Review: Audio Research Reference CD-7 CD Player

Category: Digital

I have now made the progression through Audio Research cd players. I started with the CD-1. Then the CD-2. Next came the CD-3 Mk II. At each step along the way, there were marked improvements soundstaging, realism, low level detail. Most recently, I upgraded to the ARC Reference CD-7. While the others were measured steps in improvements, this was not. It was a giant leap.

My musical tastes run mainly to rock and jazz, with a little of everything else thrown. The CD-7 seems to handle it all with equal aplomb.

To me digital has never been able to get the bass right. There was always something missing on the drums. Analog has always seemed to get the timbre right, but it lacked that last little bit of oomph. Not so with the CD-7. There is an almost analog "rightness". And there is loads of oomph. And the rest of the signal spectrum has that same rightness to it.

The CD-7 comes with 7 vacuum tubes. Which may explain some of the improvements I'm hearing. Yet, even after extended playing, the top doesn't get uncomfortably hot.

I have it hooked into the ARC Reference 3 preamp. The literature says they shae the same input stage. There does seem to be a certain synergy there. My next step will probably be to upgrade to one of the new Reference power amps.

The only weakness I've noticed is the outrageous price. Still, if you have the wherewithal to afford it, I highly recommend.

Associated gear
Click to view my Virtual System

Similar products
Thanks for sharing the information.
I received my Reference CD-7 about a month ago and also use the Reference 3 preamp. In addition I’m using a Plinius SA Reference amp.
I find the CD-7 to be an excellent CDP, being a bit airier (in a good way) with very good timbre and bass. Allow at least 100 hours for break-in. I also use an MBL 1531 CDP and a Wadia 20 transport or CEC TL 5100 transport with a Dodson 217 MK II Dac (upgraded to the 218 software with a digital isolation transformer added to the coax-2) in two other systems. Although they are all excellent, I prefer the CD-7. As you pointed out it could be a synergy thing in accompaniment with the Reference 3 preamp however the CD-7 is outstanding regardless what system I put it into.
Best regards,
hello, i have since a couple of weeks the CD-7 in my set. And really, it's amazing what i missing before! Before i had the CD-3 because of his very natural and lifelike presentation. So smooth... Then when the Mk-2 introduced i deside to upgrade my CD-3 to the CD-3Mk3. And i have not have any regrets of this. Because i never tried before. Just believe the story of Audio Research. This spring my reseller ask me if i want to test the CD-7 at home. When i connecting it at my set, feel wow, what happen here... So beautiful, so airy, so black, so transparant, so wide and deep. I had regret to test it because i thought the CD-3Mk2 is for me the best. When i must bring him back to my reseller, i feel miss him. After 3 months i bought the CD-7. And i'm very happy with this buy. The only thing is sometimes it's sounds a little bit more "warm" because of his tubes. Maybe i must upgrade my speakercable. Now i have TaraLabs prime 1800 biwire. The rest of my set is" preamp: LS-25 Mk1 and VT-50 poweramp; interlink between player and preamp: ZEN aqoustics Reference, between pre and power: TaraLabs Air1. All XLR balanced. Speakers: Audio Physic Avanti 3.
I jumped from a CD-2 to the CD-7, also with a Ref 3, so you all can imagine the improvement I experienced. On the subject of amps, I had been running Audio Physic Virgo II's with Pass Aleph 2 100 watt mono amps. I then went with Vandersteen Quatro speakers and auditioned the ARC Ref 210's and the ARC VM-220's, among other amps. The Quatro's are very easy to drive because they have their own internal subwoofer amps. With that caveat, I thought the VM-220's were a better match for the Quatro's. With them, the VM-220's have a very clear and open mid-range and a sense of great ease; clipping is almost unnoticeable. Like the other new ARC gear we are talking about, they seem to disappear into the music. For me, the Ref 210 had a more controlled, tighter sound which I found to be more intrusive with the music.