Sean, I have to admit that my list is incomplete. As I have not auditioned a whole lot more than what I listed. I also have to admit that I am NOT as knowledgeable about digital as many of our compadres here on Audiogon. When I bought my amp, I literally listened to EVERYTHING out there. So, I can say that my amp is one of the very few amps that were best to my ears. OK, enough small talk... The two CD players were from YBA and Granite Audio. I can emphatically say the YBA is the real deal(their stuff generally is). I auditioned my amp with it. Smooth, liquid, full, extended. ALL the things that people who hate digital love. The Granite I cannot say absolutely, because it was in the context of the system. I was very impressed with the sound. The other components being Granite monoblock amps(with KT88 output tubes), a Sunfire preamp, and Osborn speakers. It had a very relaxed, yet punchy, dynamic, and detailed sound. Just the kind of sound that I LOVE. I would not recommend it though. They have a new 24 bit player with tube output(current player does not) that I would wait for instead(may be here now). Definitely worth an audition, based on what I heard from the current player. And not much more money. I am also quite enamored with the Electrocompaniet and Arcam(9/FMJ23) players, but have not given them quite the same critical listening tests. So, I cannot be as emphatic about them. Can't say they are not special ones though. Being a person that does not like living on the audio merry-go-round(or being made of money), I didn't want to buy an all out player(as much as I do want one) if SACD/DVD-A happen to take hold in a big way in the near future. I hear A LOT of great things about other players(like Resolution Audio, etc.), but have not had the opportunity to hear it. The Jolida is OK, but not very refined or 24 bit(I also question the build quality). I kind of think(based on my Jolida experience), that junking the Chinese 12AX7s, in favor for some Euro tubes might make it a giant killer. The Linn and MF are very nice. Detailed, fast, and clear. Just lacking the weight that I really longed for in a player. I think that after the Cambridge broke in, it betters both of them in dynamics, slam, and punch. And is the equal in refinement. The NAD is also OK, but is not particularly clean, smooth, detailed, and also lacks a detachable power cord. The Rega never has done anything for me. Just me. It leaves me cold. A bit boring, uninvolving and slow. Even if I did like it, I am not sure about having a top loading player. I really wanted to try the Planet 2000(despite it also being top loading), but my dealer MUCH prefers the Cambridge(even though the price tag on it is 50% of the Rega), and really was adamant about me not wasting my time. We have known each other for over 15 years. I consider him a friend. And he pulls no punches with me. NO BS. He said the new Rega is disappointing. Very poor build quality from what he has seen(the exact opposite of the previous Planet), and he was expecting more of an improvement in sound(he has given it a LONG break-in). The Arcam 9/FMJ23, Rega, and the MF were the players I was waiting on to make my move. As I have said, not a complete list. Just one man's opinions.
Oh, one thing I failed to mention(while we are on digital). I did listen to a couple of Sony SACD players over the past year. The SCD-1 and the 9000ES. Neither one of them sold me. I do blame the store(Bryn Mawr Stereo) for at least part of it. They are really big in the Philadelphia region, and sell a good bit of high end equipment(Adcom, Mirage, Sonus Faber, etc.). But, they are a chain. More(MUCH more serious) about making money than presenting good sound. Just a yuppie enclave, for those more interested in HT or impressing their friends. They have good componentry set up with the SACD players, but the rest of the package is lacking. I was really put off by the INORDINATELY SLOW disc initialization of the SCD-1. SACD was nice, not the best I have heard(or even close). CD playback was nothing of note. Auditioned it twice. I did check the 9000ES three times. Basically, the same opinions as the other player, minus the long initialization. Certainly nothing good enough to make me buy yet. And, factoring in the software(or lack thereof), the fact that SACD multichannel is on the horizon, and whether or not the format will come to prominence(or will it be DVD-A or upsampling?). Seemed like too big a gamble for me. I am happier with spending $450 on a player that makes me happy.
Bryn Mawr Stereo is Tweeter Etc. under a different nameplate. Same corporate parent, same products for sale.
A lot of their salespeople are clueless IMHO.
Quite correct Sugarbrie. In fact, they will be officially changing their name in the Philadelphia area to Tweeter this spring. They drill it into your head in these horrendously irritating radio commercials("the wise guys, with wise buys..."). Along with their "assertions" of how great Bose speakers are. The fact that they advertise SO heavily, on so many area radio stations should answer the questions of anyone wondering about the place.
Tralja,I kept a parasound CDP 1000 over the cambridge CD6.I was not impressed with the CD6.If you get a chance to try a CDP 1000 give it a try.Its a real sleeper.I had no problems with mine though I have heard the Transports can be sticky at times the D/A is far better than the $ it sold for would suggest.Parrasound missed their price point on this player.Its a good as any up to 1k player i have heard.
Thanks for filling in the gaps. While i haven't listened to all of those that you did comparisons with, i can agree with the basic statements that you made about the MF gear. It is very clean, clear, detailed, etc.... but just doesn't have any "body" or "warmth" to it. If it was slightly fuller sounding and had a little more "soul", i would LOVE it. As to the NAD cd players, i too agree that they are not the most revealing, etc... but my experience is that they were "quite" smooth and that's what made them "better" than many other "cheapies". Instead of giving you inexpensive "digital hash", they gave you something that had "rounded edges" and sounded relatively warm and in-offensive. Nothing to rave about in terms of absolute performance but something that i would rather live with instead of the typical "abrasiveness" that many other players seem to deliver. In other words, the NAD CD players have the same basic "sonic signature" that the rest of their line offers. As to the Sony SCD-1, my experience is pretty limited. Nonetheless, it was demo'd in a system that probably sold for appr. $100,000 and i was NOT impressed. I thought that the Electrocompaniet blew it out of the water when tested within the same system. Once again, these are all personal opinions and even these might change given different systems and circumstances. Sean
I had the Parasound 1000 before acquiring the Cambridge about the same time as Trelja. The Parasound was nice but VERY rolled off in terms of resolution of inner detail and imaging. Some would say that lended an analog-like quality to the Parasound but directly comparing CD to vinyl versions of recordings shows that much detail is missing from the CD without the warmth and imaging of the vinyl. The Cambridge, OTOH, gives you all of the spatial cues of the venue, the "air" between the instruments, and for the most part, the correct timbre and overtones of them;for example, trumpets have "bite" and can be discerned from cornets and a wooden flute can be told from metal. It is also enjoyable to listen to, allowing you to forget all those components of recorded sound and simply participate as listener which is what the high end is all about.It is better at that than the AR Complete and the best NAD which I auditioned against. You're missing a great deal of the music, Sean.
I cannot say the Cambridge is better than the Audio Refinement Complete. As I only heard that player for a very short time. My impression of that player was different than most people who talk about the Audio Refinement. They usually say it is simply YBA, rebadged in a cheaper body, with lower cost manufacturing, etc. They then pass the savings along to you. I think there are more major differences in the equipment; possibly particularly in the power supply/capacitors(where YBA really goes all out, in my opinion the reason for their usual smoothness and body). I hear the sound as threadbare compared to YBA. Positives are its detail and refinement. I think the sound is more along the lines of MF(agreeing wholeheartedly with Sean's summation of their player). The Musical Fidelity was the player I really had my eyes set on. The cosmetics are gorgeous, but I always make sound my first priority. The Cambridge does not possess as weighty a sound as I crave, but it is much superior to Linn and MF in these areas. And Kitch29 is correct in how wonderful it is in terms of refinement, detail, presentation, and truth of timbre. To be frank, the Cambridge D500 SE came as kind of a shock to me. It really opened my eyes. I figured I had to spend MUCH more to get sound on this level. My dealer told me on the phone, he absolutely raved about this player. Said it was a breakthrough, to players what Rogue(which he also carries) is to amplifiers. I was unconvinced(to say the least). I told him I didn't think there was any way I could pick this over the $950 Rega Planet 2000 or the $1700 Linn Genki. He asked me to trust him(famous last words), and come in with an open mind and open ears. Said it may not be better or worse than the Linn, but different. It plays on its field. Anyone who bypasses at least auditioning the Cambridge is a fool in his opinion. I admit, he was right. This player is THE sleeper of today. *** $450?!?! *** Please do not misconstrue, I am sure the MF will be the player many find incomparable. Just didn't mesh as well with my tastes as I really hoped for(always dangerous to judge components with your eyes rather than ears). It seemed like such a good player on paper(and in pictures/reviews). I really believe there has been a significant change in the sound of Musical Fidelity gear over the past year or two. Where they once sounded rich, full bodied, and tubelike, their new(er) equipment comes across to me as much more neutral, fast, crystalline, detailed, and lightweight. Not saying one is better than the other, just that the new stuff is different. I don't usually see companies make that type of change. Seems very unusual to me. I will never knock NAD gear, as I am a huge fan. I try to recommend all of my non-audiophile friends to it. People who love music, want good sound, but would never spend the kind of money we do on this hobby. For not much more money than the junk, you can get amazingly good sound. I also have fond rememberances of Parasound gear. Just haven't gotten near it in a while.
I think I remember discussing the Cambridge with you Telja. They have been making sleeper product forever. I still have an all Cambridge System in my home den/office.
CD4 (Sleeper in 95) with Dacmagic (DAC with CD6 guts and enhancements), A3i Integrated, B&W CDM-1 (original version with the better crossover than currently).
Kitch, i have not used a NAD cd player for quite some time now. I did have a 515 disc changer in one of my systems as a matter of convenience. As such, i found it to be head and shoulders above all of the other changers that i had tried. This included more expensive units from Sony along with competetively priced models from Denon, Philips, etc.. As you did mention, the NAD's major "sins" are that of ommision but it does let the "music" come through with out most of the annoying digital side effects. In other words, i do agree with you that the NAD is not real revealing but it is enjoyable none the less. As such, i'm currently using CAL seperates for most of my listening and am trying to decide on whether to wait for the EVS DAC to show up or move into the Audio Research camp. I've been told that the YBA CD Complete as a transport feeding a CAL tube based DAC sounds VERY good also. Sean
Sean-just to carify, I briefly auditioned the Complete and NAD but lived with the Parasound for quite awhile. It was the Parasound that I referred to as pleasant more from what it omitted than anything it conveyed. When you listen to "California", cut six on Joni Mitchell's Blue, you should hear the sympathetic vibration of the unplucked overtone strings on Joni's 12 string, the Parasound only hinted at it. The Cambridge gives you the full measure. Likewise in the "Trinity Sessions" there are all sorts of things going on in the hall besides Margo and her brothers. Before the Cambridge, it never even occured to me to check the liner notes to discover the performance was live. No coughing, though.
These are asides, I don't listen for oddities but they are a part of the listening experience, the ambience. Perhaps a particular microphone is more attuned to picking up this or that frequency off axis. I've heard it often enough, sitting in the back row of the orchestra, to know why a really professional producer checks to be sure that the snares on an unused snare drum are loose so they don't sizzle every time the Tuba joins the band. (Of course, I've NEVER brought along a paperclip to put on the drum) The central issue of owning high resolution equipment though, at least to me, is re-creating the sense of the hall. If a soprano is overloading the acoustics of that hall, I want to hear the distortion, all of it. When Heifetz is tearing away at a cadenza full of double stops with wild downbows I want to hear every harmonic and when Hendrix is setting Marshalls on fire I want to smell the smoke and feel the panic of the roadies.