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I've been through all of the ARC CD players from the CD-3 up to the one I'm using now, which is the CD-7se The "SE" version has the factory upgraded power supply.
The difference between the CD-5 and the CD-7 is quite substantial.
Here's the ticket if you can swing it ... Get the CD-7 and send it to the factory for the power supply upgrade. Then swap out the two stock fuses with Synergistic Research Black fuses. At that point, you will have one of the most musical CD players in existence. Quite astounding, really.
If you can, get the best IC's that you can afford. Balanced, if your pre-amp will accept it.
Oregonpapa - I have a CD-7se but it doesn't have much play time. Can you tell me what tubes you are running with and I am interested in the sonic difference the Synergistic Research Black fuses made, before and after. I am thinking I didn't give this player much of a chance, as I have been using a Modwright modded Oppo 105D instead. Thanks for all your input!
I believe the bass in the cd7 is slightly overdone. The bass calls too much attention to itself. Still, it is an outstanding player. I moved up from the cd2 to the cd7...yes it is head and shoulders above the cd2 overall, but I think they added a pinch more of bass than was needed. I heard they toned down the bass a tad in the cd8 & cd9.
I'm running the factory stock tubes at this point. I'll be hitting Upscale Audio for new tubes soon. Its due.
Replacing the stock fuses with the SR Black fuses transforms the player from an excellent CD player into something that is much more analog like in nature. Redbook CD's, well recorded ones anyway, really come to life in a very organic way. Everything we as music lovers like is improved. A wider, deeper sound stage with a naturally silent background. BUT, the most important thing is the music and how its reproduced.
Also, try putting the tube dampening rings up as high on the tubes as possible without the top one falling off. Be sure that both tube rings are compressed together as much as possible too. This is a free, simple tweak for all ARC electronics where the small tubes use the two tube dampening rings. Its not a subtle improvement at all. Clarity is much improved with this tweak.
I haven't noticed any exaggerated bass from my player. I use it in balanced mode with some very high end cables. Plus the SR Black fuses. The bass I get is very natural and musical. I'm talking about acoustic bass like you'd hear live in a jazz group. Ray Brown is right there in the room. On organ or timpani's its really good too. Goes very deep and presents an articulate recreation of bass notes.
I've not heard the CD-9 ... but I hear very good things about it. From what I'm told, its even more analog-like than all those that came before it. Its on the bucket list.