When I reviewed the first Super Audio CD (SACD) player, Sony's ultra-expensive SCD-1, in these pages almost two years ago, I envisioned the format as designed for audiophile "purists" who turned up their noses at CD and even (for reasons still very debatable) DVD playback. Since then, however, it's become clear that SACD is being positioned to compete directly against DVD-Audio. Whereas the first SACD players were two-channel only and carved from solid metal, the SCD-CE775 marries full surround sound playback with a plastic front panel and further flouts audiophile sensibilities by providing a five-disc carousel changer mechanism. But unlike the two-channel DVD-S9000ES SACD player I reviewed in January, it doesn't sweeten the deal by also playing DVD-Video discs. It plays SACDs and CDs, period.
The SCD-CE775's utilitarian front panel has enough controls that you might not even miss a lost remote. My favorite is the knob that lets you find a desired track with a quick twist. The Time/Text button lets you display CD/SACD text, if any (all the SACDs I've seen have disc and track titles, but it's still rare on regular CDs). The SACD/CD button lets you choose either the SACD or CD layer on hybrid discs, while the MULT/2CH button lets you choose either the multichannel or two-channel mix on discs that offer both. Unfortunately, you can't use these buttons while a disc is playing, so you can forget about any instant A/B comparisons.
Unlike DVD players, the SCD-CE775 has no onscreen setup menu - or any video output. The menu button brings up text prompts for setup options on the fluorescent display. The remote control is a slender stick with a numeric keypad and buttons that largely duplicate the front panel.
Installation was an easy matter of connecting the six analog audio outputs to my receiver. Using the menu button, I set the default playback mode to SACD for multichannel and set up the player's onboard bass-management processing, a key feature that the first round of DVD-Audio players lack.
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