I have owned one of Alex Peychev's APL modified Pioneer A563 multiformat players for about 6 months and been very impressed with it's performance in my two channel system. I received a unit with 2 channel modifications only. A link to my system can be found in my signature. Preliminaries:
One caveat you should take into account with my remarks is that I have not had a truly high end CDP reside in my system. I have however spent countless hours listening to a number of Accuphase, Wadi, Ayre, Naim, and Cary CDP's in top notch systems at area dealers and at my audiophile friend's homes.
My primary A-B comparison was with my former modified Pioneer PD-65 CDP, a single bit player. The PD-65 modifications consisted of a Furtech IEC, Vampire RCA's, and extensive treatment Extreme Dynamat to dampen vibration. Both Pioneer units sat on Eight Nerve brass point endings atop a 2" thick maple cutting board. A VH Audio flavor 4 cyro power cord was used to power both units.
After ordering the unit in March, 2004 I had about a six week wait until delivery of the unit from Alex. It came well packaged in the original box with its remote, original packing materials, etc. attesting to Alex's strong attention to detail. Cost for the A563 was $695 including shipping, which include 50% down upon ordering and the balance paid before shipping. EDIT: I just noticed on the APL website pricing is now $745.
Before sale communication levels with Alex were acceptable, he tends to be a very busy one-person shop, puts in long hours and thus is somewhat difficult to reach via phone or e-mail. I found him very knowledgable, personable and professional in our exchanges. It appears from posts here and on AA that he has recently relocated his shop. Observations & Impressions
Well to make a long story short, the APL modified A563 simply beat the snot out of my modded PD-65.
Low and high frequency extension was dramatically improved. The stock PD-65 is bass shy, my modifications improved bass response but no where near the A563. I use the Gladiator soundtrack CD as my reference for bass response. Musical passages are deep and complex, the APL player resolved them without a hint on congestion.
There was a much more natural flow to the music, which I attribute to improved PRAT. I found myself really enjoying a lot of old CD's. I had one of those epiphany's listening to Los Lobos "Kiko", which contains very textured and layered music. Simply the best I have heard this CD sound.
I listen to a lot of female vocals and all I can say about this CDP is that it nails them "spot on". Soundstage conveyed through my system is wide, but not as deep as some of the Wadia's and tubed CDP's I have heard.
The A563 has a bit of a "laid back" sonic presentation which I tend to prefer to a more forward, hyper-detailed digital front end. CD redbook play in my system comes very, very close to SACD quality in head to head comparison. Shortcomings
The redbook CD playback is really top notch, effortlessly resolving and extremely listenable. It does however lack some of the air under wind instruments and vocals, it's not the nth degree of detail retrieval, and it certainly doesn't have the tank like build quality of of top end units.
There is still occasional sibilance on female vocals and treble, particular on non AAD mastered CD's. Alex's modifications almost eliminate the digital glare one can sometimes notice on poorly recorded CD's.
Because it is a multiformat player, discs can take up to 8 seconds to read, a slight inconvience compared to dedicated redbook players. Conclusion
As you can probably tell, I've become rather smitten with my APL A563. It is a very good player and great audio value IMHO. An easy recommendation for anyone considering a <$1500.00 dedicated CDP or multiformat (CD, SACD, DVD-A) player.
The SACD and DVD-A playback to me was just icing on the cake. I've even bought a few SACD's!
Nature Boy's Tumbs Up Ranking (4 of 5 stars)