AUDIO manufacturers in the Far East are sometimes criticized for bringing out too many models, yet of late Philips of Eindhoven seems to have caught the same bug at least where CD players are concerned. They must have marketed more than 20 different CD players since that famous 1983 launch, but at least this has helped them to secure a leading share in the European markets.

The latest spate of new Philips CD players includes five models, which can really be divided into two groups of nearly identical machines differing only in cabinet width. The Philips CD373 and Philips CD473 are both priced at 249.99 and are 320mm and 420mm wide respectively with identical facilities. In the same way the simpler Philips CD371 and Philips CD471 each cost .179-99 and again are 'midi' and 'standard' width versions respectively of what is in all essentials a single design. The fifth new model, the Philips CD472 is a lookalike for the Philips CD471 but with a remote control unit and costs 199.99.

The Philips CD471 reviewed here must have a bargain-hunter appeal, being full-sized and yet having that attract ive 179.99 price tag. Its features are naturally rather basic but versatile enough for most domestic applications. There is a headphones socket but no volume control; a repeat function for whole-disc or programmed sequence only; a track and index number display but no index cueing; 20-track programming, but the track skip buttons must be used to dial up each track number before it can be entered into the memory store. To set against this simplicity (which of course some people will regard as a blessing rather than a restriction) the Philips CD471, like all the new models in this range, incorporates the latest Philips circuit configuration: four-times oversampling with l6-bit resolution, as featured in their current flagship model the Philips CD960, about which I enthused in May 1987. It is therefore no `back-number' so far as technical performance is concerned.

The disc support tray is a new design, overcoming some of the weaknesses of the earlier budgetprice models. The open/close key, programme, pause, repeat, track skip and display changeover switches are all mounted on a sloping projection which runs the full width of the machine. The play, stop and fast search controls (three speed, these, with audible sound at the two initial speeds) are on the right-hand side of the centrally placed display panel. Accessories include a two-wire mains lead, good quality phono leads and a nine-language (0 instruction booklet. One benefit of the Philips experience in bringing out so many models is that they have mastered the art of writing user manuals, and this one is a model of brevity combined with clarity.

How it performed
I amused myself by running the Philips CD471 alongside its 699 aristocratic brother the Philips CD960, switching between the two machines whilst playing duplicate copies of the same disc. In terms of sound quality the Philips CD471 gave a good account of itself and can be welcomed as a new-generation player with first-class technical performance. It did sound fractionally more brash than the Philips CD960, with a stronger treble/bass balance and less warmth.

Operationally it could not compete with the speedy access and numerous trick facilities of the Philips CD960 but it carried out its basic repertoire of operations smoothly and consistently. Mechanical noise consisted only of a faint whirring; shockproofing and error correction were to an acceptable standard. The technical specification (see Table) is superior and laboratory measurements were surprisingly good for a player at this price. Figure 1 shows that plotting the frequency response was a mere formality, as so often nowadays, both channels having identical outputs and staying within + 0.1dB from 20Hz to 20kHz. The crosstalk is seen to remain below 95dB at all frequencies, which is a quite remarkable result.

Physically the Philips CD471 is something of a lightweight, with plastic replacing metal in many places, but the new disc drawer has a spring-loaded platform with three-point disc support for improved stability. The very fact that there are so few controls makes this a CD player that is easy to use as well as easy on the ear.