Abbingdon Music Research CD-77 CD Player

Disc players
Abbingdon Music Research (AMR) CD-77
Abbingdon Music Research CD-77 CD Player

Press releases which announce some new company that’s going to set new standards in CD reproduction/ amplification/speaker design are not exactly news. In a market where hyperbole is all too often a substitute for considered commentary, terms like “best,” “best in show,” “best on the planet,” even “best in the universe” cease to have much relevance, with everybody claiming to be “best” at something. The result is to discard such claims with perhaps a shade too much jaded cynicism and await events. Often, the product never emerges (at least not in any stable form) and the company simply disappears. There are however, always exceptions to every rule…

When Abbingdon Music Research announced a new range of “Reference Class” products we greeted the news with the usually mix of interest and skepticism, the establishment of a watching brief. And watch we did, as months passed and products appeared in dealers and at shows with remarkable consistency demonstrating if nothing else, that here at least was a going concern; and one whose products demanded to be taken just as seriously as AMR take themselves, at least if the universally accepted “vertical displacement assessment of audio quality” is to be believed. Just try picking up the AMR CD-77 and you’ll see what I mean. At 28kg this player weighs more than many serious power amps, despite being more compact than most of them. Not that you’d exactly describe the CD-77 as small. But once you start to examine this player in detail the one thing that becomes abundantly clear is just how assiduously the designers have ticked every single audiophile box. AMR’s CD player is presented in a substantial single-box chassis that it shares with the company’s 180-Watt hybrid integrated amp. The foursquare dimensions and tall front-panel are softened by the gentle backward curve of the fascia with its massive display panel. Thankfully, the display itself is rather more modest in size, although large enough to read from a decent distance. Five beautifully executed touch-sensitive buttons cover the basic commands with everything else you could reasonably require included on the solidly executed touch screen remote (which illuminates in matching blue to allow operation in the dark).

But the real story becomes apparent once your gaze takes in the top-panel. In front of the enormous, machined logo, a sliding lid covers the top-loading transport. Open it and you see the curved walls of the transport well, compliantly mounted to the massive chassis. The transport itself is a carefully selected mix of Philips and Sony parts, driven by a specially selected motor and assembled by AMR into the underside of their own CNC machined housing, complete with its own integral spirit level. The disc is anchored in place using a large footprint magnetic clamp, and the entire transport section is flooded with blue light from a ring of LEDs set in the underside of the chassis top-plate, light that leaks eerily from the other significant visual feature, the two rows of three windows that flank the transport lid. Actually they’re not really windows, slots on either side providing ventilation for the valves employed in the dual-mono analogue output stages (I said they’d ticked all the boxes). The rear panel carries single-ended and (transformer coupled) impedance balanced analogue outputs, but no digital output. This might seem like an oversight at first, but actually is simply another manifestation of AMR’s confidence in the abilities of their product. The heart of the CD-77 is its sophisticated DAC implementation, so why would you want to bypass it? Instead, there’s a mini-USB digital input, allowing you to take advantage of the onboard DAC with external sources. Why all the fuss about the converter? Well, that’s where the AMR really does break new ground, not so much in terms of hardware, but in the way in which it has been implemented.

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