Arcam CDS27 – Review

Arcam CDS27 – Review


Here I have the Arcam CDS27, with its FMJ, Faithful Musical Joy, tag.  The Arcam CDS27 is a CD player with a UPnP streamer built in.  It features multiple digital inputs, enabling it to become a very talented centre piece to a digital HiFi system, especially one with stored media as its source.

Good

Quality build

Burr/Brown reference standard DAC chip

Balanced output, if you have it

Not so Good

ALAC not supported (probably my fault, tbh!)

Remote control is disappointing

‘Play’ and ‘skip’ delay (probably my impatience more than anything)

Arcam CDS27 Features

Arcam CDS27 in discrete black finishAt this price point, there are many (many) CD players to look at.  This one demands a listen because it has the ubiquitous Burr/Brown ‘reference standard’ DAC that seems to be the ‘one to have’.  The ‘TI/Burr Brown PCM1794 digital to analogue converter’ (DAC) features full range hi resolution 24 bit 192 kHz conversion.

The player also streams music using Ethetnet or WiFi from a network storage device or a USB source.   The Arcam CDS27 also plays Super Audio (SACD) discs.  These are higher resolution CDs which feature a greater storage capacity than a standard CD, so for example a CD can hold 70-80 minutes of music, an SACD can hold four times this data, often with several channels (5.1 for example).

Finally the Arcam CDS27 supports the wide array of music files about these days, from Mp3 to FLAC, but not ALAC, the lossless Apple format.  This is a blow to me because my legacy file format is ALAC and most of my earlier CDs are in ALAC, although latterly I’m FLAC.  The practicality of this means I cannot play ‘The Cure’ on the Arcam CDS27, but I can play ‘Arctic Monkeys’ quite happily!

Supported Media on Disc, USB or network

FLAC up to 24 bit 192kHz

WAV up to 24 bit 192kHz

AAC up to 24 bit 96kHz

AIFF up to 24 bit 192kHz

OGG up to 24 bit 192kHz

MP3 up to 320kbps, 48kHz

WMA up to 192kbps, 48kHz

Quality

The Arcam CDS27 has a discrete black finish, making it a thing of genuine aesthetic beauty (bearing in mind IArcam CDS27 & A19 integrated amplifier salivate over a stack of Naim pre- and power amps at the drop of a hat or view of a catalogue).  I would imagine, stacked with its sibling A19 integrated amplifier, these two in the flesh will be quite a pair to look at!  Indeed I had the A19 a while back and I suitably impressed with A19 but it went back home before the CDS27 arrived.

The remote is a tad disappointing because it is light and a bit plasticky in touch but it does the job it is made for, I suppose.

Times past, the CD mechanism was everything but these days, they just suck’ em in and rack ’em up, the fascination has gone.  The mechanism though, if you like this sort of thing, is a quiet tray slider type and it’s neat.

Set-Up

I’m listening to the Arcam CDS27 with a Roksan K2 integrated amplifier which has plenty of firepower.  The  CDS27 was hooked up for streaming using an ethernet cable for stability, but the WiFi was just as easy to set-up, though I just played with it for reviewing purposes.  I have a Western Digital MyBookWorld as my NAS (Network Attached Storage) drive on the network with my legacy CD collection in Apple Lossless, mainly, and a load of FLAC files on the same drive I use for reviewing.  I compare the CD with my existing Yamaha CD player of many years standing but a source (and pairing) I am familiar with.

Performance

it sounds great, in broad terms, this is a cracking listen

General Operation

The Arcam CDS27 is neat machine, turning on slowly ,switching things on inside and warming up pleasantly.  At first it appears slow to wake up, this theme does continue.  All of the leads fit comfortably and are nicely spaced at the back.

Network compatibility was fine and dead easy to set-up.  The basic menu on the front of the machine is functional but adequate.  Browsing media, be it hard drive, USB or CD is OK, the display (which can be dimmed or turned off, which I like) . The problems come when you hit play.

Track selection is a fraction tedious, for example picking track 6 on a favourite CD has a delay that can get quite annoying.  However, this is more of a problem caused by me I think.  With my existing Yamaha CD player, I can throw a CD on the tray, hit 6 on the front of the machine and track 6 plays seconds later.  With the CDS27, I find I need to press play, then 6 on the remote, I can’t press 6 and then play so I end up hearing a second of track 1.  I think this maybe just me.  I’ll refer to App shortly but it does address this problem, partially.  The same delay happens when you ‘skip’ tracks and when you’re out of step it is a fraction frustrating.

CD

This is the bread and butter for the machine.  And it sounds great; in broad terms, this is a cracking listen.  Vocals, nice and clear.  Wide sound stage, clean sound.  I felt, for my listening, the bass end was a fraction heavy compared to my Yamaha CD; bizarrely, I then tried the CDS27 with a DAC using the Coax output and the DAC  ironed out or softened the heavier bass notes for me (not sure what that says about the DAC but there we are).  But I, of course for reviewing, have to revert to the on board ‘reference standard’ Burr/Brown DAC which is in the end is fine after a load of listening.  The musicality of the listening is clear and comfortable.

SACD

Using an SACD, I just have a Linn collection SACD for reviewing, demonstrates very clearly the quality of the technology, there is so much more detail in these SACDs.  The disc I have has a piece by acoustic guitar soloist William Carter and the detail of the finger strokes is breathtaking.  It is a shame this format has not taken off.

 USB

The USB input is at the back, a pain in the ‘you know where’.  It takes a while for the media browser to see it, but seconds only, and then navigation is simple from the display using the remote.  The FLAC files have huge detail revealed like the SACD, which we should expect.  I’ve referred in previous reviews to the detail in a 24 bit remaster of ‘Yello Submarine’ and all the detail is here to listen to, it is quite remarkable.

NAS Streaming

Streaming is similarly clear and excellent.  I have the same bundle of FLAC files on my NAS as I do on a USB 2.0 stick.  The performance is the same with no apparent loss in fidelity.  There is plenty of detail in here, it is very impressive.  Navigation was made using the remote or the App

Control

There is ‘an App for it’ as they say, Arcam’s MusicLife App.  It is a nice looking App as most are these days.  CD control and controlling selected NAS files is simple.  I have actually had difficulty choosing files from the NAS which should have been a simple task.  I’ve had contact with Arcam’s email support which was prompt so we will put that down to my ageing iPad.

Notwithstanding the App, CDS27 control using the iPad and the display is fine.  The play and skip delay is a feature of the player it seems, and not the control systems.

Comparible Players to the Arcam CDS27

There is a quote with the blurb proclaiming this ‘is the only source you’ll ever need’ but this is not quite true.   A streaming CD player is a great start but not having Bluetooth or Spotify or Tidal services means another digital solution to online services is required and the digital inputs into the Arcam CDS27 for this are not really there.

There are not really any streaming CD players at this price level.  Of course Naim hold the summit of the streaming CD player mountain with the £3,000+Super Uniti.  I have the more modest Naim Uniti2, which I love and listen to everyday but these products both have integrated amplifiers in them.

So really the only comparison is to look at a CD and a separate streamer but here you would be looking at more moderate boxes to add up to £800.  The excellent Audiolab 8200CD is a CD equivalent with a top DAC onboard but it has no streamer.

this machine really does represent very good value for money

Value for Money

Having thought about this for a bit this machine really does represent very good value for money.  Given you have the SACD technology which delivers huge detail and the FLAC conversion seems to be equally detailed this is a terrific accomplishment at the suggested retail price, which is £799.   The streaming function coupled with the CD is not replicated anywhere at this price point that I can see so there really seems to little competition for this device.

For more information goto Arcam’s site: http://www.arcam.co.uk/range/fmj.htm

Here’s my A19 review:  http://hifiandmusicsource.com/2015/07/arcam-fmj-a-19/

The CDS27 Retails at £799 at places like sevenoaks hifi.

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