My impressions from searching for a home source (NAD and Cambridge Azure)
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TMC

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I've spent a couple of hours during the past 2 days to (finally) find myself a good < $500 stationary cdplayer and have some impressions that might be useful for someone in a similar situation as me. The store I visited allowed me to use my own gear to audition the cdplayers (Meta42 and CD1700) and they had a couple of players that have received very good reviews in audio magazines: NAD 521BEE, NAD 542, Cambridge Azure 540C and 640C. Just a note before I reveal my impressions. The players used might or might not have been burned in properly due to lack of info on how much playtime each player had when I tried them. FWIW they all sounded fine from my gear without any glaring faults.

NAD 521BEE: This is the cheapest of all the players I tried, but don't write it off quite yet. It's a really nice player for the money with a pretty warm sound and powerful bass-response. I think the treble and low bass could have needed a little bit more detail, but that's when I try to be as spoiled as possible by the more expensive players.

NAD 542: Quite similar to 521BEE as one might expect, with stronger and more detailed low bass. With my gear I found it a bit too similar to quite justify the $200 difference for me. The HDCD feature surprised me as it lit up on the display on one particular song on my mixed cd I had no idea was a from a HDCD at all.

Azur 540C: Like its' big brother 640C this player leans more towards bright than the NADs and are what I would consider more neutral. Both Azures have a bit wider soundstage than the NADs and not as strong in bass-response. It's quite similar to 640C but a tad too bright for my taste with some lack of control in treble. This is the only player that had me wondering if it might benefit from more burn-in and maybe end up being almost equal to the 640C. But since 640C is just $85 more I felt I might aswell go for that instead.

Azur 640C: This is the player I ended up taking home. Balanced sound, tight bass, detailed treble and the wider, "airy" soundstage won me over a step at a time that I ended up listening for longer and longer periods on the 640C before I could make myself switch to another player during my auditioning. In the end I was certain this was the winner for me. Just a tip if you're getting this player but feel uncertain if you should go for the silver or black version. Silver all the way, the black colour really ruins its' great looks. This is from a guy that usually goes for black whenever he can


To round things up, if you want a warm player with quite powerful bass NAD is the way to go. If you're looking for something with a bit wider soundstage and more detailed treble, I think Azur 640C is an excellent buy. Overall all these players are very good, only with a recommendation to go with the 640C instead of 540C if the price is fairly close. And if you're on a tight budget the 521BEE is also very good value. As always YMMV and all the regular disclaimers
 
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elnero

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Nice impressions TMC. I'm sure quite a few people will benefit from you posting your experiences.

I hope that you post some more impressions once the player you bought has burned in and you've had more time to really get a feel for it. I know mine was a bit on the bright side right out of the box but it's settled down to be quite smooth and involving with tight powerful bass.

Edit: I've got the black and I think it's soooo sexy.
 
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stymie miasma

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As elnero pointed out - very, very timely summation TMC - thank you! A lot of people have been asking after these sources of late, and it was great that you had an opportunity to spend some time with all of them, side-by-side. Thanks for taking the time to share your impressions.


 
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Ah, thanks for the review. I also really love my 640C, but unfortunately, didn't get to do any auditioning. Glad to hear it performed favorably, at least in your eyes (as well as some of the "professional" reviews I've read).
 
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TMC

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Thanks guys, I'm glad I had the chance to try these 2 brands of cdplayers as they both received such good reviews in the value segment in audio mags. Right now I'm doing an around the clock burn-in to see what rewards I might reap from that.

BTW elnero, I tried the black 640C but I found it too dark for me
 
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Thanks for the impressions, I think you made the right choice. The 640C is #1 on my short list when I do my upgrade thing, in black of course.
 
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Thanks TMC enjoyed your impressions. Just a question regarding the amp you used to test these. If different amps were used do you think this might impact your impressions?

One thing I have noticed myself is that NAD amps are (to me) very neutral and match well with NAD cd players. My NAD C542 changes its characteristics when used with my Denon Amp (less controlled bass).

Cheers,

TonyAAA
 
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TMC

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Quote:

Originally posted by TonyTripleA
Thanks TMC enjoyed your impressions. Just a question regarding the amp you used to test these. If different amps were used do you think this might impact your impressions?

One thing I have noticed myself is that NAD amps are (to me) very neutral and match well with NAD cd players. My NAD C542 changes its characteristics when used with my Denon Amp (less controlled bass).

Cheers,

TonyAAA


Yes I agree that a neutral amp would go better with NADs, but my Meta42 with AD8620 I find to be fairly neutral. On the other hand the CD1700 have prominent mids which in combination with the NADs was a bit too warm for me. So I think a brighter headphone with especially more recessed mids would make a bigger difference in my case. But also I found the soundstage of 640C more enjoyable in my setup, with a bit more width and situated a little further away from the head, which is what I tried to describe with the word "airy" before.
 
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TMC, how loud is the Cambridge? I know this has put a lot of people off in earlier threads that I can't search. What's your take on it?


Isn't it nice to have a good cdp though?
 
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Quote:

Originally posted by plainsong
TMC, how loud is the Cambridge? I know this has put a lot of people off in earlier threads that I can't search. What's your take on it?


Isn't it nice to have a good cdp though?


I'm not certain I understand your question but I used about the same volume on the amp to get a similar listening level on all 4 units so I didn't notice a major differences there. Does that answer your question?

I'm sure having lots of fun with a good home source for once. After my first day of auditioning I wasn't actually sure if the difference between these players and my PCDP was that big. But on the 2nd day when I brought my PCDP with me and did a direct comparison I was sold, and so was the 640C
 
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I'm not sure which model cambridge was talked about in earlier threads, but there was a complaint that it was very noisy when playing. You know, the sound of the disk spinning and the parts internally doing their thing was very loud. Obviously it must not be bothering you.
 
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Ah you mean the player being loud during operation. Yeah it makes a little clicking sound that only happens when skipping tracks. Overall I would say it's a little bit louder than the NADs due to the clicking but I haven't found it to be an issue unless I really pay attention to it. But if you're really sensitive to players making small noises it might bother you. I might add that I usually sit about 2-3 ft from the player for reference.
 
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Quote:

Originally posted by TMC
Ah you mean the player being loud during operation. Yeah it makes a little clicking sound that only happens when skipping tracks. Overall I would say it's a little bit louder than the NADs due to the clicking but I haven't found it to be an issue unless I really pay attention to it. But if you're really sensitive to players making small noises it might bother you. I might add that I usually sit about 2-3 ft from the player for reference.


The same here. It is a noisier transport than average but not enough to be bothersome to me. Now seeing as I sit right beside the player this might change when the open HD600's arrive next week but then I can't say I've really noticed even between tracks or on quiet passages with the W100's so I might be ok.
 
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Ah, the transport issue. When skipping tracks it does click, during play back I find mine to be no louder than normal.
 
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Just a little update on how I'm getting along with my new player. Last night I had some worries about the player being unbalanced with the right channel being louder as instruments I was used to being placed in the middle was shifted towards the right side. Swapping back to my PDCP again and listening to the same instruments I suddenly noticed the instruments are indeed placed a bit towards the right. It's just that the soundstage is that much less defined on the PCDP I had to really concentrate to pick it up, something I've never even noticed before despite hearing the songs hundreds of times! And also there are quite a few moments when I'm hearing subtle instruments in songs I'm familiar with that I've never picked up before. Sting is especially fond of the nuances that these background instruments add to the music. Well what more can I say except I'm damn happy I finally invested in a good full-size cdplayer
 
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