Review: Musical Fidelity A 3.2 CD Player

Category: Digital

Replacing my aging Panasonic A110 DVD player with the Musical Fidelity, I was expecting a dramatic change. I was surprised to notice only a slight improvement. Of course I was used to dramatic improvements in my quest for realistic sound (I listen to jazz and classical music). Placing the crossover networks of the speakers in boxes OUTSIDE of the speakers made a dramatic improvement in the clarity of the sound (What business do crossover networks have INSIDE speakers?)Replacing the capacitors in the analog stage of the Panasonic DVD player with Blackgates made a DRAMATIC difference(more open and dynamic sound). Going from a single Parasound A1000 amplifier to a pair of bridged Parasounds in mono mode made a dramatic difference in the soundstage.
Both players are in my system and I have been A/B-ing them for nearly a week. The Musical Fidelity has the same open and dynamic sound that the modified Panasonic has but it also has a more defined and tighter bass. The Panasonic has more apparent bass but the MF has greater definition and realism in the bass. This was especially apparent in the rendition of the cello. A Seon recording of Boccherini String Quintets and Cello Sonatas (sony classical label, 1997) was much more listenable through the MF. The differences in other more celebrated recordings such as Patricia Barber's Modern Cool are much more subtle. The MF has a more refined and realistic sound whereas the Panasonic seems to "shout" at times. In piano recordings, certain upper frequency notes are a bit too aggressive through the Panasonic. The human voice can be startlingly real through both players but the MF transmits a bit more of the character of an individual's voice. The same goes for most of the musical instruments. The MF has more of the harmonics of the instruments. The difference is not huge but I don't think that I will be able to live without it. I think that what I am hearing through the Panasonic is jitter, but I am not really sure. I really do not want to tinker with the insides of the MF because it is such an expensive and beautiful player, but I would bet that replacing the capacitors with Blackgates would result in a "dramatic" difference.
I had the Integra 8.3 universal player in my system for a while and with redbook CD's it had the same definition in the bass as the MF. It also had a

refined and delicate rendition of the upper frequencies, but what it lacked was the richness and body in the middle frequencies that the MF has and that the modified Panasonic has beaucoup of.
My experience with the Rotel is limited to a dealer demo through a pair of $8000 B&W speakers. I wasn't impressed enough to purchase either the player or the speakers(not that I could ever afford them), but then dealer showrooms are not good places to judge equipment. The speakers did project a more expansive soundstage than my home setup but then they had them about 25 feet apart!
By the way I would not recommend the AE-3 preamp and bridged Parasound combo because it generates an audible hum through the speakers that can be heard from the listening position. I think this is transformer hum and I haven't been able to get rid of it. Perhaps a quieter preamp is needed?

Associated gear
Audio Electronic Supply A-3 tube preamplifier
a pair of bridged Parasound A1000 amplifiers
Goertz TQ-2 interconnects
Kimber Kable 4TC and 8TC biwired speaker cables
Homemade 2-way speakers (using Vifa tweeter and Vifa 8" woofer with an EXTERNAL crossover network consisting of a single Hovland capacitor and heavy guage inductors)- the speakers have 1&1/2" cabinet walls and the interior is molded with copious amounts of plasticene to form an egg-shape that minimizes standing waves. Also, instead of speaker stuffing, Deflex panels are used.

Similar products
Panasonic A110 stock player
Panasonic A110 modified with Blackgate capacitors(all of the capacitors in the analog stage were replaced with Blackgates by yours truly)
Integra 8.3 universal player
Rotel RCD 1072
To anyone who cares, I eventually decided to sell the Mobile Fidelity because the slight difference from the modified Panasonic was not worth the extra dough. Not only that but after connecting the DVD player to my preamp using Goertz Alpha Core TQ interonnect, the difference was less than slight. In fact I prefered the sound of the modified Panasonic overall. There was an inexplicable transparency that was missing with the Mobil Fidelity and the Panasonic seemed to go lower in the bass. It all goes to show you the power of modifications with supreme quality parts is not to be underestimated. I will now order Blackgate capacitors to replace those in the power stage of the Panasonic. I expect this will bring the player up to the level of players costing $3000 and upwards.
I just purchased an A3.2 CD Player, new, for only $1,100 delivered, regular price about $1,795. Out of the box it does not sound what I am used to. It needs to be broken in. I was told it would take about a week running it 24/7 in the repeat mode. My old standby player is a Miles Theta, single ended version. I paid $2,000 about five years ago and I can tell you that this player was worth every penny. After a proper break in I will let you know how it stacks up to the Miles.
The A3.2 CD player that I had was already broken in because I had bought it used. You will probably notice an improvement after break-in but I think a certain veiled characteristic to the sound will remain. I cannot overemphasize the amazing transparency of Blackgate capacitors. Unfortunately I just found out that the factory in Japan that makes Blackgates will be going out of business by the end of the year.
I have now replaced nearly all of the capacitors in the power stage of the Panasonic A110 DVD player. The difference is not subtle. The unit blows away the Musical Fidelity A3.2 CD player. There is an exquisite lack of artificiality to the sound. There is a depth and richness... I could go on and on but you get the picture.
I do not intend to provoke a disagreement among MF users,but ,although satisfied with their integrateds,have been disappointed by their digital products.
change your amp to something decent then you might get the best out of the a3.2 cd. mine works beautifully with nu vista 300 amp and b&w matrix 801s.