Sony CDP-591 CD-player
This model is a button pusher's delight. It is equipped with just about every search and programming feature under the sun, including some you've probably not even thought of. There is a suite of powerful features designed to help with dubbing CDs onto tape, plus a complex display with a calendar type readout (which is far too bright), and, in common with almost all of the players, a remote control handset.
It's all well enough built, and smooth in operation. Signs of cost cutting are there, but you have to look very hard to find them.
With this rather brainless saturation approach Sony manages to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. There's a powered volume control for the headphone which also controls one of the two sets of analogue outputs, which is surely of no conceivable use. And there are no digital outputs at all, which might well have come in handy.
The Sony is built around a proprietary version of its one bit 'pulse' digital conversion with a 45-bit noise shaping digital filter, which at the current state of the technological art is a clever way of saying practically nothing at all.
The Sony CDP-591 has slightly paradoxical behavior. Overall it sounds light and agile, with excellent timing, but with some masking of fine detail despite a frequency balance that tends to favor the treble. Yet the player has what can best be described as a whiff of antiseptic. Studio Cafe Blues from the AR album, which has a prominent role for percussion, sounded a little cooler than usual, largely because the treble was a little restrained, lacking the bounce, enthusiasm and vitality that would have brought it to life.
The Sony CDP-591 was more in its element with Respighi's colorful opus The Birds which is already clearly laid out in space with little chance of any confusion between parts.
But Jennifer Warnes' voice in the somber title track from the Famous Blue Raincoat album was faintly inarticulate, as though she was unable to open her mouth fully. Subtle losses of this kind lent proceedings an air of unreality. Musical expression didn't ebb and flow in the natural way that some players around this price level can now routinely achieve.