Review: Arcam Alpha 8 cd CD Player

Category: Digital

When I first hooked up this CD player, it needed something. However, after a few days of warming up it has really gotten smooth and articulate. It really shows any recording or other CD flaws, though. It doesn't suppress anything.

Vocals are very realistic, upper midrange is insanely convincing. The CD player has a slight brightness to it. It blends well with the qualities of my tube preamp.

I listen to all kinds of music but especially like jazz, funk, and acoustic rock. It handles everything equally neutral. The CD player is a great bargain used. The DAC is upgradeable. It's on par with most CD players in its price range. For about $1000, there is a Marantz that's great and a bunch of others.

It's strengths are very clean, precise exact sound. Good features, controls, panel layout, 2 sets of outs plus digital out, and quality build construction. If you add a set of Vibrapods, the realism increases and it does get a bit smoother, too.

Its weaknesses are that it's a tiny bit harsh and analytical. It's not as warm as an Audio Alchemy DAC. However, this may be cured with new speakers.

Overall, it's a good, punchy, articulate and convincing CD player and I consider better than most I've heard. If you're looking for good quality construction and an excellent CD/DAC in one, this is a great place to start (or finish).

Associated gear
Audible Illusions 2D (preamp)
B&K ST-140 (amp)
B&W monitors

Similar products
Audio Alchemy
Musical Fidelity
Carlman, the Alpha 8 really benefits from an after market power cord and vibration control tweaks like the Symposium Rollerblocks (or the less expensive Darumas). I didn't find my Alpha 8 "harsh" / you might wanna rethink your cabling. I also highly recommend the pcs from TG Audio, a used HSR A cord sounds nice with Arcams.

This player was my first "high end" CDp. It was replaced by an Arcam Alpha 9, then a Cary 303. These days, since both the 8 & the 9 are discontinued, it's actually cheaper to sell the Alpha 8 and buy a 9 than it is to upgrade. The ring DAC is an improvement, but I doubt dealers will upgrade it at this late date. You might wanna leapgrog into a CD02 or FMJ unit.

Enjoy: it's a very nice piece of gear for the price.
Rackon, thanks for the helpful suggestions.

Since writing this review, I have upgaded the power cord and interconnects to Kimber PowerKord and Kimber KC-1. I have also now added a Museatex DAC and am using the Alpha 8 as a transport. It is smooth, dynamic, and controlled. I back-to-back tested the Alpha 8 to an Arcam Delta 70.2 player using both as transports... I found the Alpha a little brighter, and the Delta a little darker. I like forward, lively sound so, the Alpha 8 with a DAC is a perfect combo. There is no harshness now. The slight harshness I was hearing was probably just my perception of some inaccuracies in upper octaves that the external DAC now handles better than the internal one did.

I've been considering doing the trichord clock upgrade but I really like my sound now so, I don't know how much improvement I would really hear.... One day I'll get an all new CD player.. but, not any time soon.