Esteemed reviewer Keith Howard of HiFi News wrote of the CD-777, “It’s a fine CD player and an even better sounding DAC.” We are pleased to find a reviewer give the DAC as much of a work out as the CD section.
When the CD-77 came along, we blew the competition away with high-octane, Bit-Perfect audio.
The CD-777 does everything its predecessor could – then runs with it.
Music just got a whole lot better.
A different league.
What sets the CD-777 apart is its flexibility, comprising of several features, including its:
- High-end CD processor
- Ability to receive a digital signal from your laptop through USB or S/PDIF
- Capacity to send digital signals to an external DAC or laptop
And don’t let the CD-777’s compact size put you off either – it may be small, but it punches above its weight division.
The tech spec.
The CD-777 also includes our OptiSample® technology:
- Digital Master I
- Digital Master II
Which means, along with its predecessor, the CD-77, it’s one of only a handful of devices that play genuine Bit-Perfect audio.
A love rekindled.
Bringing superb tonal rendering to your CD collection and producing a more natural sound, the CD-777 will make you fall in love with music again.
At the heart of the CD-777 Processor is AMR’s ‘continuous calibration’ Multibit Digital-to-Analogue Converter circuit using the Philips UDA1305AT Multibit Chipset. This is the first time this New Old Stock chipset has been used in a CD source and is worthy of the title “son” to the “King of Multibit” Philips TDA1541A chipset used in the multi-award winning CD-77. With AMR’s understanding of digital design down to the silicon die-level, the sonic performance of this “Prince of Multibit” chipset has been taken beyond the textbook limit. Producing visceral music that other mega-buck CD players cannot match, it must be heard to be believed. Along with AMR’s OptiSample, the CD-77 boasts full remote control of all sampling modes: Direct Mastering (AMR’s custom Non-Oversampling), Oversampling (2X, 4X) and Upsampling (96 kHz, 192 kHz).
Over the last few years, the pace of progress of computer-based audio has continued unabated. So much so that AMR has developed a proprietary solution: OptiCompuAudio® which allows the CD-777 to become a dedicated CD-Transport or Digital-To-Analogue Converter through either USB or S/P-DIF without a commensurate rise in jitter (unlike virtually every other approach). Underpinned by AMR’s OptiClockLock system using a proprietary TXCO clock, the result is external or computer-based audio that is at the level of direct CD playback.
OptiSample® offers the best possible performance for CD replay. AMR appreciates that “no one sound fits all”. Hence, the CD-777 offers different sampling approaches from Digital Master to Oversampling to Upsampling. They are all user-selectable, offer different perspectives on the sound and reproduce the original recording to the highest degree. Most important of all are Digital Master I and Digital Master II which were developed by and are exclusive to AMR. With these two modes, the CD-77 and CD-777 are able to play “bit perfect” audio. This means music, not hifi is the outcome as there is no artificial manipulation of the signal.”
Going against the grain, AMR believes that having the ultimate in digital execution would count for little if the analogue section was not just as dedicated. Hence, the analogue section of the CD-777 utilises AMR’s OptiValve® analogue stage with zero negative feedback and 6H1n-EV valves. The “EV” designation represents the premium version of this valve. As these are a double triode per channel, one half amplifies and the other buffers. Rectification and filtering in the CD-777 uses low-noise, solid-state diodes with additional noise filtering and an electronic inductor instead of copper wire wound around iron. While simplified in execution and with slightly less elaborate power supplies, the analogue stage of the CD-777 is identical in basic concept and function to that of the CD-77. With no operational amplifiers or solid-state devices, this is a major factor behind the CD-777’s organic and “vinyl-like” music performance that will embarrass many a high-end CD player at even up to five times the price.
AMR’s expertise in specialised transformer design for audio use has led to the development of transformers with individual windings which offer the sonic benefit of individual transformers without the space required for separate transformers. Again, AMR has shunned the mainstream (and more cost-effective) approach to the use “off the shelf” transformers, preferring to have its own dedicated transformers hand-wound and hand-made. Power supply is an integral part of circuit design and AMR’s steadfast approach has ensured the highest possible quality of music performance.
The OptiDrive® transport mechanism is an in-house, ground-up design. The musical synergy was made possible through using the best genuine components – the high-precision, reliable Sony K-series laser pickup mated to the musical Phillips CD-18 servo system along with a proprietary high-torque direct-drive motor. The laser is constantly bathed in blue LED lighting to maximise the sonic performance. The software is bespoke by AMR to extract the maximum performance.
Underpinning the design behind each and every AMR component is the use of premium components which were chosen after judicious evaluation and extensive listening tests. These include silver leaf capacitors, Sanyo Oscon capacitors, precision wire wound resistors, 70um gold plated, military-grade printed circuit boards, German-made premium film capacitors, AMR’s own power supply polypropylene film Music Capacitors and zero-noise Schottky rectifiers.
It is worth noting that such lavish components are seldom found in five-figure digital sources yet are found in the CD-777.
|Transport||Top-loading proprietary AMR transport mechanism|
|Operation modes||Direct Master I; no digital or analogue filter
Direct Master II; no digital filter, anti-sin(x)/(x) analogue filter
Upsampling 96 kHz
Upsampling 192 kHz
|Digital Audio Inputs||1 x USB interface, 1 X S/P-DIF Interface (shared)|
|Analogue Outputs||1 x RCA; 1 x XLR per channel|
|Digital Outputs||1 X S/P-DIF Interface|
|Thermionic Electron Valves amplification stage||6H1n-EV fitted
ECC88, E88CC, 7308, Cca, 6DJ8, 6922,
|Output voltage (Digital Full Scale)||> 2V|
|Frequency Response||20Hz to 20 kHz +0.0, -0.5dB|
|Signal-to-noise ratio “A” Weighted||> 100 dB|
|Total Harmonic Dist. + Noise (THD+N)||< 0.3%|
|Dynamic range||> 90 dB|
|Channel separation||> 90 dB|
|Power Transformer||32 VA Custom EI Transformer (Digital Section)
32 VA Custom EI Transformer (Valve Stage)
|Power consumption||Standby < 1 W
Power on < 45W
|Rated voltage||100V/120V/230V~ AC 50Hz – 60Hz|
|Colour||Silver or Black|
|Dimensions||17.7 in W by 4.7 in H by 14.6 in D
45 cm W by 12 cm H by 37 cm D
57 cm W by 49 cm H by 25 cm D (shipped)
|Weight||CD-777 25.4 lbs / 11.5 kg
Shipped 34.2 lbs / 15.5 kg
At the heart of the CD-777 is the Philips UDA1305ATdigital-to-analogue converter. In AMR’s opinion, the Multibit era of chipsets are second-to-none even when compared to the “latest and greatest” modern day chipsets (where the actual sonic performance varies somewhat). We consider the TDA1541A to be the pinnacle of Multibit chipset design. Having studied and auditioned just about every other chipset, we came to the conclusion that the Philips UDA1305AT in design and performance comes a close second to the TDA1541A; significantly more so than even the much lauded TDA1543 and TDA1545 both of which have been extensively used in high-end digital playback as “successors” to the TDA1541A.
As with Moore’s Law, over the last few years, the pace of technological advancement has continued unabated. AMR in its imitable way has left no stone unturned in its pursuit of performance and flexibility to meet the needs of the music enthusiast. We have therefore arrived at solutions to receive and output the music signal without increased jitter which was not the case only several years ago. This has allowed the development of the CD-777 to incorporate maximum flexibility, which with its unrivalled sonic performance, means it is able to play music to the very best of its ability but also work alongside a separate CD-Transport or computer for alternative audio configurations without compromise.
The S-P/DIF on the CD-777 allows the CD-777 to be used as a professional, dedicated DAC.
If the Transport is not a CD-Transport but a computer-based drive, the playback ability for file types is limited only by the playback software employed, for example iTunes on a Mac or Windows Media Player cannot handle certain popular file types. However, third party player software capable of handling all known audio file types either natively or via plug-ins exist for both Windows and Mac computers. In our experience, the playback software is no less important to the optimum musical performance as the format itself.
Please consult the AMR CD-777 manual for connection details.
The USB input on the CD-777 is of the “USB Peripheral” type, meaning the CD-777 will function as a professional USB soundcard for a suitably-equipped host computer.
The CD-777 will not recognise a data CD with music files or detect or access an external hard-drive or USB memory stick with music files attached directly to the Player.
The CD-777 will work without requiring additional drivers with all recent PC/Windows systems. At this stage AMR does not support the use of the CD-777 under Unix/Linux-type operating systems.
The minimum computer system requirements are: Pentium III, Windows 2000/XP/Vista or Mac G3 or G4 with native USB support, 256 MB RAM, Mac OS 9.1 or greater or OS X.
The playback ability for file types is limited only by the playback software employed, for example iTunes on a Mac or Windows Media Player cannot handle certain popular file types. However third party player software capable of handling all known audio file types either natively or via plug-ins exist for both Windows and Mac computers. In our experience, the playback software is just as critical to the optimum musical performance as the format itself.
Please consult the AMR CD-777 manual for connection details.
The Philips UDA1305AT Multibit DAC at the heart of the CD-777 was designed strictly for CD/DAT use and is a 16-Bit Converter that is limited to 48 KHz as maximum sample rate. As a result, the S-P/DIF and USB inputs to the CD-777 are also limited to a maximum sample rate 48 KHz and to 16-Bit.
Music files with a higher sampling rate and/or longer word-length may still be replayed through the CD-777. Even 24/196kHz files. This is because most playback software will automatically handle transparently the conversion (using a high quality resampling engine such as SRC or SOX) to 16Bit – 44.1/48 Khz during playback (may require setting changes other than standard). Thus such files may still be left in the original resolution/sample-rate format and still be played through the CD-77.
Notwithstanding, when audio is played back via this medium, regardless of the resolution, because it still fully utilises the Philips UDA1305AT Multibit chipset to convert the signal from digital to analogue which is then subsequently sent through the NOS valves for and all the ancilliary power supply sections, the CD-777 is still able to provide superior muscial enjoyment to most expensive HD capable DACs.
For Mac users, having verified with Apple, AMR has deemed that the sample rate conversion in OSX is of a high enough quality for both the CD-77 and CD-777. The output sample rate on the Mac platform should be set to 44.1KHz as the source files are mainly CD-sourced and to 48KHz if they are 96/192KHz files.
In recent years, technologies such as “Upsampling” as well as one called “Zero-Oversampling®” or “Non-Oversampling” have gained in popularity with CD player and DAC manufacturers. Having compared these approaches to traditional “Oversampling” we at AMR feel that in most cases, the omission of Oversampling or Upsampling and the use of a straightforward analogue circuit is the most musically accurate and satisfying.
However, with only a minority of recordings, we found that either traditional Oversampling or Upsampling was preferable. Therefore, we have implemented all of them and made them user-selectable.
Philips Electronics ceased production of its own ‘industrial standard’ compact disc transports in 2001. Presently, new so-called Philips CD transports are far-eastern clones constructed to much lesser standards, of questionable reliability and are the only remaining off the self dedicated CD transports.
Furthermore, the exceptional Victor (JVC) transport the XL-Z900 was based upon has been discontinued and several other suppliers of high-quality transport solutions have cancelled their CD lines in favour of Multiformat DVD designs.
At AMR we found that if CD replay is the desired application neither computer CD Drives nor the current “universal” DVD based solutions perform equal to the highest quality dedicated transport mechanisms. AMR therefore set out to create a proprietary CD transport system that would provide the same or better performance than the legendary transport solutions of yesteryear, be they the original Philips swing arm type transport or Victor’s XL-Z900.
AMR combined genuine parts from a number of major manufacturers and mounted these to our machined platform. This platform is then suspended on dampeners to isolate the Transport further from any vibrations. The resultant OptiDrive® Transport maximises the accuracy of the data retrieval. (Please refer to OptiDrive® in the Advanced Design Features section for more details).
Yes, the CD-777 has a 16-frame buffer (or 512K Bit of Memory). That said, nearly all CD players have a memory buffer of one form or other. This buffer is used among other things to allow for error correction if the data is read incorrectly.
The error correction, IF implemented correctly, recovers the original data through the use of redundant data written to the CD in almost all cases. This process does NOT “interpolate” but actually recovers the exact data originally written on the CD.
The necessary calculation may however take a short time. Without a large enough buffer, the timing of the data would be effected negatively. Only in case of gross problems does the error correction fail and then ALL CD-Players, even computer-based ones or software such as Exact Audio Copy, will first attempt to interpolate samples that cannot be read correctly (in many cases the software will first attempt to re-read the samples several times) from samples before and after the affected area.
The data transmission from the drive to the DAC is timed by the clock supplied to the CD-Transport or generated in the transport itself. The spindle motor servo keeps the buffer normally 1/2 full and therefore is linked to that master clock indirectly.
If the master clock driving the transport is accurate and the buffer large enough (8 frames or more) the output from the memory buffer is “jitter free”. Some chipsets designed for portable CD players have a larger amount of memory, to provide “jog proofing”. This means that even if the player is violently shaken and hence mistracks, several seconds of music are in the buffer and the player normally can re-acquire tracking before the buffer runs out.
Other than this (which is of no relevance to a CD player used at home on a solid surface) there is no further advantage from excessively large memory buffers and such buffers usually slow down operation, by delaying the time from pressing play to hearing music by the time needed to fill the buffer, track skipping etc is equally delayed.
The situation changes dramatically if we use a separate CD-Transport and DAC linked via S/P-DIF or AES/EBU cables. The problem when using a DAC with an S/P-DIF or AES/EBU input, which combine the data and clock is that the DAC itself must recover the clock from the datastream, which is not a very accurate process and made more problematic by the specific way the clock is modulated to carry the data.
To address this significant problem, additional memory buffers have been occasionally used in the highest “high-end” DACs, both pro-audio and consumer audio in order to allow a local clock which is NOT PLL synchronised (PLL = Phase Locked Loop – a process analogous to Negative Feedback, except in the time domain).
The clocks between CD-Transport and DAC may now differ to a small but significant degree. The CD Specification allows +/- 1000ppm or 0.1% deviation, meaning that up to 1 in thousand samples would be “too much” or “missing” per second, so the memory buffer must hold many more frames than the one in the CD player.
In fact, it needs to be able hold around 44 frames per second playtime of CD. Thus the minimum memory buffer needs to handle around 210,000 32-Bit frames of under or overrun and needs at least 2MB in size to accommodate this.
Further, the buffer would need filling with 210,000 frames and would introduce around 5 second delays between data being read and received on the audio output. As no “off the shelf” solution exists to provide such a memory buffer, it would need to be designed from ground-up.
We hope this brief explanation has shed some light as to why DACs very rarely have memory buffers (no simple and readily available solutions) and CD players always have them (< 1KB required to work properly and built into most commonly available chipsets). The key to high sound quality is not in the size of the memory buffer, but first in the implementation of the mechanical system to maximise the correct reading of data followed by the error-correction routines, which requires extended routines beyond the original “red book” specification to correctly recover the original data. This correct and original data then needs to clock into the DAC with a precise, jitter-free clock, so following the mechanical implementation of the drive, equally important is the master clock for the CD player. In summary, yes the CD-777 as a one-box processor, has a more than ample 16-frame memory buffer but so does almost every other compact disc player. However, DACs need much larger memory buffers but due to the lack of a readily available solution, very few actually have a buffer.
Compact Disk is an optical format. The presence of varying external light conditions such as that admitted by a transparent lid was found to be detrimental to the sonic performance.
No. The CD-777 uses a completely single-ended signal path as we have found this to give a more realistic reproduction of music. However, in terms of sound quality, we found the XLR connector preferable to the RCA connector, even when used with non-balanced signals. Consequently, we have offered the XLR output in a manner that is fully compatible with balanced equipment: taking full advantage of balanced connections yet retains the desirable single-ended signal circuitry.
The analogue section of the CD-777 utilises AMR’s OptiValve® analogue stage with zero negative feedback and 6H1n-EV valves. The “EV” version is the premium type which offers longer life and improved mechanical construction.
The CD-777 may be fitted with ECC88, E88CC, 7308, Cca, 6DJ8, 6922, 6N23P-EV valves. Please consult you AMR distributor/dealer for installation advice/service as accessing the inside of your CD-777 will void the warranty.
In a word, uncompromising. With 1 virtual battery power supply section; 10 Series Regulators and 3 Constant Current Sources, this approach of 14 stages of passive filtering is far more costly but ultimately, the most uncompromising. Along with hand-wound, bespoke transformers, the power supply section of the CD-777 will embarrass even the best five-figure CD players.
Many CD sources may have an output voltage of 3V with some even as high as 6V! While this may impress on first blush, in a real-world listening environment, this level of output is far too high, characterised by a coarse, sound quality.
Listeners are able to differentiate between excessive and normal levels of output. The CD-777 is firmly in the latter camp, being a thoroughly well-designed product that does not seek to artificially enhance its output so it is louder during comparative situations to the detriment of long-term enjoyment.
HiFi News reviews to CD-777
Abbingdon Music Research CD-777
Poland is famed for its rich history of classical music. Hence it was a fitting venue to audition the CD-777. Poland’s Audio and Video wrote, “Values of spatial and naturalness of communication make it easy to migrate you to the ambience of the concert hall, especially in that this AMR machine does not lack dynamics.” The CD-777 was award Category A; 5 out of 5 stars which is now the expectation by our customers.
CD-777 Review by Audio of Korea
It seems that fellow reviewers on the other side of the world are also becoming enamoured with the musical nature of AMR products.
Appreciating and understanding the subtle approach of AMR and its product design, Audio magazine from Korea keenly observed, “Nevertheless, the CD-777 seems to be the result of quite extensive technological research and know-how.”
Hot on the heels of reporting positive findings with the AMR Gold Music Fuses, Audio magazine commented, “It is clear to me: a hero is born. The CD-777 is a product that will say once and for all something truly definitive, settling all the ongoing debates in the CD-player market, which is crowded, volatile, and, for many manufacturers, miserable to be in…it is heaven brought down on earth.”
We would like to thank Mr Kim and his team at Sonoris (AMR: Korea) for arranging such a pleasant, thorough and enjoyable review of the CD-777.
Haute Fidelite finds the AM-777 and CD-777 Haute Couture
AMR AM777 CD777
Haute Fideliete’s Dominique Mafrand found the 777 to be “…a truly unique system that makes music in the truest sense of the word ‘delicious'”. Watch this space for the English translation to follow in the coming weeks.
Flexible Valve CDP
CD-777: HiFi Critic – Recommended Component Mr Martin Colloms concluded of the CD-777, “The designers have clearly done their homework, and this well finished and clever player offers high performance with very good versatility and compatibility…I liked it a lot and find it easy to recommend.”
Music Emotion review of CD-777
Mr Jo Mullers, one of the most well-respected and experienced audio reviewers in the Netherlands fell in love with the CD-777 and AM-777 combination. We found this review in ‘Music Emotion’ to be suitably apt given this is the AMR DNA.