Head To Head: Creek/Arcam/Cary/Roksan... LONG
This is a rather long post. I have had 7 Difference CD Players in my house within the Last week and have been posting my impressions / comparisons - the Contestants are.
Roksan Kandy mkiii
Rega Planet 2000
Cambridge Audio Azur 640c
and my lowly Toshiba SD-430V (Which loses btw)
I have had seperate posts previously and amalgamating them all together. Original thread may be found here. http://www.audioasylum.com/audio/digital/messages/85793.html
There is not a lot of posted information on some of these players and certainly no comparisons like this out there so that is what I'm trying to facilitate. I haven't yet decided on a final player - that will be updated sometime later this week. Enjoy the read!
Quad 21L Speakers
NearSota Interconnect & Speakerwire
- (same interconnect used for both CD Players)
NAD C350 Integrated
FT Audio LW1S2 Passive Pre-amp (Bypassing the NAD's Internal Preamp)
Kimber Silver Streak (with twice as much wiring as normal) between the LW1S2 and the NAD C350)
Skylan SMP3300 Equipment Rack
Components In Testing / Comparison
- Creek CD 50 MkI
- Cambridge Audio Azur 640C
- Rega Planet 2000
- Roksan Kandy MkIII
- Toshiba SD430V. *My Current Player*
All these players, with the exception of the Cambridge, were burned in as they were dealer demos, prior to my experiences with them. The Cambridge probably could have used some additional burn in time.
- Jazz at the Pawnshop
- Linkin Park: Hybrid Theory / Meteora
- Kebb Mo (Dealer Provided Title Unknown)
- Norah Jones: Feels like Home
- Propellerheads: Decksandrumsandrockandroll
- David Bowie: Space Oddity
- Live: Throwing Copper
- and many many many more.
A note regarding the recordings. I wanted to use some reference quality recordings but I also felt it very important to make a comparison based upon the many different kinds of music that I listen to on a regular basis. As you will see as you walk through this LONG post with me :) - I have narrowed it down to two players and will provide an update on that comparison either later today or tomorrow. As I will have more time to compare even more music.
On Saturday one of my local dealers brought over the Creek CD50 mkI the LW1S2 and The Silver Streak/another run of NearSota so we could do a fair comparison.
First we compared the Creek and the Toshiba SD430V straight into the NAD C350 - without using the passive pre-amp. The difference was there but was not significant. The Dealer and I had been debating for a long time whether it was my DVD player or my pre-amp section that was the weakest part of my setup. So the next thing we did was place the LW1S2 into the system.
Now the LW1S2 needs a lot of break in time on each individual input (200 hours recommended) as only 1 input had been burned in we put the Toshiba on the burned in input and the Creek on the non-burned in input. We felt this would give the Toshiba a slight edge as we felt, that the Creek probably would be better, and it should be for the price difference. Now - wow - you could definitely hear a difference. It was a remarkable change from using the integrated's built in pre-amp. Immediate differences: Creek had a much wider soundstage, the singers actually had height now, the depth of the presentation had been improved remarkable. On saturday the Creek was running on a raw input, not burned in, and at that point the Toshiba 'may' have had similar to slightly better rhythm depending upon who in the room you asked at the time - and it certainly had better bass. After a few days of burn in the Creek is now significantly superior in all of these areas so it was definitely the input that was holding it back.
A&Bing the Creek and the Toshiba and the Creek was immediately idenifiably suprerior to our ears. We played some rather nice Piano recordings as well and my friend brought his girlfriend over, who is a Pianist, to lend an ear - she didn't expect to be ableto hear a difference but as well remarked on the Timbre of the Piano being more accurate on the Creek than the Toshiba and that the timing seemed accurate. As well she had some previous experience in Jazz bands and the like and was very impressed with the Creek for she could place the entire drum kit on the stage and each instrument - a feat she could not repeat with the Toshiba. For the first time, my speakers disappeared with the Creek & LW1S2 in the system - and it was a magical experience.
Advantage Creek CD50 mkI
Monday night another dealer came by - admittidly the Creek had been on all day and the other players were just warm but it was still possible to make a comparison. All of the players we compared against the Creek were placed on the input with more burn in time, and all following tests were conducted with the LW1S2 in the system.
I would characterize the Creek's presentation as forward, but that is something I enjoy and that definitely put the Rega Planet 2000 at an immediate disadvantage. The build quality of the Planet 2k is superb and it is very asthetically pleasing as well. The rhythm and soundstage were very comparable to the Creek, I felt the height presented was similar as well. However, something was missing - namely - emotion. Listening to vocals it simply seemed that the Creek brought the singers right into the room - the speakers disappeared you could hear the emotion and tension in the voice of the singers. This seemed to be glossed over with the Rega - everything took on a very enjoyable and very listenable but too laid back to relaxed too smooth - almost surreal. I've been told Rega has a house sound, and I'm sure it is to some people's taste - not to mine though. Especially with things like Linkin Park and Evanescence where it didn't really seem able to keep up and its not so much that the player was confused with more complex passages as that it blended the different instruments together to the point where it was more difficult to place and enjoy them - than with the Creek.
These 2 CD Players simply have radically different personal characters, but I very much enjoyed listening to the Rega - but for my system and the type of music I listen too - the Creek was superior. However, I would recommend the Rega Planet 2000 to anyone looking to tame an aggressive system or looking for a laid back player. I think that someone looking for that would find the Rega Planet 2000 perfect.
The Cambridge Audio Azur 640C. First the build quality was much better than I expected, a good quality remote fairly well laid out which had a substantial feel and the player felt quite well built as well. I also felt the display on the 640C was easily readable and quite well implemented. The Azur shared the forward presentation of the Creek and we were quite impressed with it - especially for less than half the price of the Creek. The Soundstage was not nearly as wide as the Creek and the depth of the recording, Jazz @ the Pawnshop, seemed to be removed. It was much more difficult to pick out the ambient details of the recordings on the Cambridge but it was still quite an ejoyable listen. The Creek had better rhythm and This player received the least playtime of all the players in this head-to-head comparison. It was very good but clearly not in the same league as the Creek - nor should it have been for the price difference between the two. However, I would consider it a very good piece and probably could have lived with it - a must audition in its price range.
Roksan Kandy mkIII
After determining that the Cambridge wasn't quite right - and the Rega wasn't my style of player - the dealer went and grabbed a Roksan Kandy mkIII for comparison to the Creek. The presentation of these two players is very similar - forward and I enjoy that. These two are very very close in many respects. Initially the soundstage was much much shallower and less wide than the Creek's however as the player warmed up this improved and the differences became more subtle than dramatic. The Roksan still throws a little less wide soundstage than the Creek and the height does appear to possibly be a little lower than the Creek's. The impact and dynamics of the Roksan was less than that of the Creek. We added a Gutwire Basic Clef to the Roksan and it was much improved - almost on par with the Creek (with a standard power cord) at that point.
I have the Roksan Kandy mkIII till Friday and the Creek till the 24th of May (or so). I'm going to spend some more time and will post a followup within the next few days to this post regarding the comparison between the two - I will also expand my music selection on the both of them and see how the Gutwire affects the Creek and so on.
If anyone has any questions while I have these units in my home please let me know.
So far... advantage Creek - but the Roksan Kandy mkIII is cheaper - and very close. Time will tell, update coming within the next 48 hours :)
As promised the conclusion of the Creek vs Roksan.
The Roksan is a rather nice player the build quality is very good, as in built like a tank. All the previous statements regarding which input was used and burn in time etc is still true. I burned in the Roksan an additional day before doing critical listening and have burned it in more since. However, it WAS/IS a dealer demo and could already be considered burned in.
Music Selection: all of the previous and
Amon Tobin: Permutation
Holst's The Planet's
David Bowie Space Oddity
Kill Bill Volume 1 Soundtrack, and again - many others.
With Jazz at the Pawnshop it was clear that the Roksan's soundstage was inferior to the Creek. It was shallower, less wide, and the placement of instruments was less clear than with the Creek. The rhythm and detail retrieved between the two players was similar, although my girlfriend and I felt the Creek managed to pull a bit more detail out of the recordings.
Shifting to Holst's The Planet's - we focused upon Jupiter. A personal favorite of mine. One of my friend's who is much more familiar with live symphony performances than I am. On the Creek we were able to clearly hear the varying heights and placements of the instruments across the full width of the soundstage. The detail was surperb. On the Roksan the soundstage collapsed. Height disappeared, my friend described the soundstage as being stretched away from the middle, in fact the middle of the soundstage disappeared. This was not a good change. What soundstage the Roksan had left- resulted in instruments being placed incorrectly. My friend commented that the Creek had the Trombones placed correctly on the right hand side (as the audience faces the stage) the Roksan pushed them to the left, which is surprising considering how it presented the recording with no middle, I don't know but its very odd. It also seemed confused, and muddled with more complex orchestral passages, and other complex music, while the Creek did not.
The Roksan never involved me in the music to the degree the Creek does. The Roksan has good rhythm and PRAT sounds good as well - but it lacks something - clarity definition refinement are words that I cannot use to describe the Roksan but can use to describe the Creek.
We attempted to use an aftermarket powercord (Gutwire Basic) in the Roksan, which then brough the Roksan into the Creek's pricepoint. And while the dynamics of the player certainly improved it still was not in the Creek's league. Trying the GutWire in the Creek improved it further in terms of vocal presence, it was even easier to identify instrument / vocalist placement, vocals became more natural as well, a pleasant improvement, but not a radical improvement. If i had to assign a precentage it would be 5-10% improvement for the Creek with the Powercord.
The other recordings experienced similar problems and ultimately, despite the price difference between the two - I feel that the Roksan would be to great a compromise from the Creek's performance for me to justify its purchase. It seemed to me that the Roksan always placed a curtain infront of the performers, and the Creek lifted it to let me enjoy the wonderful natural performance in my living room.
I'm sure that the Roksan may be experiencing a synergy problem in my system, and I have no doubt that it will sound good in other people's systems, so as with all of my posts / feedback this is how it sounds to my ears, and the ears of my closest friends, and my dealers, and everyone else I could drag in to listen.
So, thus far it is the Creek CD50mkI in first place and I will be getting access to an Arcam 73t in the near future, and hopefully a Rotel 1072 as well.
Next update - Saturday / Sunday with Arcam, and hopefully, Rotel info.
First, I've had the Cary 308 in the system since Friday and have it till Wednesday - I will post more but it is very different than the Creek and very similar to the Arcam (although better than the Arcam) so that will be the next update and after that I will be deciding which player to go with. The local Rotel dealer... did NOT KNOW what the Rotel 1072 CD Player was - and did not stock it. So unfortunately I won't be able to audition this player.
Again same process and setup and equipment as before.
Mike Oldfield: Guitars and Various Tubular Bells Versions
Holst's the Planets - "Jupiter"
Jazz at the Pawnshop
Officium: Jan Garbarek & The Hilliard Ensemble (Really neat recording - 13th/14th century music accompanied by a Tenor / Soprano sax sounds wierd is breath taking and glorious)
Farvo Part: Fratres: Fratres for Eight Cellos
Penderecki: De Natura Sonoris No.1
Amon Tobin: Permutation
Kill Bill Volume 1 Soundtrack
Josh Groban (When you say you love me)
and many many more....
The Arcam 73T vs the Creek CD50mki
These two players have very different presentations, and it was very difficult judging between the two. The Creek won every comparison where the song had a focus upon higher frequency's & midrange - the Arcam won most every comparison where the song had a focus on lower frequency & midrange. It really is as simple as that. However, while the Creek doesn't have the bass output of the Arcam it doesn't really 'do any wrong' in the low end - the punch simply is not there. The Arcam however can royally botch some songs that focus more on upper levels.
Tortoise is electronica, genre distinctions aside, and a few of the songs have very interesting plays in upper level dynamics where you can hear the resonance of the glass / chimes (whatever they are using). This showed up wonderfully on the Creek and the decay / lingering of the instrument was very realistic and openly spaced - whereas the Arcam really shortened the decay time and boxed in the sound. As well there is, kind of a cyclic high end harmonic sounds like someone is playing a kind of cyclical pattern on some chimes or something - hard to describe, and they came through wonderfully and the pattern was obvious on the Creek. The pattern disappeared on the Arcam you couldn't really get a sense of how the instruments were being interacted with on the Arcam - as well a few Tones that go slowly back and forth between the speakers almost vanished on the Arcam but were brought perfectly forward by the Creek.
On something like Mike Oldfield's Guitars (Track 2 was the reference track) the strength of the mids and lows on the Arcam really brought out the track and it seeemed to have more energy than the Creek did. The Creek & Arcam had similar levels of detail on this track and it was possible to determine when Mike was sliding his hands up and down on the strings and other little nuances on both of them. The guitar was more RAW on the Creek and edgy - and somewhat smoothed over on the Arcam. That is in fact how i would describe the Arcam's high end - smoothed over almost... dull in comparison to the Creek which will render a bright recording, well, painfully sharp in some cases - Such as The Lonely Shepard (Zamfir) off the Kill Bill 1 Soundtrack.
The PRAT of the Arcam felt worse than that of the Creek - but the bass, for my speakers were are generally bass shy, was a nice addition. During vocal and Classical pieces it was easier to place instruments on the Creek than the Arcam. Creek's soundstage once again being wider than that of the competing player, Arcam in this instance. Especially during vocal pieces like Evanescence 'My Immortal' or other tracks on that disc the vocalist is almost brought too far forward, at the expense of the rest of the band and the background detail. However, in that specific track, the Arcam was better able to detail a male vocal which creeps into the background - better than the Creek was able too - this is not really a surprise (and it still is there on the Creek) just a little more obvious - possibly because of the lower frequency/midrange emphasis of the Arcam.
Rock music generally favored the Arcam and the Arcam seemed more forgiving with poor recordings than the Creek. This how may ever be due to the Arcam's seemingly weaker upper frequency range handling, therefore poorer quality CDs don't seem 'bright' like they do on the Creek.
CD Text is a nice feature on the Arcam and I appreciate that it can read copy protected & burnt cd's reliably unlike the Creek CD50mki. (the mkii version resolves these issues but the mki is not upgradeable to the mkii) However, the lack of upper frequency detail bothers me with the Arcam and a friend of mine who has a current generation Arcam 82 has commented similarily on their upper end characteristics. If the 93 resolves this issue can someone please post it or refer me to an article detailing this? For if it does, the Arcam 73t may be worth considering as it is upgradeable to the 93t.
Overall on the Arcam. I feel that the smaller soundstage and reduction in imaging for the increased focus on midrange and bass may be too much of a compromise. I am trying, a futile effort it seems, to find a player which renders the full spectrum of sound well. One person commented that 'You can always add bass' and (excluding super-tweeters) can't add the high end. Sibiliance is more noticiable on the Creek than the Arcam - something we did not notice until we heard the Arcam. It makes sense, due to the Arcam focusing less on top end and more on the mid/low end as opposed to the Creek. The music itself built energy a bit better on the Arcam than the Creek BUT the actual WORDS sung were a bit smoothed over in comparison to the Creek and, to me, lost a bit of the intimate detail and tiny changes in pitch and inflection as a singer works though an emotional piece.
In a really bright system I think that the Arcam would be a wonderful player and suspect it would be a very good transport, good midrange - great bass, but at the expense of upper frequency response. Advantage Creek.... by a nose. It really is a preference thing and half of the people I had over yesterday preferred the Arcam and half the Creek. So it really is a matter of taste. A very good player though, and a must audition in the 1-2k price range.
A note on the Cary 308. I received the Cary 308 on Friday and it is essentially down to the Cary 308 and the Creek CD50mki. The Arcam sounds more like the Cary than the Creek, which surprised me a bit. However, the Cary does not sacrifice the upper frequency range like the Arcam does. The Cary's presentation is radically different, very in your face and sucks you into the music while the Creek kind of removes you from the music so you can evaluate the piece as a whole.
One friend described the Creek as "nice raw" and the Cary as "nice lush". This is pretty accurate and I am having a HELL of a time choosing between these two, and we spent almost all day with the Cary yesterday (and the Arcam too) and I am no closer to making my decision lol.
More updates to come, if you have any questions please let me know :) I hope you enjoy these posts as much as I enjoy writing them :) As allways YMMV
- Nathan Klassen