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Posted: 18/11/09 21:35 by Byrdio

Abbingdon Music Research CD-777

This article is a translated version of the original Hebrew article.

AMR 777

For several years now we keep hearing about the British company AMR, especially the senior 77 series.
In 2008 the company launched a new line at CES adding another "7" to the Reference Class name, making “777” the Premier Class range.
In early 2009 The company released two devices, a CD player and an integrated amplifier.

The company's flagship player, the CD-77 is considered as one of the best and "musical" components out there. Many reviews compare it to the world's most expensive components while it holds its own.
AMR is definitely "out there", and can be noticed at virtually every audio exhibition alongside very expensive setups, first-class speakers etc'.

Today we will review the little brother of the the company’s flagship - AMR CD-777 that arrived to Israel only a few months ago, through Arama Audio the official distributor for AMR in Israel.

External Characteristics

Even while unpacking the CD-777 it was apparent by its looks, form factor, weight and finish that it is quite unique in its price range.
When examined more closely one can find a wealth of technology, design and sound characteristics that would not embarrass even a far more expensive player.

AMR proclaims that "there is no player at its (CD-777) price point, that will rival its sound quality and analogue characteristics".
A Philips chipset, The UDA1305AT that from AMR's analysis is the closest to TDA 1541A but still offers some design and sound quality advantages, is embedded to the device, not found in other players.
A pair of valves in the analogue stage, operated with zero feedback in a SET topology. Together with a very sophisticated DAC, allowing 6 sampling options from no oversampling and up to 192 Khz.
All are impressive points, not to mention that they are presented on this device of "only" 3,100 Euro.

AMR 777

A little more about the design.
The device is very nicely built, looks and feels of extra high quality.
The player has a top-loading transport, the CD drawer is manually operated and the disk is held in place by a magnetic puck with the letters “AMR” engraved into its center.
In the component's upper panel, at both sides of the door are six clear acrylic windows that allows heat discharge and a glance on the internal build and components quality.
At the front of the player we find a big well lit screen. It displays relevant and sufficient information at every state change.
Below the screen are five buttons that engage the basic functions.

AMR 777

While connecting the player to the rest of the setup, I noticed there are more surprises in the back.
Besides the analogue outputs - RCA and XLR, there is also a COAX out: for use as a transport in combination with an external DAC (there is no optical port, if one was intending to use it).
But the icing on the cake is that AMR has also included COAX and USB digital inputs making the CD-777 function as a DAC for connecting various digital sources. Certainly a very refreshing additions in a 21st century feel.
The IEC power cable switch is there to start and shutdown the device, that in addition to the voltage selector for 110v/220v (V230 here in Israel) which completes our review of the rear of the player.

AMR 777

The player that arrived for review was a few weeks old and was at some advanced stage of its break-in period. Nevertheless, I decided to let it play with the rest of my setup for some time before starting any sound assessment to make sure it is at it's best.

The listening tests were conducted on many albums, which contained hours and hours of music.
With your permission, I will select a number of albums that I have brought together to draw conclusions into the sonic advantages and disadvantages of the CD-777.

The Listening Sessions

One of the first albums I got excited about and played through the CD-777 was a most gentle guitar album of the guitarist Robert Wolf that unfortunately is not very known here in Israel.

The “Together” album from 2000 brings together 15 pieces of acoustic and Spanish guitars, of course accompanied by additional instruments.
The genre is a kind of soft jazz and is pleasant to listen to. Not at all a musical challenge, but still a pure pleasure for about an hour.
This is an excellent recording and Robert‘s style and his Takamine guitar came through the CD-777 very well.
The CD-777 brings great distinction, due to elaborate decoders, offering a perfect reproduction of the guitar strings at the hands of Robert. Specifically, I think there is a certain over weight of warmth all through this album. This might be the characteristics of the two tubes, or, of course, intentional design goal.

From there I continued to another guitar album yet completely different. This time, a classical guitar solo album. Recorded in a church in Canada, this artist has won many prizes: Marcin Dylla - who performs as a solo guitar, works of composers from the end of the 20th century.

Here you can accurately analyze whether the AMR CD-777 (or any other player for that matter), can deliver a uniform and precise tonality of all instruments without any manipulation (as far as possible) as this recording is exceedingly neutral.
The CD-777 indeed had a stong sense of authenticity. Though I felt there was a touch of extra colour that was not on the recording itself, mostly in the middle frequencies.
I tried to think whether or not this minor coloration is acceptable to me - as it was aparent in almost every album I heard.
However, it wasn't usually disturbing, and in some recordings I even favored that coloration to none.

Moving onto a more intrument packed piece, I decided to examine whether the CD-777 is capable of providing an adequate instrument separation.
The Mozart's Requiem with Harnncourt on DHM certainly can provide the test for this subject.

The orchestra together with the choir and soloists play in devine manner, under the baton of Harnncourt - which tends to exude a certain authenticity.
This is an excellent recording , and the CD-777 just let every nuance shine through in quite astonishing fashion.
During the early days of listening to the AMR, I was quite shocked by its resolution and the sound impact it presents.
Compared to my personal Raysonic CD128, the CD-777 was quite similar in several aspects. I found myself often alternating between the two sources listening to albums I know very well just to better figure out the CD-777 qualities.

Although my CD128 painted a good and full picture that was similar to the CD-777 in some areas, in regards of resolution, the CD-777 didn't have any competition. Certainly this does not go against the CD128 as it is a player that costs half of the CD-777.

It seems like the CD-777 audio decoders are of higher quality than my good, trusted Raysonic's CD128 decoders, maybe today that's the name of the game.

The CD-777 brings tremendous wealth of technology in this field, the end user can select upsampling up to a level of 16/192Khz – this surprised me completely as I am used to some kind of grainy and artificial rendition at this sampling rate, but that was not the case with the CD-777.
I am not saying I absolutely preferred my listening in this resolution, but ,when experiencing this option, the CD-777 was less "annoying" than many other CD players at similar or lower prices.

One of the most beautiful elements of the CD-777’s sound, something that very much excited me, was that "throaty" sound that the CD-777 can produce.
This is bit hard to explain and easier to hear, but I will try to describe it shortly.

A few days before receiving the CD-777 to review I purchased the new album by Keith Jarrett (Testament - ECM).

This is a live performance recorded in two cities; London and Paris over a 3 CD set.
Keith Jarrett performs his original works, this time not accompanied by his immortal duo: Jack DeJohnette and Gary Peacock.
Some find it easier to connect to Jarrett's solo work which they find more challenging and improvisational.
This is an excellent piano recording with plenty of air and ambiance, that clearly differentiates the varied recording venues through the discs (different halls in London and Paris).
The CD-777 was able to capture the piano's changing timbre (shades of sound) very well. So much, that you could feel the piano's wood vibrations.
A piano is a very difficult instrument to reproduce accurately, and once I realized that the CD-777 could do such an amazing job at it, I was "hooked".
Moving back to Raysonic CD128, was not bad, but the same levels of resolution that I described earlier were no longer there. In fact the whole musical presentation was simply not the same.

Ultimately, it was more enjoyable and unique to hear these performances via the CD-777 than on my own player. But please do not forget that this is a somewhat an unfair comparison due the significant price difference! All this does not rule out, of course, the absolute quality of the new player from AMR.

Occasionally during playback, I thought further about the CD-777’s "warmer" presentation.
Although it presented some clear advantages in advanced technology, build quality and design (that I personally find very impressive), I still think it is a bit over saturated to my personal taste.

I can say the same thing about my personal player, that in a way does the same sound "manipulation". In fact, it is quite hard to find a perfectly leveled and harmonic sounding device in this budget (up to 4000$ lets say).

AMR 777

Still, I find it hard to think of other sources in the price range of the CD-777 who may be able to compete with it's stong features such as good control of the low frequencies, or a very charming reproduction of middle tones and pleasantly handling the very high frequencies.

But for those seeking more detail, with highs a bit more clearly defined - the CD-777 might be a little too "warm".

Looking back on the dozens of hours I spent with AMR CD-777 I can only smile due to the benefits this machine brought to the music played through it.

Although there are some disadvantages, none of the aspects of the CD-777 really bothered me during this review. Yet some might be more apparent on a comparative review with a more expensive product.

Except for hearing CDs, and although I am not very IT centric, I did try some other features offered to the potential customer.
I tried the USB input using my laptop without much configuration or special software, but only to understand how easy it is, and what will be the sound quality out of the box.

AMR 777

The simple\cheap USB cable just went out from the back of the AMR to my laptop, from there it was as simple as a click on the CD-777 remote to start hearing what was playing on the Windows Media Player.
A classic piece of Rossini, Duet for Cello and Double Bass.
Surprisingly the sound quality remained quite good and much less metallic or "digital" than I had expected.

In short, with the many functions, in DAC mode, the CD-777 produced some better, and some less then optimal results, depending on the oversampling option selected. I chose the one better suited my ear and taste.
As I listened to the three chapters, I really warmed to the idea of having the option to use the CD-777 as DAC.

The CD-777’s DAC section was certainly no slouch, even with first connection to an unconfigured laptop. And even with playing some high quality MP3 and not only lossless files.
So I can only assume that the internal DAC of the CD-777 probably has a lot more potential, as I had only touched the very tip of the “computer audio iceberg”.

I intended to try the coax digital input as well using my Squeezebox3 device, but some network problems prevented me from doing so.

In addition to these functions, AMR also include a demo & break-in disc and a very unique remote control (partially touch, partially hardware keys).

The blue backlight exhibit a very hi-tech design, and led me to think that the company invests resources in every part, something that is not very common to every manufacturer, especially not in entry level lines.

The remote itself comes in a basic plastic casework, despite the technological uniqueness, but those buying the flagship CD-77 will receive the same remote control in an aluminum casework and some more surprises.

לצפיה באתר vimeo

In conclusion

The AMR CD-777 is a digital player rich in technology, which has been designed and built almost to the same level as the company's flagship CD-77.
After spending some time with the CD-777, I can testify with absolute sincerity, that this player is pretty hard to beat.
For one who is looking for a digital player, the CD-777 is more than just a CD player, with excellent musical reproduction of tonal colors at all frequencies and a subtle hint of warmth, it certainly deserves an audition.
Now, that AMR is imported regulary to Israel, many will be able to properly audition this player, which is of the utmost importance before any purchase decision.

For me to use it as a DAC along with a laptop has aroused my curiosity – but I have not covered this aspect as comprehensively as I would have liked.
The sound was very fluid and not as metallic or "digital" as I expected. It was still "throaty" but a bit more light weight then via a CD media.

This is "alot of source" at a relatively not pricey point. Great design, wealth of technology, variety of inputs and outputs - that in our changing digital age means it is a secure investment that can prove a very good addition to many setups.

Aviad Barid.

AMR 777


Digital to Analog Converter: Philips, 16-Bit, Multibit, Dynamic Element Matching
Compact Disk Drive: Custom, Top-loading
Valve Complement: 2 X 6Н1П-ЕВ Supervalve
(6DJ8 / 6922 / ECC88 / E88CC / 6Н23П / 6N11P may be fitted)
Digital Audio Inputs: 1 x USB interface for PC or Mac
Analog Outputs: 1 X RCA; 1 X XLR per Channel
Digital Output: 1 X RCA S/P-DIF
Operation modes: Direct Master I; no digital or analogue filter
Direct Master II; no digital filter, anti-sin(x)/(x) analogue filter
Oversampling 2X
Upsampling 96KHz
Oversampling 4X
Upsampling 192KHz
Output voltage (Digital Full Scale) : >2V
Output Impedance: < 300ohm
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: >100 dB
Power consumption: Standby: < 0.1 W
Power on: < 40W
Power Transformer: 2 X 35VA Custom EI Transformer
Rated voltage: 90V-135V & 190V-260V AC
Colour: Silver or Black
Dimensions: 17.5in W by 4in H by 14.2in D
444mm W by 100mm H by 360mm D
Weight: CD Processor: 22lbs / 10kg
Shipped: 33lbs / 15kg

Equipment used in this review
Amplifier - Rogue - Tempest
Headphone amplifier - DV - 366I
Pre Amplifier - Rogue - ninety nine silver
Headphones - AKG - K701
Sources - Raysonic CD128, DELL Laptop Studio 1535
Cable - Aqua, Xindak, Analysis Plus, Audio Signal

Importer: Arama Audio
Price: 19,800 NIS.

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