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PRIOR to the advent of DVD in the late 1990s, some Japanese companies turned out excellent amps and CD players for the budget hi-fi market. However, in the DVD era, most of them shifted focus to the AV market, some exclusively, and two-channel projects took a back seat.

Over the past couple of years, though, it has been refreshing to see some of these manufacturers return to the stereo realm, and although not exactly catering to audiophiles on a budget, they at least offer a different perspective.

Pioneer made waves in the early 1990s with its Legato Link technology for CD players, and that name is being revived to power the PD-D6-S SACD/CD player (we’ll call it the D6).
Style with substance

The D6 uses Pioneer’s exclusive Legato Link Conversion PRO, a technology that quadruples sampling rate for decreased phase shift across the audio frequency range. This, Pioneer says, results in a smoother and more natural reproduction of the signal.

Coupled to the Legato Link is Hi-Bit technology that expands data length from 16-bit to 24-bit for re-quantisation.

At the heart of the D6 are twin Burr-Brown 24-bit/192kHz DACs (parallel-connected in mono mode) to ensure accurate processing of SACD signals. The pickup and drive mechanisms of the made-in-Malaysia D6 are Pioneer’s own.

High-grade parts are used throughout, and features include a quick-response power supply circuit, short and simple signal paths, DSD single-chip decoding, low-jitter crystal oscillator behind the precision master clock, and separate grounds for the digital and analogue sections.

Using the remote, you can set the player in “Pure Audio” mode, which switches off the white LCD display panel. The Legato Link mode is available only for CD playback.

The D-6 will play CD, CD-R/RW, SACD and discs containing MP3 and WMA audio tracks. Also, there’s a button on the remote that allows you to switch between the layers of any SACD recording. However, you cannot perform this on the fly – the disc has to be stopped first.

A pair of analogue outputs is provided, and if you want to use the D-6 as a transport only, there are both digital optical and coaxial outputs on the rear panel.
Spot the difference

The D-6 was, at different times, hooked to Krell KAV-400xi and Ayre AX-7e integrated amps and a pre/power combination of Audio Research LS15/Krell FPB200. I used DHS Labs Silver Sonic Air Matrix and JPS Superconductor Q interconnects as well. Speakers were Audio Physics Tempo, hooked up via Stereovox Firebird and Siltech New York cables, depending on the system.

Sticking with CD mode, keeping the display on and without Legato Link, there was an overall leanness and crispness to the sound that, while not cutting edge, at least set my right foot tapping. The lack of additives across the frequency spectrum made for a player that was honest to the recorded signal, with very good rhythmic and dynamic handling capabilities.

The staging was more constricted and less expansive than I’m used to, although the D-6 kept elements in the mix in excellent focus.

When I switched to a hybrid SACD disc, I was able to compare between the two formats and indeed, the SACD layer revealed improved ambience, greater resolution and superior spatial information.

I had no grouse with the CD layer’s bass reproduction, but with SACD, there was better control and detail … in fact, in the midrange and highs, I heard greater clarity and dynamic capability, too.

However, I felt the D-6 had one too many options to mess around with during CD playback … with or without Legato Link, Pure Audio or not … as I continued to listen, I wondered if these were really necessary.

If there was any sonic difference or improvement with Pure Audio mode on, then it was hardly discernible. I know some believe that bypassing the display mode is the purist way to go, but nothing was obvious to me.

Also, I heard nothing awe-inspiringly enlightening with the Legato Link on – indeed, some may not prefer the slight plumpness in the lower regions in this mode, which caused some veiling of the proceedings.
Nothing better

It’s almost impossible to find a multi-format machine that shines in all areas at this price, but the Pioneer PD-D6-S certainly does a better job than many of the cheaper multi-tasking DVD players in the market.

The D-6 offers competent CD capabilities and more engaging SACD playback,you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better “purist” player.


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