Sony Discman D-12
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Hirsch

Why is there a chaplain standing over his wallet?
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I'm not usually focussed on portables. However, I ran into this one accidentally. I've been using a Panny 470, and didn't really have an urge for another portable. However, there is a second-hand store near where I eat lunch, and I went in on a whim. I saw this, condition was perfect, so I decided to try it. I'm using it with my "portable" system: Kimber mini-to-RCA, Grado HPA-1 amp, Grado HP-1 headphone (travel case was originally for an older notebook computer, before they got smaller). You can't jog with this, but it makes a nice office system.

This is an older Discman. Base is metal, top molded plastic, with a manual lock. There's a clear window in the top at the right where you can see the disc inside spinning. LCD display is located on the front of the unit. I can post pics later if desired.

No skip protection. Elementary play modes. Mega-Bass on the headphone output. Volume control is analog. Runs on 4AA batteries or 9v DC from wall. It has an input for a wired remote, but I don't have that part. Outputs are headphone and line out, no digital. Bettery life is not yet known. I'm using a set of Powerex 1800 ma AA's and have not yet managed to discharge them (8 playing hours, give or take). No problems at all with CD or CD-R playback.

The line out makes the Panasonic seem smeared. This player has to be around a dozen years old. There have been huge changes in DAC technology over those years...and yet I'd take this player over the 470 (and did). Much better instrumental separation and dynamics. Clearer highs, and a tight extended bass response. I really wasn't expecting this amount of improvement, but there it is.

The headphone out is not as good sonically as the line out. Here is the weakness, if you want to call it that. The sound shows less dynamics than a dedicated amp, and there's smearing. It's not bad, but you really need an external amp to hear the sonics of the player. However, if you just want to use the player without an amp, and are willing to accept the sonic sacrifice, you don't need an amp. This thing has got some serious output power. No problem driving Sennheiser HD-600, and can even drive the Grado HP-1, which may be the least efficient headphone I own. Also a very good amp with the Etymotic ER-4S. The Ety is not as revealing of the sonics of the amp as much as my other headphones, and is a good choice if you want to run a headphone directly out of this player. Despite the high resolution of the Ety's, the weaknesses of the amp were not as obvious with this headphone (I'm going to have to think about that for a bit). I also tried it driving the Sony MDR-R10 directly. There's a bit of a price mismatch there, but the D-12 acquitted itself respectably. The R10 really prefers an external amp, though.

I'd love to hear a modern portable player that has this kind of construction and sound quality. Any sonic advances that have been made in DAC technology in portables, however, seems to have been lost in the name of compression, battery-life, and miniaturization.
 
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