The display is configurable, and can show sampling frequency and quantization bit depth when using as a DAC, and count-up or count-down timer for each track, or the complete disc. Output level can be adjusted from full, to -80dB of digital attenuation and you can programme the order of play for a disc. Or, you can just press ‘load’, bung in a disc and press ‘play’…
Back to that Beethoven Arietta, and after the quiet, almost meditative opening, there’s a busy, syncopated variation on the theme that has never quite gelled for me. It used to sound a little like the accompaniment to a silent movie, and the contrast with the opening section felt a tiny bit crass, slightly inappropriate and brash. I’m not saying I’ve been turned around entirely now, but the Accuphase has shown me another side to Brendel’s interpretation, his phrasing is less overtly bombastic, and the music is now teasingly fugue-like in places. There’s still plenty of musical contrast, but now it belongs together better. An altogether more cohesive and satisfying experience.
And that’s the particularly interesting thing about this player – it has a remarkable ability to give me new insights into music I thought I knew well. It’s not about mere detail, I’m not talking about those ‘oh, never heard that before’ moments, it’s more the sheer number of ‘oh, now I get it’ moments. Graham Fitkin is a modern, British composer of often fiendishly rhythmically complex music. Usually, it’s piano-based, but he’s done an album of electronica, Kaplan [Black Box]. ‘K1’ the first track on the album, is over 15 minutes long. I’ve tended to think of it as 13 minutes building up to a great 2 minute payoff, and the 13 minutes is just what you get through to enjoy the payoff. I believe I may have been mistaken. The opening couple of minutes was always good, a slow-burn build to something, but I always felt a bit short-changed by what the something turned out to be. This time, however, I was captivated, and what often seems like a long-ish 10 minutes was over in what felt more like three. There’s variety, tension, and that slow burn comes back, redoubles itself, and urges you forward.
I admit, I was surprised, because my dCS player is better than pretty much anything I’ve heard at unravelling complex music. So what’s going on? Well, 10 years has passed and current DAC chip technology is clearly as good as dCS’ discrete tech of that era. But I’m putting my money on the way Accuphase handles the signal once its out of the DAC. The obsession with low noise technology, preservation of the phase relationships, and their undoubted skill with analogue stages just takes everything up a notch.
Timing is exquisite. I try not to over-use superlatives, but it feels like the right word here. The various parts of the music integrate so precisely, yet effortlessly, you can’t help but be drawn into the experience. It’s like your conscious brain is bypassed and this plugs directly in to the bits that respond to music. Instrumental and vocal timbre also goes up a level. The way the DP‑570 resolves textures off regular CDs reminds me of what I value from SACD. There’s more three-dimensionality and solidity to performers and instruments. I’m not talking about the old hi-fi tropes of imaging and soundstage, though these are also effortlessly rendered. It’s more that it’s easier to conjure up a solid person, playing a solid instrument in a real place, rather than the more usual holographic but ultimately two-dimensional construct within that soundstage. And again, your brain does this without apparent effort. It’s as though the player has found an extra bit or two of resolution from the disc. An old favourite, any track, but let’s go with the title from Laura Jurd’s, Landing Ground [Chaos Collective]. The string quartet backing veers from woody, stringy, string-quartetty stuff, to choppy, urgent, stabby stuff, all the better for Jurd’s trumpet to float over, or cut through, and all compellingly enriched by bass, piano and drums. Here and now, I’ve never heard the percussion exude such physicality, and the trumpet’s phrasing is loose and liquid; this is a living, breathing ensemble creating a vibrant and compelling musical event.
As you’d expect, SACD replay takes this to another level. ‘What a Shame’ from Patricia Barber’s ‘unmastered’ SACD pressing of Café Blue [Premonition] had almost uncanny levels of realism – real raising the hairs on the back of your neck and arms stuff – and while I already knew these were consummate musicians, the way this quartet works together, playing off each other, creating textures, complex rhythmic interplay, and rich and interesting timbres, is just a constant source of delight. On ‘Mourning Grace’, piano, bass and percussion have never sounded so tangible, connected and coherent, and Barber’s vocals were startlingly ‘present’.