||"Whether with SACD or CD,
the CD37 provided first-rate digital sound."
Arcam FMJ CD37 CD/SACD Player
by Roger Kanno
presentation was squeaky clean without sounding harsh or 'digital.' The body and depth were
always engaging, and the sense of ease made even extended listening extremely pleasing."
"With the CD37, I was able to hear details in recordings that I had not heard before or
that were only hinted at and not fully realized by lesser players."
||"The FMJ CD37 stereo
CD/SACD player...also happens to be Arcam's top-of-the-line CD player." "The CD37
utilizes Wolfson 8741 DACs operating in dual-differential mode, though the player has only RCA
outputs, not XLR as you might expect to see with a dual-differential circuit. It is capable of
native DSD decoding." "The chassis features a damped Sound Dead Steel (SDS)
construction and Stealth Mat technology that utilizes metal-fiber matting to diffuse
electromagnetic interference (EMI)." "Being an audio-only player, it is devoid of
any video outputs or an HDMI output."
||"The player took a
few seconds to recognize discs, especially SACDs, and the drawer opened rather slowly, but it
had a smooth and solid feel to it."
and media-server-based systems are becoming more and more common, I dont doubt that
there is still a market for high-quality audio players like the FMJ CD37. And given its
reasonable price, I am sure that many audiophiles will agree with me by purchasing one."
Although mainstream adoption of the SACD format
never materialized, as Sony once predicted it would, it seems to have found a home in the
audiophile marketplace. Judging by the number of new titles that continue to be released
by audiophile record labels, SACD is the physical medium of choice for
high-resolution-digital recordings. And while inexpensive SACD and universal players are
becoming a rarity, many high-end manufacturers continue to offer digital players with SACD
Arcam was one of several specialty-audio
manufacturers that produced only DVD-Audio players in the early days of the
high-resolution audio formats but has more recently introduced several multichannel
universal players. The company's latest player, and the subject of this review, is the FMJ
CD37 stereo CD/SACD player, which also happens to be Arcam's top-of-the-line CD
player. Arcam is renowned for the sound quality of its CD players and for providing
exceptional performance at a reasonable price. At $2199 USD, the CD37 is priced similarly
to Arcam's previous reference CD players, but it offers SACD playback as an added feature.
The FMJ CD37 is Arcams first CD/SACD-only
player. Not only that, but as mentioned, it is a stereo-only model, unlike the company's
multichannel DVD-Audio and universal players. And being an audio-only player, it is devoid
of any video outputs or an HDMI output. It has been reported that Arcams universal
players are able to output DSD converted to high-resolution PCM over HDMI, but this is not
possible with the CD37. It can output digital audio from CDs via its coaxial or optical
outputs, but the only way to listen to SACDs is through the CD37's RCA analog outputs. It
also has an infrared control input and a 12V trigger input. The power is switchable
between 110-120V and 220-240V, and a removable IEC power cord is supplied.
The FMJ CD37 looks similar to other Arcam FMJ
components with its clean, businesslike metal faceplate. In fact, the casual observer
would have difficulty in distinguishing between it and most other CD and DVD players. At
17"W x 3 3/8"H x 10 1/2"D, it appears a little taller than Arcams
other players and a little more solidly built at almost 14 pounds. The large green LED
display and small, round stainless-steel-looking buttons on the front panel are typical
Arcam, and I found it all to be quite attractive, with a clean, modern look. The player
took a few seconds to recognize discs, especially SACDs, and the drawer opened rather
slowly, but it had a smooth and solid feel to it. The supplied CR90 remote controlled all
of the CD37s functions and was sensitive enough, but I found its small, similarly
shaped buttons to be difficult to differentiate until I got accustomed to their placement.
The CD37 utilizes Wolfson 8741 DACs operating in
dual-differential mode, though the player has only RCA outputs, not XLR as you might
expect to see with a dual-differential circuit. It is capable of native DSD decoding.
There are dual toroidal mains transformers and separate, high-capacity power supplies for
the analog, servo and digital sections. High-performance Burr-Brown OPA2134 op-amps and
WIMA polypropylene capacitors are used in the output stage. The chassis features a damped
Sound Dead Steel (SDS) construction and Stealth Mat technology that utilizes metal-fiber
matting to diffuse electromagnetic interference (EMI).
I used the Arcam FMJ CD37 primarily with the
matching FMJ A38 integrated amplifier that I previously reviewed at our Ultra Audio
site. Speakers were the Definitive Technology Mythos STS SuperTowers and Paradigm
Reference Signature S8s. Speaker cables and interconnects consisted of Analysis Plus Black
Oval 9 and Micro Copper Oval-In respectively. Power cords were the Essential Sound
Products AVP-16 used with a Zero Surge 1MOD15WI surge suppressor. The CD37 also spent some
time with my reference electronics, which consist of an Anthem Statement D2 audio/video
processor and Bel Canto e.One REF1000 mono amplifiers.
Like the FMJ A38 integrated amplifier that I
recently reviewed, the CD37 was a spectacular performer. Whether with SACD or CD, the CD37
provided first-rate digital sound that had me rediscovering many recordings that I had not
listened to in some time. The overall presentation was squeaky clean without sounding
harsh or "digital." The body and depth were always engaging, and the sense of
ease made even extended listening extremely pleasing.
The recording quality varies a bit between
tracks, but Jackson Brownes CD The Next Voice You Hear: The Best of Jackson
Browne (Elektra 7559621522) sounded resolved and true. There was an amazing amount of
depth on "Tender Is the Night." Each of the instruments was placed precisely to
create an exceptionally wide and deep soundstage, and the backing vocals filled in the
rest of the space. Jackson Brownes vocals were solid, with an expressiveness that
drew me into the recording. I am not as partial to Brownes more pop-oriented songs
like "Somebodys Baby" and "Doctor My Eyes," but the astounding
clarity of the FMJ CD37 made even these tracks immensely appealing and enjoyable. Politics
aside, "Lives In The Balance" is an evocative song that sounded wonderful
through the CD37. The haunting synthesized woodwinds and percussion were startling in
their transparency and lingered in my mind long after the song had ended.
With the CD37, I was able to hear details in
recordings that I had not heard before or that were only hinted at and not fully realized
by lesser players. On "Russians" from the Fields of Gold: The Best of Sting
1984-1994 CD (A&M 73145402692597), the drums and cymbals deep in the background
were still buried within the complex layers of the mix but were easily recognizable as
individual instruments. The sax and percussion on "Englishman In New York"
imaged with absolute precision, creating, again, a deep, wide soundstage that was
remarkably transparent. So crystalline was the sound that I would often stop while
listening to replay a passage that sounded particularly engaging. Johnny Cashs American
IV: The Man Comes Around CD (American 044007708309) has an immediacy that can
sometimes be a bit harsh, but the CD37 was able to play back even the most challenging
track, "Hurt," at realistic levels without becoming overbearing. The static at
the beginning of "The Man Comes Around" sounded more realistic than I have ever
heard it, and Cashs basso profondo on "Bridge Over Troubled Water" was
rich and deep, yet it conveyed the frailty that time and years of hard living had brought
to the Man in Black.
The FMJ CD37 was a wonderful CD player, but it
was an even better SACD player, bringing life to this format and proving its sonic
superiority. I am not sure whether it was its ability to decode DSD natively or all of
Arcams vast expertise in producing excellent digital players that helped the CD37
sound so good, but its performance with SACDs was truly spectacular. All of the sonic
traits that I heard with CDs were there with SACDs, only magnified. The CD37 sounded so
good that it made me want to listen to all of the SACDs that typically sit unused in my CD
rack. In fact, it made me wish that I had more SACDs to play. Dire Straits Brothers
In Arms: 20th Anniversary Edition (Vertigo 602498714980) sounded gorgeous, even if the
CD37 could only play it back in two channels. The acoustic guitar on "Walk of
Life" was rich and vibrant, and the bouncy melody and vocals were infectious. The
imaging on "Ride Across the River" was eerily holographic, with the shaker
nearly jumping out of the soundstage.
The RCA Living Stereo SACD reissues of classic
recordings sounded very good on the CD37. I felt that the recordings lacked a little
dynamic range and detail, but Jascha Heifetzs performance of Tchaikovskys
Violin Concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Fritz Reiner (Sony
BMG 828766789621) was mesmerizing. Switching to a more modern recording, the final
movement from Joseph Haydns Piano Concerto in G major, H 18 from the PMC
Classical Collection sampler (Harmonia Mundi SP 082), the retrieval of hall ambience
effectively created the illusion of a piano in a large space, and, when called upon, the
string sections were powerful and vibrant but still natural and realistic.
Listening to the Arcam FMJ CD37 in conjunction
with the matching A38 integrated amplifier, I can understand the appeal of the simplicity
and excellent performance of such a system. In particular, the CD37 provided
reference-quality digital audio playback that had all of the dynamics and detail of a
high-resolution system, but was still involving, eminently smooth and listenable
I am not one who has much use for expensive
high-end CD or SACD players. The main sources in my system are typically a laptop computer
with a Trends Audio UD-10.1 USB converter ($180), an Oppo DV-970HD universal player ($150
when still available) or a Sony PlayStation 3 ($400) all used as digital transports
feeding an Anthem D2 audio/video processor acting as both a DAC and preamp utilizing
digital signal processing (DSP). This actually works quite well, and I have never felt
that I was missing anything. To put things in perspective, the best digital audio player
that I have previously had in my system was the Arcam FMJ DV29 DVD-Audio player ($3000,
discontinued), which I felt bettered the nearly identical Anthem D1s sound with CDs,
but not by a huge margin. The current D2 is similar to the D1, except for the addition of
HDMI 1.1 digital inputs that allow it to receive high-resolution digital audio from
DVD-Audio discs and DSD converted to PCM from SACDs.
Even with the advantage of being able to transmit
high-resolution audio digitally from SACDs, albeit converted to PCM, I felt that the FMJ
CD37 sounded slightly better through its analog outputs than the D2s DACs being fed
by the Oppo DV-970HD. Rebecca Pidgeons spoken vocals exhibited slightly less
sibilance on "Auld Lang Syne/Bring It On Home To Me" from the Rebecca
Pidgeon: Retrospective SACD (Chesky 090368024268). The Oppo-fed D2 displayed plenty of
detail, but some of the smoothness that was the hallmark of the CD37 was missing. This
made the presentation of the Oppo/D2 combo sound more edgy and slightly less engaging.
A more meaningful comparison would be with the
Denon DVD-3910 universal player ($1500 when still available) that I happened to have on
hand briefly during the CD37s stay. With Mozart: Symphonies No. 25, 28 and 29
performed by the Prague Chamber Orchestra conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras on CD (Telarc
08940801652), the massed strings sounded more like a group of individual instruments
rather than a single entity with the CD37. The violins also had a bit of a hard edge to
them with the Denon player, and this became distracting at high volumes.
The differences between the
Denon and the Arcam players were even more apparent with SACDs. To my ears, SACDs sounded
more like CDs through the Denon, very good CDs mind you, but there was just
something a little lacking. For example, with the Denon player, the pinpoint imaging on "Temptation"
from Diana Krall's Girl in the Other Room SACD (Verve 602498620465) was still
there, with Ms. Krall's sultry vocals dead center, Anthony Wilson's guitar set slightly
back and to the right, and the brushes, cymbals and high hat off to the left. However, the
soundstage depth was reduced, resulting in a less three-dimensional presentation. In
contrast, the Arcam CD37 was able to take this SACD to the next level
of performance for a true high-resolution experience.
After listening to the Arcam FMJ CD37, I can
understand why so many audiophiles listen to SACDs. Its performance with these
high-resolution recordings was breathtaking. Even though I typically listen to
high-resolution audio discs on a multichannel system, I found the CD37s playback of
SACDs in stereo to be totally captivating. Being Arcams reference CD player, its
performance with Red Book CDs was as equally accomplished.
Although computer- and media-server-based systems
are becoming more and more common, I dont doubt that there is still a market for
high-quality audio players like the FMJ CD37. And given its reasonable price, I am sure
that many audiophiles will agree with me by purchasing one.
|Arcam FMJ CD37 CD/SACD player
Price: $2199 USD.
Warranty: Five years parts and labor for electronics, two years parts and
labor for laser/mechanism.
Pembroke Avenue, Waterbeach
Cambridge, England CB5 9PB
Phone: (44) (0)1223-203203
American Audio & Video
P.O. Box 3475
Buffalo, NY 14240-2954
Phone: (866) 916-4667
21000 TransCanada Highway
Baie DUrfe, Quebec H9X 4B7 Canada
Phone: (514) 457-6674
Fax: (514) 457-0055