Even back in 2004, it felt like CD players were reaching the autumn of their lives. The onslaught from DVD-Audio, SACD and indeed universal machines was such that fewer and fewer folk wanted old, unreconstructed CD separates anymore. Those who did were discerning audiophiles who realised that – whatever the performance at 24/192 resolution – even the best DVD spinner couldn’t play 16-bit Compact Disc as well as a serious, purpose-designed CD machine. The result was that CD separates were becoming increasingly specialised affairs, as MEL Audio’s new Rechav II.
Its creator, Enrico Lusuardi, rather ostentatiously called it a ‘digital turntable’. The long haired, stylishly attired musician said it was, “a CD player through which the forsaking of the analogue system would not be too much regretted. It is characteristic for its circular shape, which reminds in its dimensions (33 cm in diameter) and in its way of use (opening of the cover and manual insertion of the disc) the vinyl record and the analogue turntable, which I have always preferred and loved for its better sound quality.” The unusual name is taken from ancient Jewish and described in Ezekiel, meaning “celestial chariot” – a God’s throne that can do “extraordinary deeds”.
At 6kg, the Rechav II doesn’t feel the most solidly built machine around. Rather, the largish spaceship-shaped case is fashioned entirely from MDF, for its anti-resonance properties, and painted rather lavishly in a host of colours including ‘black Aston Martin’, ‘blue Bugatti’, ‘ Orange Lamborghini’, ‘yellow Porsche’, ‘white BMW’ and ‘red Ferrari’. The finish is excellent, and it’s definitely an eye catcher to boot.
On top of the machine is a host of blue backlit acrylic buttons, letting you select play mode, repeat mode, fader (which fades the music in and out – a nice touch), programme mode (with a maximum of thirty steps), and display mode. The supplied remote control adds a volume control to the aforementioned feature set. The blue fluorescent display is a simple Sony-derived affair which does the job well enough, even if it does look a little cheap. In the middle of it all is the transport, again which looks Sony-sourced, complete with a rather neat self-centring disc stabiliser/lid. Round the back, a pair of RCA phono sockets, a coaxial digital output, 6.3mm headphone socket and power input can be found.
The Rechav II is a machine with a sonic, as well as a visual difference, and proved deeply impressive at its £935 price. Essentially, it has a smooth and open nature, very much in the mould of Meridian’s excellent 507, with a good command of detail and fine soundstaging. Where it excels however, is its superb rhythms. It isn’t one of those ultra tight, ‘in your face’ machines in the mould of Naim’s CDX2, or Linn’s late lamented Karik III. Rather it is beguiling, working on gentle seduction, rather than socking you between the eyes. And the result is a very ‘analogue’ sounding machine. Enrico was right all along.
I kicked off the listening with Simply Red’s Say You Love Me. Vocals were smooth and organic with some much needed euphonic colouration – ultimately a very pleasant listen. Although not the fastest machine around, the MEL Audio never sounded leaden being quite fluid and supple. Up top, treble was still quite open and certainly not veiled or rolled off. In the midband, things were pleasingly fluid – being able to let the music ebb and flow in a more organic way, making for a very enjoyable rendition of the disc.
Here’s an extremely musical machine that’s characterised by an ever so slightly warm upper midband and treble, and a strong full and dynamic bass that’s just a little on the soft side. In the midband, it’s a fine all-rounder, with a wide and well proportioned soundstage, strong dynamics, good detailing, but most important of all, a naturally musical demeanour that seems to get into the groove of whatever music you throw at it, be it a Karajan recording of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony or a classic BlueNote jazz reissue such as Lonnie Smith’s Think.
Music just flows out of the Rechav II, and in conjunction with its nice warm tonal predisposition, you have a player that looks like it’s from outer space but sounds utterly down-to-earth – in the best possible way. It’s great to be able to recommend interesting, endearing, charismatic and oddball products from small manufacturers – and this is one such example. The madcap looks hide fine audio engineering. The result is a pleasingly musical player with the accent very much on emotion and expression.