Review by Gary Hargreaves of Salient Audio (He has recently started a business producing some interesting turntable upgrades):-
The Chevron Audio modified Pioneer BDP 150 universal player
I have recently had the opportunity to spend some time listening to the latest Chevron Audio modified Pioneer universal Player.
Technically, this is a very interesting machine as it able to play CD, DVD, Blue-ray, and SACD disc formats. In order to do this it has no less than three laser assemblies each suited to its task. I am aware that this is by no means a unique specification in this type of product, but Colin Yallop of Chevron assures me that the base machine was chosen for its suitability by dint of its very high performance on areas of low jitter and the suitability of its architecture for tapping into the I2S stereo audio data stream thereby enabling Colin to implement his own ‘Dual Sabre DAC’ conversion followed by, crucially, the unique discrete line output stage that sonically sets many of the Chevron products way above the performance you might reasonably expect of such well-priced devices.
When I first heard the player it was in a proto type form, and had the line stage outside of the player casework, I had taken my recently acquired Benchmark DAC 2 pre HGC along too as, indeed, a bit of a benchmark to compare with the Chevron player. The system context within which we were listening was very obviously, ruthlessly revealing, and that included some truly incisive Apogee panel speakers which render midrange and transient tactility in a way not hugely dissimilar to my own Yamaha NS1000 M’s
We started off listening to the Stacy Kent Album ‘Dreamer in Paris’, a beautifully rendered Live recording exhibiting plenty of well recorded acoustic clues, and typical in feel to many other Blue Note Jazz recordings across the decades.
The Chevron Pioneer immediately caused raised eyebrows with the shear ‘get up and go’ it displayed. The fantastic vocal control and nuanced, yet exuberant rendition of the track ‘If I were a bell’ had real presence. Miss Kent’s performances were incredibly well voiced, and the entirely believable brush hit snare work was conveyed with real tactility and attack. A tremendously well resolved ‘Thwack’ set into the swinging rhythmic context of other band members impeccably timed ensemble performances.
When we substituted the Benchmark, and used the Pioneer as the Transport - made easily possible by the wide choice of inputs and outputs made available as a product of this cleverly engineered conversion - the same track was played, and although the room acoustic clues, and the scintillating cymbal and extended HF performance that had always attracted me to this manufacturers products was there in spades, it was by no means a Night and Day difference.
If anything, and splitting hairs a bit, the Benchmark might have edged the Chevron Pioneer in the last octave of its bass resolution, but the timing and whole-ness of the performance exhibited by the Pioneer was a real revelation to both me, and to Colin I think! If you consider that Chevron have put many years of careful design work into honing their Paradox DAC, a fantastic way to render ’Red Book’ by any comparison, and here was an ‘out of the box’ early version of a DAC/universal player design that was only just in short trousers in development terms, exhibiting real ‘High end’ performance from such an unassuming package.
I have since had extended hours of listening to a proper production version of the player in the context of my own system at home, where also Colin (and one of his customers) has also heard the Chevron player, just its own Dual Sabre DAC (fed by my extensively modified and improved TEAC T1 transport) and the Benchmark DAC2 fed by both the Chevron Pioneer as a transport and the Teac, until every combination had been exhausted! This listening session showed the Player to be very capable, across a wide variety of recordings including some quite stretching tracks, including the complex ‘Hammerhead’ by Jeff Beck, a dynamic tour de force with some seismic bass, a fantastic and charming, if technically poorly recorded, Joe Bataan track, the classic Afro Caribbean ‘Ordinary Guy’ from the album ‘Riot’ (Fania) where the band start to really swing in the closing minute or so in any system with real rhythmic acuity.
In all cases, the Chevron Pioneer really Impressed both me, and the assembled, and considering that the fully modified machine costs less than half of the price of just the Benchmark HGC DAC Pre alone, its value must be regarded as something very special.
Contact Chevron to get a demonstration of this remarkable product if a universal player is in your sights, and don’t forget that the Player retains its ability to play all the other formats too, imagine how well it might render your favourite music DVD’s ? These abilities, along with (in some versions depending on specification) its USB and network connectivity, and the ability to play files from a memory stick from its front panel, there seem few downsides to this truly high-end thoughtfully modified player.