|Shanling/Underwood HiFi SCD-T200 Level-1 CD/SACD Player|
|Home Theater Audio Sources CD Players|
|Written by Thomas Garcia|
|Thursday, 01 January 2004|
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During my audition of the Shanling SCD-T200 Level-1, I spent a significant amount of time going back and forth between the vacuum tube and solid-state outputs. The information provided by Liederman discusses the merits of both options, listing the solid-state as the more accurate interpreter, with the vacuum tubes providing a lusher midrange and a complementary euphonic presentation for poor recordings. Listening to a wide variety of SACDs and Redbook CDs, I found that with my amplifier and speaker combination, I consistently preferred the solid-state stage to the vacuum tube output. There was a greater degree of articulation when listening through the solid-state output, with no loss of midrange presence or purity. The vacuum tube section seemed to soften both extremes, which did not complement my current set-up. The following observations, unless otherwise noted, are representative of my listening experiences using the solid-state output only. I recommend anyone interested in the Shanling audition both outputs to see what suits your system best. The great thing about this player is that you can choose your preference with every disc you play as both outputs can be run to your preamp at the same time.
Relaxing to the SACD version of Diana Krall's The Look of Love (Verve/Universal) proved to be a very blissful, tranquil experience through the Shanling SCD-T200 Level-1. Produced by Tommy LiPuma with the enchanting orchestral arrangements of Claus Ogerman and the London Symphony Orchestra, this recording is a departure from Krall’s core style. Stepping away from the intimacy of her usual small group ensemble, the trio infuses a tasteful dose of orchestral support surrounding Krall’s seductive, whispery vocals. During a soul-stirring rendition of Burt Bacharach’s “The Look of Love,” Krall’s performance is mesmerizing through the Shanling; its ability to put forth her distinctive sultry voice is captured with a liquidity that is transparent and pure. Krall's impassioned "Cry Me a River" is conveyed in a lush, relaxing portrayal through the Shanling, delineating each element of the recording with a realism and ease that captivated my intellect and emotions. The Shanling creates an extremely effortless perspective into the capabilities of this high-resolution media.
For almost three decades, I have been buying different iterations of Pink Floyd’s musical masterpiece Dark Side of The Moon (EMI), including a variety of high-quality vinyl and CD releases. Spinning the re-mastered high-definition SACD version through the Shanling was like taking a walk down memory lane with binoculars. The improvement in musical contrast, shading and detail presented through the SCD-T200 was quite astonishing. I found myself completely entranced by the Shanling’s presentation of “Time,” mesmerized by the mechanical medley of clocks, chimes and bells as they soared toward their crashing crescendo. Equally interesting was the beginning segue into “Money,” its opening sliding cash register drawers slamming and clanging in a most convincing manner. Throughout the cut, bass lines were extremely delineated, making them easy to follow as they underscored this classic track. Playing this high-definition disc through the Shanling kept me engrossed, providing the most satisfying listening experience I've had with Dark Side of The Moon to date. As stunning as this disc sounded through the modified SCD-T200, I could only wonder what it might have been like to utilize the SACD 5.1 surround sound track that lay lurking within this disc.
Stepping away from SACD to conventional CDs, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the Shanling reproduced the 16-bit/44.1kHhz format. Redbook discs were rendered with an extremely smooth, extended high-frequency response, maintaining that palpable midrange I enjoyed during my sessions with various SACDs. These attributes were aptly evident while listening to The Pretenders’ The Isle of View (Warner), a perennial favorite of mine. Recorded with the Duke Quartet in front of a live studio audience, Chrissie Hynde and the current band set aside their harder punk edge to assemble a collage of their more intellectual, emotional and reflective songs. Hynde’s vocals are the focus here and the Shanling reproduced the depth and subtlety of her performances magnificently, possibly the best I’ve ever heard from this recording. "Chill Factor,” Hynde’s ode to her tumultuous relationship with Kinks’ lead man Ray Davies, was served well by the SCD-T200, convincingly capturing every fluctuation in Hynde’s voice. One predominant attribute of the Shanling is its ability to accurately replicate the attack and decay of various string and percussive instruments, each abundant throughout this richly layered album. Void of all amplification, "Private Life" was reincarnated with impressive power, punch and speed. This is a common trait of the Shanling when playing back both Redbook CDs and SACDs.