move your speakers around....save 4k
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If you can get an AMR CD-77 for $4k, my advice is to jump on it. It's one of the best digital sources available, and it's certainly not a player with a lean tonal balance. Whether it will fix the problems you are perceiving with tonal balance, I don't know, as I don't know the character of your Cambridge CDP.
I believe the best CD Player value (used) is the EAD Ultradisk 2000. These units can be had for under a $1,000.00 and will outperform almost anything new under $4,000.00. They can also be modified by former EAD designers and can be made to compete with exotics almost at any price. This unit stock is superior to the Audio Research CD2 and the Sony 9000es which has garnered an A+ rating from Stereophile. I replaced both of these items once I had the EAD unit in place. If you love a fluid silky sound, this unit is for you!
If you haven't seen it, you'll want to read this review of your amplifier, which describes several tweaks and tube changes that reduced the leanness they found it to possess, and also improved its imaging:
Also, although I haven't heard it I suspect that the Doge 6 cdp ($1586), which has been commented on favorably by many audiophiles and is tube-based and contains an excellent dac, might add some of the richness you are looking for:
Listen to the PrimaLuna Prologue 8. I would describe it's sound as warm, with a huge soundstage.
Must have second upgrade circuit board, and it really benefits from tweaks and tube rolling. I'm using a Cardas Golden Reference PC, Hi Fi Tuning Fuse and Black Diamond Racing isolation. Read the Stereophile review from about eighteen months ago.
I fourth upgrading the speakers rather than the source although I agree that the Cambridge can be a tad bright in a lean system. I've never been a fan of the Chorus line which were just not well enough balanced for my liking - a bit too much treble energy IMHO.
If you are absolutely fixed on upgrading the source, then I think you could look for something with a different sound signature to the Cambridge. You definitely don't need to throw 4k at it - have a listen to some of the tube output players around. Musical Fidelity A5 is a very smooth listen as is the Cayin CDT-17A. For non-tube players, the Marantz line (SA11 or SA15 models) are also more lush in presentation style than the Cambridge.
The Cambridge Audio 840c CD player is very sensitive to cables. With the right cables and a matching (pre)amplifier, the 840c is not thin sounding. Meridian G 08.2 CD Player is a good upgrade if you really want to upgrade the CD player. Based on various reviews, the Focal Chorus 800 series speakers usually sound a bit thin. I would recommend the following:
(1) Upgrade interconnects and speaker cables
(2) Try tube rolling
(3) Upgrade the speakers
I have a pair of Focal speakers and I foudn them to be slightly on the leaner side of the neutral. However they are fast, articulate, dynamic, and can sound very very nice with right set of equipments.
I don't think you want to augment the sound by replacing the source. I believe the goal of the source is to get the music out of the medium as accurate as possible, without coloring any sound on its own.
Tweaks and placements will help getting balanced sound up to a point, but if you don't like the fundamental sound of the speakers you should consider getting a different pair. However there is no perfect solution. Richer sounding speakers often times are not as dynamic, or articulate, or extended.
I would rather recommend trying out different amps. Next to the speakers, the amps have the most variety in terms of technology being used and also the variety in the sound resulting from it.
Are your speakers far enough away from the front wall? There should be a minimum of at least 3 feet to improve sound-staging; however too far away and you may lose some bass reinforcement, and your system could sound lean.
Have you tried removing the Line Conditioner?
If you want to improve you're front-end than you may want an external DAC?
If your looking for a CD Player, than check out a Modwright Sony 999ES or 9100ES, or 5400ES player
I'm not sure your CD Player is the problem though, you know what happens sometimes in this hobby is that, over time the better your ears get..., then we start to no longer appreciate what used to satisfy us. If this is the case, than you may want to put that $4000 plus the resale value of your current speakers into upgrading your speakers.
Assuming that moving your speakers around doesn't solve your problem, which by the way is the first thing that you should do, then you should consider a speaker with a deeper bass response than the 45hz of your current speakers, which is actually on the lean side as mentioned above. You will also get much better sound-staging, if you go up their speaker line.
Here are some Articles on Speaker Placement:
Not denying the importance of careful speaker placement, I would suggest not to underestimate what the source can do. Try listen to a (thoroughly burned-in) Accuphase DP500 and check out soundstage depth and intrument color (others like new Esoteric SA50, Ayre CX7MP or Modwright Transporter might provide a similar ticket, would love to try those). Such a machine will most probably lift a system's musicmaking above timberline.. at least i can say it did in mine, compared to already quite or very fine units like Lavry or Benchmark DACs or AA Capitole, or Transporter.
It may not be as sexy looking as some other pieces, but I still do not think it is the CD player in of itself. When I heard it on a well matched properly set up system, it did fantastically in regards to soundstage and muscle/impact.
You might perhaps pull more detail out of a higher end player were that your problem, but that's not what I'm reading.
Sometimes it can be hard to get a good soundstage without introducing leanness, especially if speakers must be moved far away from wall to achieve the soundstage.
If you can't get the right balance between soundstage and leanless with any single speaker placement, then I would consider looking at how the CD output impedance matches to the amp input impedance and also perhaps look at a more powerful amp.
The Pathos is a fine piece but may not be able to delver enough juice to accomplish what you want.
More power and perhaps also current will enable you greater freedom in placement for soundstage without introducing leanness.
Sometimes when things are too lean, you just need to introduce more muscle!!! The power amp and how well it drives the speakers is the key to that.
The AMR CD 77 is a truly amazing machine; it also carries a $10,000 retail price tag. If you can find a used one for $4,000, grab it! AMR is now shipping a scaled down CDP dubbed the CD 777. This unit will give about 80% of the performance of the 77, and will list (in the U.S. market) in the neighborhood of $4,000 - $4,500. Stay tuned!
You know I was thinking.., regardless of what you decide to do with your system, or speakers or whatever, you should give strong consideration, into not spending $4000 on a CD Player only.
First let me say that I absolutely put tremendous value on the importance of a top-notch front-end. I also think that we're all in agreement here that your Cambridge Azur 840C is no slouch. Now, I must admit, that I have not actually listened to it, but I have read the reviews and I have heard the buzz about it, and most people on this thread seem to feel that it's pretty good.
In my opinion CD Transports have not advanced that much in the past 5 years, unless you need a Transport that plays SACD, or some other new High Resolution Formats.
I don't know how tech-savvy you are with the computer, but the future of digital is a High Resolution Music Server Set-Up. So, here is what I was thinking..., regardless of what you decide to do with your speakers. I think you should keep your Cambridge CD Player, use it as a Cd transport, and consider buying an external DAC that can handle 24Bit/96kHz or a, Logitech Transporter that plays High Resolution 24Bit/96kHz Music Files from your computer, if you were unhappy with the internal DAC of the Transporter, then an additional future upgrade can always be an external DAC that plays High Resolution Music Files.
As a matter of fact, you could always buy the High Resolution DAC "first" and use your Cambridge as the transport now, and then later, purchase a Music Streamer. If you do buy an external DAC, then please make sure that it could natively handle 24Bit/96kHz files.
See, if you think about what I'm saying, I'm actually trying to lead you down the High Resoluion Music Server upgrade path now, instead of you investing $4000 now into a better, but somewhat lateral technology move CD Player.
As a matter of fact, anyone reading this who is considering putting a lot of money into a new expensive CD Player, should also consider this path.
Rich's suggestions are well worth considering. At least, I wish I'd thought more about along those lines last summer, when looking for a CDP at Erasto's pricepoint. I ended up with a redbook only CDP, and now have no uncomplicated path to a PC based front end, which I've decided might better suit my listening habits. At this point in technology, it seems a good idea to consider more flexibility. A modded Transporter would come in under 4k, I think, as would the new PS Audio DAC, which I'm personally keen to learn more about. John
Get a Raysonic CD-128........I have had them all from Cary to Meridian to Esoteric and everything in between.
All are great players. The Raysonic is a gem. Just does everything right.
I was never much of a "burn in" guy. Yes they all sounded better after time, but kept a trademark sound.
It took the Raysonic 100 hours to get into its own.
I haven't even thought about getting a cd player
since this purchase. My CLOSE second favorite is the G 08.
Good PRAT and dynamics.
It had the best of the tube sound with solid state.
It did not sound "tubey".
Alot of people have the Raysonic. You do not see alot used.
They are a keeper. Depends also the quality of gear downstream. The Raysonic sounds good with SS gear.
I do not think I would run it with more tubes.
The Raysonic is a tough sale in the show room if not broken in.
You have to run it for 100 hours before you make a judgement. I judge this on USING alot of the big name cd players.
If you are going to spend up to US 4k for a cd-player, make sure to audition the "baby" AMR CD-777. I admit not having heard it myself yet (still eagerly looking for an opportunity), but if it has the genes of CD-77 you must not worry over either soundstage or leanness anymore. With the advent of the CD 77.1 you may also want to keep your eyes open for a used CD-77 (although since the CD-77 is actually upgradeable, chances are probably fairly remote ..., good luck anyway!)