This is Phillips' entry-level player, and a thoroughly typical member of the species - a statement with positive and negative connotations. The player uses Phillips technology straight out of the bottom drawer, centred on a MASH 1-bit processor and digital servo. On the plus side are its good finish and a smooth (if slow) transport action. The feature set is limited, but has its highlights. Auto Cue sets the player in pause mode at the start of each track, and Peak Search looks for the highest levels on a disc. The dot matrix display is bold and attractive, but no more informative than usual. The simplicity is echoed around the back, which is home to a pair of analogue outputs and an optical digital S/PDIF, which is the preferred type in some markets. What we weren't aware of during our early testing was the price. This model sells for about £90, making it one of the least expensive branded players around. The lack of a remote control as standard is part of the explanation (although the player will respond to the remote controls supplied with most Phillips amps and receivers), and means that when measured up against other players, like is not being compared with like. Nevertheless, it is well built and adequately specified in all other respects, and pricing remains impressive, especially where remote control is unnecessary, for example if the player lives close to the listening 'hot seat'. While it sounds "robust", "solid" and even "smooth", it is also a somewhat relentless sounding player which is at once hard-edged, yet paradoxically also rather dull. Musically the effect is in-yer-face, and oddly lacking in expressiveness and subtlety. The absence of any real sense of occasion with known, quality recordings was neatly summed up by one panellist who was so thrilled by what he heard that he felt he "might as well do the washing up instead". Not a very scientific statement,
perhaps, but it fairly reflects a cross-section of the panel's opinions, and mine too, based on hands-on testing. Responding perhaps to its forcefulness and energy, the Alice in Chains track was the most successful in the panel sequence, although even here a rather bloated image scale and a degree of 'splodge' in the bass was identified in several sets of notes, while the Kissin piano excerpt was clearly unsatisfactory, with listeners describing a 'glaze' on the sound and a 'shut-in' quality. The panel wasn't completely unanimous. The predominantly very hushed Mahler, for example, was generally described as involving and interesting, perhaps in reaction to the standard of the group as a whole, but such positive reactions were thinly spread. Conclusion This player doesn't achieve a standard of music-making that justifies a formal recommendation. Its characteristically rather disengaged feel and lumpy balance just aren't good enough, so if you can it's worth spending rather more. Nevertheless, this model has its place, and should be seriously considered by those who are strapped for cash and who would otherwise end up buying a no-name player from a second-rank manufacturer. At least the Phillips is properly screwed together, and the name is a promise of redress if things go wrong.