Edge-of-the-seat excitement with grace and subtlety. Could sound a little too subtle for hard rock fans.
Reviewed in issue: 163
Not new, but now available in two distinct flavours, Quad's 77 is yet another highly specialised, system-orientated CD player and another, I might add, that makes excellent use of Crystal's evergreen bitstream technology. The two guises of this 'repackaged' 77 include a Nextel-coated version with a blue plastic moulded facia; and a second with glossy carbon-fibre (Kevlar) facia, and black-with-a-hint-of-blue bodywork. In both instances, a slim but very sturdy alloy case forms the backbone of the player, housing Philips' equally svelte CDM12 mechanism.
I have already alluded to the 77's role as the digital front-end to Quad's midi-sized '77 system'. This includes either the 77 integrated amplifier or 77/77SA pre/power combination, all of which are conjoined by a proprietary Quad-link comms bus where, among other things, the audio signal is transmitted in differential mode to reduce distortion and interference. The 'other things' include power and control commands should the slave version of the 77 (the so-called 7714 with no on-board power supply) be employed instead.
Ordinarily, the 77 comes complete with a little remote control, expanding the simple track skip, play and pause facilities on the player itself to include direct track access, repeat, program and random play. Fanatics might also consider investing another £300 in the talk-back System Console commander, with its intuitive menus. In this case, full time and track information is relayed back from the 77 player onto the local display of the remote Console. Handy, huh?
This, according to one particularly erudite member of the listening panel, "is one classy-sounding player". In many respects it paralleled the Myryad and the Arcam Alpha 8 in its even-handedness while, more importantly, taking that extra step with a fresher, cleaner and generally more sprightly sense of occasion. There is musical emotion in abundance with the '77, emotion that sent a shiver down the collective spine of the panel as Adderley took his first breath through the mute trumpet while effortlessly manipulating our spirits through the twists and turns of Rachmaninov's 3rd Symphony.
The beauty of this sound is in its transparent honesty. There's no sense of coercion, of obvious coloration or straining for effect though there is some shortfall in the deepest bass. The unusual drums that underpin Ali Khan's Face of Love certainly lost that hint of resonance, that 'shudder' of bass that is part-heard and part-sensed, and yet the feeling of proportion and of harmony between the musicians themselves held this piece of music firmly together. For many listeners, ours included, a properly extended treble that captures the sparkle of percussion and provides a real feeling of freshness and 'air' will be more important than that last Hz of bass.
An unexpected result? Perhaps not, especially if we look back a couple of years to the time when Quad's 67 earned itself a Best Buy. The 77 is a refined version of the latter, certainly in respect of its aesthetic quality and implementation of Crystal's bitstream DAC. The replacement of Philips' swing-arm CDM9 mechanism for the more recent CDM12 and an increase in price of over £100 are regrettable, however.
And yet the 77 remains a true thoroughbred, combining a penetrating insight into the minutiae of its music with a poise rarely entertained by its rivals. Recommended, in or out of Quad's family home.