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SCD-CE595 SACD/CD player
as reviewed by Ed Kobesky
Readers with entry-level systems will love this player. Sony's SCD-CE595 is an excellent SACD machine, but more importantly, it's also a very good CD player. In fact, even if you never buy a Super Audio CD, you should look into the CE-595. It gets all the basics right, and that's a rarity in a marketplace that is increasingly turning to DVD players for compact disc playback. As one of the last audio-only holdouts in its price range, the CE595 is a breath of fresh air. It has no onscreen setup menus or superfluous video features—just straightforward functionality. Hook it up, pop in a CD, and go. Playing an SACD? You can switch between multi-channel and two-channel playback at the touch of a button, without navigating a complex menu. Even if you choose to set it up for surround-sound operation, you can do so without reading the manual. Bravo, Sony!
The SCD-CE595's front panel display is as readable as that of my Rega Planet 2000. Everything you need to know about the player's status is there. You can even turn the display off. The remote control has all the functions you need, and none you don't. It feels a little small and cheap compared to the remote that came with Sony's previous SACD changer, the SCD-CE775, but it has an ergonomic shape that falls nicely in the hand. I liked it.
Sony does not disclose bit or sample rates in the published specifications, aside from referring to the chipset as a "Super Audio DAC." A spokesperson at Sony U.S. told me that the chip is a Texas Instruments DSD1751DBQR. I wish I could tell you more, but I discovered that the chip has apparently been discontinued for some time. I imagine that means that when the current supply of CE595s runs out, this model will be succeeded by one with a different chip—or not.
Build quality is good for the price. Although this player will probably be considered a throwaway by most consumers, it doesn't quite feel like one. The changer mechanism, for instance, is quieter than I expected, though it is somewhat slow. The plastic face is uncluttered, and somewhat handsome. On the downside, there's no headphone jack, which is fine because its predecessor's was below par. Another difference is the lack of dedicated two-channel outputs for stereo. You'll have to use the front channel jacks, and for those who care, the jacks aren't gold plated.
Though I could only use my notes about the older model as a guide, I felt that the SCD-CE595 was superior in many ways. Both players impressed me with their dynamics, particularly with SACDs, but the newer unit's depth and dimensionality were better, with steady imaging and an acceptable soundstage. It exhibited an accurate tonal balance for an inexpensive player, though you won't quite get that you-are-there feeling, even with SACDs. Another pleasant surprise was how well the Sony handled treble detail. While it is still a bit sandy compared to an audiophile player, it was nowhere near as rough as I expected, and it smoothed out even more with break-in. There was still some leanness in the midband, but not so much.
The CE595 sounded a little thick compared to my Rega Planet. It was full-bodied but dense, as opposed to airy and spacious. Vocals could sometimes be a bit difficult to make out, which could be frustrating. Bass was on the warm side, and not terribly well controlled, but I prefer that to a tight but clinical-sounding low end. Despite the Sony's shortcomings, I didn't miss the Rega after a few days, which is usually a sign of well-chosen compromises (either that, or the manufacturer just got lucky). If you've been playing your CDs on an older mass-market changer, the Sony will likely sound better, and if you're using a DVD player, fuggedaboudit. The CE595 is cleaner, more detailed, and more musical than the company's own DVP-NC875V and, for that matter, any budget DVD player in recent memory.
The CE595's performance on SACD was typical Sony, which is to say better than that of most competitors. Sony is still a touchstone for SACD fans, and the CE595 doesn't let the format down. If you feed it good software, it makes like good analog—smooth, spacious, and extended. If it were two years ago, I would probably spend more time extolling its skills in playing SACDs, but since the flood of new releases has slowed to a trickle, I can't help but think that the player's SACD capability is a feature that will be used only occasionally. I hope I'm wrong.
Due to the CE595's laid-back quality, system matching might be an issue. Its lack of rhythmic drive could be problematic if you pair it with other mass-market electronics. I got the best results, not with a Sony ES receiver, but with Cambridge Audio's Azur 340A integrated amplifier (see this issue). Its light and bouncy sonic signature was the perfect match for the Sony's rich but staid character. I also tried the Sony with the PrimaLuna ProLogue Two integrated tube amp (see that review here). The combination made lush music that might appeal to those who like takin' it reeeeeal easy. Nothing wrong with that, if it's your bag.
There you have it. The Sony SCD-CE595 is a very good SACD player for very little money. It's also the first cheap player since the Sony SCD-CE775 that plays CDs with comparable skill. You'd be crazy not to try this player before shelling out double or triple the money, especially if you (a) think all CD players sound the same, (b) have entry-level gear, or (c) you'd rather spend the lion's share of your budget on analog. With proper system matching, the Sony SCD-CE595 can make you forget about more expensive units. Not a bad trick for $150. Ed Kobesky
SCD-CE595 SACD/CD player