Proton AC-442 CD-player
Because the press pack that accompanied this player suggests 'this is not just Philips parts in a box' you can be sure that this is more or less what the AC-442 is, albeit Proton flavoured with a digital filter and 'associated circuitry' of in-house design to go with a Philips Bitstream D/A converter.
The display is a crude time or track and index number readout, and the control layout is somewhat opaque. But the designer aesthetics makes this a refreshing change from the usual run of the mill, and the number of facilities has been pared to a reasonable minimum. There isn't even a tape editing feature, an omission shared with some of the most expensive CD players in this group, although the player can be interlinked with Proton 400 Series receivers and cassette decks for unified remote control.
One mystifying feature is a press button which shows a dot in a circular arrow symbol, which when pressed illuminates a dot with an circular arrow symbol in the fluorescent display area. I discovered this also acts as a repeat facility. The remote control is a clever piece of design, with excellent control grouping and differentiation using colour, shape, size, even control action.
Unfortunately, the Proton AC-442 is far from being one of the more successful Bitstream clones. It lacks warmth and expressiveness. Harmonically rich material such as Columbus from Mary Black's magnum opus sounded uncomfortable, with a loss of the warm, vivid tonal colours that suffuse the music. The music tended to remain all on the same level.
The electric bass track outing BASSically Speaking from the AR disc was reproduced with some simplification of textures, making the track a plodding affair which provided limited insight into the tonal and rhythmic complexities of the piece. The track certainly swings harder and sounds more alive through a number of the other models.
And so it went. The Dire Straits album, which I have noticed tends to benefit disproportionately from good playback equipment, sounded disjointed and bland. The Stravinsky was also cut to size by this player which gave it a rawness in the strings and a loss of bass euphony.