Musical Fidelity TriVista CD/SACD-Player

Review by Petri Mutanen
Translation by Robin Lybeck

Published Dec 11, 2003
Published in Finnish
Nov 4th, 2003


The brand Musical Fidelity, founded in 1983 by amateur clarinetist Anthony Michaelson, probably needs no further introduction to most audiophiles. MF has also been represented in Finland for several years now. In addition to the SACD-player auditioned here, the TriVista range consists of the TriVista 300 integrated amplifier, the kW pre- and power amp, a vinyl player and a separate digital-to-analog converter. The trademark of this range, with the exception of the vinyl player, is the use of the Trivistor miniature tube, which is said to have a significantly longer lifespan than the Nuvistor tube used in earlier MF designs.


The TriVista SACD-player is built into a chassis of the same size as the integrated amp of the same series, and is quite a massive piece of equipment as far as cd-players are concerned. The illuminated feet that change color when the player reaches its proper operating temperature are a nice extra feature. The feet are a reddish orange when the machine is turned on, then gradually turn orange before turning blue after about 35 minutes. The feet looked really nice in the dark, especially when the player was placed on the Grand Prix Audio Monaco equipment rack. The Monaco is equipped with acrylic shelves, which reflected the light elegantly. In addition to its other features, the TriVista can be used as an external d/a-converter, with a DVD-player for example.

The display is big and functional enough, being readable from a distance of several meters. The round buttons for the different functions are quite large, but located in a manner that takes some time to get used to. Because of the thick faceplate and the modifications made to the transport mechanism by MF, the placement of a disc on the drawer demands some concentration. You have to insert the disc on the drawer diagonally, while at the same time avoiding the greased support bars on both sides of the drawer. The transport mechanism, originally by Philips, was somewhat loud when operating, and the given commands were carried out after a short delay. No problems with the operating logic were detected during the test, and all tested CDR-discs worked well. The plastic remote works with both the TriVista player and integrated amplifier.

The logic behind the large chassis became clear when the cover was removed. The analog/digital power source is located at the front, containing two transformers and two choke regulators. The large filter capacitors and their regulators are placed on a separate circuit board. The voltage from this circuit board is transferred to the analog and digital stages through thick, pvc-insulated conductors. The digital filter is a SM 5849 BF by NPC, with 8x oversampling. The upsampling is handled by two Crystal CS 8420 chips and the d/a conversion by two Burr-Brown PCM 1738E dac´s. The main working principles seem to be along the same lines with the Lindemann D680 SACD/CD-player tested earlier.

Two 5532 paired op-amps serve as active components for the integrator and analog filters. The output stage consists of two 5703 single triode tubes per channel, after which the signal passes through a general-purpose bipolar electrolyte capacitor manufactured by Jamicon. The analog output is through RCA-type connectors only. The power cord is detachable and equipped with a less common 16-20A connector.

The components are placed in an "airy" manner and are mainly of "normal" quality, with the exception of some surface-mount components in the digital signal path.

I'm somewhat puzzled by MF´s decision to use the 5532 circuit as an active component in the integrator part, as this component is required to have a short risetime, fast settling times after an overload and very low noise. A more modern, fet-input op-amp would have seemed like a more obvious choice for a player in this price range. On the other hand, if a TriVista owner is bothered by this detail, he can always have the circuits changed at a later date.


The TriVista seems to need about one hour of operation before reaching its full potential. Due to the somewhat uncommon power connector, I was unable to try more than two different power cords, so it's possible I didn't quite hear everything the player had to offer. I used two different equipment racks with the TriVista, the Grand Prix Audio Monaco and the Finite Elemente Pagode Master Reference. The Monaco gave a slightly more defined bass and a somewhat more "liberated" overall sound, so most of the listening was done using this rack. I ended up using a so-called shielded solid core cable as power cord, as it sounded somewhat better than the original cord. It has to be pointed out, though, that the choice of power cords seemed to make exceptionally little difference with the TriVista. The player was a dealer demo sample, so it was well broken-in when the test started. As a whole, I listened to the player over a period of two weeks.

Listening Impressions

From the first notes it was apparent that a high-class player was being tested, with cleanliness and neutrality being the name of the game. The sound contained none of the mechanical and clinical feel of many lesser cd-players. The overall sound was pleasantly evenhanded. The bass was sturdy and full of impact, if lacking the last word in resolution. The full and well-defined midrange also attracted my attention. As for the treble, it didn't quite attain the level of my reference player, nor were the echoes of the recording venue as apparent as with my reference. But on the other hand, many of the distracting hard edges in the upper register were absent, the highest octaves only came across as a bit less energetic and more modest than with the reference player. Regarding overall pace and rhythm the player at times seemed slightly "put off", but this phenomenon was largely dependent on the type of music used. The player did have more than enough dynamic headroom for large-scale music, though.

The soundstage produced by the TriVista was somewhat forward in nature, at the same time giving an excellent sense of depth. In addition to this, the soundstage was significantly higher and wider than "normal". My own reference player is a bit more laid-back in nature, but still the greater presence in the TriVista´s sound was in no way annoying, making some music sound even better than the laidback reproduction I'm used to.

With SACD´s the TriVista reached a level of performance clearly unattainable with normal cd´s, but the basic characteristics of the player still remained the same. But then again, they didn't have to change. It's funny how even the bass reproduction seems to be improved with SACD, the phenomenon is especially apparent when comparing the two different layers of hybrid discs. This player further strengthened my earlier beliefs about the differences between the two formats.

The overall sound of the Musical Fidelity TriVista is, but for a few minor details, thoroughly enjoyable. It's most apparent strength is the way it seems to handle all areas of sound reproduction equally well. Some listeners might feel the need for some more brute force, but I never did. The sound as a whole was so good that I was in no extra hurry to switch back to my reference, but once I did, the small faults of the TriVista became more apparent. If not for the reference player, the critique in this article might have been reduced even further.

The listening tests using system 2 were in a way more interesting than those using my personal reference system. The TriVista was clearly not at its best in system 2. The end result was a balanced, but somewhat dull sound, where the liveliness of the music was lacking. This system would, in my opinion, have benefited from a player with more drive and pace, like the Mark Levinson 390S.


Balance: The player clearly represented the school of neutrality in terms of overall sound. The balance was tipped ever so slightly by a certain fullness in the midrange. This did not present a problem, however, as there were no other easily discernible peaks or dips in the balance. At most, this fullness made the sound a bit more beautiful than the "real thing".

Resolution: Clearly better than average. The slight damping of the highest frequencies caused the sound of plates and cymbals to be extinguished a bit faster than they should have been. This phenomenon was also present with other acoustic instruments producing extended high-frequency energies. The lowest registers were also plagued by a certain lack of resolution that made an electric bass sound a bit more acoustic than it should and in the midrange the lack of the last word in resolution resulted in a somewhat diffuse presentation of, for example, a grand concert piano. With Lied-music I had a problem hearing the difference between a Bösendorfer and a Steinway, but with less demanding material these characteristics might be perceived as a nice softening of the overall sound.

Transparency: The overall transparency gets a B+ from me. Due to the slight lack of resolution in the upper registers, the TriVista failed to reach the level of the best players I've heard.

Treble: The treble reproduction was free of peaks in a positive manner, but on the other hand it sometimes came across as a bit soft and somewhat veiled. These aforementioned facts didn't bother me as much on all the musical samples used in this test.

Midrange: The midrange exhibits a certain fullness, good resolution and a warmish overall sound.

Bass: The lower registers are reproduced with plenty of power, but a slight lack of resolution makes them come across as a bit soft.

Dynamics: Not quite at the level of the best I've heard, but in no way modest. The player was quite able to reproduce the dynamics of large-scale orchestral music without strain. The subjective "speed" can be considered to be at least better than average, if not quite the best available.

Soundstage: The soundstage is very present, large, and opens up well into all three dimensions. There's also a lot of layered depth information present. The player didn't represent the last word in pinpoint imaging, but as the musicians were surrounded by plenty of air, this never bothered me at all.


Musical Fidelity can rightly be proud of the SACD/CD-player they've created. The player is impressive both viewed from the inside and the outside, and it manages to combine this with excellent sound quality. The sound produced by the TriVista will likely best serve a listener who's tired of aggressive- and clinical-sounding players. But it is not by any means a soft slouch, a thing I clearly noticed when my favorite discs wound up spinning for longer times than planned. The TriVista engages the listener in the music as a whole, not so much on how an individual instrument sounds. The TriVista is by no means a budget player, but it offers several things I've never heard in cheaper equipment. On my own absolute scale the TriVista gets a high rank, if some of the minor faults described earlier were fixed I might even be tempted to change my present reference. But even as it is, we're talking about a very pleasant listening experience.

Reference Systems

System 1

  • Loudspeakers: Avantgarde Acoustic DUO SUB225
  • Preamplifier: Passive Attenuator (Elma rotating switch and Holco H4 resistors)
  • Power amplifier: Solid state DIY (Audiophile grade components, such as Black Gate, Vishay etc.)
  • CD/SACD: Lindemann D680
  • Racks: Grand Prix Audio Monaco, Finite Elemente Pagode Master Reference, DIY isolation feet
  • Cables: Various DIY, Ensemble Powerpoint MegaFlux
  • Network filter: DIY

System 2

  • Loudspeakers: Acapella LaMusica
  • Preamplifier: Passive Attenuator (Elma rotating switch and Vishay S102 resistors)
  • Power amplifier: Goldmund Mimesis 28
  • CD-player: Sphinx Project 32
  • Platform: Acapella Fondato Silenzio
  • Cables: various DIY
  • Network filter: DIY

Importer: Audelec OY

Price: €7450








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