Review: Arcam CD 73 CD Player

Category: Digital

The Arcam CD 73 CD Player is in Arcams Diva Range of products and is the replacement for the Arcam CD 72. Comes in Silver or Black finish and has on the rear panel IEC socket two RCA analog outputs,Digital RCA Coax as well as Toslink,plus switcable Voltage selector for 120 or 230.

The Front of the Arcam CD 73 contains the tray, 9 buttons that control basic functions for the deck, as well as the display that can be turned off along with 2 levels of brightness,nice touch there,display function available only on the remote though. The Arcam has Text Read as well, so discs encoded with the artist and title tracks are displayed when the unit detects this information.

The remote is the usual standard plastic encased type that control; Play, Stop, Pause, Repeat ,A-B, Shuffle, Display, Time, Track, Fast Forward, open and 10 number key pad. Also the remote can control other Arcam products such as an integrated amp.

For the foreseeable future CD Redbook will continue to be the only viable format. SACD and DVD-A have yet to make substantial inroads into the audiophile community. High priced players and expensive software,as well as the current limited selections, may well spell the doom of SACD and DVD-A. To be further candid how many of us are going to repopluate our CD library with this new format? I am not and most likely the vast majority of us will not as well. With reissues coming out everyday and a lot of them in 24 Bit technology, it is just logical to remain with a high quality CD Redbook player such as the Arcam CD 73, with its 24 Bit resolution.

Internal construction is to a very high standard and audiophile quality parts are used in all critical signal areas.

The all metal case CD73 includes the latest generation 24-bit DAC from Wolfson MicroElectronics, plus a double-sided, through-hole plated motherboard and a low noise toroidal power transformer. Furthermore, if you decide to improve your system, by simply adding the appropriate Arcam DAC module, the CD73 is readily upgradeable in the future to CD82 or CD192 performance.

Listed below are CDs used for this review.

Peter White - Confidential - Columbia CK 89090
Dotsero - Essensual - Ichiban Intl - 02-24884-2
Larry Carlton - Deep Into It - Warner Bros.- 9 48006-2
Fourplay - Elixir - Warner Bros - 9 45922-2
Kenny Burrell & Grover Washington Jr. Blue Note - 25651022
Crusaders - Rural Renewal - Verve - 00772-4
Bob James/Earl Klugh - Cool - Warner Bros - W2 26939
Michael McDonald - MoTown - Motown - B0000651-02
John Coltrane - Blue Train - Blue Note(RVG) - 95326(24 Bit)
Bob James - Restless - Warner Bros - 9-45536-2
Sarah McLachlan - Afterglow - Arista 50150-2RE-1
Scott Hamilton - Jazz Heritage - Concord - CCD-4819-2
Yellowjackets - Dreamland - Warner Bros. - 9 45944-2
Joe Sample - Did You Feel That? - Warner Bros. - 9 45729-2
Melissa Etheridge - Yes I Am - Island - 422-848-660-2
Acoustic Alchemy - AArt - Higher Octave - HOMCD 11103
Brian Hughes - Along The Way - A440 - 4016-2
Donald Byrd - At The Half Note Vol. 1 & 2 - Blue Note-90881
Urban Knights - Urban Knights V - Narada - 80448
Kenny Burrell - Midnight Blue - Blue Note(RVG) 84123

Actually more than listed above were played and evaluated, but the list gives insight to listening experience, using the Arcam CD 73 CD Player. The Blue Note selections listed above were all the recent Rudy Van Gelder editions in 24 bit format.

Click on the virtual system link to view the system and other components the Arcam CD 73 works with.

First of all this is not a $2,000.00 player in sheeps clothing. However it is quite an overachiever and clearly outpaces any CD player in its price range and can compete with anything I have heard up to the $1,000.00 to $1,200.00 price range. In my opinion it cleary excels the Music Hall CD25,Rotel RCD 1072,Creek CD 50,Cambridge Azur 640C,NAD C 542 based solely on stock out of the box units,non-modified units. And yes I did listen to the above units listed above before adding the Arcam CD 73. To my ears the Arcam CD 73 excelled in all areas relating to the above menetioned units.

Clarity,depth,transparency,sound stage,imaging,and separation are on a level that far belies its $699.00 price tag.A solid black background free of any noise whatsoever and retrieves the musical signal with a solid authority that one just has to experience. In overall terms it cannot compete with my Classe .5 CDP player,with the exception of 24 bit CDs. The Classe is a 20 bit machine produced in 1998 and has HDCD. On 24 bit CDs the Arcam does excel the Classe in that department. But in all fairness to the Arcam 73 comparing it to the Classe .5 $2,000.00 player is not a heads on comparison.

This review by no means is mean't to disparage the above listed CD players. All of them are very good in their own right. However I felt the Arcam was a cut above in overall sonic signature as it pertains to my system.

Arcam is to be applauded for the Diva series of CD Players as they have raised the bar another level or two from their already very successful Alpha series and have served notice that to stay in this arena one will have to totally minimize the compromises at this price range.

After about 50 hours of burn in time, decided to evaluate the Arcam 73 with the above listed discs.

Straight off used a current 24 Bit disc from Blue Note titled "Donald Byrd at the Half Note" This is a Rudy Van Gelder remaster edition and included Vol 1 and Vol 2. Original recorded November 11,1960 at the Half Note Cafe in New York City. With Donald Byrd on this were sidemen Pepper Adams, Duke Pearson, Laymon Jackson and Lex Humphries. What RVG has been able to do with these original recordings and put them to 24 bit resolution is a tour de force in the recording art. Just mesmerizing to listen to and the Arcam 73 with its 24 bit resolution allowed this disc to come to life, in a way that is not often heard. Donald Byrd was really on top of his game that night and it shows in this performance, Pepper Adams on Baritone sax was in rare form,Duke Pearson on Piano played with a solid verve,Laymon Jackson on Bass,provided the tempo and Lex Humphries on Drums played with great precision. It was quite apparent in listening that these Jazz greats checked thier ego,s at the door and put on a tremendous live performance. The Arcam 73 captured all the nuances,subtle timbres ,plus one could hear the interaction between the players and enough of the crowd there, to make one feel they were truly there that night.The Arcam 73 did nothing wrong in the playing of this disc and one soon forgot you were listening to digital,no harshness and a solid black background,truly made this disc to be played with a cohesion not often heard in a CD Player in this price range.

Next up was "Joe Sample and the Soul Commitee" Album titled "Did You Feel That?". With Joe Sample on this was Steve Gadd on Drums,Freddie Washinton on Bass,Arthur Adams on Guitar,Michael Landau on Guitar,Lenny Castro on Percussion,Oscar Brashear on Trumpet and Joel Peskin on Tenor Sax. Recorded and released in 1994. One of the toughest tests for any system is the piano, with it's many octaves, harmonics and tonal textures. Joe Samples piano was captured very well by the Arcam 73, gone was the grain and harshness that is usually associated with lesser players. Overall balance was right on target and Steve Gadds work on drums was fully captured and well defined. The Arcam 73 is proving its point quite nicely now and playing music without drawing attention to itself.

Next was the disc by Dotsero titled "Essensual". Dotsero is a local jazz ensemble here in the Denver area and one gets to hear them live in their club and other venues frequently. Check out their website, they are much more than just a local jazz band. This disc captures Stephen Watts on Sax and brother David Watts on Guitar. The Arcam 73 was able to capture the saxophone of Stephen Watts with total authority and without harshness,for once the saxophone sounded like the instrument it is. David Watts Guitar playing was easily picked up and the detail and finger work were amazing to hear each note clearly defined with just the right amount of ambience for the most crictal of us.

Without question the Arcam CD 73 CD Player is at the forefront of current CD Players on the market today. Arcam has produced a high quality Redbook CD Player at a more than comfortable price range. Kept it simple and added a thoroughly modern 24 BIT DAC for whats coming today, plus offering upgrades for the future. This is one CD Player you won't toss away for something else a couple of years down the road, because of the upgrades provided by Arcam.

No it is not the last word in CD players. Are there better, sure there is, but in my opinion you will pay dearly to do better than the Arcam CD 73. What does Arcam know that others don't? I belive it is very simple and it comes to this. Bad design costs no more than good design. And above all else the music matters the most regardless of design. To this end Arcam has more than succeded their design goals for the Arcam CD 73.

The Arcam CD 73 will have a very long service life in my current system.

So if in the market for a new CD Player, do check out the Arcam CD 73 and decide for yourself in your system if this is right for you. CD Players like the analog format are system dependent on other components. However I feel you will come away with the same conclusion as I have.

Associated gear
Click to view my Virtual System

Similar products
Music Hall,Rotel,Cambridge,NAD,etc
Very thorough review. Thanks for the info.

I think you are confused about the number of bits involved. Redbook is a 16 bit format, end of discussion. The master tapes may have been converted to 24 bit digital and then remastered, but what goes on the CD has to be reduced down to 16 bits or it will not play on a redbook CD player. The Arcam may then convert this 16 bit data in some way to create 24 bits to feed it's dacs, just like the other player can convert it to 20 bits, but it has no way of knowing whether the remaster was 16 or 24 bits and no way of knowing what those missing bits might be. It creates (makes up) bits to expand the bit count with an algorithm that the designer feels sounds good.

Whether this conversion to a higher number of bits in the player results in better sound is open to debate. My take is that it is marketing hype, and that a 16 bit dac can sound just as good or better than a 20 or 24. If the Arcam sounds better than the Classe on these so called 24 bit discs then it is for reasons other than the increased number of bits because they are both extracting 16 bit data off the disc.

In any case, I applaud your efforts to bring us this detailed review.
Wonderful review of a fine product and thanks for your music recommendations. You have confirmed my own feelings about the CD73. I have had both the Music Hall CD-25 and Jolida JD-100 and although fine players in their own right, the Arcam quietly sneaks up on you with a very detailed yet smooth character that I have been looking for in a redbook player. At it's asking price, it is a steal. Be patient with break-in though, it does take some time but you will be well rewarded in the end.
In overall terms it cannot compete with my Classe .5 CDP player,with the exception of 24 bit[Mastered] CDs~
~On 24 bit CDs the Arcam does excel the Classe in that department
This is confusing as they are both playing redbook standard.If Arcam outperforms the Classe there it should do so on other redbook CDs.
Beyond that nice review,nice system!
According to the service literature from Classe on the .5 CDP it states and I quote:

"The latest generation Burr Brown OPA 2604 output buffer stage biased in pure Class A,is used in the output stage"

Perhaps this is why the Classe performs so well with conventional and HDCD encoded discs. The Classe does play the 24 bit CDs very well in indeed, but I felt that the Arcam was a tad better in this area.

Perhaps the more technical minded among us, can post in pure laymans terms on what is going on here.

Many thanks to the respondents of this review and all comments are indeed welcome.

I have no intention of giving up the Classe .5 CDP it is a marvelous performer. Although in the years I have own the Classe .5 CDP, twice I have had to replace the Philips 12.4 CDM due to sled gear failure.

At present I will be using the Arcam as daily driver so to speak, and use the Classe for HDCD use and critical listening. At this point I am very much enjoying the use of both players as each brings much to the musical listening experience.

Once again many thanks for the kind words and feel free to post to this review your thoughts and comments.
This was sent to me in regards to 24 Bit Dacs. Such as in the Arcam CD 73.

High-bit format for higher resolution and lower distortion from CD The 24-bit DAC re-quantizes the 16-bit digital signal to convert it to the 24-bit format. This process compensates for the conversion error that is created during recording. The result: you get a sound that is closer to the original sound, an analog signal with finer resolution.