Pros: Superior Sound; Built To Take Some; Plenty Of Features
Cons: It?s Hi Fi but not High Hi Fi
Sony are dominating the budget CD player market. The CDP-XE370 is one of the cheaper models available today, going for less than #74.99 ($105), after the initial RRP of #99.95 ($140). Its the mix of reputation and overall performance which make them ideal for any Hi Fi. It may also be due to the driving down of SACD player prices that these models are being cut away from their retail price.
The CDP-XE370s biggest feature has to be the CD-RW playback, but there is loads other features which will add to the appeal. Such as the neater front panel thats been cleaned up since the last series (XB) or the new H-Pulse DAC that replaces the Current Pulse DAC from the older series also. The Jog Dial, infamous with Sony CD players is also here; just turn the knob to the right track, then punch it, its that easy.
Compared to the bigger brothers, the 370 hasnt the features which make it a proper player; you dont get CD-text and theres only optical digital output on offer, there is limited extras like a Fader, AutoSpace or Music Scan which are commonly used with recording to MiniDisc. The basics are here, you get a 20 track calendar, the usual program (24 tracks) and shuffle settings, and the repeat modes. Ive used a XB-930 for over a year now, and I must say the drop in features is quite radical, the XB930 has loads more options and settings, although it is still as easy to use as the XE370.
CD players at this level, if you compared them to any micro system, are enormously more easy to use. Hi Fi, that is, proper Hi Fi systems are always easy to use, they dont have gimmicks like graphics equalizers or flashy lights. They down to the real basicness which make them sound 10 times better than a comparatively price system. And thanks to units like the XE370 its now affordable to get High Quality for a Fine Price.
No, when it comes down to it, the XE370 is just right for a small system, it has a sound that is bright and clear, with plenty of weight and enough power to give decent dynamics. The XE370 should match just about any amp at this price level, especially Sonys own line up, which are currently getting lower in price these days. The sound is very even, but not flat, with the right speakers you should be able to retrieve loads of details, and plenty of stereo imaging. The supplied audio leads that they give you arent good enough I say, you should invest in some much thicker ones. The difference can be heard in the amount of dynamics that each cable outputs.
Its well built, the front of the unit has a good layout and the transport is tightly held in place, with the buttons and the jog dial, which scatter over the hard front. Once again, though, its a slight disappointment to see a manual switch, and no standby mode. Although Sony mention in the manual that this is so you can have it auto play when power is sent and it is switched on. Round the rear are the usual connections, stereo RCA sockets, and an optical output, and Sonys AIIB connection system. Just like the other models Ive used, there is only one vent, and the entire chassis is covered in a plastic and clay tape to stop unwanted vibrations. The casing is strong and since theres no vents, dust will be little of a problem. The remote is another one from the Sony bin, thats not to say its not good; as usual excellently made and works a treat.
The rest of the features start with the Peak Search, a program that runs through a whole CD and looks for the highest output, then repeats that for you over and over to get a level match for recording. There is also an Output level selector (0 ~ -20dB) like other models, this again is for recording, which can be done through the optical output, which uses a Toslink socket. There isnt a headphone socket, the other models (XE470 and up) will have that.
The box is 430x95x290mm (WxHxD), as usual 10cm thinner than every other type of component, and weighs about 3.2kg.
With mellow tunes the XE370 performs adequately, its so much of an improvement over 2000s line up, and that all-new DAC (Digital To Analogue Conversion) seems to have added much more impact to the sound. Bass is much sharper, and has more texture to it, the mid-range seems more detailed and the treble is much clearer. With some of Radioheads OK Computer the XE370 the level of detail combined with the dynamics make it more live. I would say that the sound is a lot more party than the older models; its livelier and much more focused, which is perfect for this market level.
What is more surprising is that the XE370 performs almost as well with CD-RW discs as it does with normal ones. I couldnt say that the difference between a direct copy and the original is as noticeable as on the XB930, but at this price to notice the slight click in the left channel was a surprise. The jitter correction of the transport is also good, you could literally chuck any scratched disc and it will make it through without much trouble. It works pretty well with those gold discs that crop up.
Ive played quite a variety of genres in the unit, while I couldnt say that the Primal Scream CDs shone that much, the rest certainly sounded more than I was expecting. It practically laughs at anything which was made in a machine, like Trance or Pop, it even managed to point out some recording errors that made it past the production studio on one or two CDs. Anything with a relatively simple song structure can be deciphered, and more complex things are a little trickier. Just about all of them sounded the way they were supposed to, bass had a very rugged and natural punch to it, drums and percussion had that sort of raspy feel, and piano instruments sounded full bodied and real. Vocals were not as impressive, as compared to the XB930 I thought they seemed slightly subdued, on the whole this isnt much of a difference.
Through this review I have compared the XE370 to the XB930, although these are both on a different level. When it comes down to it, the XE370 is a real bargain, compare it to something like a Technics SLPG4 and youll notice the difference. The only other competition for the 370 is a Marantz CD4000, which offers a limited similar in features. If you do decide to buy a CD player at this level, I would first consider the competition, however you can bet the Sony XE370 wont disappoint if you choose it.