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Electrocompaniet Prelude PC-1 CD Player Review Print E-mail
Tuesday, 29 December 2009
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Electrocompaniet Prelude PC-1 CD Player Review
Listening Continued

ImageThe last few months of 2009 have taken me on a lovely audio journey across Scandinavia, with stops in Denmark and Norway for a look and listen to accessories, speakers and amplifiers. I recently reviewed Norwegian audio manufacturer Electrocompaniet's Prelude PI-2 integrated amplifier, a new addition to the company's lineup offering budget-minded audiophiles a point of entry into the Electrocompaniet sound. The PI-2's Prelude companion PC-1 CD player ($2,499) proved my final destination within the Kingdom of Norway this year, and a fine one it was.


Clean lines and little to clutter the experience are hallmarks of the PC-1, and all Electrocompaniet components for that matter. The PC-1 is almost austere in its design. Five buttons and a blue LED display adorn the front panel; the back panels boasts an AC in, one pair of balanced outputs, a pair of unbalanced analog outputs and a digital coaxial output. Twin audio op-amps control the unit's balanced audio outputs, which Electrocompaniet touts are the way to listen to this gear, and they were kind enough to supply a pair of XLR cables to connect the PC-1 to the PI-2. The inside features a tightly assembled brain made with surface-mount components, a cost-saving approach that reduces production labor yet still affords excellent end sound. There's not much to see, really, and it's no surprise that the player weighs less than 7 pounds – most of which is the chassis. Like many audiophile-grade disc players, the PC-1 sports a 24-bit/192kHz digital-to-analog converter. Musical data is read from disc and sent to the converter and then into Class A balanced outputs.

PC-1 Frony View- Left Side
Not Just a CD Player

Though its architecture is unassuming, the PC-1 is really two players in one, as it contains a DVD-readable transport that sits on a newly designed anti-vibration device. Obviously it reads CDs but also most DVDs. To my surprise, I was able to not only listen to audio from standard DVDs but DVD-Audio, too. The very brief (and not in a bad way) owner's manual offers no information about the transport or playing any discs other than CDs. When DVDs are loaded into the transport, the LED either displays “File” or “Root,” depending on the type of disc. By depressing and holding the remote's play button, I was able to listen to an astonishing range of recordings, including Neil Young's On The Beach (DVD-Audio at 24-bit/48kHz), Neil Young's Live At Massey Hall (DVD at 24-bit/96kHz) and Genesis' Nursery Cryme (DVD-Audio at 24-bit/48kHz) in PAL format! I tried playing a couple DVD discs recorded at even higher 24-bit/192kHz resolution, but the PC-1 recognized those as “Data” discs only and would not play them.

The PC-1 also plays Dual-Discs – a format that never really caught on – with ease. As mentioned, the DVD side comes up as “File” on the display, but by pressing and holding the Play button the DVD audio will start. The CD side offers no such delays. If you have a DVD loaded with MP3 or WMA audio files, the PC-1 can handle those, too. Out of curiosity I loaded an SACD-only disc into the player, which it read as “Unknown.” So, the PC-1 is not quite a Universal player but still much more than a redbook CD player. The PC-1 has one annoying characteristic: It is very slow to respond when prompted to open the tray. Completing such a command often requires pressing and holding the front panel's stop/open button for up to 5 seconds before anything happens. Oddly, there is no such problem with the “play” or other  commands.

PC-1 Front View - Right Side

Electrocompaniet recommends at 72 hours of burn-in before the PC-1 reaches sonic maturity and 2 hours of warm-up after being turned on thereafter. If you can't wait three days to listen, you'll still get very good sound from the first play; over time, the player opens up and sheds any milquetoast character. The PC-1 will turn itself off after a period of inactivity, so if you want to warm the system up but don't make sure the player is engaged. The PI-2 doesn't go into such mode, however. Like its Prelude companion PI-2 integrated amplifier, the PC-1 is a suave and nuanced performer. Because I listened to the two as a pair, it's difficult to separate the PI-2 from the PC-1, and I wouldn't want to.

Across multiple music genres, I found the PC-1 to offer warm, detailed and inviting sound. The player has supple bass, gloriously exacting midrange and pretty good treble and high-end. Extreme clarity and precision do fall off at the top, but that doesn't stop this player from being a sonic treat. Like the recently reviewed Marantz Pearl SA-KI SACD Player, I found the PC-1 to be imminently listenable and never fatiguing.


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