Micromega CD Player: Stage 1
Micromega Stage 1
Micromega is arguably doing more 'nuts and bolts' work on CD than any other European manufacturer, and it shows. The Stage 1 sounds great as standard, and can be upgraded to make an £800 Stage 3 for the difference of the price between them.
The entry level Micromega is also the first step in the companies Stage system, which allows a Stage 1 buyer to upgrade to Stage 2 or 3 specification by paying the difference in cost between the player and the desired specification. But it's also a very competent £450 player in its own right.
Using Bitstream conversion and Philips' latest CDM12.4 CD mechanism driven by in-house Micromega software, the Stage 1 scans the whole disc when it's loaded, storing track positions, and giving super-fast track access. Other players just read the table of contents, so have to search for a specific track when you want it.
Not that you'll want to hammer through your discs with the Stage 1 player - its captivating sound will have you savouring every moment. Load the disc with a well-recorded audio acoustic into the player and the musicians are effortlessly spread out before you. Switch to the Micromega after almost any other players here, and it's as if your speakers have suddenly disappeared, so striking is the three-dimensional soundstage that's created.
Open and airy, with a realistic view of the instruments from bass to voices and percussion, the Micromega sounds terrific with jazz and close-up acoustic rock and pop recordings. Classical music also benefits from the player's balance of weight and delicacy. And that's as true with the surging Adam's pieces as with Leroy Anderson's The Typewriter, where the sparkling 1958 Mercury Living Presence recording sounds superb.
The Micromega's slam and attack match its low-down grunt with rock, without losing any detail retrieval ability.
With a chic fascia - 'display off' blanks everything except a tiny red lamp - and solid construction, plus upgradeability to CD players we know are even better, it's hard to argue against the Stage 1 CD player on any level.
Other CD player son test included: Arcam (£450), Harmon Kardon (£550), Kenwood (£350), Musical Fidelity (£520), Orelle (£400), Pioneer (£350) and finally Rotel (£425).
With quite a wide spread in this group. you'd expect the value for money part of our test to be quite simple, with the least expensive players scoring over the pricier models here. But it doesn't quite turn out like that . . . .
The leaders here are the Arcam, Micromega and Orelle. The Orelle has a useful £50 price advantage over the other two, and its smooth, system-friendly sound will win a lot of admirers. The Arcam meanwhile, is well-built, fine sounding and easy to integrate into a wide range of systems. But it's the Micromega that takes the prize again, being well-built, having superb sound and of course , offering superb value for money. It also has a non-wasteful means of upgrading the player itself to a better machine with a simple exchange of circuitry. Your head will tell you it's a sensible buy. We think your heart will rather like it, too!