The new Philips CD family includes the Philips CD104 , Philips CD204 and the Philips CD304 remote control model NOT surprisingly, since they were the original developers of the Compact Disc format, Philips were first in the field with a range of CD players, and their smallest Philips CD100 model was one of the subjects of our first CD review (of four machines) in the March 1983 issue.

As often happens, the first designs were quickly overtaken by better market-researched machines from the Far East. Philips therefore revamped their first players after about a year, and we reviewed their CD303 model in January 1984, page 927. This had added such useful features as a real-time indicator and quicker access to selected tracks-though the sound quality of Philips CD players had been superb from the outset (helped by their own patented technique of over-sampling and digital filtering).

This Philips CD104 model reflects a further move towards enhanced styling and compact dimensions. The original Philips CD100 (and its replacement the Philips CD101) claimed to be the smallest CD player on the market. Yet it was a top-loader and therefore unsuitable for incorporating in a rack or stacked system. The Philip CD104 has a motorized drawer for front-loading, and the 320mm width employed in many of the newly fashionable 'midi' hi-fl systems. Indeed Philips are launching this season two midi systems which will ideally match the Philips CDI04 —the 440 and 443 priced £299.99 and £379.99 respectively without loudspeakers (which are available at £50 extra).

Smart grey styling has been used, with miniature controls and displays. Front panel Clutter has been avoided by grouping the four main controls on a single four-sided touch panel— start (or restart the existing track), pause, fast forward and reverse. The latter two 'search' functions have three effective speeds, slow for the first three seconds, then faster for three seconds and finally full-speed if the panel is held down for more than 6 seconds. There are also bluecoloured buttons for 'previous' and 'next' track selection, either for quick change during play or for initial track selection or programming. The programming function will allow the preselection in any order of up to 20 track numbers (each number may be included once only). A repeat function will cause the whole disc to repeat, or a selected programme. The pause button is useful for setting up quick-start cueing, in disc-jockey fashion.

The display normally shows the track number in play, with its elapsed time in minutes and seconds. However, after initial disc loading, if play is not started immediately, the display switches to indicate the total number of tracks on the disc and total duration. Index numbers are also displayed for a few seconds after they have changed (replacing the elapsed time)—as a guide to quicksearching through the music for favourite arias or musical passages. So far only a few Japanese discs have been programmed with Index numbers within movements or opera acts, etc., in addition to the Track numbers— but I understand that Decca are beginning to adopt the idea and others will no doubt follow suit. Captive mains and phono signal leads are fitted, and a disc-cleaning cloth and instruction booklet are supplied.

The Philips CD104 has been designed with ease-of-operation in mind, and will cause no problems for even the least technically minded. Output level is the 2 Volts agreed upon by all manufacturers: this is perhaps a little high for some domestic amplifiers, but in-line phono attenuators can be bought at hi-fl shops if problems are encountered with overloading on loudest passages or too low a setting of the volume control.

Cueing and programming were versatile for such a small machine and the display proved siMple but helpful. Access time has been speeded up compared with earlier models, reaching Track I immediately and Track 15 in just 4 seconds. Error correction was above average, easily coping with the severest deliberate 0.9mm break, 0.8mm black dot and the simulated fingerprint on the Philips test disc. Stability against vibrations was only fair, so that a reasonably firm support is advisable.

Figure 1 illustrates the ruler-flat frequency response and remarkable crosstalk performance, below — 90dB over most of the spectrum. The square-wave at I kHz (Fig. 2) has the symmetrical shape consistent with the Philips digital filtering technique and insignificant ripple. Measurements of signal-to-noise ratio were amazingly better than 100dB unweighted. Subjective tests, using a wide selection of Compact Discs of known fidelity produced excellent results. Vocal and instrumental tone was faithfully reproduced with no trace of grainy hardness or instability. Loud and quiet passages were handled with equal ease and inherent noise totally absent. Mechanical whirring from the spinning disc was audible only from a few inches distant, and unobtrusive during normal listening.

Philips have got their sums right with this model. It is stylish, small in size and technically state-of-the-art. It has few frills, but the features provided are all that will be needed by the home music-lover intent on adding this exciting new format to an existing system—or in acquiring an all-purpose 'Midi' hi-fl system from scratch.