 is the latest example of them. Less expensive is by no means cheap this much I think is obvious. The unit under review is the second-from-the-top player from this Japanese company, and is intended to accommodate in one enclosure most of DP-900/DC-901 design solutions. Maybe that's why it is so mercilessly heavy. Mechanical design is just as important for the Accuphase engineers as electrical design. No money is spared here, although high structure stability and vibration control is not the result of some sophisticated hi-tech methods but rather reliable techniques that have been tried and tested in turntable design. The same is true of its electronic circuits it would be in vain to try to find expensive, rare electronic components in Accuphase products. Instead, as I was told some time ago by Mr. Jim S. Saito, current Chairman of the Board, the company focused on the laborious and expensive process of component selection. As he said, it yields better results than using better quality components with wider parameter variation.

Accuphase DP-720 SACD PlayerIt is no coincidence I have mentioned a turntable. As I once wrote, one of my three standards of sound is the TechDAS turntable. Its mechanical design is extremely sophisticated. The most important part of it is the platter and its air bearing. It seems to me that similar conclusions to those reached by Mr. Hideaki Nishikawa who is behind the Air Force One were also arrived at by Mr. Masaomi Suzuki. He is an engineer employed by Accuphase for the sole purpose of developing company's digital branch. He joined Accuphase in 1980. The company's management immediately realized that the new digital audio format would change the world forever. The work on Accuphase's first digital source lasted two years and 1982 saw the first two-piece CD player, consisting of the DP-80 transport and the DC-81 D/A converter. The importance of digital source for the company product lineup is demonstrated by the fact that Mr. Suzuki is currently the head of Accuphase's design department.

Let me repeat the comparison to the AFO turntable was no coincidence. If we look more closely at the player under review, we will see many analogies between the DP-720 and top end turntables. I have already mentioned its heavy, rigid, multi-layer enclosure. Add to that a complex power supply. The most important to me, however, is the drive, which is equivalent of the platter and tonearm with cartridge in a turntable. Accuphase belongs to the elite club of companies that manufacture their drives in-house. While a trained eye will detect the characteristic blue optics, known from Sony designs, everything else is the work of Accuphase engineers. During its design, a special attention was given to the large mass, rigidity and proper decoupling of individual components that is, to what is given attention in turntable design. The company literature focuses on this design aspect and describes it this way:


■ High-grade SA-CD/CD drive.
(1) Highly rigid and precise construction with sturdy, heavyweight chassis to absorb external vibrations

(2) Newly developed "Traverse Mechanism" with floating design and viscous damping

(3) Large bridge cover with newly developed disc clamping

(4) Effective control of vibrations enhanced by low center of gravity

(5) High-quality disc tray extruded from an aluminum block, plus super-quiet smooth disc loading mechanism


■ SA-CD/CD transport outputs ultra-pure digital signal

■ New chucking magnet design using neodymium with high flux density and 8-pole magnetized yoke to firmly and evenly grasp the turntable and prevent disc wobble

■ High-speed access mechanism with single lens/twin laser diode pickup

■ Support for playback of DSD discs with DSF file format, recorded on a computer or similar.


The digital section is of course equally important. Here, too, Accuphase presents something unique for this company, dedicated to the best possible DSD decoding. The DP-720 employs advanced MDSD (Multiple Double Speed ​​DSD) type D/A converters that constitute a moving-average filter circuit for direct D/A conversion of the DSD signal. As we read in the company literature, the 1-bit DSD signal is first upsampled by the factor of two, from 2.822 to 5.644 MHz. Then the timing of the 1-bit signal is shifted progressively in increments of 177 nanoseconds. The resulting delayed signals are sent to multiple D/A converters (eight per channel) for conversion into analog form. The converter outputs are then summed. The entire circuit acts as an 8th-order filter, with no phase shift in the whole frequency range. It employs eight high-performance 32-bit Hyperstream DAC chips (ES9018 from ESS Technology Inc.) that are driven in parallel to improve overall performance by a factor of about three, as compared to a single converter circuit. Since the performance improvement afforded by the MDS principle is independent of signal frequency and signal level, output signal noise at very low levels is also successfully minimized, a feat that is very difficult to achieve with conventional delta-sigma converters.

The DP-720 is therefore not just another SACD player. It was developed specifically to provide the best possible Super Audio CD playback, which can also benefit CD playback. As we now live in the 21st century, the unit is designed to operate not only as an integrated player but also as a DAC. It can receive the digital signal in four different ways: via USB 2.0 (Hi-Speed) port ​​(32, 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4 and 192 kHz at 16 to 24 bit, two-channel PCM), S/PDIF RCA input (32, 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4 and 192 kHz at 16- to 24-bit, two-channel PCM), TosLink optical input (32 to 96 kHz / 16- to 24-bit,two2-channel PCM), as well as a proprietary interface developed by Accuphase and called HS-LINK (High Speed ​​LINK). The latter is capable of receiving the PCM signal up to 24-bit and 192 kHz, and DSD signal (2.8224 MHz/1-bit). It is based on the LVDS (Low Voltage Differential Signaling) standard.

Accuphase DP-720 SACD PlayerThe first three inputs are well-known and can be used to playing music from a computer, network player or Blu-ray player. The S/PDIF (RCA or optical) input can also be used to hook up a game console and a TV set. Theoretically, the HS-LINK could be used to connect the DP-900 transport, but it does not seem to make much sense. A more likely prospect is connecting the DP-720 to the DC-901 DAC via this type output that is visible just below the input. However, the most likely scenario is to use both the HS-LINK output and input to connect the DG-58 Digital Voicing Equalizer, which is Accuphase's special pride. It is worth noting, though, that the DG-58 will convert the signal from SACDs to the PCM 24/176.4, to process and decode it in this form. Pure DSD can only be ensured by SACD or DSD (DSF format) playback without any external processors.


Accuphase components cannot be mistaken for anything else. Although their industrial design grew out of a fairly typical 1970s appearance and its fascination with laboratory equipment, with silvery fascia and knobs, it is now absolutely unique and associated solely with this Japanese manufacturer. While we may come across gold (some sources say champagne) front panel finish in Marantz and other audio manufacturers, it is mostly associated with the company headquartered in the Aoba-ku district of Yokohama.

We see the same face plate finish in the DP-720 Super Audio CD player that comes equipped with a vast array of digital inputs and outputs. The characteristic shape of front panel keys has been inherited from previous Accuphase designs, here slightly modified to be more rounded and friendly to touch yet still rectangular, with a clear tactile feedback. They are all positioned in one row, grouped according to their use. The keys associated with drive control are located on the right side of the disc tray, with a visibly larger Play button featuring a small red LED above it and another one above the Pause button. This way you do not have to guess the player's current status, staring at a small, difficult-to-read display. The latter is actually missing here, in keeping with all other Accuphase equipment. Instead, the manufacturer has consistently opted for very low noise amber LED modules. They show the total number of tracks and the current track (on the left) as well as the track time and attenuation level (on the right). In the DAC mode they display input signal sampling frequency (the word-length is missing, unfortunately). The player is not CD-text capable, either with SACDs or CDs, which is a bit of a pity. The LED modules are behind a thick glass plate. They are accompanied by other indicators, including LEDs indicating the type of disc, digital loop activation, repeat mode and currently selected digital input.

A large button on the left side of the narrow disc tray is used for input selection. This button and a similar disc eject button are both really nicely integrated into the front panel. The left side of the enclosure sports a mechanical power switch and two smaller switches to change the layer of hybrid SACD/CD discs and to activate the digital loop for external equalizer. The rear panel is divided into a digital and analog section, with the input and output connectors arranged accordingly. The analog outputs, balanced XLRs and single-ended RCAs, are located above an IEC power socket, which requires some care with cable arrangement so that they are not too close to each other. Adjacent to the XLRs is an absolute phase switch. The DP-720 is wired the "American way", with the pin 3 being 'hot'. The enclosure is made of several layers of high carbon steel plates. This is to help with vibration control and, together with "advanced high carbon" cast iron isolation feet, creates an anti-vibration system. It is further damped by the wooden side and top panels finished with natural wood veneer.

Accuphase DP-720 SACD PlayerThe interior is divided with metal screen plates into three separate areas - a solution that is now copied by countless manufacturers from China. The plates not only screen out electromagnetic noise but are used to further stiffen the chassis. In the center there is a separate "compartment" for the drive unit and power transformers. The former looks fantastic. It is entirely made of precision machined heavy aluminum blocks. The disc tray is extruded from an aluminum block. The whole drive is mounted to a heavy and rigid mechanism base that is in turn bolted to an 8 mm thick heavyweight bottom plate. The mechanism is decoupled with newly developed viscous dampers, somewhat similar to those used in the Nagra CDC player.

The two power transformers, separate for the digital and analog sections and the drive, are enclosed in screened cans. Other power supply components are housed either on the PCB with the digital section or on a separate board in the case of the analog section.

The digital section is based on two ES9018 D/A converters from ESS Technology, Inc., one per each channel. These are eight-channel DAC chips with up to 32-bit theoretical resolution, which has been used here to minimize conversion errors and reduce distortion and noise in the innovative MDSD (Multiple Double Speed ​​DSD) moving-average filter topology for direct D/A conversion of the DSD signal (for SACD playback). In the case of CD playback, the eight channels are driven in parallel, and their signal is summed after the I/U conversion. This circuit as well as the analogue filter and output buffers employ popular ICs. The player has a dual-mono topology, with each channel housed on a separate circuit board. PCBs use expensive laminate material and PCB traces are gold plated. The XLR output connectors are gold plated, while the RCAs are not. The output signal can be attenuated from -80 to 0 dB in 1 dB steps. As the attenuation is carried out in the digital domain it is better not to use it. If it is necessary, you will need to think about a top quality preamplifier.

Not only does the player itself looks like it were transported from the 1970s (taking this anachronism at face value), but so does the remote control unit. It is made of gold plated aluminum, with key shapes reminiscent of TV remotes from 30 years ago. Keys are distinguished by distinct shapes and even colors, and they have a clear tactile feedback. It is one of better remotes I have operated in recent times.


When I asked Mr. Yasumasa Ishizuka, a recently retired (of his own accord) senior advisor to Accuphase's management board who witnessed the act of signing incorporation papers in 1972, how an SACD player was added to the product lineup, he said:

 "SA-CD is an ultra-compact format capable of storing seven times more data than a CD. The CD format with its 16 bits and 44.1 kHz is capable in our view of storing considerably more information than an analog medium. When the CD format was developed it seemed to offer enough 'capacity'. Nevertheless, it seems that today it is no longer satisfactory for all audiophiles."

To meet their expectations, a new format has been developed the SA-CD. I perfectly remember how deeply we were moved and amazed by its sound quality at the first listen. Compared with the CD, we had a much deeper and wider soundstage, with the sound that subtly faded away to infinity. That's why without any hesitation we joined the group of manufacturers offering SA-CD players. When a respected figure says that one of the currently available digital formats is much better than an older one, and sounds better than a vinyl record, it is a big thing. My experience with heads of large companies show that they are not only good managers and engineers, but also good politicians. Because of that they usually make non-committal statements, allowing an easy way out and taking back what they said. To make such a clear statement, Ishizuka-san had to be 100% sure of his argument.

I heard the DP-80/DC-81 player only once, a long time ago, and I do not really remember how it sounded. However, I know perfectly well the advantages and disadvantages of its successor, the DP-90/DC-91, because it is still used by two of my friends in Krakow. It is dammed precise and resolving, centered on sound focusing, its definition and finish, yet at the cost of body and density. It seemed that the first SACD player offered by Accuphase, the DP-800/DC-801 combo, would bring improvement in this area but - in my opinion - it was only a run-through for what came with the DP-900/DC-901. The DP-720 follows exactly the same path.

Its sound cannot be immediately and unambiguously expressed. Everything is thick and full, with no anomalies at the top end. The treble is velvety smooth. On the other hand, the bass is strong, slightly emphasized yet very well controlled. These aspects were similarly presented by the DP-700. Listening to the 720 I can easily imagine people from Accuphase, first seating at the conference table and discussing the main ideas of a new design, and then spending hours in a listening room. I have already said that, but it does not hurt to repeat it: I have an overwhelming feeling that the latter design stage is now given much more attention than it used to be by the Japanese companies. I talked about this with several engineers and I can hear it in components from both small manufacturers and major companies, like Marantz and Accuphase. Not that nobody did any auditions before, that's not the point. It is simply a reflection of changed priorities, as if there finally came a time when technical excellence can be made even better by modifying the design in a listening room. Not compromising anything that has been shown by measuring equipment, but rather making the most of it.

The density I am talking about translates in such cases into the presence or intensity of sound. We know how a boring system sounds, don't we? It lacks power and is emotionally flat. The Japanese player is nothing like that. It finds the way to the music lover's heart by inviting him to participate in a music event. The smaller the ensemble and the more sophisticated the music piece, the more pronounced the effect. Both Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau's baritone as well as Georges Cziffra's and Art Tatum's pianos sounded delightfully smooth, with the effect of presence. They were not defined by selectively separating them from the rest of the mix highlighted by a strong attack or even less so by emphasizing anything, which can be done quite easily. Their coming out or appearing, as that's how it can best be described, resulted from their internal energy that they showed. It was something like an inner joy that accompanies some people who show up in our lives. They do not have to smile at all or to make a fool of themselves in order for us to feel it. The same way, the music played by the DP-720 is full of vibration, density and power that are transferred to us.

Partly, but to a large extent, it is effected by the bass delivery. It is big, full and equally energetic as the midrange. Since the two sub-ranges are combined in one functional whole, linked by their character and a certain softness that comes with very low distortion, the sound is coherent, with large-volume phantom images. What I mean is that the images drawn before us have a large, natural size. They can be experienced deep into and high up the soundstage. They blend into our room and couple to the listening room's air, not breaking out and pushing forward. Deep Purple's Child in Time on the fantastic HDCD release from Audio Fidelity sent shivers up and down my spine.

This deep, soft yet very present sound means that each album that contains quality music, one that communicates with us, is even further boosted by the player. Interestingly, I played a few albums that do not evoke strong emotions in me, and I thought that they sounded considerably worse. I do not have too many of them, as I usually get rid of music that I do not feel, but what I heard was puzzling.

All the more so as when I heard the opening bars of "Private Investigation" from Dire Straits' album Love Over Gold I knew everything's beautiful. A velvety intro, absolutely black background and thick bottom end. It owed a great deal to the simply phenomenal Platinum SHM-CD release, but the player showed it brilliantly. The same was true for the Mobile Fidelity release of Miles Davis' In A Silent Way. Even though many years have passed since that interview, I still perfectly remember the words of John K. Wood, the then deputy director for Mobile Fidelity, who said that they had carried out many auditions comparing PCM 24-bit/96kHz, 24-bit/192kHz and DSD, and they had chosen a Meitner implementation of the latter. They also had high hopes pinned on DXD but the project was apparently suspended. I believe that the time has finally come for all SACDs released over the years by Mobile Fidelity and featuring its logo to sound the way they did when played back from digital master tapes in the recording studio. The Accuphase is capable of going incredibly deep into the recording, without losing sight of the whole. It is a very detailed player that does not make us concentrate on detail.


The DP-720 is a SACD player. Neither a CD/SACD nor a SACD/CD player, as some companies describe similar products. The format that is higher in the hierarchy and therefore 'more capable' is the right designation. SACD is downward compatible with the CD and not the other way round, and hence the SACD designation is sufficient and logically correct (in a similar way as the DVD format is higher than the CD and all DVD players are also CD capable). In my opinion, this machine is simply made for SACD playback. With the best releases it sounds insanely good, boasting a pitch-black background, dynamics, coherence and deep bass. The soundstage is created almost casually as a coherent whole, without clear-cut planes and instruments, i.e. without sharp divisions. Acoustics that accompanies the recordings is somewhat hidden behind the instruments that are the main stars here. It is deep and soft, though.

A Super Audio CD player that is only suitable for SACD playback would be probably hard to accept. While I have been looking for something like that for years, something that would extract maximum information from this format while leaving CDs to CD players, I am aware that it's my quirk. The DP-720 will not make us leave our CD collection on the shelf and will not 'pass over' the discs containing the PCM 16-bit/44.1kHz signal including HDCDs. The formula of CD and SACD playback is very similar in its case. CDs will sound louder and hence less subtle. Their depth will also be slightly lower. We are not, however, talking about large differences.



Type: SACD/CD player and transport
Compatible Disc Formats: Two-channel SACD, CD, and DSD disc (DSF file format)
Digital Outputs: EXT DSP (Transport output signal), HS-LINK (RJ-45) and S/PDIF coaxial
Digital Inputs: HS-LINK (RJ-45), S/PDIF coaxial, TosLink optical and USB
Sampling Frequency: From 32 to 192 kHz @ two channel PCM), Optical: 32 kHz to 96 kHz
HS-LINK: 2.8224 MHz (1-bit, two-channel DSD)
DAC: Eight MDSD type converters (DSD signal) and eight MDS++ type converters (PCM signal)
Frequency response: 0.5 50,000 Hz (+0, -3 dB)
Total harmonic distortion (THD): 0.0006%
Signal-To-Noise Ratio: 119 dB
Dynamic Range: 116 dB (24-bit input, low-pass filter off)
Channel Separation: 117 dB (20 20,000 Hz)
Output Voltage And Impedance: Balanced XLR is 2.5 V/50 Ohm, RCA is 2.5 V/50 Ohm
Output Level Control: 0 dB to -80 dB in 1-dB steps (digital)
Power Requirements: 31 W/standby: 0.3 W
Dimensions: 477 x 156 x 394 mm (WxHxD)
Weight: 62 lbs.
Price: $27,000


Company Information
2-14-10 Shin-ishikawa
Aoba-ku Yokohama 225-8508

Voice: +81-45-901-2771
Fax: +81-45-901-8959 
Website: www.Accuphase.com













































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