[This review originally appeared in issue 65 of Hi-Fi Plus magazine, which is published in the U.K.]
The hot discussion within the audio world at the moment is what comes after CD. Yes, the death knell is about to be sounded for the silver disc and quite eccentric claims are predictably being made regarding the new order. Despite the fact that we have been using our computers to store and replay music for years now, some hard disk storage designs are being hailed as tremendous breakthroughs and the dawning of a new age of home entertainment. This rather hysterical over-reaction should not mask the reality of what is going on and this is really just an increase in the availability and convenience of alternative ways to access, store and replay digital information.
So, what does the new era offer? Will we all have massive dedicated hard disks crammed full of high definition music and high-resolution movies, lifted from specialist internet sites? Are you going to take the time to rip all your CDs onto these hard drives, keeping the originals as back-ups? Will we stream music from our computers into DACs via USB connections or even wirelessly? Should we instead utilise the claimed benefits of jitter-free solid-state storage? Or shall we just decide that for now it’s all too much hassle and continue to buy the CDs we want and play them back on dedicated players? Just because we can do these things it doesn’t mean we have to and techno-geeks seldom have any appreciation of user interface. My general feeling, having gently dipped my toe in the waters of the alternatives, is that it’s a bit too early to make any expensive decisions. But things are changing fast and it is proving difficult to keep up with the latest developments. What is certainly true is that anyone considering investing in a CD player at the moment would do well to future-proof it by making sure that it can accept external digital signals into its DAC and that the connections to do that are as comprehensive as possible because, with the gradual demise of CD, the DAC could well become the more relevant part of this particular combination. Also, and rather more pertinent to this review, is this really the end of the line for high-end machines like the glorious Esoteric P-03/D-03?