[SoundStage!]Archived Letters
July 2006


CD3 Mk II or Reference CD7?

July 26, 2006


I'm a big fan of SoundStage! Great work! I don't expect you to know the answer to this question right away, but I figured that, if I'm lucky, maybe you have saved your auditioning notes. Which CD player is a better match for the Audio Research Reference 3 preamplifier, the Reference CD7 or CD3 Mk II? The CD7, as you know, is an all-tube design, and I'm wondering if its sound may be too "tubey," while the CD3 Mk II is a solid-state design. Maybe a better question would be, which one of these digital sources you auditioned with the Reference 3 sounded best? Thanks for any feedback you can give me, and, again, keep up the outstanding work on SoundStage!

Oscar Bermudez

I know both the CD3 Mk II and Reference CD7 very well. I reviewed and subsequently purchased the CD3 Mk II, and I sold it to buy the Reference CD7. Regarding both of your questions -- which sounds better with the Reference 3 preamp, and which is better overall -- the answer is unequivocally the Reference CD7. Its sound is bigger and more physical than that of the CD3 Mk II, and it retrieves even more musical detail as well, which I would have thought impossible. Like the Reference 3, the Reference CD7 uses tubes, but neither has a soft, romantic sound. As I've discovered, all of ARC's latest Reference products share an open, wideband sound that doesn't lack for warmth and presence.

In short, if you like what you hear from your Reference 3, you'll like the Reference CD7 as well. The two products have "extreme synergy" when used together. You don't have to balance the Reference 3's sound with that of a source that's rather different. ARC says that the Reference CD7 is better "in every way" than the CD3 Mk II, which is a terrific CD player, and they are correct as far as my ears are concerned….Marc Mickelson

"I am not experiencing the 'transformed my system' type of feelings..."

July 24, 2006


Do you think the Benchmark DAC1 requires higher-end ancillary components in order to appreciate it? Or is it that newer CD players (even good budget ones) are just getting that much better?

I replaced my suddenly dead Cambridge Audio D500 last week with the Azur 640C V2 from the same company. It has 100 hours of burn-in. But at the time of purchase I noticed that the dealer had a Benchmark DAC1. I read up on it and became very excited. I have it on audition for the weekend (I'm listening to it right now, in fact). However, I am not experiencing the "transformed my system" type of feelings as related by some buyers or anything that makes me feel the DAC 1 is significantly better then my Azur 640C V2, which so many reviews on the Internet made me feel would be the case. I’ve been careful to keep the levels as close as I can. I’ve also tried to hook up the DAC 1 straight to the power amp.

I wonder if the rest of my components need to be better to hear the DAC1 perform its magic. I have an Anthem Amp 1, a Musical Fidelity AC3.2 CR preamp, and Monitor Audio Silver S6 speakers. Good mid-fi gear. Or could it be that newer CD players like the Azur 640C V2 with their internal DACs are just getting better?

A part of me wants to keep the DAC1 because of the "awesome high-end yet budget gear" stamp placed on it by so many and because it’s a professional product, even though it’s twice the price of the Azur CD player.

I would appreciate any thoughts you might have on this.

Sanjay Chugh

First of all, your gear is certainly better than "mid-fi," and it's of sufficient quality that you should hear any improvement that a new component will bring. Ultimately, I think you've answered your own question: CD players -- and other digital gear -- have gotten much better over the past five years or so. You could also be expecting too much out of the Benchmark DAC; maybe its sound is not all that different from that of your current CD player, so improvements are tougher to hear, if they are there at all.

In the end, if you don't hear improvement, don't search for it. Either it's there -- and worth what it cost you -- or it's not....Marc Mickelson


July 19, 2006

To Doug Schneider,

Great job on the review of NHT's Xd speaker system. It was a thoroughly well-put-together review.

After reading Stereophile's review of this system last year, I drove to Boston to audition it in person (at a dealer located right across the street from Boston University). To say I enjoyed the sound would be a serious understatement. It was in some ways the best reproduction I had ever heard. Pitch accuracy, frequency coherence, low-level detail and timing characteristics were in a league of their own. But not all was perfect -- the Xd system was limited in dynamic range and bass extension, both of these due to the tiny size of the speaker cabinets. I kept thinking to myself, if only the speakers moved more air!

The reviews in Stereophile last year and now in the current issue of The Abso!ute Sound back up my findings. They, like I, say that this is an important advance in loudspeaker design. TAS in particular shared my thoughts in terms of certain (critical) aspects of the sound spectrum. The word "revolutionary" came to mind -- a thought I fully agree with (and a word I don't take very lightly). True, we've had other DSP loudspeakers over the years (mainly from Meridian), but none of these efforts sounded nearly as good as the NHT/DEQX design.

In your report, you noted that "hissing" and other related side effects kept the Xd from being "the breakthrough product it purports to be." In my view, and in all due respect, that's being a little picky as it overlooks the historical and technical importance that this system represents. I hope, like you, that NHT fixes these problems (along with my request for larger cabinets so we can move more air and get deeper bass). A better power amp also might help -- the ones NHT uses are "cheapies," at least in terms of price. But make no mistake, this system still stands as a breakthrough in loudspeaker design. Here's to the future!

John Harnick

You want the speakers to move more air, and I want NHT to fix the glitchy electronics: I think we both agree that the Xd system is extraordinary in many respects, but flawed in others. Therefore, although I admire the technology, I think for it to be of "historical and technical importance," the system (and we have to remember that this is packaged as a complete system) has to be flawless. It isn’t, at least not yet; the most descriptive words right now might be "extremely promising."...Doug Schneider

NAD reliability

July 7, 2006


I disagree 100% with your reply [below] to the person asking about the reliability of NAD. I have a C370 that has been in the shop twice. The first time was under warranty, and the dealer sent it off for that. Two years later it started having problems again, so I took it to a local shop where they found cold solder joints. The unit is having problems again less than three months after the second repair. Lenbrook has refused to help me. I am astounded that a modern mass-produced product would have cold solder joints.

David Hendrix

NAD C372 reliable?

July 4, 2006

To Philip Beaudette,

I really liked the review of the NAD C372. I have read many positive reviews of this unit and some negative. Is this amp reliable in your opinion? I don't really care for the looks of it, and it has been said the knobs are constructed of cheap plastic. You do, however, get many watts for the price. I will agree with you on that.

Tim Emmons

I've owned an NAD C372 for a year, and it has functioned well since it has been in my possession. That said, I never play it at high volumes for extended periods, and I'm fairly careful when I handle audio equipment. However, NAD has built a reputation on the reliability of their gear, so I don't think you're gambling too much. Furthermore, any time I've dealt with Lenbrook (the company that owns NAD and PSB, among others) I've always received excellent customer service. I don't think you have too much to worry about. Besides, the C372 carries a one-year warranty in case you encounter problems early on. As for the plastic knobs on the front panel, that shouldn't be a concern.These amplifiers are built to meet a certain price point and, as a result, compromises must be made somewhere. If you want to buy an integrated that is built to much higher standards, you might consider a model such as the Bryston B100 SST, which I am currently reviewing. This integrated amplifier is very solid. As always, though, the build quality of a piece such as the Bryston comes at a substantial increase in price....Philip Beaudette


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