Rio Karma vs. Philips/Magnavox AZ6832/17
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FenderP

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I've been toying with the idea of getting a hard drive based player for awhile since I travel for work and schlepping my portable CD player, a bunch of discs, etc., takes up a lot of room.

I was going to put WAVs if I bought one; I hate the sound of MP3s or other things ripped to an inferior sound (my ears can tell the difference). Problem is, that takes up a lot of room. But my biggest stumbling block is the inability of most players to do gapless playback - think live albums.

Recently, I got a vintage Maganavox/Philips AZ6832/17 portable CD player with Dual D/A converters to go "back to the future" so-to-speak because my more modern Panasonic SL-CT470 which was decent, but just didn't have great sound. Older PCDPs sometimes are better because the buffering mechanisms in more modern players - not unlike noise reduction in mastering - alters the sound. The Philips is what, IMHO, I would consider an audiophile PCDP. But I digress.

I was poking around recently and I found out about the Rio Karma. From a sonic standpoint, FLAC intrigued me because it is a lossless compression scheme. That would allow me to do what I want and put enough on there w/o sacrificing sound quality.

I bought one at Best Buy tonight and took it back to my hotel, got the software installed, updated the firmware, and was ready to go. Pretty painless. I used the Rio Music Manager to encode disc 1 of the new Styx collection Come Sail Away - The Styx Anthology using FLAC. Then I transferred it into the player. So far, so good.

What has been my concern all along - now that I've gone vintage in the PCDP department - is the sound quality. The Philips just sounds right. It's not my Marantz SA-8260 mind you, but it's better than most if not all PCDPs I've heard. Very natural, open. Take "Fooling Yourself", the Oberheim in the beginning (the synth line) has both the bite it needs and the "air" around it. The reverb around the bell percussion after the "Relax, take it easy ..." spoken part sounds natural - you know what I mean.

On the Rio, the sound reminded me of the Panasonic. It had a "veil" over the music. Not bad, but dull. Futzing with the 5-band EQ helped, but the Philips smokes it and the bass is much better.

I also compared "Come Sail Away". It just doesn't sound as natural on the Rio as it does on the 6832. The best example is the hi-hat and the drums in general ... they just don't sound quite "right" on the Rio, whereas they do - minus any kind of EQ. I usually kick in the DBB (dynamic bass boost) circuit, but it doesn't alter the high frequencies.

My final comparison was "Crystal Ball" - both players should be telling on the intro, which is just vocals and acoustic guitar. I listened to a bit after it kicks in. I futzed with EQ, and I got a decent sound on the Rio. The Philips was still better.

What I noticed about the EQ is that I could get an OK sound, but it would "distort" if certain things were turned up too much. Sucks. Also, the Rio with EQ sounded closer (sans the open drums/high end) of the Philips, but I couldn't get anywhere near the bass of the Philips with DBB turned on. And the quality of the bass is no comparison.

Now, I did find EQ settings that got everything but the bass close soncially, but the Philips is still a more musical player. Again, the Rio reminds me of the Panasonic SL-CT470 I was using in terms of overall tonality - if I didn't know any better, I'd be thrilled. But I do and it's frustrating me.

If you're curious as to what I use to listen, I use the Etymotic ER-4Ps. LOVE them. So it's not a cheap $10 pair of headphones to do the A/B tests.

So I'm on the fence if I should just return it to Best Buy and stick with my Philips for sound quality (which is higher on my list in general than form factor; I'd like to have both tho), or go for portability and sacrifice some sound quality (not in the MP3/WAV discussion, but general, overall quality). The Rio doesn't excite me sonically in the way the Philips does in the way that it makes me want to listen to the music. Convenient? Absolultely. Form factor wise, the Philips can't even come close to competing.

Arrrgggghhh!
 
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FenderP

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Here's an update ... so I've been futzing with the EQ. I think I've settled on 5 frequencies (20k +12, 3.5k +6, 600 +8, 120 +12, 40 +12), and varied the width of each (20k 1.2, 3.5k 3.4, 600 2.4, 120 4, 40 2.4). It's sounding much closer to the Philips and much more natural; it is losing the Pansonic-esque veil. Problem is, if I had 2 or 3 more bands of EQ, I'd probably nail it.
 
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austonia

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Quote:

Originally Posted by FenderP
Here's an update ... so I've been futzing with the EQ. I think I've settled on 5 frequencies (20k +12, 3.5k +6, 600 +8, 120 +12, 40 +12), and varied the width of each (20k 1.2, 3.5k 3.4, 600 2.4, 120 4, 40 2.4). It's sounding much closer to the Philips and much more natural; it is losing the Pansonic-esque veil. Problem is, if I had 2 or 3 more bands of EQ, I'd probably nail it.


thanks for posting these EQ settings. I am going to try it out and see what we can do with this Karma to improve things.
 
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FenderP

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Also I should note that prior to loading anything onto the Karma, I updated the firmware. That may or may not make a difference for you.

I just FLAC encoded the new Joe Jackson live CD Afterlive, and tried out the gapless playback on the Karma. Works like a champ. That makes me very happy; one of the primary reasons I bought it.

I didn't change the EQ from where I set it earlier. I need to throw some jazz and classical at it.
 
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19lexicon78

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you like philips, perhaps try the philips 6819/29.. i think it's philips best pcdp..i don't have the denon dcp150, jvc or a marantz (the marantz seems to be the best pcdp there is, only very very rare to find, never saw those
)

the 6819 is seen once every 1-2 months on ebay.de. sometimes you can have them very cheap = 50 euro and sometimes very expensive 320 euro. you have to be lucky. but if you want philips..it seems the 6819/29 is it..
 
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