In my search to find a relatively inexpensive two channel audiophile quality CD player, I had discovered that there were very few models available. It seems that the audiophile CD player market has narrowed down to either multi-channeled Super Audio CD players or VERY expensive two channel high-end players. For numerous reasons, I didn't want to spend that kind of money.
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The problem with audio equipment is that one can't blindly buy over the Internet without first hearing and comparing it to other models. Part of the equation that most buyers forget when reading reviews on a product is that everyone hears differently. What may sound good to one individual may not be acceptable to another. I finally chose three models and price points to review. They were: the Marantz CD5001 at $250, NAD C542 at $500 and Music Hall CD25 at $600. For the purpose of this review, I'll focus on the Marantz and point out the differences that I heard between the other models.
The Marantz CD5001 is a good looking unit with a black brushed aluminum front with its name raised in gold color. It fits neatly with the other rack components with its dimensions at 17.8" wide and 12.5" deep and weighing in at 8.8 lbs. Its platform uses the latest CD transport mechanism and rigid chassis construction.
The heart and soul of this machine is its Super Audio CD grade 192 kHz/24-bit Cirrus Logic CS4392 D/A converter. This is the least expensive CD player that I could find with a 24-bit digital-to-analog converter, but its linear format remains at 16-bit. The frequency response is quoted at 20Hz-20kHz, dynamic range at 100db, signal-to-noise ratio at 110db and THD at 0.0025%.
The CD5001 features include CD-R/RW playback, CD text capability, pitch control, random/repeat play, record edit mode, auto music scan, remote control and a headphone jack which I'll review later. Its rear connections are analog L&R out and digital optical/coaxial out. The remote control is small but well designed and logical to use.
My first listening experience was a head-to-head in-store comparison with the NAD C542 on the same audio equipment. I needed to know if the C542 was worth twice the CD5001's price. After a considerable listening period, there were noticeable differences. The Marantz had a substantially wider soundstage with a slightly better defined and sweeter high-end detail. Overall, the music had a more lively presence to it.
On the other hand, the NAD C542 had a bolder bass presence verses the CD5001's taut response. While the soundstage was smaller on the NAD, its music seemed slightly richer. The reason for this could have come from the C542's separate power supply which does add to its cost. But after hearing a number of CDs, the CD5001's wide soundstage and sweeter detail had won me over.
Further testing the Marantz CD5001 at home hooked-up to an Adcom 200 watt amp, Adcom preamp with monster cables and Martin Logan Ascent electrostatic speakers reaffirmed its smooth, sweet high-end response. The wide soundstage seemed to engulf me into the music and at times it created a near holographic experience.
A great test CD came from Madonna's "Confessions on a Dance Floor." The electronic sounds were soundstaged on a huge level, like a tsunami wave, by moving from the far left over to the far right and occasionally remaining at dead center in a three dimensional manner. The thunderous bass rattled the house so much, I had to scramble to turn it down.
The voice of Rod Stewart in "It Had to be You" literally swallowed the listener. The song has a well rounded bass pattern which the CD player executed perfectly and the horns were smoothly played. The soft songs from Norah Jones felt intimately in the room, while the new age sounds by Enya were larger than life. The Marantz CD5001 gave a sensational musical experience for its price.
The biggest surprise was the CD5001's newly designed headphone amp with buffer circuit. In my home, I enjoy listening to music at late hours when the family is sleeping. I've had to use a Sony portable CD player with a pair of Bose QuietComfort2 headphones. These cans are the best! As good as they sounded on a portable CD player, I had no clue of what I was missing until the headphones were jacked into the CD5001. Not only did the sound quality rival the big speaker experience, but it also became addicting to hear the musical nuances that were missed by the main system.
Finally, I came across the Music Hall CD25 player and was able to compare it directly with the NAD C542. The bottom line--it was no contest! The Music Hall outperformed the NAD in every imaginable way. Its soundstaging and instrumental detail was far superior. The musical nuances heard only in my headphones on the Marantz could be clearly heard on large speakers with the CD25. For me, if I was willing to spend $500 for the C542, I'd take the extra leap toward the Music Hall.
However, for only $250, the Marantz CD5001 does not disappoint; plus, there is a sound processor that I use to bring the CD5001 into a similar realm as the Music Hall. It's called the BBE Sonic Maximizer. When added to your system, it removes the gray veil heard within the CD format. It reveals detail like you've never heard before and you'll feel like you're hearing deep into the music's soundstage. It took the Marantz CD5001 into an even higher level of music listening experience.
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Amount Paid (US$): 250