My first encounter with the TEAC CD-3000 was at an audio meeting hosted by a TEAC dealer. The player was connected directly to a pair of Nelson Pass amplifiers, driving a hybrid ribbon speaker. The sound of the stereo system was vivid and resolving. It did not exhibit any annoying sonic character. From my brief exposure, I did not observe any egregious flaws.
I was exposed to the same player on another occasion, at an audio meeting hosted by a representative from KEF. The Teac player was part of a simple system—integrated solid state amp and KEF mini-monitors. Again, the sound was detailed, without any objectionable sonic attributes. It was a brief audition and thus difficult to detect any flaws.
As I have noted in past reviews, I believe a stereo system is “as strong as is its weakest link”. At both auditions, I did not notice a “weak link”. Given its price and multi-faceted design, I was eager to review this player.
There is another reason that motivates me to review this player, namely that it has no tubes. My stereo system includes a CD player with a tube analogue stage, preamp and amplifier(s). Introducing a solid state component should be an interesting endeavor, challenging my obvious preference for tubes, and observing the effect of replacing a tubed CD source with a solid state CD player.
The CD 3000 is most versatile. It plays Redbook and SACD formats, upsamples at 192 Khz, discretely, that is, your choice is the Redbook rate of 44.1 Khz or 192 Khz, and accepts hi-rez input via coax and USB interfaces.
Since this will be a long review, a consequence of examining all of the functions of this CD player, I will dispense with the mention of technical information, and instead, refer the reader to the company’s website.
The company’s design goal is to provide maximum resolution and features at an attractive price point of $2000. It should also be noted that the selection of the DAC chip, the CS 4398 is consistent with their objective to produce as much resolution and transparency as possible. The CS 4398 is more resolving than the Burr Brown 1796.
I was advised by a technician at TEAC to provide a signal for 500 hours, before reviewing the unit. Thus, I played several CDs for a total of 500 hours, before critical listening. I also fed a signal from a coax cable directly to the DAC for 500 hours, but this procedure may have been redundant. After 500 hours of feeding a signal, I noticed the sound of the player continue to change. I ended up having fed a signal for about 600 hours to the Redbook circuit and about 150 hours to the SACD circuit.
Potential purchasers should be advised to follow the instructions I was given before passing any judgment on the merits of this player. In addition, listen to the player until its sound is stable for about three days, before critical evaluation. The break-in suggestions should be followed scrupulously to avoid an inaccurate perception of the sound of this player.
Since the player has several aspects to analyze, I will try to be as laconic as possible to create an efficient review. I will first review the player’s Redbook capability, and comment upon listening at 44.1 Khz and 192 Khz. Next, I will assess the SACD function by comparing a hybrid layer and an SACD layer of the same CD. Finally, I will feed a Reference Recording HRx DVD-R sampler, 24/176.4, via coax from a PS Audio PWT to the DAC of the Teac, comparing the hi-rez to the Redbook format, where possible. I will use the PS Audio as a transport to play Redbook and hi-rez formats, to avoid introducing a second variable, i.e, the transport.
I always begin a review with a test of a component’s frequency response. I usually use two or three discs for this purpose. Thereafter I select recordings to evaluate other salient parameters of performance, including dimensionality (soundstage and spatial relationships), dynamics and timbre.
My first selection, a test of the treble, is Holly Cole, DON’T SMOKE IN BED, track 1, Alert Z2 81020, track 1. I first noticed an increase in sibilance, compared to CD players I auditioned recently. I did not consider the intensity excessive, as the sound of Holly Cole’s voice is consistent with close-miking, and I have heard both more and less sibilance auditioning this disc in a variety of settings. There was also an increase in the emphasis of all words beginning with the letter the “s”. I also noticed changes in the sound of the acoustic bass. I observed greater density of the strings, greater impact, greater fullness and greater extension in the bass region. The instrument also sounded larger in size. The piano sounded fuller and had more weight. I thought I heard the pianist exerting greater pressure the keys.
I next selected Bela Fleck, FLIGHT OF THE COSMIC HIPPO, track 4, Warner Brothers 9 26562, as a test of bass response. The quality of the bass changed. The vibrating wood body of the electric base was more controlled. I could hear the movement of fingers on the strings, as the bassist descended the scale. When the frequency which excited the vibration of the wood body was reached, I noticed an unusual phenomenon. When the wood body was vibrating, it in turn induced vibration of the strings. I had never heard that effect before. Obviously, there was a balance between the sound of strings and the sound of wood, more overall clarity than usual and the strings could be heard distinctly as a separate entity from the wood body. The sibilance I heard on the Holly Cole disc, led me to consider the possibility that there might be a peak in the upper midrange/treble region.
I decided to listen to the sound of violins on a CD engineered by Keith Johnson. I own a number of Reference Recording CDs, and my recollection of violins, is that they always sound smooth and balanced in frequency response. Therefore I decided to listen to the disc, MEPHISTO & CO, track 1, RR 82 CD. At this juncture in the review, I felt more like an audio detective, than a reviewer.
Listening to the violin section, I heard the sound of full-bodied and smooth sounding instruments. The lateral soundstage covered the entire rear wall. The orchestra location was mid to rear hall. The transition from soft to loud passages, was accomplished with such ease, it reminded me of the action of a live orchestra. During louder passages, I thought I heard a harp. It was barely audible. I wasn’t sure I heard it, until later in the performance, I heard a harp solo. The concertmaster had several short solos. The sound was very full, extraordinarily smooth, but not euphonically colored. Evidently the difference in treble response, between the Holly Cole recording and the Reference recording, was a consequence of the differences in the recording process.
I next introduced a test of dimensionality and dynamics, namely, TEST RECORD 1—DEPTH OF IMAGE, track 5, OPUS 3 CD 7900. Initially, I set my Radio Shack meter at 70 DB, and later increased the setting to 80 DB. The loudest passages registered 90 DB. Solo instruments included the bassoon, piccolo and trombone—members of a symphonic band, performing Shostakovich’s “Polka” from The Bolt”.
The bassoon was located all the way to the left, on the rear wall. The piccolo was positioned at the rear wall, right of center, and the trombone emanated from the rear wall, behind the right speaker. The piccolo lacked thinness and shrillness, the bassoon and the trombone were full-bodied, and all three instruments sounded natural in timbre. At the loudest passage (about 90DB), the symphonic band never sounded raucous, congested or annoying.
The last selection is a very good test of timbre because the perspective of the solo instruments and string section is close enough to the listener to facilitate an accurate evaluation. The CD in question is Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf”, narrated by Sir John Gielgud, with the Royal Philharmonic, conducted by Andrea Licata, on an obscure label, ACUM, number 204446-206.
Instruments from each section of the orchestra are represented individually, except for the string section and French horns. The flute sounded rounded and full, but sacrificed some articulation [try playing it! - Ed]. The clarinet emphasized the sound of ebony, but the sound of the reed was not audible. It too was full bodied. The bassoon was very articulate. The sound of the reed was audible, and was not as full sounding as the other wind instruments. The oboe also was not articulate in its presentation. It too was full and rounded, like the clarinet and flute. The French horns, sounded full and clear, while the string section was balanced in its presentation, between the sound of the wood and the strings.
Finally, the tympani sounded more dynamic and had more impact than I observed listening to other CD players. There was decay following the last strike of the mallet on the instrument. I listened carefully, because I noticed a difference in the pitch of the decaying metal. It was slightly lower than I heard on CD players that I had auditioned in the last two months.
Note, on several occasions I pressed the upsampling button on the faceplate of the SACD player, and found it had an imperceptible affect on the sound.
Listening to SACDs
The first selection, “Hopak”, from Tchaikovsky’s “Mazeppa”, was already in my collection in the HRx format. Reference Recordings sent me an SACD copy, taken from the CD, EXOTIC DANCES FROM THE OPERA, track3, RR 71SACD. Listening to the Redbook layer, strings were smooth and extended. One could hear the bow on the strings and assess the material content of the strings.
A piccolo could be heard, a bit louder than some other instruments. Its sound did not assault the ears, i.e., there was no peak in the treble. There was a strong presence in the bass region, mainly a result of the dynamic presence of percussion instruments. The orchestra was arrayed over the full range of the back wall.
Listening to the SACD layer, I noticed that the sound of the strings was a bit smoother. The piccolo was not as loud, and there was a greater presence of upright basses. As a result, the orchestra sounded more balanced. Instruments were spaced slightly further apart. Percussion instruments had greater impact and dynamic range increased. Lateral soundstage width was unchanged. French horns were more evident and cymbal crashes sounded smoother. Overall, the orchestra sounded more realistic. On this CD, the SACD layer was sourced from analog master tapes.
The next selection was a very recent release from Reference Recordings, of a live Pittsburg Symphony Orchestra Concert [Audiophilia review, here - Ed]. This recording was mastered by Sound/Mirror, rather than Keith Johnson. Quoting from the accompanying booklet, “The recording was made and post produced in 64fs DSD on a Pyramid work station”. The CD contained three of Richard Strauss’s tone poems. I chose “Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks”, track 3, RR 707SACD.
Listening to the hybrid layer, at one point, I reduced the volume level, as the music had such dynamic range and was so loud (in excess of 90 DB), and reached that level so suddenly, that it exceeded my comfort level. Even without precise measurement, this CD is the most dynamic I own. Even as a Redbook recording, this orchestra sounded more life-like than any in my collection. All instruments were so clear, yet retained a very accurate timbre. The soundstage sounded as if it could extend beyond the borders of my rear wall. This CD is one of a few that produced a natural sounding cymbal crash. All instruments of the orchestra were clear and easy to identify. Finally, spacing between foreground and background instruments was much greater than what I have heard on most commercial CDs.
Listening to the SACD layer, the spacing between instruments increased and instruments were more fleshed out. There was also a bit more bass extension. Dynamics were unchanged. Instruments which sounded natural on the hybrid layer sounded even more realistic on the SACD layer. A cymbal crash revealed more of the sound of brass. Percussion instruments had greater impact, and sound stage width was unchanged.
The last selection was JAZZ AT THE PAWNSHOP, FIM SACD MO34, Disc 2, track 1. Immediately one could hear ambient noise produced by patrons and a bartender at a jazz club. One first hears a piano and drummer. The piano sounds live and the cymbals sounded very natural. The acoustic bass provided a strong foundation. One can hear the sound of dishes, while musicians were playing. Although the piano was close miked, one could observe the position of the drummer, behind the piano. Thereafter, Arne Domnerus (alto) and Lars Erstrand (vibes) were heard. The saxophone was in the foreground, while the vibraphone was slightly behind the alto. The saxophone’s natural timbre was especially revealed when playing in its upper range. Later in the solo, one could detect a saliva-saturated reed. One could also notice that the altoist was moving around. When the saxophone solo ended, the vibist soloed. At that point, the vibraphone was close-miked. It was easy to observe a wooden stick striking the metal keys, and the timbre was natural, with the exception that the shimmer of the instrument was slightly deemphasized. The SACD layer provided greater detail. The cymbal revealed a more brass-like quality and sounded like a thicker instrument. Instruments sounded louder, obscuring the ambient noise from the jazz club, and there was greater presence from the acoustic bass. One could observe the pianist’s fingers striking the keys.
The sound of the alto sax changed. On the hybrid layer, the sound of the reed was more evident, while on the SACD layer, the alto had more body and the sound of the reed was less present. Dynamic contrasts increased. I measured a maximum of 95 DB—much louder than my normal listening level. The acoustic bass had more presence and its sound was more fleshed out. Again, one could hear the position of the altoist, relative to the microphone, change. The sound of the vibraphone was more articulate. The shimmer of the instrument was more audible, and one could detect the wood mallet and the vibraphone as separate entities.
Listening to HRx Discs
All recordings were fed to the DAC of the TEAC from a PS Audio Perfect Wave Transport. My first selection was the “Hopak” from Tchaikovsky’s Mazeppa”, taken from the Reference Records CD EXOTIC DANCES FROM THE OPERA, RR 71SACD, track 3.
Before I listened to the hybrid layer, I set my Radio Shack meter to 80DB. I observed a range from 70DB to 90DB.
The string section sounded smooth, i.e., extended without peaks in the treble. A piccolo could be heard without sounding strident. Upright bases were extended. The wind section had the most natural sounding timbre in the orchestra, which was positioned at the rear wall, behind the speakers. All instruments exhibited clarity, and a cymbal crash sounded well-behaved, not harmonically bleached or washed out.
Listening to the HRx disc, HRx SAMPLER 2011, track 3, I first noticed greater depth. Strings sounded smoother, and exhibited more natural timbre. All instruments in the orchestra sounded somewhat clearer and more full-bodied. There was no change in sound stage width, spacing between instruments, or dynamic range.
The next selection was “Yerba Buena Bounce”, taken from THE HOT CLUB OF SANFRANCISCO, track 11. The sound of the recording was very clear. The violin was extended in the treble, without harshness, while the wood body remained audible. The acoustic bass provided a firm foundation to the jazz quintet—violin, 3 guitars and acoustic bass. The strings of the acoustic guitar were readily identifiable. They provided the timbral cues of nylon, without obscuring the sound of the wood body. The wood body was more prominent when the guitarist was playing in its lower register. The sound stage was wide, and the two rhythm guitars were behind the right speakers very near the end of the wall.
The HRx version was taken from SAMPLER 2011, track 13. The higher resolution sounded more like a live performance than a recording. The violin sounded smoother, and was positioned further to the left, than its location on the Redbook version. The violin had a more realistic balance between the strings and wood body. The solo guitar while more articulate in its execution, had greater emphasis upon its wood body and revealed thicker sounding strings. The sound of the acoustic bass was more extended, full bodied, yet it also sounded clearer. Finally, the sound stage widened.
The last selection was the last movement from Rachmaninoff’s “Symphonic Dances”, track 3, from a Reference Recording, RR 96CD. Listening to the Redbook layer, the sound stage spanned the entire wall. I had the impression that the instruments could have extended beyond the rear wall behind the speakers. Wind instruments sounded very smooth and very spacious. The cymbal crash sounded a bit sharp-edged.
Percussion instruments sounded very powerful and dynamic. As I listened, I noticed that all instruments were widely spaced. A bell, recorded at a very low level, was barely audible, even as other instruments were playing, indicative of a high signal to noise ratio. One could also hear a xylophone and brass instruments in the background. All instruments were very clear and articulate, having natural timbre.
The high resolution version was taken from the Reference Recording HIGH DEFINITION DISC 2008, track 8. I noticed no change in sound stage width, but. instruments sounded physically larger. The sound of the cymbal crash no longer was sharp-edged. Wind instruments sounded more full-bodied, and percussion instruments had more impact and sounded more defined. Dynamics were unchanged. The bell recorded at a very low level became more audible. The xylophone sounded more full bodied, and the upright basses sounded fuller and a bit deeper into the orchestra.
Note, there was some loss of separation between instruments. Since the instruments inhabited the same space, when instruments are larger, the space between them is reduced. This is in contrast to the Redbook layer, where instruments sounded smaller in scale, but more widely spaced.
I had stated earlier in the introduction to the review that my first encounter with the TEAC CD-3000 was at the home of a TEAC dealer, during a meeting of a local audio group. I asked him how he would describe the TEAC. He replied, “neutral, but warmer as an SACD player”.
Whenever I review a component, I select recordings to elicit its performance with respect to a series of sonic parameters, such as frequency response, dimensionality, dynamics and timbre. The examination of the performance of a component with regard to the aforementioned facets of sound, are designed to assess the character of the component. I can usually ascertain if a component has a sonic signature or coloration(s), by focusing on such factors.
The results of my evaluation lead me to conclude that no sonic signature or coloration was revealed. Further, I observed a significant difference in the sound of each recording.
Thus, I found the TEAC CD-3000 to be “virtually” neutral in the Redbook mode, and slightly warmer in the SACD mode, and have essentially, corroborated the audio dealers opinion. I use the term “virtually”, as the sample size of recordings is small, and the conclusion follows from inductive reasoning from empirical data.
It is impossible to prove a component is neutral, as it would require listening to an infinite number of recordings. If the conclusion were based upon deduction from a postulate or assumption, than one could prove that a component is or is not neutral with (100 percent) certainty.
When playing SACDs, improvements in sound included the following:
Greater presence of bass instruments, greater extension in the bass region, more robust sounding instruments, increased dynamic range, smoother sounding string instruments, enhanced spatial relationships, greater sound stage width and more natural timbre.
When playing higher resolution discs improvements in sound included the following:
Greater depth, wider sound stage, smoother string tone, more natural timbre, more full-bodied sound of instruments, greater resolution, smoother sound of cymbals, and greater bass extension.
The above mentioned changes were CD dependant.
CD Player: Vincent CD-S7 DAC
Preamp: Blair Chapman
Amplifier(s): VTL Deluxe 120s and Quicksilver Mid Mono
Speakers: Quad ESL and Magnepan 1.6s
Interconnect cable: High Fidelity Cable CT-1
Digital Cable: High Fidelity Cable CT-1
Speaker Cable: High Fidelity Cable CT-1 and Ear to Ear
Power Cords: Emotiva, Ear to Ear, PS Audio and Distech
Passive Accessories: Sound Fusion Sound Busters, egg crate mattresses, Room Tunes, Echo Tunes, Corner Tunes, maple bases, Millenial CD mat and an Ophiopogon
Active Accessories: PS Audio Juice Bar, Balanced Power Technology Outlet Strip,Enacom filters, Z System sleeves, PS Audio Noise Harvesters, Alan Maher parallel line filters, Quantim Line filters, and PS io, PS Audio Power Bases
The TEAC CD-3000 SACD Player
Manufactured by TEAC
7733 Telegraph Road, Montebello, CA 90640
Tel:+1-323- 726-0303 Fax:+1-323-727-7656
Source: Manufacturer loan.