GOODSOUND!GoodSound! "Equipment" Archives

Published October 1, 2002

 

Arcam CD62T CD Player

Let's just say it: Buying a CD player has become about as agonizing as assembling a barbecue gas grill, calculating amortization schedules in your head, or keeping up with the plot of Memento.

There are so many questions: Two channel or multichannel? CD player or DVD player? SACD or DVD-Audio? Pay now for new technology or wait for affordable universal players compatible with all the new formats? And what about HDCD?

But for those with specific desires -- namely, a basic single-disc CD player with high-end aspirations costing between $500 and $700 -- Arcam's new $599-USD CD62T reduces the agony and virtually eliminates the guesswork in picking out a machine. In this price range, there's not much competition: the perennials, Rotel and NAD, and maybe a couple of others.

The CD62T says a few things about its buyer. You're sitting out the new-technology evolution, at least for now; you're not ready for multichannel music, or maybe multichannel and its limited catalog aren’t ready for you. And, most important, you're aware there's almost no chance a DVD player, or budget DVD-Audio or SACD player, will play back your considerable collection of Red Book CDs with the fidelity of a well-designed two-channel player like the CD62T.

If that's the case for you, you're already cooking with gas.

Description

The CD62T is the entry-level player in Arcam's DiVA line. (To get the catchy DiVA acronym for its line of CD and DVD players, power amplifiers, digital tuners, and receivers, Arcam is stuck with the series’ clunky full name, Digitally Integrated Video and Audio.) All the latest DiVAs, including the CD72 and CD92, now carry the "T" appellation in the serial number, though not on the faceplate. Mr. T represents a new Sony transport now standard on all Arcam players, including the top-end FMJ (Full Metal Jacket) edition. The most obvious difference is that this transport, like any CD-ROM drive, reads CD text. That's great if, like me, you make CDs on your computer. If you don't burn your own discs, you'll barely notice.

Of the prerecorded discs I played, only Leonard Cohen's Ten New Songs [Columbia 85953] and Tony Bennett's Playin' with My Friends: Bennett Sings the Blues [Columbia 85883] -- both from Sony -- displayed text. On my homemade discs, the transport didn't recognize ampersands. Other than that, no complaints. The CD62T passed four of five test levels on the CD-Check test disc, rating "very good" for its ability to play through errors caused by manufacturing imperfections or scratches.

Users might expect slightly improved sonics with the Sony transport, which is said to have lower levels of digital distortion called jitter. So look for the "T" in the serial number for the latest and best from Arcam. The CD62T arrived belatedly as the entry-level DiVA, pushing the CD72T to mid-DiVA behind the top-of-the-line CD92T. The new CD62T and CD72T ($899) share the Sony transport and a 24-bit Delta/Sigma digital-to-analog converter.

Unlike past entry-level Arcams, however, the CD62T is not upgradeable. You'll have to live with the smaller power supply and the AC-coupled output stage instead of the CD72T's servo-assisted DC-coupled output stage. The CD72T has the more sophisticated power supply in the event of an upgrade to the CD92T ($1700), where it's needed for the venerated DCS Ring DAC technology. The CD62T has a lesser remote control and lacks a chassis constructed of vibration-deadening Sontech.

The CD62T shows off the new cosmetics of Arcam's DiVA series of CD and DVD players, amplifiers, integrated amps, tuners, and audio/video receivers. But I could barely see that smooth, silver fascia through the high-test green display. The green could be dimmed, or shut down, with the remote. I dimmed it. With the green glare gone, a couple of peculiarities were noticeable immediately. Instead of the traditional Open/Close button to control the CD drawer, there is a touch-button labeled Load. (OK, so what happened to Unload?) And the On/Off button resides on the far right of the front panel, not the customary far left, with a green LED attached, amoeba-like.

The modern CD player is overly reliant on the remote control. On the CD62T, only basic controls like Play, Pause, Search, and Skip Track are accessible on the front panel. As someone who uses a remote only when necessary, I wish more manufacturers would make room for at least a manual Shuffle control. The rear panel is more conventional, with RCA analog outputs and a pair of digital (coaxial and optical) outputs. If you're on a power trip, a detachable IEC power cord allows experimentation. There's also a remote input for use with multiroom remote-control systems. The plastic remote, designed for multiple components in the DiVA series, is bigger than the average CD remote, but that means the buttons are bigger and the print is bigger and more legible. Even though I don't use CD remotes much, I liked that. Arcam has made some strategic sacrifices in the CD62T: I do wish they'd found a way to include HDCD even in their entry-level players.

Setup

The CD62T logged many hours with another DiVA, the A65 Plus integrated amplifier, which meant I had one DiVA remote too many. Also in the system were the Acoustic Energy AEGIS EVO One and B&W DM303 speakers with Kimber 8TC speaker cable, MIT Terminator 3 interconnects, and also some amazingly good do-it-yourself interconnects made with magnet wire. The Rotel RA-1060 gave the A65 Plus an occasional breather.

Sound

The CD62T had almost 50 hours of continuous play before performing for a live audience of one. In that pressure-free environment, the CD62T offered a warm welcome. The CD62T might not be quite as smooth or as rounded as previous Arcam players, but I certainly wouldn't classify its sound as neutral.

Some of the best budget CD players from the earlier days of digital compensated for chronically harsh recordings with a dulled-down top end of the frequency spectrum and an ultra-smooth midrange. With great improvements in recording techniques and digital-to-analog converters in CD players, there's less demand for such dramatically tailored machines.

But the CD62T is forgiving, all right -- just not quite like the old days. It tiptoes around the highest frequencies, where the sonic grunge resides. Yet it also sacrifices some of music's most intoxicating qualities -- the sparkle, the openness -- generated in those highest frequencies. I'm OK with that. This strategy produces such a smooth aural snapshot that you can almost see it. It will make properly mated equipment that is assembled into the right system sound its best.

Drop the CD62T into a home-theater system -- as I did, replacing Sony's DVP-NS755V DVD player in a system with the Marantz SR7000 receiver and the brawny Athena Audition AS-F2 loudspeakers -- and you'll quickly get the picture. Through the Arcam, space between Roy Haynes's drums, Danilo Perez's piano, and John Patitucci's bass becomes more defined, and their position on the imaginary stage easier to lock into on "Dear Old Stockholm" from The Roy Haynes Trio [Verve 543534]. The drum kit crackles beneath Haynes, now into his 70s. Patricia Barber suddenly sounds more distant, more subdued, but in the context of a live performance, more natural -- on "Touch of Trash" from Companion [Blue Note 22963].

What you get, then, from Jane Monheit's "Waters of March" off her Come Dream with Me [N-Coded/Warlock 4219] album played through the Arcam A65 Plus and Acoustic Energy AEGIS EVO One is a nice soundstage, somewhat two-dimensional, that extends across the room laterally but doesn't push out much toward the listener. The title track of Alison Krauss & Union Station's New Favorite [Rounder 0495], likewise, has a generous midrange but the CD62T can't reproduce the wrap-around sonic effects of this demo-caliber song. The bottom end is also leaner than it might be.

The more lively and larger Audition AS-F2 speakers -- 3.5’ tall, 15" deep, and 51 pounds each -- took the CD62T where the AEGIS EVO One speakers couldn't, all the way down to about 35Hz. That's the turf usually covered by a budget subwoofer. The CD62T's restraint and the AS-F2's slightly forward, bottom-heavy characteristics matched nicely.

Conclusion

I'd hate to spend much more than $600 now on a CD player only to watch technology, and pricing, shift dramatically in the next couple of years. That might not happen, but the CD62T is a safe, and sound, choice for a new machine.

Sonically, the CD62T offers maybe 90% of the performance of many upscale players. Of course, for that extra 10% some people will gladly pay thousands of dollars. The CD62T was the most valuable player in the system with the Arcam A65 Plus and the Acoustic Energy AEGIS EVOs. I didn't hesitate to substitute the Rotel RA-1060 for the A65 Plus or the B&W DM303s for the AEGIS EVOs. I could listen to the CD62T for hours at a time in either system. That says a lot about the Arcam CD62T.

Price of equipment reviewed


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