The D6 has a Pure Audio option for best sound quality. In this mode, the display and digital output sockets are switched off, resulting in a cleaner, purer sound. The D6 also has Pioneer’s Legato Link Pro – a clever piece of signal processing that aims to restore the missing high-frequency detail barred with bandwidth-limited CDs. Pioneer introduced Legato Link many years back, and its qualities divided listeners at the time. Listening to Legato Link Pro, I liked it but can’t get over-excited about the difference either way. Nevertheless, I feel it does produce an improvement and is worthwhile having. If you’re not convinced, you can always switch it off of course…
Track access is a bit slow. The D6 likes to have a bit of a think before it responds to your commands. Likewise, fast winding through tracks is slow and ‘jerky’ – instead of winding back or forth smoothly and quickly, the D6 tends to jump in short segments. I put this down to the use of an SACD transport. This is one of those players that’s almost totally disabled without the remote. Front panel controls are limited to Mains On/Off, Disc Load/Eject, and Play/ Stop. You need the remote to select CD/ SACD, Legato Link Pro, Pure Audio, Next/Previous Track and Fast Wind.
Comparing the D6 to ASTINtrew’s more expensive At3500 CD player, I felt the latter produced a slighter bigger richer sound with superior tonality and greater dynamic presence. Even with the D6 playing an SACD and the At3500 playing CD, the latter retained its advantage. But, this depends on the sort of sound you like. Those preferring a brighter, more forward presentation may disagree and judge the D6 to be the bettersounding player. It certainly has an attractive, lively immediacy that’s fresh and energetic. The At3500’s tube output gives it a little extra richness and weight, compared to the D6. But some may prefer the latter’s extra brilliance.
Without an A400 for comparison I’ve had to rely on aural memory, but my feeling is that the new A9 sounds noticeably faster and more immediate than the old A-400, but the latter might have bettered it in terms of tonal balance and bass/treble integration. The A9 is definitely for those who like a bright, forward, squeaky-clean sound that’s crisp and focussed. If that sums up your take on good hi-fi, you’re almost certain to be impressed. When the A9 is partnered with the D6 SACD player these qualities are reinforced. Whether or not the combination is overly-forward is a difficult one to call. Much will depend on the loudspeakers used and the listening room.
Speaking personally, I’d prefer it if the treble brilliance of the D6/A9 were matched by a more solid midrange and bottom end. I’m not talking about bass depth here – more the subjective sense of lower frequency breadth and fullness that creates a sense of balance between bass and treble extremes. Indeed, a crisp fast top-end can of itself create the impression that the bass is lacking in weight and fullness. The D6/A9 are certainly very detailed and crisp, and sure to impress in that respect. But I do wonder if they’ve been tweaked for maximum detail without regard for homogeneity and bass/treble integration. Nonetheless, both the D6 and A9 are very good components that offer a real taste of high-end performance. They’re superbly sharp and immediate, and offer exceptional detail and analysis. If your taste inclines towards a sound that’s crisp, bright, and bristling with detail, these are for you. There’s probably nothing to touch them at (or near) the price.