Review: Onkyo DX-F71 vintage pcdp vs. RioVolt SP50
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Note: Since this is my first review on Head-Fi, please bear with me while I try to explain myself as accurately as possible! Thanks!
Oh, and BTW, I will try to use all of the "Audiophile" terms as possible... lol


Disclaimer:

All of the thoughts and opinions involved in this review are entirely my own; please do not base your purchases solely on this review!

Equipment Used:

- Onkyo DX-F71 vintage pcdp
- RioVolt SP50 pcdp
- "Gary" headphone amp
- Cheap n' generic Sony mini-mini interconnect
- Audio-Technica ATH-A900 headphones

Music Used:

Norah Jones - Come Away With Me
NOFX - Pump Up The Valuum

Introduction:

Well, welcome to my first review! (Hopefully, if I manage to pull this off successfully, there will be more reviews to come...) Today's review involves the comparison of two decent pcdps (personal compact disc players), the Onkyo DX-F71 and the RioVolt SP50.

I decided to review them simply because I wanted to see how a pretty good newer pcdp would stand up to a 10-year-old "black beast". I also decided to try music on two opposite ends of the spectrum; crappily-mastered punk rock (NOFX), and quality-recorded jazz (Norah Jones).

One final note: you can probably still find the SP50 or a similar, better newer model (slim-x, anyone?) in your local electronics store, but I think it would be harder to find the Onkyo. Anyway, moving along...

Features:

The Onkyo DX-F71 was released in 1994 and has the following features:

- "V.E.S" variable equalization system
- Line out jack and headphone out (obviously!)
- Anti-shock (not sure how long; sorry.)
- Orange (approx. 5 sec.) backlit button (for display)

The RioVolt SP50 was released in 2000(?) and has the following features:

- Bass boost
- Line out jack and headphone out (obviously!)
- "Lock" button
- 120 second skip protection

Build Quality/Portability/Aesthetics:

RioVolt SP50:

The RioVolt SP50 is somewhat more fragile than the Onkyo. The plastic feels cheaper, and I can easily hear rattling when I tap on it; compared to the Onkyo in which I hear minimal rattling. The Rio's buttons are relatively small, but still look pretty nice. Upon popping the top open, I can hear a small "creak", again, most likely the cheap plastic. The volume pot is a run-of-the-mill black dial. Nothing special.

The Rio is quite portable, and even though it is definately a bit larger than most other pcdps out there, it is still quite light. It has 120 second anti-shock protection, and it automatically turns on when you turn on the player. I also think you can stick in rechargable NiCd batteries as well.

The SP50 is definately the prettier out of the two, and is actually one of my favourite-looking pdcps.

Onkyo DX-F71:

The Onkyo pcdp is, as with all vintage pcdps, quite boxy, big, and black. The player is actually quite lighter than I thought it would be. The buttons on the front are generic black, as with everything else. The volume pot is similar to the Rio, but actually has little white numbers on it (How useful is this? I dunno...)

Opening the player, I can tell that it is made from better quality materials than the Rio, and I don't get that annoying "creak" the Rio gave me when I opened it up. I can't see anyone wanting to take the Onkyo outside in public with them; partly because it is... get ready for this... pretty damn ugly (although by far not the ugliest vintage pcdp i've seen), and it is quite large. However, one of key things to remember when owning Audiophile stuff is that sound should be the top priority!


First CD - NOFX - Pump Up The Valuum:

Headphone Out:

Listening to the first track of this CD with the RioVolt, everything sounds a little farther back; the soundstage definately puts you farther from the recording. The cymbals and drums are clearly defined and heard with relative ease. The electric guitars are place far back as well, but unfortuantely the cymbals and drums seem to "take them over" at times. Midrange sounds somewhat recessed as well (although this might be because of my A900s...)

In fact, it seems like this whole CD's soundstage is relatively far away. (which isn't necessarily a bad thing...)

Switching over to the Onkyo, I notice first off that everything is considerably more upfront. I can hear a bit more detail as well (a few low volume guitar string plucks i never heard that well before). The cymbals and drums are pushed farther back to allow the other sounds to get in there. The guitars have significantly more impact as well. You can actually hear the "grating" of the guitars! The bass is also more controlled and extends slightly farther down. The mids are not as recessed compared to the RioVolt, and there is definately more emotion to the music! I feel more like I'm jamming with Fat Mike then I do with the Rio. It's more involving.

Line Out:

Starting with the line out on the DX-F71, I notice that the soundstage is a bit farther back. The guitars don't seem to have that "impact" they appear to with the headphone out. Drums and cymbals are well controlled, but midrange seems to have slightly recessed again.

On to the SP50 now. Everything is a bit more upfront, but those drums and cymbals are still quite overpowering. Mids are even more recessed than with the line-out of the Onkyo, and guitars are lacking impact. Bass is a little muddy.

Second CD - Norah Jones - Come Away With Me:

Line Out:

Again, starting with the first track on the CD, I first notice slight sharpness of the highs in Norah's voice (when she raises it for a sec. or two...). The acoustic guitar and piano are placed relatively close together as well. Drums are farther back, piano is more upfront. Norah's voice is slightly farther back as well. Bass is punchy, but not as extended as I had thought it would be. On some other tracks, instruments are seperated very well, and you can envision Norah singing closer to you at certain points.

Moving on to the Onyko, I notice that the instruments are slightly more seperated, and the mids are further in front of you. Bass is slightly deeper, and Norah's voice is controlled better (not as much sharp "roll-off" (?))

Headphone Out:

The first track of this CD on the SP50 presents a little hint of sibilance. More detectable then with the Onkyo (with its line-out, however...) I could hear slightly more detail than with the line-out. Norah's voice is still quite sharp at the higher frequencies, however. Also, the piano seems to suffer from a similar problem. It just doesn't sound as natural to me! Norah's voice is also still farther back, along with most of the other instruments. The instruments feel slightly better placed (separation) than with the line-out.

On to the Onkyo. Much of the same as with the line-out, except it feels that this time the instruments are placed better with better separation and it feels, again, that you are more involved with the music. It definately sounds more natural.

Conclusion and Pros/Cons:

RioVolt SP50 Pros:

- Portable
- Looks nice
- Sound pretty decent for a newer pcdp

Cons:

- Made of cheap plastic and materials

Onkyo DX-F71 Pros:

- Sounds great
- Has a nifty backlight
- Is made of quality materials

Cons:

- Looks pretty ugly
- Isn't very portable
- No track time display
- CAN'T PLAY BURNT MUSIC CDS!!!


And now, finally...

Conclusion (AKA Lazy Person Summary):

While both players are very good, the winner of this fight goes to the Onkyo. I simply feel more involved in my music, and the Rio cannot compete with its clarity and more natural sound. Now don't get me wrong, the Rio is still a fine player, but I think now it's main purpose will be the playback of burnt CDs. (Something, unfortuantely, the Onkyo lacks...) Anyway, thanks for having the patience to read my very first review! (And to the lazy bums who just skimmed through the conclusion...I HAVE YOUR NAMES!!! lol j/k
)
 
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ampgalore

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Nice review.

VERY CAREFULLY read the conclusion (sorta skimmed through the rest, guilty as charged)


What year is the Onkyo player? What battery does it use? Haven't seen too many Onkyo players on this forum.
 
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null

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The onkyo player is from 1994, and it uses two AA batteries or a wallwart. I should have included more about the comparisons of the players in the conclusion, now that I think about it. Oh well. I'll do it next review...whenever I do another one lol...anyway, i think its a pretty good first try.
 
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DanT

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Nice review. It's odd that It doesn't play burn CD. I guess I have never tought of trying with CD-R because it was one of my lower pcdp
and all my other older pcdp were able to read CD-R. I'm glad my onkyo found a house where it can be used and apreciated instead of collecting dust in my drawer.
 
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