It would have been enough, then, for Madrigal to split the Proceed PCD into two halves and leave it at that. After all, the one-box version has been a big hit in audiophile circles, and you
don't have to go far at a CES to see it in use in other manufacturers' rooms; a two-box version with only marginal improvements would be a player to behold. But the resultant components, the PDP Digital Processor and the PDT Digital Transport, are more than a two-chassis PCD with an extra power supply.
The PDT looks exactly like the PCD one-box player, not surprising as it employs the same fascia, chassis and transport; you'd have to look at the back to find any external differences. Some parts are more highly specified to improve the digital signal quality, and the changes address requirements which are a part of all CD player design but are of even greater importance for stand-alone transports. It's an issue I'll address further on, but suffice to say that it's far more difficult to know how a transport will perform when the designer has to accommodate a number of unknown outboard D/A converters rather than a known, on-chassis D/A section.
In essence, the tailoring of the PDT includes active circuits used in conjunction with a pulse grade matching transformer to ensure clean and stable output with precisely defined digital
transitions. Aside from the general improvements related to noise, this also helps to produce a better interface with the PDP Digital Processor; Madrigal points out that the design is -- naturally -- closely related to the receiving stage of the PDP.
It will also mean that the PDT transport will probably work better with other brands of D/A converters than would the less-accommodating transport sections of one-box players with
The PDT, like the PCD, is a minimalist player with an uncluttered front panel; keypad entry controls are found only the hand-held remote. But operationally it's like no other player I've used, Madrigal having dismissed entirely the Japanese (or Swiss) approach to ergonomics and user/hardware interaction. Instead of 'high tech' precision, the PDT has a soft feel and you sometimes wonder if you actually pressed the buttons.
They're lozenge-shaped and of the 'dead flesh' variety, with the feel of the controls like that of a hand-held remote rather than fascia-mounted switches; look elsewhere if you want movements which connect with a distinct click. You'll soon get used to it, but the two-step sluggishness of the disc tray -- its heavily-damped movement causing the deliberate hiccup -- will shock those used to trays which move like a VATman reaching for a cheque.
The choice of functions is fairly complete, though the fast scan (in both directions) is muted, making it useless if you want to cue by ear rather than read-out. I'd also have preferred various options of elapsed time readings instead of only the elapsed time of the track being played -- an essential for those lawbreakers who copy CDs on to tape and don't want the music to overrun the tape's length.
The only control which needs any explanation -- also on the PDP Processor -- is the standby. Both pieces require unbelievably long warm-up times, so long that I won't even tell you for fear
of yet another diatribe from Baxandall, but let's just say that it involves your calendar rather than your watch. Madrigal wisely suggests that you leave the mains switched on at all times, via the primary switches at the rear of each unit, using standby to put it into a 'semi-off' position. With standby engaged, only the main circuits remain at operation-ready level. Coming out of standby with the units fully warmed, I detected no time lag for the player or the D/A to reach an optimum state.
At the back, the PDT sports just what you'd expect -- a mains cable, the aforementioned on/off switch, and a fuse-holder -- but the coaxial digital output socket isn't the only way to access
signals. No, Madrigal -- like most American high end CD builders -- did not include optical output; that's still regarded as only a cut above doggie-do in the USA. Instead, the Proceed sports an XLR-styled �balanced� digital output, wherein lies yet another tale.
The unusual shape of the PDT -- a squarish frontal aspect and a deep chassis -- is a love/hate feature. I find it a refreshing change from yer basic 430mm stuff, and it struck me as a perfect
choice to mate (aesthetically) with the similarly shaped Primare electronics. Well, it would be a perfect match if it were black instead of the fetching Nextel-ish grey. As it and the PDP each
measure 214mm wide, side by side they'll still fit into the shelf space allocated for one 430mm component. (And we should all thank Naim and Mission for showing us that a couple of 'half-width' components can be mixed with exiting full-width units.) The PDT stands 227mm tall while the the PDP (and yes, I am getting fed up with these unimaginative and confusing acronyms) stands 87mm tall, so they do look a bit odd as neighbours.
But the physical structures of both the PDT and the PDP are not afterthoughts. Heavy gauge steel is used throughout, attention was paid to the thermal behaviour of the materials, and the
company spent much time and money researching the effects of circuit board location. All are positioned as much for sonic reasons as for constructional or practical purposes, among the
benefits being minimal use of wire and ultra-short paths. But it did result in a lot of empty spaces, hence the large chassis.
With this unique topology, a question (from the houseproud) is begged: How long before Madrigal produces pre-amps or power amps to stack with the PDP?
PROCEED DIGITAL PROCESSOR (PDP)
So good is the isolation between the two pieces that you can place the transport on top of the PDP without any deleterious effects. The PDP, too, has a clean fascia -- what D/A converter
hasn't? -- bearing only a window with a read-out displaying sampling frequency, four LEDs to indicate which input is in use, an LED to indicate whether or not your disc was recorded with
pre-emphasis, an input selector button and the standby switch.
The only complaint I can offer about the ergonomics is that the input selector works sequentially, in a 1-2-3-4 pattern. This makes A/B auditioning a pain in the tush, especially since there's a mute/delay as well when you go from input to input. To A/B unbalanced v balanced connection -- balanced operation is only on 'Source 4' -- you must use either 'Source 3' or 'Source 1' to minimize the lag. Everything else is automatic, though (not having a DAT recorder nor access to digital broadcasts) I couldn't test the selection of the sampling frequencies.
Read more about the Proceed PCD on Page 2.