Audio Research Ref: CD8

I understand from speaking to Audio Research there is a CD8 now. CD8 has an upgraded power supply and DAC from the CD7. I have my CD7 at ARC for the power supply upgrade now.

Does anyone know more about the CD8?
ARC should know...right? They do f--k around alot with revisions.
Dave b, why are you so hostile? It has been 4 years since the introduction of the CD7. Surely it is time for ARC to make improvements to their reference line.
Actually a point of clarification. The CD8 has a new power supply. Which the CD7 can be retro-fitted to real close. ARC tells me it's a rather large sonic improvement.
But the DAC in the CD8 is totally new. The CD7 can not be retrofitted with the new DAC.
I'll report here once I get my CD7 upgrade back from ARC, next week.
Does this mean the CD7 is being discontinued? The CD7 has a "Reference" designation so it doesn't seem the CD7 and CD8 can coexist. What is the price
of the CD8?
I guess four years ago ARC hadn't figured out that a larger power supply would make a "rather large sonic improvement".
(insert Sam Kinneson scream here)
Dweller nailed it. I've owned alot of ARC gear, including the latest reference stuff...I'm not hostile, just having flashbacks from all of the MK's I went through in the 90's:)
Probably feel the need to match up with WPs numberings 7-8-? to stay in the game.. =)
How much does the power supply upgrade cost? Also, did ARC say if the majority of the improvement of the CD8 will be due to the power supply or DAC?
Seems like MK. is short for marketing.

It's no news flash that a larger, well executed power supply (followed by a good circuit topology) will merit better sound.
Lula, I have heard that the price will be in the $10,000 range and that the CD7 will be discontinued. If the sonic improvement is really that large it will be interesting to see how it stacks up against some of the much higher priced competition. The CD7 was already close to the top regardless of price.

Wsill, what did the power supply upgrade cost?
I spoke to Leonard at ARC; the new CD8 will be shipping next month and will be
$10K. The power supply upgrade for the CD7 is free of charge for original
owners, aside from the usual shipping both ways. However, the PS upgrade
which includes a change from the 2 6H30 tubes to 5881s is more of a stabilized
regulation than sonic improvement. Probably some improved dynamics. The
CD8 will have the new PS and a new DAC, but keep the same transport.
"The CD 7 was already close to the top regardless of price." What other top flight players have you found the CD7 comparable to or better than ?
Hi Fjn04,

I have the ARC CD7 and also the Wadia 581SE. I also owned the top Krell CD players, Marantz, Accuphase and heard the AMR CD7 next to the ARC CD7.

To my opinion the ARC is the best of all. So I guess the CD8 will be better again. But like always it will not be a world of difference.

My CD7 was to ship Wednesday (yesterday) back to me with the power supply mod.
I will let everyone know what I hear different; next week.
Wsill, what was the total cost for the upgrade then? Did you just have to pay for the shipping both ways? I am confused on the cost yet. Will it be a total CD 8 in a CD 7 body? How long did it take.I will certainly want to do the same as you did. I just got my CD 7 this last September. Thanks.

As explained to me by Leonard(ARC customer service), the CD7
receives only the PS supply upgrade, not the new DAC. I have
a CD7 and feel that it has the best midrange of any digital
piece I've heard. I preferred it to the Krell 505, AMR,
Marantz 7SA1, CD12, and others. My old Krell 20i is still an
option, and on the same level as the CD7. In most cases, the
sound is just "different" and the choice is based upon your
preferences and synergy with your equipment. I recently tried
a terrific new player from Playback Designs and found it
basically the equal of the CD7 and 20i...again, different
although very similar to the 20i. Of course, anyone interested in SACD might make different choices.
Hi Lula,
not sure you can be serious about top CD players and be discussing ancient players like the 20i and CD12 and comparing them to new players.

The CD7 has large but vague imaging with slightly constricted flow of dynamics, although like most good ARC gear very musical and special sounding. The ARC gear needs to be tweaked quite a lot to get it to give you better layering and a more solid and clear or vivid soundstage. Clean contacts, valve pins and bases, nice fuses, cabling and so on.

In the case of the tired 20i, this old krell battle ship has much less resolution and quite a lot of grain when compared to the latest players. You cant discuss these players and compare them to the latest offerings.

You should try some better players say the latest EMM lab or DCS. These kind of players will give you low noise floors with extreme resolution and pinpoint imaging, leading edge information and free natural dynamics and a complete lack of grain.

I have been told the playback Design is good but I have not heard it. Try the Bel canto player out too, its pretty cheap and sounds very good. I am sure the CD8 will be good. It is unlikely to be worse than the CD7.
Hi Chadeffect, not sure if you can be serious about the cd 7's "imaging". In my experience 90% of "imaging" results from room interactions and setup. 90% of the remaining 10% comes from the speakers. I think you might legitimately claim that the cd 7's dac setup (no upsampling) and tube output stage lacks ultimate detail/clarity. This may or may not be a good thing depending on ones system or listening preferences. Tubes for example tend to limit sibilance ( a microphone artifact)and this is a good thing. Even APL's wo2 after gaining detail with a zillion dac's uses a tube output stage. My guess is that all the detail in the world just didn't sound quite right without it. Upsampling or over sampling can be a good thing if done well. Generalizations about cd players doesn't make much sense to me. IMHO differences are actually pretty small ( compared to speakers, preamps, and rooms/setups)and come down mostly to the output stages. No offense intended. Just my own biased opinion - Jim
Hi Chadeffect,
The Krell 20i needs the "right" cables. When I first purchased the 20i, new,
many years ago (I've since picked up another one, used) it had some grain, no
doubt about it...but, it had tremendous bottom end and body; no other digital
approached that effect. Adding a Cardas Golden Cross interconnect tamed the
slight forwardness. Adding a Shunyata King Cobra V1(not a V2) some years ago
eliminated the grain, added spaciousness and gave the player even greater
dynamics. If you're lookling for ultimate detail at a cost of full-bodied impact,
then you look elsewhere. By the way, the Playback Design player surely beats
the EMMM player (don't know about the latest separates). So-called "ancient"
digital can still compete with today's best when adding the "right" power
cord. Power cord options didn't exist back in the 90s.
Hi Aldavis,

No offense taken. I understand your point. In my experience once all those things are dealt with and the rest of the system is fine tuned and working at its best, all you have left is the source. Rubbish in rubbish out.

What I mean by imaging is the ability for the player to resolve the information on the disk that make it possible for the rest of the system to carry it into your room. This is very sensitive information and is easily lost or disturbed. Spacial coherence layering, timing, depth, width etc. Once exposed it is impossible to go back, especially on "real" recordings as opposed to processed ones. The lack of artifacts produced by the player itself enables what was once hidden to be clearly heard if the rest of the gear is up to it.

Hi Lula,
I remember the krell quite well. Around that time I had the ML 31.5/30.6 reference player. There is something about that generation of chips and clocks and components. There is a burliness to the sound. Grain, fat bass, slight haze and vague imaging by comparison to what is available now at that level. The disk is not presented as a whole. You know what I mean? Like there is a spot light on a particular area.

Even though the tweaks you speak of will help, it can never replace the already lost information. It is like shutting the gate after the horse has bolted. I am not saying those older players cant sound good for some types of music, its just more about refinement (and what you are used to). I could never go back to my old ML now as good as it was. I did have some fantastic listening sessions with it at the time!

Dont be fooled by all that audiophile BS that was around in the 80s and 90s. That technology is not getting worse its implementation is only better and cheaper on the whole. Digital has come of age recently IMHO.
Chad, O.K. I think you and I use 'imaging' differently. I refer to the ability to properly and solidly place an sound in space. What you call imaging I call resolution or detail. This ability does vary somewhat from player to player. I have been "exposed" to it and I think I just value it less than some people do. It is important but even with cost no object players ( nwo2) with tons of it "it" still needs a good output stage to create an enjoyable listening experience. I'm glad you point out the need to judge based on better recordings. As a 50's - 60's jazz nut it rare for me to warm up to modern protools , overly compressed recordings. It's now a contest to make the hottest ( loudest) recordings which to me all sound like sh#t. To me there is no way to judge anything based on them. Enjoy - Jim
Hi Jim,

I know what you mean regarding the use of the word "imaging" usually. I used it in this case to describe where I feel the steps forward have been taken with these CD players. Audio research are good company and it is very unlikely the CD8 is bad.

Protools does get a bad name in the audiophile world. Protools is only a computer hardisk recording system. It does what it is told. Protools on its own is not bad and is used in many great recording studios. It has fine clocking capabilities and can, with the latest hardware, record at very high sample rates.

The people using it are the ones to blame if a recording sounds bad.

Using dynamics processing to create a loud master is a problem and is mainly about radio play and how it sounds on the radio next to other recordings. If used well it can sound great and better than much of the old gear with all the old patch leads and patch bays adding all that noise and distortion. The ability to process in the digital domain is utterly silent, free from noise and precise, allowing any shaping of sound possible. It is possible to do well.

Remember some of those great remasters of classics are all done in similar systems and can sound great. Miles Davis and so on.
I think the CD-7 has silly looks: it has in fact the same appearance as the preamp (even with those handles!) but with a CD compartment + sliding door on top of it. Sorry for these offending remarks.

Chad, I appreciate your response. Yes protools is not the enemy per se. My wife at one point was studying studio production and we have several friends who do it for a living. All of them have protools and some of them still have the old analog stuff and while I can't explain why it sounds better to my ears it does. Even if originally recorded via analog and then transferred to cd. Bill Evans/Tony Bennett is a good example. Of course it may have to do with the much greater care that engineers used to take. It might be all in my head. I don't know. Analytically you should be dead on correct about all the old patch bays etc. However, and this maybe where you and I "hear" differently, I love all the nooks and crannies of imperfection. Higher sample rates and by extension upsampling SHOULD improve sound. But does it ? What are you 'filling' in with ? Semi-relatedly vocal pitch correction absolutely kills me. Averaging to where a note 'should' be robs the singer of their uniqueness. WRT dynamic range compression of course it IS necessary for cd recording and can be used to improve sound by sustaining notes etc. Most people, however, now record for playback hardware which doesn't have the capability of 'dynamic range expansion' and/or software which uses lossy compression so it's always hot hot hot. Oh well, I've finished rambling - Jim
Jim I enjoyed the rambling.

I dont want to rob this thread too much more, but there are some things that I think cause some people to prefer the idea of analogue.

1 its what many have grown up with and are used to.

2 Analogue equipment has on the whole a sympathetic way of coloring music. Digital has not.

Put both well sorted out studio systems against each other and you will find a mixture of digital and analogue will be best.

Try bouncing tracks in the analogue domain. Its a joke, and very lossy. In the bad old days you would then have to re EQ to bring the life back into the bounce bringing even more noise and signal path. Bouncing digitally you wont be able to tell the difference.

Digital can be lifeless and crunchy. It can also be utterly breathtaking.

Regarding the recording techniques like using auto tune and so on. Again this is a tool which speeds up the recording process and can be used well or just turned off!

Years ago producers spent weeks on vocals dropping in words and so on to fine tune a take. There is no money in the music industry anymore. Not like it was, so the process of making the product has changed. I can promise you, no one in it would go back though, apart from for the budgets.

In the beginning we were sold that digital was perfect when it was not. Now it is different, although people are still judging it by talking about out of date equipment and software. I hear lots of people trashing digital and then when you ask what they are using, its some rubbish 10 years old or even older.

Regarding the upsampling or non upsampling debate, I think it is all about implementation. You just have to find the right player (maybe the ARC CD8... See what i did there?!). DACs are much better now and the understanding of what the problems and solutions are is clearer.

My hifi source uses DSD, and upsamples red book CDs to DSD. It is astonishing. Whatever you listen for.

Now I must apologize for my rambling. Happy listening.

This is turning out to be quite a lively and interesting discussion/debate.

My CD7 shipped from ARC last Wednesday, so hopefully I see it mid-end of this week.
I will report on the sonic differences when the unit returns.

The cost of the upgrade/modification was $100. I can't comment nor be quoted to ARC as "the cost", but that was the charge to me.
The mod involves replacing the 2 of the 3 6H30 tubes in the power supply (the ones side by side providing regulation) with a 5881. (5881 is a more "industrial" 6L6).
The 3rd 6H30 in the power supply section remains.

ARC also brought everything in the unit up to spec. ie. My unit turned on by itself when plugged in. (not suppose to do that). They also performed a full lab, and listening test.

I think it was a very good unit before this upgrade/mod. I suspect it will sound better when it returns.

I have had or listened to Krell 505, krell Ref64 with MD10, Rega. The CD7 with regard to high frequency transparency, lack of edge, and midrange detail bettered all of the above.
The Ref64 with MD10, is still in my opinion an incredible combination, wish I did not sell.
But I still think overall for musical enjoyment the CD7 is quite a bit better.
Will the CD8 have any digital inputs, such as USB? Would be a real shame if it didn't.
Wsill, my CD7 also turns on when plugged in....never thought too much about it
since I rarely unplug it. Very curious to read your comments on the update. As
I previously indicated, Leonard at ARC told me the upgrade was more for
stabilizing the regulation than actual sonics. I certainly plan on comparing the
CD7 with the new 8 when it arrives-and breaks in-at my dealer. The Krell Ref10
and MD10, I would also suspect, is still very competitive today, even though the
20i supposedly surpassed it....Ken Kessler felt that was the case when he re-
viewed the latter.
Chadeffect, your fond memories of the Levinson top-of-the-line combo indicates to me that you might be surprised at hearing them today and finding
them to be different from the CD7, but still very competitive. When a component is truly musical and enjoyable, it remains so, even when something else comes along and "betters'' it in some areas. Sometimes in our
pursuit of better, we make lateral moves and wind up going circular and discover a previously discarded piece remains on the same performance level
but just has a different set of pluses and minuses.
When I spoke to Leonard, he did say that this mod was a sonic improvement. I will also be interested to in hearing how so. I suspect the CD7 with the 5881 will run hotter. Though, actually I wish ARC went with a 6550 for regulation. The CD8, and newer Ref3's use a 6550 for regulation. I think I have to wait a few more days for delivery.
It seems ARC is replacing the bypass element of the regulator (2x6h30) with a 5881. Considering they have to fit an adaptor board, the 6550 would not fit as it is a high tube - the 6881 is much shorter.
Hi Lula
I do know what you mean regarding lateral moves when buying new and hopefully "improved" equipment.

I have a pretty well trained ear and unfortunately find myself long enough in the tooth these days to know what I am after.

Good as the ML was, its a sound that I have left behind. Since it is was a lot of money to have invested in a door stop I sold it, but not before making sure I was happy with what replaced it.

I find those older players sound fuzzy and unrefined by comparison now. I miss nothing in its sound now although I loved its build and simple remote control and fast access to the disk.

I can assure you if you put the ML next to my DCS you would be shocked at how wide the divide is. The focus in the DCS sound, the utter lack of background noise, the amazing speed and dynamics are just for starters. Let alone the fact I could sell my preamp and all those extra cables...
I received my CD7 back from Audio Research yesterday. I listened to it last night, and then again this afternoon. Total "break in time" about 5 hours.
The difference from before the mod till now is:
Air. The sound stage and music are riding on air. On top of this when an instrument is highlighted in a band (snare drum, trumpet), or vocal piece (soloist) its like the performer steps up. I have not heard that quality before.
Also the level of micro detail is increased by quite a margin. In particular in the midband, and high frequencies.
I now truly believe Leonard was accurate with his statement that the sonic level improvement was large. Though I must say, overall it sounds like the midrange is boosted up slightly. Before I thought maybe the bass was too much.
My associated equipment is Ref2, D400 Mk2, Wilson watt/puppy 7.
The new tube; 5881 tube is installed horizontally, slightly forward, and to the right cabinet edge of the old 2 power regulation tubes. The older power regulation tube holders are "capped off".
Audio Research also ensured my unit was fully up to spec (turn on mod), greased, lubed the transport.
Again another very satisfying experience from Audio Research.
I am not a dealer, not in the audio business, nor associated with Audio Research in any way.
Wsill, how long did it take to get the mod done? From the time you shipped to the time you received? I am trying to figure out if it could be done in time for Christmas yet.
Tlg. Audio Research turned my unit around in 3 weeks. Door to door.
Wsill, you say it is a sonic improvement but also midrange is boosted up. Do you mean the new machine is more aggressive and forward sounding when compared to before mod? I am trying to figure out whether the new version has a different sound presentation significantly different from the original one. Then it will also be a choice of taste etc.
No, what I am saying is. My CD7 was somewhat lifeless even though I had the replaced tubes. Now my CD7 with the power supply mod is:
The sound stage and music are riding on air. On top of this when an instrument is highlighted in a band (snare drum, trumpet), or vocal piece (soloist) its like the performer steps up.
I do not believe the overall tonality has changed. The midrange is now alive with more detail (not harsh, not aggressive). It just somehow sounds flatter.
For me the improvement is quite remarkable.
I realize it's hard making decisions like this to mod a component, I took the gamble based on Leonards advice, and the sound that my CD7 had. I am estatic over the improvement. I do not know if ARC would characterize the change I hear as what they would expect.
Thank you Wsill.
Any other impressions: CD7 5881 Tube upgrade ?
Of the others folks who have had their CD7 upgraded/modified. What are your impressions?
I agree with Chadeffect. The dCS gear that upsamples to DSD is really that good.
This weekend I am hoping to listen a reasonably burned CD8 vs CD7 in my system. I will post the results.
My X-mas tree is already in the bag. Please let us know your findings. I would think unless the CD8 is clearly superior, that the CD7 would now be great value for some.
It is on sell here on AudioGon already two modified CD7. I wonder what can be the rationality behind it. Any ideas
Probably people who are upgrading to the CD8.
Anyone else besides me have input on the CD7 power supply modification ?
I also think Dweller are right. It seems that ARC have a development strategy with module solutions. My guess is that we soon can see a Ref PH8 (PH7 with the "new" power supply and?) CD5's DAC is technical better but many still prefer CD7. My guess is that CD8 is the best of both.
Next major upgrade of Ref3 show the future. ARC's strategy is little tireing. DCS for example have another customer care philosophy with free software upgrades for longer lifecycles.
As I typed before, I had a chance to get a CD8 and CD7 for the weekend to home and experienced these two with my audio setup. My system basically is ARC gear, Ref-3 and Ref-610T monos. A couple of weeks ago I tested Ref-7 and found it has a better synergy than my Audio Aero Prestige. Now it was a better and more exiting test, comparing the successor of Ref-7 and Ref-7.

CD8 had approx 150 hours of burning while Ref-7 had 500+ hours. One can argue that CD8 needs much more hours to perform its optimum.

I also invited some audiophile friends to compare these two players.

I did not reveal which player was playing to the listeners until the end. So it was player A vs player B.

The conclusion was very straightforward. I guess it is a fair to say CD8 is a better player with a margin so that there is no doubt. I was expecting it to improve the virtues of Ref-7 to some margin but we found CD8 as a remarkably different sounding player than CD7. CD8 is fast, I mean really fast compared to Ref-7. Ref-7 seems like having a larger soundstage with larger instruments but in terms of accuracy and pinpoint imaging CD8 did everything right. CD8 has a darker background, better resolution in resolving instruments and inner details. Highs are better defined. It has a better authority and control over any frequency band. CD7 plays more forward compared to CD8. CD8 has a sounstage deeper and more behind the speakers. It is more effortless.

At the end of the listening test we also compared CD8 with my analog setup (Acoustic Solid Royal tt, Graham Phantom tonearm, Transfiguration Orpheus cartridge, ARC PH-7) to see really how close it gets to analog which is my current reference source in my setup. I might say CD8 is one more step closer to analog presentation than CD7. There is still a gap between my analog and my digital sources but it is narrower. So to me, CD8 is that good.

CD8 is my new digital source.
From my expirience, CD-7 requires about 400h of break in time. The difference is not subtle.

Since CD-8 shares basic architecture with CD-7, my guess is that it will also furhter improve. Pls keep us posted.

I just sold my CD-7 and should have CD-8 at the end of January.
I actually just purchased one of the last CD7's available for sale from Audio Research.

I went for the CD7 instead of the CD8 because I got a great deal on the CD7 with a trade in against my CD3 MkII and was also told by my dealer that the machine I was getting was a hybrid unit incorporating many of the design changes implemented for the CD8 with the exception of the new DAC; essentially a CD8 without the DAC upgrade. I guess it makes sense that as the factory ran out of parts for the old unit they would incorporate whatever parts could be directly substituted from the new unit in the last production run. While I have no way to verify this, the new unit delivered to me came with the new power supply already installed instead of an upgraded older power supply so I have to assume that what I was told was at least partly correct. (I also received the CD7 manual which referenced the CD7 tube complement instead of what was provided with my unit).

I have not had a chance to directly compare my unit to a CD-7 and have only run it for about 60 hours so far, but from memory of using a borrowed CD7 in my system I can already support the comments made regarding the performance of the upgraded CD7 and CD8. Notwithstanding the deficiencies of aural memory, there is definitely a more detailed, livelier sound with better soundstaging along with the impression of a slightly more extended, tighter bass. In fact the improvements are so much so that I was compelled to tweak the position of my speakers away from the back wall and further apart, something I did not feel inclined to do with the borrowed CD7. Performance should dramatically improve with break-in so I assume I am hearing only the tip of the iceberg.

It is not clear how much of a difference the DAC makes but assume that the CD8 will be even better than my unit. If someone ever has an opportunity to compare an upgraded CD7 to a CD8 I would be interested in the results. For now and into the foreseeable future I am in music lover heaven!
I was wondering if anyone knows if the modified CD 7 with the new power supply requires any "burn in time" or is it "good to go out of the box" once returned back from ARC?
The only "part" added is the 5881 tube, which replaces the 2 power supply regulator tubes.
Mine seem to sound great once it was returned from ARC.
Number95, when you compared CD7 to CD8 in your system, did you notice that CD8 is better in midbass power, weight and body than CD7? I own CD7 and sometimes I feel this is the only (relatively) weak point in CD7. I think that this little lack of midbass weight is sometimes caused by excessive warmth in midbass region. thanks.