ARC Ref CD-8 compared to CD-6 and/or Ref CD-9

Looking for comments from members who might have compared the ARC Ref CD-8 to the newly minted CD-6 and/or Ref CD-9, principally focusing on the redbook CDP function.

Based on a conversation with ARC, I understand that the redbook CD playback circuitry in the 3 models is similar, but not exact. Principal differences are upgraded coupling caps and the DAC configuration.

The Ref CD-8 used Burr Brown PCM 1792 chips configured in stereo mode. By contrast, the CD-6 and Ref CD-9 use the BB PCM 1792A, but configured in quad mono mode.

Also, the CD-6 and Ref CD-9 upsample and have fast/slow filter options. The Ref CD-8 does not offer these options.

Obviously, techno-babble aside, what counts most is how the CDPs sound. ARC says the CD-6 and Ref CD-9 have better dynamics and bandwidth, and lower distortion than the Ref CD-8. Not surprisingly, the new issues sound better.

So ... has anyone had a chance to road test the new players. Even better, compare them to the Ref CD-8. If they newest offerings are markedly better, maybe I should put on the bucket list. Oh ... mainly interested in the redbook functionality.


Would sure appreciate reading comments if anyone has compared the CD-8 to the CD-6 or CD-9. Thanks.

I would be interested in the new CD6 as well.

I have had the pleasure of auditioning the CD5, CD7 and CD9.
There is a big jump between the CD5 & CD7, in both price and sound.
The CD9 is hot at this juncture, because it (and many other spinners in this price class) has a killer DAC (for server/streamer fans).

Keep me posted.
Jafant ... one member sent me a private message with some reactions. He thought the CD-9 might edge out the CD-8 on the redbook CD side of the house, but not enough to justify buying the CD-9 just to achieve better redbook CD playback. Although I have been, and am, a bit curious about other digital input sources that would require a DAC, ... not that much where I am willing to drop thousands of bucks to find out ... at least not yet.

ARC suggested that I road test the CD-6, which has the same circuitry as the CD-9, just minus the tubes. So, still hoping to read comments from our fellow members about their reactions.

Jafant, for some reason I seem to recall that the CD-5 is basically a Ref CD-8, but sans the tubes. What are your thoughts about the CD-9 versus the CD-5, but only as far as the redbook CD function is concerned?

Hello BIF,

sure, at more than twice the price, the CD9 will sound better than the CD5. If you do not need a killer DAC, go for a CD5 or CD7- that is the better money spent.

I would be interested in the newer CD6- it is priced way too high at $8K retail. If I were ARC, I would have set the price at $4995 = better value, IMO.

the CD5 is a killer player, no frills, best money spent.
The CD9 is more than 2x the price, will sound a bit better (my ears) abd has the killer DAC (really what one pays).

ARC could have done better on the new CD6 price-wise as it is over priced at suggested $8K retail?
Jafant ... the Ref CD-8 is a hot-rodded up CD-5 with tubes. They use the same BB 1796 PCM DAC chip. I gather from your posts that if I am not really interested in picking up a general purpose DAC, it might not make much sense to go with either the CD-6 or CD-9. Is that your view?
Yes BIF. In the CD9 one is paying for a DAC (first) and CD transport (second). Nothing wrong w/ this, as many competitors are building the very same.

If you like tubes, buy a CD7 used and spend the leftover $$$$ elsewhere.
Thanks Jafant, but I already owned the CD-7 and traded up to the CD-8. IMO, the CD-8 sounds better than the CD-7, probably because the CD-8 uses the newer Burr Brown 1796 PCM DAC. The CD-6 and CD-9 use a later version of the BB DAC ... the BB 1796A PCM and use it in some type of quad mono configuration, probably to handle the DAC side of the house.

As I mentioned above, I surmise that the bottleneck is NOT my CDP; instead it's the fair to poor quality of CDs. Sad irony is that many folks are bailing on redbook CD in favor of other digital media sources for the wrong reasons.

IMO, if folks are moving in another direction because of convenience ... that's ok by me. Who am I say say no.

But .. if folks are moving on because redbook CD is obsolete and just doesn't sound that good, there I take some exception. I don't think the problem is the technology. Instead, as stated above, it's fair to poor redbook CD recordings.

I've recently picked up some "Gold" quality hi-rez CDs -- WOW!! Buckle up and prepare to be impressed.
Many Thanks! BIF.

I, too, like gold CDs and SACDs. I have never had the opportunity to demo a CD8? I would like to someday. The ARC dealer network always updates to the latest + greatest, example the CD9.

Keep me posted on which way you go.
Bifwynne - I'm just curious in what ways you found the CD8 superior to the CD7. I currently own the CD7 and have debated whether to upgrade to a CD8 (used one, of course). I have not been able to audition a CD8 but I see them for sale at prices that are starting to become tempting. The CD7 is wonderful in many ways but I have my own thoughts on how it could be improved. The rest of my electronics are all ARC.
As I said, I used to own the CD-7. Compared to the CD-8, I found the CD-7's sonic presentation to be a touch dark; almost thick. IMO, I think imaging is a bit better with the CD-8. Also, better dynamics, drum hits and so forth.

The two main differences between the 7 and 8 are power supply and DAC. The CD-7's PS was modified by removing 2 6H30s and replacing with a single 5881. Honestly, I don't know if the 5881 sounds the same as a 6550, but it is a difference.

The other difference is that the CD-8 uses a BB DAC. The CD-7 used another brand, the name of which escapes me.

Hey look .. the CD-7 is a fine player. I wouldn't lose any sleep over it.



I understand how you might consider the CD7 "a touch dark; almost thick". To my ears the CD7 has a strong midrange presence that makes instruments sound more full-bodied. I actually like it a lot on classical music. Other players give a thinner sounding presentation, which is why the CD7 might sound thick in comparison.

On the other hand, this midrange presence seems to create the impression of a slight lack of top end "air". It's only a minor fault IMO, but a player that combines the midrange qualities of the CD7 with a bit more air would be perfect. I'm wondering whether the CD8 is like that.
Your comments make sense Jake. As I said, the CD-7 is a fine player. You might be able to pick up a preowned CD-8 for not too much money with a flip of the CD-7. I happen to like the CD-8 over the CD-7. But that's my opinion.
I too moved from the CD-7 to CD-8, and my experience matches closely Bifwynne's well said observations about the differences between the two. Both are great CDPs, but that extra bit of top end air that Jakegt3 seeks is there in the CD-8.

how did the CD7 sound w/ Rock, Jazz and Pop music?
Will you be stepping up to the CD9? Or perhaps the new CD6 anytime soon? Keep me posted.
Jafant, I thought the CD-8's sonic presentation was livelier and more transparent than the CD-7 in all musical applications. As I recall, because the CD-7 was a bit bass thick, this characteristic tended to over-emphasize the low-end of rock, jazz and pop music that was already bass heavy.

You also asked "[w]ill you be stepping up to the CD9? Or perhaps the new CD6 anytime soon?"

Given some of the comments above, I am concerned that the additional cost of moving into the CD-6 or 9 may not be justified in terms of the augmented benefit. So, I guess for me the jury is still out.

But I look forward to reading comments from members who made the move. I just don't know. I think I may have reached the point of diminishing returns with my system.

By the way, I just picked up a super hi-rez redbook CD -- Tango -- from Acoustic Sounds. It sounds great!! More comments to follow. It will take a lot to convince me that redbook CD is dead.
Very interesting reading as I own an original audio research cd 7.
Bifwynne, where should I look on line to purchase super hi-rez red book cd's?
There's a couple of vendors out there. I started a thread, titled something like "Redbook CD is Not Dead." A couple of members posted some web site where hi-rez redbook CDs can be purchased. In the meantime, I've bought quite a few hi-rez redbook CDs (in various formats) from Acoustic Sounds, located in Kansas. Very reliable folks.
Refreshing this thread. Still looking for comments.
I've had the CD-7 since new. I sent it back to the factory for the power supply upgrade when that was first available.  I'm using SR Black fuses and Herbie's tube dampeners in the unit. Doesn't sound "thick" to me by any means. It just plays music. In fact, before the fuse and dampener tweaks I would have never imagined that red book CD's could sound this good. 

Thanks! for sharing- Frank.
Happy Listening!