Introduction, Remote, and Listening Evaluation
Trekking a long on my series of disc player reviews, I stumbled a cross a Chinese unit. In a conversation with Mark Levine of Allied TV & Sound (the North American importer), I first heard of this brand. He raved about this unit. My cynical nature and desensitization to the enthusiasm of manufacturers/distributors has resulted in me being almost completely immune to the over-the-top pitches reviewers are commonly subjected to. But with Mark, I had to give his words a lot more credence, since his thoughts on the Cayin 265Ai integrated were on the mark (no pun intended).
What can I tell you about the East-Sound company? Not very much, other than they are based in China and like Cayin seem to produce a large range of electronic components. Like many other Chinese manufacturers they have spent little or no effort in translating their website, promotional literature or owner's manual into English. Unfortunately, for this review, I will have to rely solely on what I can gather from the sound and a peek into the chassis.
This is absolutely the beefiest disc player I have ever come across, I would estimate it weighs at least 20 lbs. Encased in what seems to be a stamped metal chassis, with a mirror like gold-chrome front plate and gold-finish buttons. The unit comes with screw-on isolation tips, which look like they a remilled from solid-steel. This player certainly gives the look and feel of a high-end unit.
From left to right the front panel has a la rge gold-finish power button, a blue LED indicating the phase invert status, the drawer with the readout panel under and 4 smaller buttons for open/stop, play/pause, back and forward.
The rear panel, from left to right, features one set of balanced XLR outputs and one set of RCA, coax and optical digital jacks and a receptacle for a power cord.
Where this unit will take your breath a way is the inside. A torroidal transformer large enough to power a small amp is at the back of the unit, directly behind the drive unit. The left side of the player has the power supply board, neatly laid out with large capacitors standing like soldiers information. The DAC and output stage are on a separate board cleverly placed away from the power supply. It makes one wonder why more players are not outfitted and laid out like this.
A full function remote is supplied with this unit. The most concise description of the remote I can give is that it takes every opportunity to miss the mark in every way possible. First, and this is the least of its problems, you have to remove 4 screws and open the unit just to change the batteries. The buttons a re micro-sized rubber dots recessed into an aluminum body, and are very difficult to press. Finally, when you do manage to press one it takes the command forever to register and execute. Speaking of execute - there is a suggestion for whoever designed this remote! Well, now that I have gotten that of my chest I feel much better - on to the good stuff...
All tests were done only with the RCA outputs of this player. I did compare the two outputs and did not notice a difference in sound quality. The first set of comparisons were done against the Creek CD50 MkII (MSRP $1500). As usual, all tests were done at level matched settings.
'Market Blues' (Neal Pattman, Prison Blues, MusicMaker, 91003-2).
The differences between these units were very small in absolute terms, and it took me many iterations of switching players over the same track to find them. Having said that, I can say that the E.Sound eked ahead of the Creek in the reproduction of the macro-dynamics of Mr. Pattman's vocals and harp. The high frequencies also seemed a little more detailed on the E.Sound.
'Yesterdays' (Dave Bruebeck, Nightshift, Telarc, CD83351)
The differences were so small that I would have to call them an impression rather than an astute observation. The E.Sound seemed a bit 'cleaner', as if the sheerest veil had been lifted and the background was quieter.
'General Image and Resolution test' (Chesky J a zz a nd Audiophile tests Vol2; Chesky; JD68)
I use this track as an acid-test of the soundstage and imaging. I could not tell a difference in the players in this respect, breadth or depth. To test the ability of both players in this regard, I placed the speakers 3' from both ears and each other. The liner notes say that on the highest resolution systems, it should seem that all the musicians are running a circle around you. I can confidently say that I experienced this with all the musicians except for the one with the shaker. This shortcoming may have been of the disc players or the rest of my rig, I cannot say with certainty. But, I can say that these two players delivered the best rendition I have ever heard on this track.