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POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 1
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arcam

CD72T DiVA CD player

as reviewed by Ed Morawski, Larry Cox, and Jim Grudzien

 

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ED MORAWSKI'S SYSTEM:

LOUDSPEAKERS
Alon Capri.

ELECTRONICS
Bryston 4B-ST amplifier and a Muse Model 3 preamplifier.

SOURCE
Muse Model 5 transport and 296 DAC.

CABLES
Synergistic Research Kaleidoscope interconnects, AudioQuest Slate speaker cables, and DIY power cords.

 

one.jpg (6551 bytes)The CD72T was my first exposure to the Arcam line, and I was quite anxious to try it out. The box was marked Arcam DiVA, which stands for "Digitally Integrated Video and Audio." This is somewhat confusing, as the CD72T is strictly a CD player and has no video functions. I assume it is part of a marketing philosophy, one that I hope is not too confusing to potential buyers.

I was taken with its sleek, minimalist appearance. The unit is matte black, with silver buttons and a green display. It also feels substantial, and appears to be all metal. The retail price of $799 seems to be justified by the build quality. The CD72T uses a 24-bit Burr Brown multi-level delta/sigma DAC and a proven Sony CD mechanism. Special care has been taken to optimize the master clock design for extremely low jitter, while the main circuit board uses carefully tuned analog filters with audiophile-quality components in all critical areas. The player comes with a large, well-shielded power transformer and six separately regulated power supplies. Damping is applied to the key components that are subject to microphonic effects. The chassis is rigidly constructed and includes a slab of sound-deadening material, until now only seen in their very expensive FMJ CD player. A detachable IEC power cord is provided, as are both optical and coaxial digital outputs. The remote, though narrow and comfortable, is a little overwhelming, with a total of 44 buttons! More than half of the buttons, not to mention a very large joystick device, had no effect. I assume they are for controlling other Arcam components.

All right, enough, how does it sound? I connected the CD72T to my reference Muse 296 DAC using its coaxial output, and played my current favorite recording, Keiko Matsui's Deep Blue. For those of you who haven't heard this, it's a beautifully-executed CD. My experience has been that some CD players do not reproduce piano notes in the correct pitch, but the CD72T was not one of these. When I finally found the "Play" button on the remote, I was immediately rewarded with rich, full music. Each note was not only in perfect pitch, but full of dynamics and energy. It was also evident that the CD72T was great at extracting bass. The lower range sounded tight, detailed, and very well-defined. The CD72T was perhaps even better than my Muse 5 transport in this regard, and I found myself listening to the entire CD instead of just a few tracks. Can the CD72T rock? Madonna's Like a Virgin was next up, and again the bass line was very enjoyable. "Dress You Up" has a fast beat, with lots of bass and treble, and the Arcam followed along perfectly. I've always thought Madonna's voice sounded a bit thin on this recording, so I switched to Mariah Carey's self-titled first CD, and was not disappointed.

Most people will probably not buy the CD72T to use as a transport, so using Synergistic Research Kaleidoscope Phase One interconnects, I tried the Arcam's analog performance. It still sounded really good. The built-in 24-bit DACs were among the best I have heard in a player, so good I had to do a direct comparison, and connected the digital back up so that I was able to switch between them with a touch of a button on my preamp. Deep Blue went back in again for the first test. The CD72T's analog performance was good, though lacking in some extreme upper-end detail and presence and not quite as airy as with the Muse DAC. There was a darker presentation in the analog department. This would be a good player in a system that is overly bright, but don't get me wrong, the high end is still there, and amazingly good at that. The soundstage was also a bit smaller than with the Muse DAC, but not enough to really complain about. Playing the other CDs just confirmed my observations. Every instrument was reproduced with accuracy. Low end punch was evident on every recording along with very, very good detail.

At $799, the CD72T is a good value. I would rank it slightly higher than the Rega Planet on both sound and build quality. It would be a great component on which to build a budget system, and I recommend it to the budding audiophile or someone looking to upgrade their audio capabilities on a budget. After spending an enjoyable week with the CD72T (with the exception of the remote, on which I could never seem to find the right button), I suspect many users will be very happy with this player. Ed Morawski

 

 

 

LARRY COX'S SYSTEM:

LOUDSPEAKERS
ATC SCM 20.

ELECTRONICS
Majeel Labs Pristine S-10 amplifier. E.A.R. 802 preamplifier.

SOURCE
Pioneer DV 525 dvd player.

CABLES
Quattro Fil interconnects and speaker cables made from Belden 1219A wire.

ACCESSORIES
API Power Pack and ACPEAM line conditioners.

 

two.jpg (6646 bytes)I am an advocate of price-balanced systems. It seems to me that $3000 speakers powered by giant-killing $500 amps and $600 preamps don't integrate as well as $1000 speakers with $1100 amplifiers and $900 preamps. I am not saying it never happens, or it can't happen, just that more often than not, products from similar price points match each other better. This is usually the way people buy gear, anyway. If you don't accept this, disregard it. With more experience, I might change my opinion, but it's where I'm at for now.

The $799 Arcam CD72T is an admirable CD player. In a price-matched system, the civilizing, musical illumination it provides will be welcome to most. This player weaves a rich and intricate tapestry of music, and could be a "destination" player, meaning if you buy it, you're likely to keep it. It is not the most detailed CD player I've heard, but detailed $799 CD players tend to sound hard, etched, and unmusical. It doesn't have the deepest frequency extension, but most of the bass champs, at any price, tend to be all bass and little music. The CD72T isn't the most holographic player out there either, though again, most really holographic CD players at this price tend to achieve that effect with a diffuse, lightweight sound.

Nevertheless, the CD 72T is among the most refined CD players at or near its price. Refinement is more desirable than the other attributes I've mentioned, as it complements more systems at more price points. Being a music lover involves appreciation of not just bass, or any other aspect of music, but balance, and this the CD72T does well. The sins of the player are minor, and mostly of omission. Those listening for the last bit of detail or the deepest bass will likely be disappointed, but how often do you hear the things audiophiles listen for at live concerts? Not often. The pinpoint imaging, details like the sound of fingers on guitar strings playing, the things that we as audiophiles seem to expect in recorded music, are, I believe, the products of recording technique, and are not present at the live event. Our ears are not at the position of a close microphone at a concert, but that is what we seem to expect.

Compared to my reference player, the Audio Note CD 3 ($3000), the CD72T was an effective shadow boxer, matching much of the experience of a player costing three times as much. Most of the "action" of the CD3 was present with the Arcam, but with a slight homogenization of color and a very slight loss of detail. A music lover will be served well by both, but there is just a bit finer level of service with the Audio Note. During critical listening to the Arcam, I sometimes felt a bit of a fool for having bought such an expensive CD player. The CD72T is such a value that I thought I'd blown an extra $2200 on my player, but upon returning to the Audio Note, music just seemed more involving, with the tiny cues that may make a difference between occasional listening and lots of listening.

Sonny Rollins & Big Brass' Grand Street opens with an in-your-face blare of reedy saxophone. The CD 72T melded the instrument into a heavier and bulkier sound, making the reed seem less delicate and giving it a slightly simplified, liquid sound. As a final word on detail, the CD72T came up short, but the sound was not "fuzzy," but simply gilded a bit. Given the price of the speakers and other electronics the Arcam is likely to be matched with, this is excellent performance.

At the risk of contradicting my opening paragraph, the CD72T could end up in much more expensive systems. Most of my components are about $3000, and while the Arcam was the limiting aspect, it was egregiously so. "Musicality," or the ability to present harmony, rhythm, and appropriate tonality, were all A+ at the price. And it is frankly only smallest respects that the Audio Note CD 3, in a much higher price league, bests the Arcam. The CD72T is a very good buy, even a "best buy." Oh, and if you want, you can upgrade it for the difference in cost between the 72T and the 92T, which has a version of dCs' Ring DAC in it, and that's a great option. Larry Cox

 

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JIM GRUDZIEN'S SYSTEM:

LOUDSPEAKERS
Definitive Technology Pro Monitor 100.

ELECTRONICS
Denon AVR-3801 receiver.

SOURCE
Pioneer DV-414 DVD player.

CABLES
XLO/PRO 100 interconnects and Ultralink Audiophile Reference Series speaker cables.

 

three.jpg (8484 bytes)I've been a big fan of the Arcam sound since I owned my first CD player (an MCD), so when I was asked to review the DiVA CD72T player, I was all over the opportunity like a bum on a baloney sandwich. I was already familiar with the Arcam sound, but let me tell you, the DiVA CD72T ROCKS. Its build quality is excellent, possessing a very solid feel and looks to die for. It is a very slim design, only 3 inches high, and has a matte black finish with silver, soft-touch control buttons, making for a very striking look, one that I love: simple, classic lines in a functional package. The only thing missing on the front panel is a repeat button. The rear panel has two sets of digital out connections, one Toslink and one coaxial, and one set of audio outs. On the inside, the DiVA boasts a 24-bit multilevel Delta-Sigma DAC, which is upgradeable to CD92 status. This upgrade would include the dCs Ring DAC plus HDCD. The reps tell me that once the upgrade is done, the only thing that would distinguish it from a CD92 is the serial number. Pretty cool.

I don't like the remote that comes with the player. It's too big, and the buttons are too small and hard to read. I also think the remote should have the same color and finish as the player. It is silver, which would be great for the silver-finish player. I may be nitpicking, but ease of use and aesthetics are important to me.

When I popped in my first disc and pushed the play button, what came out didn't exactly excite me. My expectations may have been too high. Anyway, I listened for a couple of weeks before sending it on its way to the other reviewers. When I received it back, it sounded better, suggesting that it needed a little more break-in time. I then experimented with cables, trying the XLO PRO 100s, the DH Lab Silver Sonic Air Matrixes, and the JPS Superconductor FXs. The JPS cables were the ones that worked best with my 105-watt Denon AVR-3801 and the CD72T. It was then that this player began to sing. From this point on I experienced pure, foot-tapping enjoyment and a warm, rich, detailed sound. I couldn't play discs fast enough; I wanted to hear them all at once. I was so excited with this wonderful sound that I thoroughly pissed off my wife by not doing my daily chores in a timely manner. You see, I would rather listen to music than take out the trash or mow the lawn. Sorry, honey.

On Mary Black's No Frontiers CD, her voice, so delicate and fragile, came to life and was very emotionally engaging. I found myself hanging on her every word. During the instrumental portion of the song, the guitar and bass players seemed to be right in front of me, a feeling that makes for an intimate listening experience. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy was no match for the DiVA. Everything this disc threw at the CD72T, it just chewed up and spit out effortlessly. BBVD's disc This Beautiful Life is their best to date, I believe, and this player reproduced it easily. The brass was especially taut and detailed. I could distinguish the trumpets from the trombones when the entire band was playing. The bass on this player is much improved over my old MCD, which, while musical, did not reproduce the big, full bass that this player does. This is important to me. When playing this music on the CD72T, I was tapping my toes and on the verge of getting up and doing a little jitterbug. Now that's what I call music.

Diane Schuur's voice on her Blues for Schuur CD was smooth, rich and sexy, just the way I remember it from live performances. She is one of my favorite female vocalists, and each time I play one of her discs it brings back fond memories of seeing her live, making me yearn to see her again. The orchestration was big, full and lush, as though you were in the concert hall with them. Her performance on this player was very involving and lifelike. I could almost see her tickling the ivories and belting out some of my favorite songs.

I loved this machine. I have nothing but accolades for it. Oh, I have a few minor bones about the remote and the repeat button, but this player really hits the mark. Looks, sound quality, construction, it has it all. What you get with this player is a beautiful instrument that delivers a warm, detailed, tonally rich sound, with superb mids and good bass slam. You can have your cake and eat it, too, without having to dip into your retirement fund. I'm certain of this, as I bought the review piece. Highly recommended. Jim Grudzien

 

 

 

Arcam DiVA CD72T
Retail $799

Arcam (UK)
web address: www.arcam.co.uk

US Distributor:
Audiophile Systems, Ltd.
TEL 888. 272. 2658
web address: www.aslgroup.com
e-mail address: aslinfo@aslgroup.com

 

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