Bow Technologies Wizard Compact Disc Player Reviewed

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Whether it's caution or obstinacy, numerous high-end brands are studiously avoiding - if not necessarily ignoring - DVD. Some argue that it's the dearth of half-way decent OEM transports, but that never stopped manufacturers of costly CD players using certain Dutch-made CD spinners with the reliability of perforated condoms. Others argue convincingly that they're waiting until the dust settles in the forthcoming DVD-Audio vs SACD vs 96/24 format war. Then there's the fact that CD is the 'last format to eschew data reduction or data compression', that there are the tens of thousands of readily-available CD titles, that CD has huge owner base - whatever the justification, Bow has joined Linn and others in seeing out this century with a CD player. But not just any CD player.

Read more about SACD here...
Read more audiophile CD players, transports and DACs here.

Although the Wizard - designed to match the Wazoo integrated amplifier - costs a relative pittance compared to the top machines offered by Krell, Linn, Wadia, Mark Levinson and even its stablemate, the ZZ-Eight, at no point does its physical presence suggest anything less than a five-figure purchase. This is a true luxury device oozing class in both its styling and its fit and finish. Given that its designer, former architect Bo Christensen,* has a spotless track record which commenced with the radical Primare 'cubes' of the early 1980s, it's no accident that the Wizard calls to mind other 'natural metal' sculpture which marries the aesthetic and the functional.

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Blessedly, two of the brands it made me think of do not manufacture their own CD players, makers of preamps and power amps that share enough spiritual content with the Wizard to suggest long-lost-relative status: Cello and Nagra. This tells you immediately that the Wizard is a delight to behold to operate. And, as Bo has always demonstrated a novel approach to ergonomics, I'm pleased to tell you that one of the Wizard's main party tricks is its remote control, dubbed the Wand. Geddit? Wizard...wand. Bo and Bow are Danish, after all, as is B&O, another firm intent on making our lives easier. Bo, Bow, B&O...methinks a pattern emerges.

Although my more salacious side can't help likening the Wand to a certain battery-operated cylindrical device beloved of women with a penchant for DIY, it is possible to savour Bow's remote for its sheer elegance, its jewel-like construction and its too-clever-for-mere-mortals layout. Machined from a billet of aluminium, the Wand sports 14 buttons controlling every command, as well as operating the Wazoo's volume. Press one of the buttons and a tiny green LED flashes, telling you that you've put the Wand into numerical mode for direct-track access. So covetable is the Wand that the importer decided to make it part of the Wizard package rather than offer it as an option. I can assure you that no customer for the Wizard would be able to resist the Wand after a mere moment's use.

In addition to the Wand are buttons running across the top surface to control the main transport functions; the Wand deals with the basics plus the programming modes. Because the Wizard is a top-loader, Bo was able to grace its front panel with a funky, finned display which isn't hindered by a CD tray aperture. The detail makes it look like some steam-punk prop, calling to mind the designs seen in 1930s SF serials like . The central display is shaped like a Daniel Roth watch case, with large green numerals indicating track and time; two slim subsidiary displays fanning out to the sides reveal legends such as 'stand-by', 'pause' and repeat'.

Although top-loading isn't my favourite layout, I must state that Bow addressed the problem of dust entering through the self-centring spoked disc stabilizer by supplying a padded disc to leave in place when the player is not in use. Its underside is covered with leather to protect the exposed laser lens. Ever concerned with attention to detail, the 'open well construction' is also said to eliminate static build-up. At the 3 and 9 o'clock positions are deep grooves which allow the user to remove a CD with ease. Despite the minor inconvenience of placing the lens protector in place after use, I have to admit that the thing looks so damned clean and cool that I could easily learn to live with a player which doesn't open at the front.

Cleanliness rules at the back, too, the player arriving as standard with single-ended phono and balanced XLR analogue outputs and three digital outputs. Bow fits only 75 Ohm BNC, 75 Ohm phono and 110 Ohm balanced AES/EBU; quite clearly, the company remains wholly opposed to TOSlink and AT&T optical. Also fitted at the back are the primary on/off rocker, an IEC mains input and a space for an upgrade I'll get to shortly. Measuring 434x110x360mm and weighing a chunky 11kg, the Wizard is no shrinking violet and it demands pride of place. Then again, so do all top-loaders.

Bow designed the Wizard to use only precision-engineered mechanical parts and components selected for 'their electrical performance, long-term thermal stability and audiophile-grade sound quality'. The company also boasts, or should that be 'Bow-sts', that its assembly procedures are 'based on techniques used in the manufacture of the most critical medical and military equipment.' The heart of the Wizard is a 'heavily modified' (it has to be) die-cast Philips CDM12 Pro CD transport 'mechanism stripped of all sonically degrading capacitors'. Bow also employed the Inter IC-Sound (I2S) transfer bus, believed to isolate audio data, word clock and bit clock, to eliminate a major source of jitter. And, again in keeping with an isolationist policy, the transport and the digital, analogue, display and microprocessor circuitry are fed by seven separate, regulated power supplies. Add to it the kind of bank-vault construction seen in the likes of the Linn CD-12 and the Mark Levinson transports, and you have a device which evokes stability and solidity throughout.

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