Aiwa XC-700 CD-player
Aiwa is Japanese in origin but a key part of this player, the digital converter, comes from Dutch Philips, and was probably made for Philips by its south coast based microprocessor subsidiary Mullard. So what this cosmopolitan mix offers is the cheapest application yet for the new Philips mega-BS converter, the SAA-7350, which is more usually found under the bonnet of top of the range CD players costing vastly more.
The 7350 is coupled to 20-bit eight-times oversampling filters of Aiwa's own design to take advantage of the opportunity this chip provides to let Aiwa do its own thing. The transport is mounted amidships, the position of greatest stability. Thankfully Aiwa doesn't subscribe to the excess of features favored elsewhere (come in, Sony), just a more reasonable straightforward excess.
An optical digital output is fitted, but not the more useful electrical coaxial alternative.
The Aiwa XC-700 was a tremendous success on audition, confirming the results of an earlier test. It proved quick and fluid with immaculate timing and a surprisingly deep, pure bass which stood it in good stead with much of the AR jazz album.
I fancied that with one or two complex pieces the sound began to deteriorate slightly, the word 'wiry' appearing in listening notes concerning a recent and particularly elemental version of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring.
But with the pianola recording of the same work that starts this disc, the Aiwa sounded excellent. The piano was solid and weighty, while transients were beautifully articulated in a realistically scaled acoustic.
The Aiwa XC-700 also proved colorful and expressive in the Dire Straits excellent track You and Your Friend from their new album. It did not succumb to the rather lush sound - a tendency with some of the other models.
This is a first rate design that sets standards at this price for others to beat. With few exceptions on the toughest material, the Aiwa managed to get its electronic heart around everything it was fed with more satisfying results than any of its immediate competitors.
The irony here is that it even managed to outshine the Sony CDP-591 (Aiwa is largely owned by Sony) which uses a home grown converter to produce its sound.