Opera Audio Consonance Droplet 5.0 CD Player/Recorder
Review by Bazza

Model: Consonance Droplet 5.0
Category: CD Player/Recorder
Suggested Retail Price: $3000.00
Description: CD Player
Manufacturer URL: Opera Audio
Model Picture: View

Review by Bazza (A) on May 26, 2005 at 21:35:08
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It was only an interest in SACD that motivated me to begin a search for a new high definition player. I was not unhappy with my Meridian 588. In fact it has been a wonderful improvement over the BAT VK5 24-bit machine that it replaced.

During my research of SACD players I began to realize that purchasing one would necessitate replacing many of my cds with sacds not to mention that most of the new music that I buy is not available on the sacd format. Combining this with the recent news that there are 2 new formats coming I became convinced that finding the best PCM CD player would serve my needs best although I was worried that it would be difficult to better my Meridian (they have been in this business for over 20 year with Class A ratings and recommendations from many reviewers). I had read that upsampling creates good sound so it was on my list of features.

My research gathered data and reviews on Audio Research, Cary and many other manufacturers including Audio Opera from China. Knowing that many high end companies are having their products made in China I was confident that quality would not be an issue. Recently I replaced my Audio Research phono stage with one made in Hong Kong at 25% of it's price that blew it away so this added to my level of confidence with the far east manufactured Consonance Droplet 5.0. The Droplet was so uniquely good looking to me and the technical specs were equally impressive that it drew me in and I purchased it through Audiogon.com.

Before sitting down for this serious evaluation I burned the unit in for 200 hours. Initial sound was very good but after the break in it became excellent. I used the balanced XLR outputs for this review.

First off - the bass power and articulation struck me immediately. It was better than the Meridian and considerably better than the BAT. Rythmic power without bloat! Detail on string bass combined with a harmonic richness! It must be the over-built power supply and the 6H30 Supertubes.

This is not a rolled off tube unit. Dynamics in the high frequencies could have a bite when it was on the recording but never sounded "digital". Cymbals shimmer appropriately so never are projected forward in the soundstage like done on lesser machines. The detail retrieval is excellent. In fact it slightly bettered the CD Rom based Meridian 588 that was the best that I had heard before this. There is no grain at all.

The midrange exhibits such beautiful harmonics (not the distorted tube type) that I am drawn into the music with a feeling of warmth throughout my body.

Frequency balance is the best of any player I've heard. Before break-in the highs could be a bit strident but this disappeared after 200 hours. This perfect balance initially confused me as being a lack of dynamics. After critical comparison I realized that because the Droplet doesn't emphasize any particular frequency I had misjudged it. When I positioned the volume level appropriate to the type of music there was plenty of both macro and micro dynamics.

The soundstage width and height are on par with the Meridian and much better than the BAT. Images are pinpoint while maintaining a sense of "air" around them. Even more important than this to my ears is the decay of notes that has never been a strength of digital playback. The Droplet 5.0' decay is so close to an analogue LP that I wouldn't consistently be able to differentiate them. There is absolutely no noise from the tube output so the background is blacker than the solid state 588. Quite a feat for a tube unit. Must be those Russian made Supertubes!

What more can be said about the Consonance Droplet 5.0? It is stunningly beautiful and unique with state-of-the-art Sony top loading and Delta Sigma DACs, a super clock with ultra low jitter, over-built power supply and fully balanced 6H30 tube output. The sound is very musical without grit and grain or a sacrifice in detail retrieval. I can listen to this detailed and tranparent presentation for hours without any fatigue.

At less than 75% of the cost of the Meridian 588 and half the cost of the BAT VK 5 24-bit this is a bargain especially considering that it is a better machine overall. I know that this will be my last PCM player. I can now happily wait for the years that it will take for a new format, past SACD, to be adopted.

Highly Recommended to all lovers of music!
Product Weakness: I could only wish that the unit would remain in Standby when switched off so that the 20 - 30 warm was unnecessary. Remote buttons could be larger.
Product Strengths: Bass, frequency balance, musical & dynamic presentation, wonderful harmonics.
Associated Equipment for this Review:
Amplifier: BAT VK500 with BATPACK
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): Sonic Frontiers Line 3+ with Valvo tubes
Sources (CDP/Turntable): VPI Scout, Origin Live RB 300 with Expressimo Heavyweight, etc.
Speakers: Magnepan 1.6 with Jensen paper-in-oil caps and North inductors
Cables/Interconnects: Cardas Golden Cross & Reference
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Jazz, Rock
Room Size (LxWxH): 21 x 15 x 14
Time Period/Length of Audition: 1 week
Other (Power Conditioner etc.): PS Audio PS300 with Multiwave II+
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner

Article from www.audioasylum.com

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