First in the field with CD players, Philips have not exactly rushed into the promotion of machines capable of being loaded with multidisc cartridges. Now this six-disc changer model has come along at a modest £299.00 and should meet the needs of anyone who fancies having up to six hours of music instantly on tap. Incidentally, though I am generally sceptical about the standardization between hi-fl companies. I nervously tried a Pioneer six-disc cartridge in this Philips changer but I needn't have worried: it worked perfectly.
The modest price is certainly not reflected in any parsimonious omission of operational features. Apart from the ability to load up to six discs at a time and select any track on any disc to order, the CDC875 has the mandatory fast search, track skip, pause and repeat functions plus lots of novelty controls. Pressing the Scan button sets the machine playing the first 10 seconds of each track on each disc in turn. If you reach a track you want to hear in full, you just press Scan again and normal play mode is initiated. If you don't do this, the player will go on scanning for ever until you give it some new instruction. Pressing the Shuffle button sets the machine playing tracks in random order from all the discs in the cartridge. Storing tracks to be played in a chosen sequence follows the standard procedure, with the additional option which Philips call FTS (Favourite Track Selection). For this you must press the FTS button while each track in your programmed sequence is playing. This information is then stored in a separate memory and the machine will then recall your chosen track list each time that particular disc is loaded. On playback (wait for it!) the machine will play the FTS tracks of all discs in the cartridge. A sheet of 254 numbered FTS stickers is supplied for labelling your chosen discs, as well as a selection of titling, coding and category labels.
Pretty well all the function controls are duplicated on the comprehensive remote control handset, and in addition there are volume up/down keys for use with the alternative "variable" level output sockets. Headphones have their own front panel volume control. The display panel is fairly complex but it does identify all the operating modes, disc and track numbers (not index) and either track elapsed time or time remaining. As well as the two pairs of phono sockets for fixed or variable level analogue output, there is a single phono socket providing a direct digital output and a pair of in/out sockets allowing remote operation via a matching Philips hi-fl system. Technically, and in terms of robustness of build, the CDC875 is less sophisticated than, say, the Philips CD880 (£499) reviewed by GH in February (page 1363). However, it does incorporate two separate D/A converters and digital filtering with four-times oversampling.
I make no apology for dwelling on the operational features, since this is plainly a feature-laden machine, and indeed much of the test period was spent in driving the changer in all possible modes. I was never able to catch it out. More often than not I found the machine's capabilities even more versatile than I had imagined. During the random track changing in the shuffle mode, for example, LEDs in the display perform a sort of shuf fling motion and there is a good deal of interaction between functions— track skip during shuffle, track adding or deletion during FTS play, etc.
I would definitely say that you should consider buying this machine only if you plan to use its autochanger facility. Loading a single disc into one of the six trays of the cartridge (label side downwards) is more complicated and time consuming than normal one-disc player loading, and there is a slight risk of scratching the disc surface in the process. However, once safely loaded, the degree of automation can be very useful. Of course extra cartridges can be bought to build up a collection in minimum storage space, but you would then need to make proper use of the labels in order to identify discs and their contents at a glance.
Running the usual measurements and tests produced very satisfactory results. Error correction was brilliant and mechanical noise only a very faint whirring. Resistance to external vibrations was average, so that a stable location is advisable, and access time from start-up was inevitably rather slow—about six seconds to begin playing Track 1 on the selected disc or nine seconds for Track 15. Track skip access time on the same disc, however, was extremely rapid, as was cueing from the Pause mode. The frequency response was within the claimed ± 0.1dB from 20Hz to 20kHz with dynamic linearity very good, being within 0.5dB at — 70dB and — 80dB and only about 2dB adrift at — 90dB. Channel separation was the claimed 93dB for right on left, and about 10dB better for left on right. The signal-to-noise ratio well exceeded the 96dB claim and distortion was very low.
The all-important listening tests revealed this new Philips player as a smoother and much more musically faithful reproducer than the earliest Philips budget models. Frequency coverage was wide but not attentiongrabbing and the degree of forward presence was neither emphasized nor too reticent. This attention to musical fidelity rather than sensationalism is a design approach well suited to classical music and I found my favourite CDs more than adequately reproduced. To improve on this I would expect to pay quite a bit more for one of today's state-of-the-art one-disc players. At its modest price, this CD autochanger has all the appearance of an unusual bargain.
Frequency response: 20-20,000Hz ± 0- !dB (agreed)
Total harmonic distortion: 0-003% (0-005% including noise)
Signal-to-noise ratio: 96dB (105dB)
Channel separation: 93dB (agreed)
Output: 2V fixed (1 -95V) plus variable
Dimensions (W x H x D): 420 x 113 x 340
UK retail price: f299-00