Review: Cayin CD-50T CD Player

Category: Digital

Let me start by saying that most of my listening is done by headphones these days, so I have had extensive time using the Cayin CD-50T as my main listening source. My previous players were a Cambridge D500SE and NAD C540, so this unit is a step-up in price and build quality, along with being a tube unit. It's also my first player with HDCD processing.

I’ll start my review with an outline of the tubes used, as they of course influence the outcome tremendously.

As far as tubes I have tried in the Cayin CD-50T, they include my first choice, a 1959 vintage RCA Clear top 12AU7, followed by a 1965 RCA Command 5814A, and a 1959 Mullard long plate 12AU7. I found the Mullard very smooth with a huge soundstage, but too un-focused and a bit rolled off at the extremes. The RCA Command was very smooth and full bodied, focused, with good bass, but a not as opened as I like and also a bit rolled off in the highs. The RCA clear top’s known attributes of an extended open top end, very articulate/ detailed sound, and decent deep bass response are a good match for the Cayin CD-50T when combined with my Cayin tube headphone amp, which already has tubes I selected for a bit more warmth. The RCA clear tops can be a bit bright in some systems, but bring a needed upper end extention to my set-up. Also, the RCA clear tops with their unusual side-getter construction are considered to be a very non-microphonic tube.

The Cayin HA-1A is tubed with a RCA Command 5751 (12AX7) and a RCA Command 5814A (12AU7) for the pre-amp section, and a pair of RCA 6BQ5 power output tubes.

My main selection of CD’s included Classical, Jazz, and Rock selections, some which are HDCD encoded. A few of my classical selections are on the Telarc label, known for their extended dynamics and sound quality.

And last but not least before discussing the Cayin CD-50T, if cables used are of interest, mine are the Acoustic Research Master Series 3ft RCA’s. They are an excellent interconnects for the price, and I’m one of those skeptics on high-end expensive cables being overkill at best. Enough said!

I will not go into detail about the internals of the Cayin or its construction, etc. That is best researched on the web. Suffice it to say excellent quality of construction and parts used is very evident through-out. Point to point hand wiring is evident, a costly method not found much these days. Controls on the player are minimal, with a nice solid feel. The Sony made CD drive is quite and quick, with a nice smooth operation. The remote control seems a bit cheap (plastic) vs. the player, but has a wonderful set of options on it. You can adjust display brightness with three settings and even insert a 5 second automatic gag between song selections if you choose.

My overall take on the Cayin’s sound quality is one of a highly musical presentation, with an outstanding mid-range that is smooth and natural as any I have ever heard. Tough to re-produce items like voice and piano are stunningly and realistically portrayed with fine body and quick dynamics. Bass is sufficiently deep, though I’ve heard a tad better on the extreme deep bass from other players. The bass is however nicely solid, with good punch, especially for a tube output design. The highs are very silky with a nice shimmer to cymbals, horns, and strings. Again, this player just has one of those overall “right” sounding presentations which causes me to want to try all my cd’s and listen for hour upon hour. Its 24 bit/96kHz Burr-Brown single dac is more than sufficiently up to the task, combined with the superb implementation of the 12AU7 tubed analog output. This is one of those players that reminds me of day’s long past with my all analog systems. I can say that the tube output will slow down dynamics a bit, which is to be expected. And again, as with my Cayin headphone amp, Cayin seems determined not to end-up with an overly-warm, “fat” tube sound that some associate with tube gear. Rather, it’s a nice combination of softer highs, a fuller mid-range, and round sounding bass that I don’t find in solid-state (transistor) gear. Cayin has found a nice balance that has much of the fast dynamics and articulation of transistors, yet offers tubes wonderful ambience and depth. And the Cayin gear has that touch of extra realism that is often found at much higher price levels. I do find the Cayin CD-50T at its best with recordings that can use a bit of upper-mid’s and highs smoothing. The tube output of course gets the nod in that area. Many CD's I use to find hard to listen too are now very enjoyable. No glare from this player!

If your wanting a very well made, smooth sounding tube output CD player, with a touch of that magical upper high-end gear’s ability to extract extra musical information out of your cd’s, this is your unit. If your one of those like me that find CD's still a bit to clinical, you will love what this player can do. Unbelievably satisfying sound at this price level.

Associated gear
Cayin HA-1A Tube Headphone Amp w/ vintage
AKG K701 Headphones
Sennheiser HD600 Headphones
Sony CD-3000 Headphones
AR Master Series 3ft interconnects

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Nad C540 CD player
Cambridge Audio D500SE
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The Cayin CD-50T is an excellent player. I had mine modified with Mundorf caps.