I have heard the 640 last week, in the home of my friend who carries them, and sells for prices more like the Spearit Sound pricetag. The player lists for $529.
He also carries Music Hall and Shanling, and the new Cambridge 640 is supplanting the $2000 Shanling in his personal systems. He feels it simply sounds better. That alone should speak volumes here, considering the esteem in which the Shanling is held.
I didn't know the Wolfson DAC was in the 540, is this true? He usually only has the better Cambridge player, as he feels the more expensive ones are still about as cheap as an audiophile player gets.
Please take my opinions on the 640 with the following grains of salt:
1) My tastes and experiences are mine, and may not agree with yours
2) I was not able to A/B the player against any other, although I am quite familiar with this system using the Shanling T100 in it. I would have liked to have directly compared it to the Music Hall MMF25, which he is unsure at this time which is superior
3) I arrived almost unannounced to his home, and the player was dead cold. My friend and I both agree with the statement Dan D'Agostino told him, "A CD player must be on for at least 2 days before it sounds best."
I found the player to be a significant step up from the previous Cambridge D300/D500/D500SE generation of players.
First, the build quality. Anyone here who knows me knows I miss no opportunity to badmouth the quality of the 3 D500SEs I went through(all bought from another, local dealer). They were simply awful. After problems with the third one, I went in another direction.
The new players must be built by another company altogether. My friend has his theories, but I don't yet agree with him as to who is making the new machines. They weigh twice as much, at least, and while that doesn't say everything, the fit and finish and feel takes two to three steps forward. It very well may be a better built player than the Music Hall. In fact, at a $529 list price, I have not encountered a better built machine.
On to the sonics. The reason it was not warmed up is that my friend has found the previous generations of Cambridge players to burn out their displays prematurely. So, he is in the habit of not keeping his on. With that in mind, the sonics of the player left him disappointed, and with the feeling that the player must be kept on at all times(like any other digital gear), and if the displays have a problem, he wants to find it out sooner rather than later.
Personally, I found the sonics to be quite good indeed. Compared to the darkness, lack of speed, loss of resolution, and lack of refinement of the Cambridge D500SE, the new 640 makes serious strides in each category. I found the old player also quite rolled off, which was also not a problem with the new machine. It was a nice sounding player. It's pace seemed right to me. Much more ready to take on real audiophile players than in the past. It seemed to easily fit in to the $1200 playing field, whereas the older machines competed up to maybe $750 - $800.
Was it the best digital I have heard? No, not by a longshot. On the negative side, it didn't have the great low frequency response of the best players, but I don't know too many sub $2000 players that do. It didn't seem to have an analog kind of sound, which will disappoint those who seek that. And, the flow of the music was not the best I have encountered.
I will say that the player sounded better after playing even five short minutes, waking up nicely.
Does it surpass the Shanling? To my friend, who is honest to a fault, yes. How about the Music Hall? That one, he is not sure about. And, neither am I, as I was not able to A/B them. I will say that the two players now seem more alike to me than I believed possible. Although, in my experience the Music Hall sounds better, I need to compare them on a level playing field. I am taking the assertions that the Wolfon DAC has something to offer to us audiophiles at face value.
Hope others are able to also review and submit feedback on their impressions on the new Cambridge players as well.