Short report on EAR Acute CD player

I will not attempt here to do a full review, but will make some comments about this CD player, because I think it could use some more coverage on Audiogon; it is a very nice player, depending upon your interests.

I've been struggling with CD sound for several years. The problem is that, as one's gear gets better and better, the problems with CD sound can become increasingly annoying, especially in the treble. I've had some good CD players in my home over the last few years: the Wadia 860; the Linn CD12; the Wadia 860 with GNSC mods; one of the Ayre players; and the EMM CDSA. I had pretty well settled in with the GNSC-modified Wadia, but last fall rejuvenated my Linn LP12 and got a new Koetsu Black. As good as the Wadia is, good Lps gave me better detail and an easier, more relaxed and natural high end. In fact, I was beginning to despair of ever listening to CD's again...and I have a lot of them. (I should add that I listen mostly to classical music.)

I was using an EAR 834P phono pre-amp, and really liked it. It made me wonder about the EAR Acute, which has gotten some favorable press, but some criticism of build quality. Curiosity finally overcame things (as the pound kept rising), and I sold some piece of gear, and used the funds to buy an Acute. It's been in my system for about 6-8 weeks. I've done no tube-rolling...yet.

The positive things you may have heard about the Acute are true. It is as close to tube analog sound as I've heard from a CD player. EAR starts with an Adcom unit (which are darn good units, in their price range) and rebuilds all the analog parts, as I understand. The end result, on the outside, doesn't seem very fancy, and the transport is just a simple plastic drawer. The Acute certainly doesn't have the rock-solid feel of a Wadia. On the other hand, it costs quite a bit less. And what I really cared about was the sound, and in that, I got what I wanted.

Detail retrieval is excellent, although the GNSC is better. It's the highs in the Acute that make it special, to me. Like analog, they are a bit warmer, easier, and more relaxed--more mid-hall--than the Wadia. Indeed, the images seem further back from the speakers with the Acute than with the Wadia. The Acute is more forgiving of the sharpness that one finds with digital recordings of massed strings (a particular concern for this listener). Presumably, one can tinker with this further by rolling tubes, and I intend to play with it. But the bottom line is that the Acute is providing me listening "access" to some CDs that I had found fatiguing in every other CD player I'd listened to.

Now, that having been said, the Wadia does a few things so well that I'm not sure I'll let go of it. Reproduction of piano is especially solid, full, and exciting. Jazz and pop usually sound great on the Wadia. That stuff sounds good on the EAR, too, but overall, it's a bit softer presentation. I've got to do more comparing.

So, count this as a vote in favor of the EAR Acute as one of the most analog-like CD players floating around out there--at least of those I've heard--but that includes some players that have also been described as "analog-like."

I'm using Harbeth Monitor 30's (very revealing, but warm), an Essex sub, various electronics (all tube), and Cardas Cross cables.
id love to hear this player i my home system.....been curious for a while. I think it gets a basic lack of respect, unjustifiable so, b/c its built on another platform. This is odd considering that some of the modders out there seem to get more play on forums and in the press.

In any event, im sure it would trounce my current interim redbook, the playstation 1

I would really like to hear the acute up against my modded squuebox
I am curious if anyone has compared the players you mentioned to the Lector. It seems to be the most analogue sounding tube CD out there. I almost bought one, and then decided to upgrade my amp instead. I have learned not to put too much hope in CD playback.

any one compared ear acute with audio aero prima / capitol
I went from an original Capitole 2 to the Acute. They are both fantastic sounding units. The Capitole 2 may have had better bass, although system changes prohibit me being confident there. The Capitole 2 a bit more detailed, up front presentation relative to the Acute which puts the listener a few rows back. Not that the the Capitole is up front sounding though. The Acute seems to have gotten the overall tonality thing right IMO though, also a strong point for the AA. That said, I would not rule out the Marantz SA 71 either. I have heard it once, and was extremely impressed, with it's red book performance. It's build quality also is exemplary. Another nice thing about either unit is that you have the option of going direct to the amp, which is nice. I always have preferred a preamp, but it's a nice option to have, say your preamp needs service.
Pretty sure the EAR starts with a ARCAM unit not ADCOM,but dont quote me.
Coffeey - I believe you're right...Arcam, not Adcom. I misspoke...
Ok Eweedhome here is the the most importanr thing to ME and one of the main reasons i would prefer the EAR your own words That stuff sounds good on the EAR, too, but overall, it's a bit softer presentation. I've got to do more comparing softer presentation equals longer listening periods fatigue free now that for me is the MAIN reason that i would choose the EAR that's if i did not have my Electrocompaniet EMC-1up perfect match with my polite Acoustat's wakes them up just a little bit i love it enjoy the music.
I totally agree, having just bought one of these. I wouldn't say it's quite in the same league as a top vinyl system (my Townshend Rock Reference/Excalibur/Lyra Helikon/Whest PS20-MU20 for instance) but for CD it's something else. I haven't quite figured out how it manages to be smooth and detailed at the same time, but the main thing is the naturalness of the sound and the complete absence of digital harshness.
If you really want to enjoy digital don't listen to analog. A few years ago I tried an Audio Research Dac 3 that was stuffed with tubes and they didn't help. I'm still happy with my Benchmark USB Dac running off my cheapo Windows Vista/Media Monkey/Glyph server. I just can't see spending serious money on digital.
I am intrigued to know whether there is an upgrade path. I have the EAR acute and really like it, but this third iteration sounds like it may have some incremental improvements. Anyone have any info on this?
I just purchased the Acute 111.I have listen to CD players for thirty years now. I listen to Audio Research, Wadia ML390,Marantz and ETC..I was at a dealer looking for a quality intergraded amp,I heard music that sounded very real.I thought it was being played threw a turn table.When I found out it was threw the Acute111 it was the best I have heard, the treble was clean.Put long story short ,I forgot about the Amp and bought the Acute 111 player.Trust you must give this machine a listen and bring your check book.
From experience. a little tube rolling can bring out the very best in this CDP.
RJA-any specific tubes you would suggest? Keeping it detailed, extended and a little warm? Thanks.