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Impressive review: Musical Fidelity A3CD

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 

Needless to say, I'm impressed. A $995 CD player going head-to-head with the best CD players out there? I want to hear more! Has anyone tried this player out?
post #2 of 20
I auditioned one for about two weeks before returning it. It simply wasn't enough improvement (if any) over the Rotel 955/Theta Chroma 396 combo I had been using for headphones. It's a good deck, and I believe it would show itself better in a speaker based system, but it just didn't do enough for me as a headphone source, which is what I was looking for at the time.
post #3 of 20
Thread Starter 
In the words of Ned Flanders: son of a diddly...
post #4 of 20
The reviewer putting it in the same sentence as more expensive CDPs really means nothing to me...because if you've ever done extensive research in the $800-1000+ CDP field, you'll see just about every review saying pretty much the same crap, over and over and over. "Instruments sound airier...I heard things I never heard before...more depth and width in the soundstage...bass is greater and more palpable..." blah blah blah. In fact, that just about comes up in every single CDP review. Notice how similar all CDPs sound in the reviews? You don't see half as much similarity when comparing headphones at least.

Given how I barely heard a difference between the Denon 370 and Jupiter 2000 using headphones, and yet I instantly noticed how much better the Jupiter was on speakers, it leads me to believe that it is a rather huge waste of money to spend into the $1000+ on a source that is going to be strictly intended for headphones, IMHO. Sure you'll hear something better...but you're also only going to get about 50-60% of what the better CDP has to offer. The rest of it remains within the speaker realm...things such as timbre, naturality, impact, all things that make the music sound live. I realized this after hearing the Linn Sondek on a pair of great speakers...it also made me realize just how empty claims are of headphones beating speakers. There is no way in heaven or hell that my R10s could ever come close to what I heard that day. You could stick that Sondek to my R10s with some Tara Labs the Zero interconnects going through a HP DCT-2, and it still wouldn't come even 10% close. What I heard that day might as well have been a live performance, minus the musicians. I certainly would never say that about my R10s. There is an enormous compromise that happens when you jump to headphones...and that compromise makes me question the intelligence of spending massive amounts of money for a source if that source goes no further than a headphone, simply because headphones can never output the more physical realm of music.
post #5 of 20
Couldn't agree more with Vertigo, if you have a good stereo or have heard one you already know even the best headphones
can't compare to the massive realistic 3D soundstage created by stereo with listener in near field position. (using normal CD)
I have been amazed by comments here that headphones are as 3D as stereo, to me it is not even close. Therefore I agree with Vertigo reviews for equipment in stereo systems, do not produce
as great an effect for systems that only have headphone use. Most of the differences reviewers are describing have something to do reproduction of 3D soundstage, and how believable it it is.

I own an A3CD and it can be easily bettered by using an outboard DAC, since the design is 3 years old now. If you check other products reviewed at that onhifi.com site you will see Bel Canto Dac 1. Reviewer was amazed how sound improved when this was used with A3CD, I have the improved Bel Canto Dac 1.1 and it blows away the 3 year old DAC in A3CD.
post #6 of 20
In the early days of CD, practically all CD players irrespective of price earned raving reviews, with a very narrow ranking, say from 95 to 100 "points". In comparison to that, reviews and rankings of turntables, cassette decks or amps had a much wider range, say 30 to 100 "points" and were more in proportion to price. Yes, some items were rated as outstanding, but basically the "marks" did reflect the price.

Whilst the advanced lyrics utilised to describe the sound of audio gear, there are a similarities to the language used by wine reviewers, have remained unchanged, magazine reviewers nowadays rate CD players from 30 to 100 "points", just like all the other audio gear. Market economy is reinstated.

I would understand that today's reviewers have learned to better hear the very subtile differences in sound in between CD players. But I have great problems to translate the narrative, usually enthusiastic part into the quantitative rating. Sometimes the reviewers describe a CD player "X" in comparison to a "reference" CD player, rank "X" above or below the "reference" and eventually create a "point" system on this basis. After all, this would be still a matter of personal judgement and of course the other elements in the audio "chain".

Whilst headphones might not be the perfect tool to evaluate "spacing", they certainly are a great tool for evaluating detail, speed, neutrality and eventually the difference between CD players. Loudspeaker typically have more distortion and colouration than headphones.

If it takes carefull A/B comparison and concentrated listening to identify differences between CD players, not speaking of identifying the "better" CD player, I would say the more expensive player is not worth the money. On the other hand, after listening to an overall "better" system for a while, you may notice the difference more easily.

post #7 of 20
I agree about the so-called professional reviews. I'm not even interested in reading them any more, other than to glean details on the hardware etc. Although they have their disadvantages, user reviews seem more relavent and useful.
post #8 of 20
I have to agree DarkAngel about the rapidity of advancements in DAC's and digital signal processing software/algorithms. My original CD player was a Rotel RCD-855 bought in 1992. At that time it was a pretty good player with a nice transport mechanism and good dual DACs. In fact it was good enough to reveal how poor most (but not all) of the CD's at the time were. A little over a year ago I noticed the CAL Gamma was being sold for $99. At that price it was a no brainer to give it a try. Upon hooking it up to my Rotel I immediately noticed how much clearer it reproduced the midrange and how much more extension there was in the bass and treble. Now the Gamma was a unit produced around 1996 and was a much lower pricepoint product so I was a little surprised at the magnitude of the improvement. My recent purchase of the Sony SCD-C333ES was at a similar pricepoint to the Rotel + Gamma and it has a much better sound compared to that pair. There are other things at play here such as the physical construction of the Sony compared to the Rotel, but given my antiresonance mods on the Rotel, I believe most of the difference lies in the DAC. The differences I noted were not really subtle and were quite evident using both headphones and speakers. Of course there are always exceptions to generalizations so YMMV.
post #9 of 20
Even user reviews, presumably unbiased by any commercial interest (paid advertisement or even bribes) are personal.

Don't we want to show our competence in finding the best and perfect audio gear for ourselves? So if we are not grossly disappointed by the performance of our gear and the seller is unwilling to take it back, we rave about what great gear we own, how smart we were when finding and buying that gear!

Yes, I can hear the difference in sound quality. But in order to get an instant and abviously noticeable improvement, I am not talking about careful A/B comparison with my favourite and best knowns CDs, I at least have to double the cost of my equipment each time. Maybe less than double for loudspeakers, but rather more than double for CD players.

Although my current gear is far away from the top $$$ category, I am asking myself whether I would really concentrate that much on music to truly appreciate a better quality system. Again, I am not talking about few minutes of listening during an A/B comparison, but about longer sessions. Apart from better resolution or timing, more money could buy me better bass and loudness on the amp and speaker side, but this would be of limited use for a smallish appartment.

post #10 of 20
Vertigo - Hurray! somebody actually convinced that speakers are better in terms of soundstage, impact.......everthing apart from absolute detail!!!!!!!! I'm gald you see the light.

I remember posting a thread about this in headwize asking about people why doesn't anyone use speakers with their X-RAY, Meridian, Copland.... and I got slated for it!
post #11 of 20
I like headphones for specific uses... late night listening, at work, monitoring A to D recording...all of these are areas where headphones are superior to speakers (particularly for an apartment dweller).

However, for creation of a sonic experience, headphones don't even come close to a good speaker setup. Others have elaborated on why. If imaging, soundstage, and pure dynamics are important qualities in what you listen to, then IMO you need a quality speaker setup, regardless of the quality of your headphones. That was why I put my caveat in my response to Neruda. I already had the Sony DVP-S9000ES as a digital source in the speaker setup, and was looking at the A3CD for a headphone setup only.

Raymondlin, IMO a good speaker setup gives up nothing to headphones by way of detail. My Electrocompaniet amp is somewhere between 50 and 70 watts of pure class A (got it as a CES demo from Karen Sumner (Transparent Audio) back when she distributed Electrocompaniet in the mid 80's). I was using it to drive Celestion SL600 speakers for years...that particular system is extremely detailed, with pinpoint imaging. I've never heard a headphone come close...
post #12 of 20
I know a good speakers setup gives nothing short of a headphone setup, but the difference here is money. I have both and I like the speakers more mainly because the B&W produce enough detail already. Every other field though, headphone loses. Never tried watching a film using headphones mainly because I like my sofa to rumble. And you don't get the feeeling that the musician are there with you with headphones. They stay in your head, even with HD600 + X-CANv2 + X-PSU.

I can actually feel the music with my body with speakers, not just the bass but the voices are actually like they are floating in the air. Very cool experience, female voices are really good at doing this.
post #13 of 20
I agree with you all that speakers are better. However, I can't use speakers now. Further, a $1k speaker system would sound like crap next to my $1k headphone system. But yeah, once you get above $10k, speakers make headphones sound silly.
post #14 of 20

Youse all are a bunch of trolls!

I can't believe Jude let's this crap continue! What's all this headphone ragging? (j/k...)

I agree with you all that headphones don't produce a better soundstage or "imaging" than speakers, but...that's just not important to me. Most of the music I listen to was recorded in a fictitious environment anyway (digital reverbs), so I'm not too concerned about it. I like frequency response, dynamics, separation, phase accuracy, lack of coherency problems due to crossovers, boxiness due to enclosures, etc., and for all of that, headphones rule! When's the last time you heard edge effects on headphones?

(PS Thanks, V1. You can delete your post now. And I promise to stop skipping my meds and get some sleep.)
post #15 of 20
I agree with you all that headphones don't produce a better soundstage or "imaging" than headphones

Either it's been a long work day or you're still up 3AM in the morning.
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