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POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 2
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rega

Jupiter 2000 CD player

as reviewed by Ed Morawski, Greg Ewing, and Larry Fisher

 

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LARRY FISHER'S SYSTEM

LOUDSPEAKERS
Ryan Acoustics MCL-3 and Klipsch subwoofer (used very sparingly).

ELECTRONICS
Melos SHA 1 preamplifier, an Adcom GTP-500 preamp/tuner, and a forte 1a amplifier.

SOURCES
CAL Audio Icon Mk II CD player. Sota Sapphire turntable with Linn Basik tonearm and Sumiko Blue Point cartridge.

CABLES
Homemade MIT Zap Cord and PBJ interconnects, Kimber 8TC biwire speaker cables and custom and homemade AC power cords.

ACCESSORIES
Solid Steel audio rack. BDR cones under preamp and CD player. Surplus ceramic lab cups under turntable and amp. API Power Pack II line conditioner for source components and homemade line conditioner for amp and subwoofer.

 

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Listening to the Rega Jupiter CD player made me think of several mythological tales involving the Roman god Jupiter. First, a cover of clouds (Jupiter and Io) seemed to be in front of the player, preventing me from using the remote control. Then, as I came to embrace its sonic qualities, I was shot with an arrow (Jupiter and Callisto) that kept me from fully enjoying it. The Jupiter gave me pleasure on some recordings and left me high and dry on others, perhaps because I formed expectations after listening to what the Jupiter did well—jazz vocals—before I listened to what it didn’t do well—rock.

The look of the unit has a spare British quality that I like. The RCAs are a bit flimsy, and might have problems carrying a heavy cable. Except for the RCAs, the construction, fit, and finish are spot on. When I first received the Jupiter it appeared to be new, so I broke it in for a week on my mid-fi home theater setup. Occasionally listening to it during this time was painful because it had some very good qualities, and I was having a hard time waiting to hear it in my "real" audio setup. It was during this break-in period that I noticed that the remote was a bit finicky. I had to be almost directly in front of the unit for the remote to work. The Jupiter has very few buttons on the front panel—play/pause, previous track, next track, stop, and eject. The remote is necessary for anything else, and appears to be designed to work with other components. One feature on the remote that I did particularly enjoy was the ability to turn the display off, although the power button remains lit. This came in handy while listening to music with the lights dimmed.

After a week of continuous playing of many music, test, and burn-in tracks, I moved the Jupiter down to the basement and began listening to favorite CDs. I’m sure you all have the same experience when listening to a new component. You start listening to one CD, hear something that the component appears to be doing well, so you skip to another track on another CD, and so on. My initial listening impressions were that it had adequate bass extension on chamber and jazz, lots of detail, no problems with soundstaging (though not outstanding), highs just slightly etched and jagged. It didn’t rock, shone on jazz vocals, did chamber music much better than full orchestra, and was very good in the low to middle ranges.

After getting a feel for the sound of a particular component, I usually compare it to what I have in my system. My current CD player is a Cal ICON Mk II that is getting close to ten years old. I used Stereophile’s Test CD 2 to test the phase on both players and to set the volume control on my preamp so that the level from the two players would be as similar as possible. I used the same pair of PBJ interconnects with both players. The CDs I chose to compare the Jupiter to the ICON were: (1) Branford Marsalis, Trio Jeepy, (2) Cabaret, New Broadway Cast, and (3) Eva Cassidy, Song Bird.

The first CD into the Jupiter’s tray was Trio Jeepy. The tenor sax had a great blattiness. The drum kit appeared in the soundstage between the center and the outside edge of the right speaker, the woody-sounding standup bass was positioned about a foot right of center, and tenor sax came directly out of the left speaker. The size and placement of a jazz trio at a nightclub seemed correct. The cymbals had a natural decay between hits, but lacked a clear, metallic initial hit, while the kick drum had punch. I reset the volume control and popped the CD into the ICON. The first thing I noticed was that the pace was slower. Although the decay between cymbal hits was not as natural or long lasting as that portrayed by the Jupiter, the initial hit of the cymbals had a realistic, metallic sound. As for the soundstage, the drum kit and standup bass appeared a lot closer together and a bit congested. The standup bass wasn’t as woody sounding as on the Jupiter, although the bass line was a little easier to follow. I missed the punchiness of the kick drum.

The second CD into the ICON was Cabaret. In the opening number, the emcee begins the song and is soon joined by the entire chorus and Sally Bowes, the headliner at the Kit Kat Club. Through the ICON, the recording recreated a big space within which individual singers and instruments stood out. The butt spanking had a flesh-on-flesh quality, and the bass lines contributed to the music. The excitement and buildup of the song were faithfully recreated. On the "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" track, the accordion was reedy enough to sound real and the group singing was a little weak, yet the emotion of the song came through. When I switched to the Jupiter, I was impressed with how the horns playing at the intro had a brassiness that separated them from the bass. The spittiness of the emcee came through much better, but the butt slapping was not as realistic. There was more impact on the drum hits during the introductions, but the male and female voices were muddled. The song built to a nice visceral impact at the end. On "Tomorrow Belongs to Me," the accordion had the same reedy quality as through the ICON, though a better decay after the notes. The throatiness of the singer/accordion player came across better, along with the transition from relaxed to edgy/confrontational. There was better separation of the voices. Both players were able to fill the room with a wide soundstage, with good space between the voices.

The last CD into the Jupiter was Eva Cassidy. I was struck by the heavy reverb in this song, which was quite noticeable through the Jupiter, though it didn’t seem accentuated, as it does with lesser players. The airy quality I’ve come to expect from this song was evident. With the excellent dynamics I was experiencing, I expected some overload, but never experienced any. The ICON didn’t project the reverb as much, and had a slightly narrower soundstage. While the Jupiter had the extra detail, the ICON had a slightly more musical quality.

The differences between the ICON and the Jupiter were not tremendous, but I need a player that can rock, and this is where the ICON outperformed the Jupiter by a wide margin. The ICON got me to the edge of my seat, tapping my toes, while the Jupiter made me sit back in my chair, wondering where the pace, drive, and excitement had gone. If I only listened to jazz or classical music, I’d love the Jupiter for the dynamics, soundstage, decay, tone, etc. Nevertheless, I kept expecting more from a player ten years newer and double the cost of my ICON. Larry Fisher

 

 

 

GREG EWING'S SYSTEM

LOUDSPEAKERS
Magnepan MMGs and two 12-inch Audio Concepts subwoofers in spiked sealed enclosures.

ELECTRONICS
Monarchy Audio SM-70 monoblock amplifiers (Maggies), Audire Crescendo amplifier (subs), Audio Control Richter Scale III 24 dB/octave electronic crossover (set at 72 Hz, low pass only), and an Antique Sound Lab AQ2004 tube preamplifier.

SOURCES
JVC XL-Z1050TN (highly modified) CD player and an Adcom GTP-350 tuner.

CABLES
Canare Star Quad interconnects and Kimber 4PR speaker cables.

ACCESSORIES
Taddeo Digital Antidote (latest passive version), AudioQuest RF Stoppers, Bright Star Audio IsoNode isolation feet, marble platforms, Blutak, Cascade Audio Engineering room treatments, and an Elfix Polarity Tester.

 

two.jpg (6646 bytes)The Jupiter is Rega’s current top of the line CD player. It follows on the heels of the Planet that has received a fair amount of praise over the years. Like its older and less expensive sibling, the Jupiter is housed in an extruded aluminum case with an integrated heat sink. What this means to the user is that it is built like a small tank and looks equally impressive. I got the impression that this player would survive a Southern California earthquake and still work flawlessly. Technical details include twin 24-bit dual differential Sigma Delta DACs (one for each channel), a Sony transport, a DC servo in place of output coupling capacitors, a total of seven separate power supplies (with some critical stages receiving double regulation), and a substantially oversized toroidal transformer. It also features a high-stability master clock module to minimize jitter, as well as optical and coaxial digital outputs for those that demand digital up-scalability (as well they should). The Jupiter pretty much encompasses all of the aftermarket mods that are frequently performed on mid-fi players in an attempt to scale the digital high ground. In other words, there isn’t much to upgrade here, folks.

The Jupiter employs a unique top-loading system that seems to simultaneously lock and stabilize the disc in place. This top-loading design also allows you to view the disc left in your player after those long late-night listening sessions. The styling and ergonomics are such that you will probably love it or hate it. I guess that I am so accustomed to the typical fast and simple Japanese front-loading system that I found the Rega slightly slower to use overall, but it’s the sound we’re after, right? When you combine the Sony transport with the top-loading design and the substantial build quality, the Jupiter should make a superb transport.

After an extensive warm-up, my initial impression was that the Jupiter had a transparent midrange with very-good-to-excellent resolving power. This impression remained throughout my several weeks with the player. It unraveled musical details unheard with both my JVC XL-Z1050TN stand-alone player and the JVC/Bel Canto DAC combo. (Note that my JVC is heavily modified, in that the analog section is completely bypassed by a single oil capacitor directly driven by the DAC.) My initial listening session started with Luka Bloom’s new laidback release Between The Mountain And The Moon. This CD is placed in the "folk" genre, but I find it way too interesting for that. I would categorize it more as "progressive acoustic music." Regardless, the layering of instruments and vocals is striking on such tracks as "Soshin" and "Here and Now." Try the track "Monsoon," and listen carefully to the storm cloud sounds that start off the piece. The Jupiter provided a depth that stretched beyond the walls of my listening room. Similarly, when listening to a very old Genesis favorite, "Unquiet Slumbers for the Sleepers," from the re-mastered Wind and Wuthering CD, I experienced one of those jaw droppers when I heard a nylon guitar during the densely-mixed intro. I have been listening to this music for many years, and no digital rig surprised me with this before the Jupiter. I had to replay the track several times just for a sanity check. I’m not talking about hyper-detailed sound here. This is truly one of those "hear further into the soundstage" qualities that is somewhat rare in my audiophile experience. The Jupiter has resolving power, no doubt.

The Jupiter also revealed Pat Metheny’s fingers sliding over steel strings in the "Cinema Paradiso Main Theme" track on the audiophile favorite Beyond the Missouri Sky. I could actually hear his fingers sliding over the frets in different locations on the neck of his acoustic guitar. This player also showcased very good depth, a large and wide soundstage (it seems to get those phase relationships right), and full-bodied and slightly warm bass. The Jupiter has a coherency of sound, with a lush midrange that is most evident on acoustic and classical music. Treble could be a little sweeter, something that the Taddeo Passive Digital Antidote improved upon. It’s not that the highs are harsh or edgy—the player’s midband clarity extends beyond the range of audibility. It’s just that the Jupiter’s top end sounds very slightly tipped up for my taste. It probably measures ruler flat, but I’m not one to listen to a digital component without tubes somewhere downstream. It could be that I am way too biased in this area, so take this criticism with a grain of salt. I strongly suspect that this player measures with the best of them.

It frankly surprised me that the $99 Taddeo Passive Digital Antidote improved the sound of this player, but that’s exactly what it did. It was not a dramatic improvement, but the Taddeo tamed the slightly bright sound of the Jupiter, and the combo left me with one of the best sounding digital front ends I have heard in my system. Not only did the top end become smoother, but the Digital Antidote took nothing away from that gorgeous midrange. The midband of this player reminded me of analog on more than a few occasions. It also reminded me of the midband of a good SACD player. I would love to hear the Jupiter directly driving a SET amp with a passive volume control.

I have not compared many stand-alone players in this price range, although I have tested plenty of DACs that go for around $2K. The Jupiter holds its own with many similarly-priced DACs in the current digital marketplace, and trounces similarly-priced SACD machines when playing redbook CDs. Why can’t anyone build a reasonably-priced SACD player that also makes redbook CDs sound as good as the Jupiter does? Now that I have returned the review sample, I can’t help but recollect the Jupiter’s midrange, a quality that becomes very addictive once you’ve heard it. Greg Ewing

 

 

 

ED MORAWSKI'S SYSTEM:

LOUDSPEAKERS
Alon Capri.

ELECTRONICS
Bryston 4B-ST amplifier and a Muse Model 3 preamplifier.

SOURCE
Muse Model 5 transport and 296 DAC.

CABLES
Synergistic Research Kaleidoscope interconnects, AudioQuest Slate speaker cables, and DIY power cords.

 

three.jpg (8484 bytes)I am an engineer by trade, and though I try not to let it creep into my reviews, I am fascinated by the design aspects of the equipment I audition. High-end audio is often more art than science. Witness tube equipment in which electrical parts are purposely exposed, just for esthetics. The ways various manufacturers go about designing CD players is especially interesting to me.

Since I saw my first Wadia player with the Stable Platter mechanism, I have paid more attention to CD players. The Stable Platter made a lot of sense to me; a drawer sliding in and out adds needless complexity to the playback process. Of course, just like the old Betamax/VHS wars, the sensible choice doesn't always win. The Stable Platter is no more, and the last debate seems to be between the top loading and the sliding-drawer crowd. Top loaders seem to have the edge in stability and reliability. The disk doesn't have to move, there is less chance of acquiring scratches and dirt, and there is no complicated mechanism to fail. The Rega Jupiter is a top loader, though I'm not sure about the sliding top cover, which looks a little flimsy. A simple weight would have done the trick, but there you go. The Jupiter bucks the current trend toward blue lights and displays in favor of red. Its design is simple and straightforward, although the remote (always one of my pet peeves) is a bit much: too many buttons, and not in keeping with the overall design character of the unit.

I have a few CDs I always play when trying a new player. I have found that piano and delicate-sounding string compositions really tell how good the drive is on any given player. Keiko Matsui's Deep Blue is my reference, so I placed it in the Rega, and was pleasantly surprised. I had heard that the Rega tended to be laid back, but not nearly as much as I had anticipated.

During my time with the Rega, I was lucky to have two other players to compare with it: my reference Muse 8/296 combination, and a new Cary 306/200. The Jupiter retails for $1895, the Cary $5000, and the Muse, although discontinued, sold for $7000. There is little sonic difference between the Muse and Cary. Each has its own strengths, and while I’d be hard pressed to choose, I like the Cary just a bit more, as it has more space and air. The surprise? The Rega is not far behind! I first listened with the Rega's analog outputs connected directly to my Muse preamp. The Jupiter does lack some of the higher-level detail of the Muse and the Cary, but the bass is solid, and lack of bass is often a sign of lower-priced players. I listened to several Keiko Matsui CDs and then switched to Diana Krall. Vocals were good, as were piano and strings. The Rega is often described as warm, and I would have to agree, but it is only slightly so.

I then connected the Jupiter's digital output to the Cary's digital input. Now the differences between players were subtle indeed! Detail picked up, and there was no harshness or grain. For this phase, I alternated between all three players and used both the Muse 296 and the Cary as DACs with the Rega. I could not detect a difference between the two DACs with the Jupiter as a source, except with the Cary switched to 24/96 upsampling, when there was another very slight increase in detail. In the interests of fairness, I settled on the Cary as a DAC and left the upsampling off as I rotated through some Loreena McKennitt discs. Each of her CDs has an amazing number of instruments and sounds, plus her trademark soaring vocals. The Rega was able to pick out all of the subtle nuances, even during complicated passages. The Rega is laid back compared to the Muse and Cary, but the differences are very, very subtle.

Some people, especially vinyl lovers, contend that digital is harsh and grainy. I attribute this to the increased amount of detail and resolution produced by good CD players. Of course, some players are bright, but I would not say that either the Muse or Cary is guilty of this. The Rega seems smoother across the audio band, but I think it this because the very highest level of detail is rolled off. I can see why those into vinyl tend to love the Rega, but don't mistake that comment as a complaint. I could be quite happy listening to the Jupiter as my reference. I would pair it with a high-quality DAC, but suspect that a good many audiophiles will love it as is.

It's always nice to be pleasantly surprised, and the Jupiter did that. I have listened to many CD players over the past few months, and would rate the Jupiter over units by Arcam, Norh, and NAD. It also beat the pants off any DVD player on CD playback. The Rega loads and reads quickly, and does not appear to have any drawbacks or weaknesses. The top loading mechanism is easy to use, and functions very well. The Jupiter must be placed on the top shelf because of its loading, but that's where it belongs! Ed Morawski

 

 

 

Rega Jupiter 2000
Retail $1895

Rega (UK)
web address: www.rega.co.uk

US Distributor:
Lauerman Audio Import
Steve Lauerman
TEL: 001 865 521 6464
e-mail address: realhifi@aol.com

 

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