reproduce or portray, the UDP-1 does reveal the music itself more clearly than any other player. Regrettably, when these surround recordings are on multichannel high resolution audio discs, you can only output them from the UDP-1 in multichannel analog, and most surround processors cannot engage their surround and spatial enhancement modes from their multichannel analog inputs (if they could, then you could spatially enrich these multi-mono surround recordings).
On the other hand, with video discs the soundtrack can be output from the UDP-1 in digital format. All the sonic virtues of the UDP-1 heard via its analog outputs are just as evident heard via its digital outputs, so the UDP-1 also makes a superb disc transport source for sending all digital soundtracks to your surround processor. Likewise, if you want to employ your surround processor to enhance your two channel CD collection, the UDP-1 sends a superb sounding signal to your processor, via either digital or analog routing (one advantage of the digital routing is that it doesn't go through the degrading A/D conversion stage in your surround processor).
We employ the McCormack UDP-1 as our reference source for testing all other products, both through their digital inputs and their analog inputs. The UDP-1 simply gets and gives us more information, and more accurate and more musically right information, off every kind of disc, than any other player regardless of price.
With its revelatory powers, the UDP-1 is also superb at bringing the most out of all recordings, and thereby clearly showing which recordings are better than others. As one example, the UDP-1 clearly shows that, among SACD classical recordings, the releases from Telarc are far better than those from commercial labels such as Universal/Polygram (DGG, Philips, Decca). The Telarc recordings, with their superior miking and sonics, give you the best of both worlds, more intimate revelation of instrumental timbres up front, plus more spacious and coherent portrayal of ambience and hall space, while the commercial recordings often give you the worst of both worlds, with muddier obscuration of the music up front, and vaguer reproduction of hall ambience around you.
As a second example, the UDP-1 clearly reveals the sonic pros and cons between the two competing high resolution audio formats, DVD-A and SACD, and the UDP-1 accurately shows up the technical problems that SACD has reproducing certain kinds of sounds. For instance, Chesky has issued their popular demo disc, Dr. Chesky's Surround Show, in both formats, and a direct comparison on the UDP-1 is very educational.
On track 18, April is in my Mistress' Face, the choral sibilants are beautifully pristine, open, and airy on the DVD-A disc, with the natural subtle variations of the "ssss" sound, from instant to instant, being very clear and clean. In contrast, the UDP-1 shows that SACD's documented technical problems handling energetic high frequencies of music cannot cleanly handle these same sibilants, and change the sound into a time-smeared burst of continuous noise, sounding more like "sshhhhh", and also sounding louder than on DVD-A because the SACD smearing fills in the intertransient silences on DVD-A.
On tracks 4 and 7 of the DVD-A version, the UDP-1 clearly reveals the singular transient attack of the hammer strikes on the chimes, the strikes that start the chimes ringing each time. But on the SACD version of these same tracks, the UDP-1 just as clearly reveals SACD's technical problem reproducing singular transients (transients which do not continuously repeat, such as these initial attack transients of each chime strike). SACD employs excessive averaging (in order to obtain a passably low noise spec), so it has a technical problem reproducing individual singular transient musical sounds (especially when, as in this case, there is a repeated musical pattern both before the strike [namely silence] and after the strike [the continuous tone of the chime ringing]). The UDP-1 clearly shows that SACD, in direct comparison to DVD-A, virtually obliterates (renders silent) the sound of the hammer's initial attack transient upon the chime. Amazingly, with SACD the chime sounds as if it just started spontaneously ringing by itself, without any hammer strike sound!
Then, on track 6 (The Storm), the UDP-1 clearly reveals both these problems of SACD joining forces. When the rain first starts, SACD makes it sound like a "swsshhhhhh" of continuous, undifferentiated pink noise, as if someone at Chesky had simply turned on a noise generator and fed it into the console instead of recording real rain. However, on the DVD-A version, the UDP-1 clearly reveals the individual raindrops, the individual transient attacks of the thousands of raindrops hitting a surface, that make up nature's cacophony of a real cloudburst. The UDP-1 reveals that SACD cannot reproduce this sound, since SACD has the technical problems of smearing and averaging together all these complex, individual raindrop transients into a continuous, characterless smear of artificial sounding pink noise.
As a third example, the UDP-1 clearly reveals the sonic pros and cons between different masterings of a CD, and between a good CD and SACD. Many CDs have been remastered and re-released over the years, with the record label employing progressively better A/D converters and also upsampling techniques, both of which can improve the sound from the CD. The McCormack UDP-1 gets so much musical information from redbook CDs that it shows each generation of CD mastering at its best, and clearly reveals the sonic advances that have been made over the years. For instance, many of the classic early RCA stereo analog recordings have been repeatedly remastered and reissued on CD, under the original RCA banner, then as a Victrola CD, then as an RCA Gold Label CD, and then as a Living Stereo CD. The UDP-1 shows important sonic differences among these various remasterings over the years, with the more recent Living Stereo series, made with tube electronics, usually having more natural sound and better imaging spaciousness than the earlier CD masterings (which were made with solid state electronics). RCA (BMG) is now embarking on yet another remastering and reissue program for these classic two channel recordings, this time on SACD. And the UDP-1 clearly reveals that these are the best sounding version yet on silver disc, with a fine delicacy and lack of glare never previously heard on these treasured recordings (probably thanks to upsampling during the remastering). Interestingly, the UDP-1 also clearly reveals that it is the CD layer on these SACD discs that is in fact sonically superior to the SACD layer (both layers are merely two channel on these discs). For example, the CD layer has more articulate and realistic high frequencies (listen to the CD layer's better high frequency transients on track 3 of the new Munch Ravel Daphnis et Chloe, and to the CD layer's more silvery string sheen on other tracks and other discs). To force the UDP-1 to play the CD layer of these hybrid discs, go to Initial Settings in the setup menu, then go to Options, and then under SACD playback select CD area instead of multichannel area.
Thus, the UDP-1 does such a superb job decoding and reproducing redbook CD that it can actually sound better than a high resolution super audio disc from the very same source. This of course also gives us (and you) even more confidence that the UDP-1 will do a magnificent job of getting the most out of your large CD library, revealing musical nuances you never heard before.
Speaking of which, one of our biggest thrills has been using the UDP-1 as a source for our vast 2 channel library, and feeding its signal into a surround processor, to extract hall ambience from these two channel recordings via a surround enhancement mode (our favorite is DTS Neo 6 Music), and then feed that to four surround speakers (located at our back and sides).
The UDP-1 is so superb at extracting all information from the original recording that it feeds a rich amount of subtle hall ambience information to the surround enhancement processor, which can therefore create a stunning illusion of surround hall ambience. Indeed, thanks to the UDP-1's ability to pass subtle hall ambience information on to the surround processor for surround enhancement, we have been able to get a better, more believable concert hall surround environment from classic two channel recordings (some nearly 50 years old), than we hear from many of today's new surround sound discs (even those in high resolution audio formats). The UDP-1 is worth its weight in gold for the joy it can bring you from your existing library of two channel recordings.
The video output of the UDP-1 is very good, and is thoroughly enjoyable. We fed the component outputs of the UDP-1, in progressive mode, directly into our reference Princeton HDTV direct view CRT monitor (designed with the help of Joe Kane). When the UDP-1 is properly adjusted (see below), its picture is far better than most DVD players we have encountered. Most of these other DVD players output a picture that is obnoxiously way off base, being much too pale and wan, or conversely much too contrasty and punchy, and in neither case being able to reproduce the crucial midtones (of both luminance and color saturation). Furthermore, these other DVD players have no adjustments for correcting their lousy video.
In contrast, the UDP-1 right out of the box produces video that looks great, and indeed is spot on target for daylight viewing on a direct view CRT. Furthermore, the UDP-1 has easy video adjustments available in its setup menu, so we were able to quickly reset the adjustments to be spot on for night time viewing, or for other types of displays.
When compared directly to the very best video quality we've seen from a DVD player (the new Arcam DV29), one could see that the UDP-1 does not have quite as high video resolution in delineating fine details, and fine gradations of luminance and hue. But when one views the UDP-1 on its own there is no sense that anything is missing. In other words, its video information losses are purely passive, so there is no sense that anything is missing or wrong, and the picture looks great and thoroughly enjoyable on its own terms (unlike most other DVD players we have tested, which produce a picture that is obviously amiss).
The UDP-1 uses as its starting point the Pioneer DV-45A, and McCormack extensively reworks the power supplies and audio sections, but essentially leaves the video section as is. Thus, one can expect the video performance of the UDP-1 to be substantially identical to the Pioneer DV-45A. There might, however, be some subtle improvement, since the power supply improvements wrought by McCormack might also help the video section, if only because some of the former audio load on the video section's power supply has now been offloaded.
Pioneer DVD players and displays tend to arrive precalibrated to produce a picture that is too punchy, with too high contrast and too high color saturation, in order to make the picture pop in a way that impresses na´ve consumers. But the UDP-1's video setup menu makes it easy to correct this. And the UDP-1 has convenient memory presets, so you can store the best video adjustment settings for daytime vs. nighttime viewing, different displays, etc. The video adjustments have 9 gradations, and the precalibrated setting is the middle position, which we'll call position 5. This produces a punchy picture that turns out to be great for daytime viewing (at least on a CRT). The gradations are very fine in their effect, so you can dial in precisely the type of picture you want for other situations. To get a neutral, accurate picture, we simply dialed down the extra punch that Pioneer programs in as their middle (precalibrated) settings. We got the best picture (for our reference nighttime viewing situation, on a direct view CRT) by turning the contrast down 3 notches to 2 (1 being the lowest setting), turning the brightness down 4 notches to 1, and turning the chroma (color saturation) down 3 notches to 2. We also were able to turn the sharpness all the way up to full fine, without incurring any untoward artifacts, which is testimony to the smoothness of the UDP-1's picture. We then stored these settings as a memory preset, for our reference (nighttime) viewing.
Even though the UDP-1 does not produce the very highest resolution picture we have seen, it would still be your best choice for playing movies if you value sound over video. Remember that it is the sound which is three dimensional and all around you, and which is the agent that actually transports you out of your small room and into a large alternative venue. In contrast, the video is merely a flat two dimensional representation that is only in front of you. So it is the sound that truly makes the magic, that makes you believe.
Of course, you'll want the UDP-1 anyway in your system, for its superb pre-eminence in playing all your music recordings. Since its video is very good and thoroughly enjoyable, you can also use it for playing movies, with full confidence. If you are a dedicated videophile who wants the absolute best possible picture for movies, then you should still get the UDP-1 for playing all your audio recordings, so you don't miss out on hearing the much higher level of sonic quality that the UDP-1 will give you than any other DVD player, and then you can also get a second DVD player for just watching movies.
The McCormack UDP-1 sounds incredible right out of the box. But, like other perfectionist high end components, it can also reward you with further sonic advances if you set it up with loving care. McCormack has a well deserved reputation for offering excellent sonic value for the money, in all their audio components. But here, with the UDP-1, they have outdone themselves, and have come up with a product that redefines the state of the art in playing silver discs, and sets new absolute standards, far surpassing all other players, regardless of price or value. Such a product clearly merits high end perfectionist setup, and if you care to take the time, the UDP-1 will respond with even more fantastic sonics.
The first item to attend to is the power cordset. The UDP-1 is so superb that it merits, and responds favorably to, the very finest aftermarket cordsets. The best sounding we found for the UDP-1 is the VonGaylord Chinchilla, in a special black version.
The second item is the support mounting. The UDP-1 comes equipped with four absorbent Soft Shoes, and you should leave these in place. Under the rear two Soft Shoes, install pointed brass cones, or brass cones tipped with sharp points of stainless steel. Brass cones sound much better as coupling supports for the UDP-1 than cones made of other materials, such as aluminum or ceramic. The Soft Shoes absorb vibrations, and the brass cones underneath focus the vibrational forces to make the Soft Shoes more effective.
Then, under the front of the UDP-1, you won't be using the Soft Shoes at the sides at all. Instead, you'll be installing a single pointed brass cone under the center front. This will form a three point mounting, which is more stable than a four foot mounting. This third foot is entirely hard, with no Soft Shoes, so it will directly couple vibrations to the hard mounting surface underneath, acting as the single mechanical ground for the whole UDP-1 chassis. The rear feet go through the absorbent Soft Shoes, because you don't want plural hard mechanical grounds, since that would cause circulating vibrational ground loops.
The third hard foot, under the center front of the UDP-1, should be situated directly underneath the reading laser, since that is the point where you want minimum rocking mode vibrations. In the UDP-1, the laser travels on a straight track, so the best compromise is the center point of this linear track. This center point is 2 inches back from the front panel, and centered in the left to right sense. You can mark this point on the underside of the UDP-1, and then simply draw a circle around this point that matches the outline of the brass cone you've chosen.
If you use identical height brass cones at all three locations, then the rear feet will be taller than the center front foot, by the thickness of the Soft Shoe at its center depression. To offset this, you should add a hard brass block (square or round) as a shim of appropriate thickness in front, between the UDP-1 bottom plate and the top of the front brass cone, so that the UDP-1 sits level.
This assemblage should sit atop a platform that is hard, rigid, massive, and inert. We like to use a platform made of synthetic marble, which employs powdered stone mixed with a polymer (which improves inertness over pure stone). Then, between this platform and your floor or cabinet shelf, you should add absorbent isolation of your choice, employing air, spring, magnetic, or elastomer as the isolating agent. You could use three more Soft Shoes (available from McCormack). In this way, the UDP-1 and its support platform will be decoupled from floor vibrations, while the UDP-1's laser assembly will be firmly mechanically grounded to the massive and inert platform.
We would also recommend that you employ the very best cables and other associated equipment with the UDP-1. It's a miracle what this player can reveal, but you have to let all that beautiful information get to your ears by using the finest, most transparent links for the rest of your chain.
The McCormack UDP-1 stunningly advances the state of the audio art for playing silver discs, and all kinds of silver discs. It sonically outperforms all other silver disc players, even those whose design is specialized for a particular kind of silver disc (e.g. redbook CD), and even those selling for far more money. The McCormack UDP-1 is a must-have product for anyone who is serious about sound, whether music or movie, whether stereo or surround. And, at its moderate price, you can't afford not to have one.
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