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NAD or Cambridge Audio

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi Stereo Systems & Separates' started by Ovation, May 9, 2004.

  1. Ovation

    Ovation
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    I'm looking to get a dedicated cd player for my system and it's down to the following choices.

    NAD 521BEE vs Cambridge Audio 540C
    or (if I can swing the extra cash)
    NAD 542 vs Cambridge Audio 640C

    Naturally, I'd prefer either of the latter pair over the former, but overall budget will play a part. I'm across the pond in Montreal and there's not a lot of discussion of either of these brands compared to Asian brands. Any thoughts?
     
  2. Markie Boy

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    Ovation,
    Either brand will be a winner - personally I own the C542 having upgraded from a C521BEE, the reason I moved up was because of HDCD capability on the C542. However, I dont think there's much in it sonically bewteen the two brands, I think it may come down to other factors such as cosmetics, build quality etc, which is where the Cambridge stuff wins hands down. The all metal front fascia is darn sexy, and if I was buying again I would probably shift to the Cambridge purely for those reasons (I know I know, not the reasons for choosing your hi-fi gear!). I'm lucky in so much as we stock both brands in my place of work, so a swap out is possible, but I think I'm gonna stick with the NAD.
    That probably doesnt clear things up for you, but as I said at the beginning, I dont think you'll regret which one you go for.
    Markie Boy
     
  3. Ovation

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    Thanks for the reply. I found a store in Montreal that stocks both brands, so I will try to arrange to borrow a pair of players for a weekend, when we've moved and I've set up my gear again. I'm curious, as there are more owners of each brand in Britain than my neck of the woods, if one has any more difficulty than the other with CD-Rs (not that I have that many) or any other reliability issues.
     
  4. overfloe

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    Ovation, pls report your findings :D would love to read the comparison of both players
     
  5. fyang

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    I'm actually going through this decision-making process right now down the way in Toronto! I'm leaning towards the NAD 521BEE since I can't seem to find a 540C in the city to try out, and I'm doubting one is greatly superior to the other. The NAD would go nicely with the NAD 302 integrated amp I'm using as well.

    What are the best prices you're being offered on these two items? I can get the NAD for $400. No idea on the CA since, as I said, I can't find one.
     
  6. Ed Selley

    Ed Selley
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    Fyang you will shortly have a PM :).
     
  7. Ovation

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    Fyang,
    I haven't bargained yet, the going rate on 521BEE is 450$ and 542 is 700$, while I've seen the 640C at 700$ and the 540C at 489$. (All Canadian, all before taxes, all retail, as far as I know). You should be able to find a CA in Toronto, as there are at least three stores in Montreal that carry it.

    P.S. too bad about the Leafs. you can join us Habs fans in our misery.
     
  8. nsherin

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    I've not heard the Cambridge players, but I've got the 521BEE, which I'm very happy with. I would think the 542 is a step up, but the almost double price that Ovation has mentioned seems a bit steep. FWIW, the 521BEE is £200 over here and the 542 is £330 over here. These are RRPs and include VAT. They aren't that easy to track down discounted either.

    I also quite like the styling of NAD products - but appreciate that's down to personal preferance. They do look smart in the new Titanium colours though.
     
  9. fyang

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    well I went out and bought the NAD tonight. I couldn't find a Cambridge to try, and aren't losing any sleep about it - I'm sure it's a fine player, but I wouldn't have had a chance to A/B them anyway, so whatever. The 521BEE sounds quite nice right now, straight out of the box - a lot warmer and fuller than the Panasonic DVD player I had been using as a source. I'm sure it'll sound even better when it burns in a bit. My only complaint? It's not the same shade of gray as my NAD 302. They don't quite match, stylistically. oh well.

    My stereo is now complete! No more shopping or nitpicking! Yay.
     
  10. nsherin

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    fyang - the 'warmth' was one reason I decided to replace my Sony RCD-W3 CD recorder with it. I was looking for a more vinyl-like sound. I've had mine about 8 months now and it's grooving away nicely :) Sit back, crack open a tinny or eight and enjoy the music ;). A great choice of CDP, IMHO.
     
  11. Ovation

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    Actually, if you do the currency conversion, the prices are almost identical (I do have to pay tax on top of these prices, however). I feel confident that I can at least get any of these players for the quoted prices, taxes included (15%). I'm still trying to decide if I should get the better player or use the 'lesser' one as a transport.
     
  12. Stew

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    I've had my 521BEE for 5 months and can only echo what the other posters have said - really great smooth sound. :smoke:
    Mine was £180 from a local Hifi shop
     
  13. Ovation

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    Well, my budget has me looking at the NAD 521BEE or the Cambridge 540C. However, a friend threw in another contender in this price category for me to consider, the Marantz CD5400. I did a search and apparently it's been out in Europe for a little while longer than in North America. I thought I'd ask for opinions. Is it in the same league as the NAD or Cambridge?
     
  14. nsherin

    nsherin
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    Here's a comparison I made between the NAD C521BEE / Marantz CD5400 when auditioning CDPs last September:

    As those of you who frequent the HFC forum will know, I was looking to replace my Sony RCD-W3 twin-deck recorder with a dedicated player.

    I was looking for a more lively player, with a more detailed, open and warmer sound. The Sony sounded decidedly compressed and tinny with harsh treble on a number of recordings and was hampering my enjoyment.

    I came up with a shortlist of players in the £150 - £270 range:

    Marantz CD5400 - £150
    NAD C521BEE - £200
    NAD C542 - £240
    Arcam CD62T (Ex-dem) - £269

    The Arcam and the NAD C542 were really a little more than I wanted to pay and I wasn't overly keen on the idea of ex-dem. A number of dudes on the HFC forum suggest a used Rega Planet, but I decided to purchase new.

    So, I auditioned the Marantz and the NAD C521BEE, as they were within the price I wished to pay and could be bought from new. I managed to arrange a demo using some Mission m71i spekaers and a Yamaha RX-V440RDS receiver - a similar setup to my Yammy HTR-5540RDS and Mission m70 speakers.

    The Marantz had a great sound - very lively and detailed, but a little too bright and harsh for my taste and I feel it could get tiring to listen to. That's not to say it's a bad player - far from it. Just that it didn't offer the sound I was looking for, with the combination of kit.

    The NAD won the day, with it's smooth, warm, detailed sound. Spin anything from Fourplay, Steely Dan, Phil Collins. right through to A Flock Of Seagulls and this player seems to handle it with gusto. Excellent timing and rhythm, deep, punchy bass, superb detail and a sound you can listen to for hours.

    Build quality is excellent - the player weighs a good 6 kg, so it feels like a solid product when you unpack it from it's box. Unlike other budget players that seem feather-light. A nice touch to keep the player in good shape during transit is the transport clamper that you unscrew clockwise during setup.

    The finish (in the new titanium colour) is of excellent quality and the feature set is functional. No gadgets or gizmos and it shows NAD's dedication to getting the sound right, over features that most people don't use.

    Glad to see NAD have updated the remote - it's much bigger and of better quality than those that shipped with the earlier models such as the C520. A nice touch is the inclusion of batteries - not a biggie, but useful all the same.

    The only downside is the fact that there is only a coaxial digital out and my Sony MDS-JE480 only has an optical in. No big problem - Maplin's saved the day with a Coax - Optical converter for £15.

    So is the player worth £200 quid and all the rave reviews and rewards it's been getting? I certainly think so and would not hesitate to recommend this as a budget player to anyone!
     
  15. Ovation

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    Sadly, the NAD titanium finish is unavailable in the colonies. Sounds like you have a decent player on your hands. I plan to audition it, along with the Cambridge and Marantz. As to build quality, how did you find the Marantz? Solid, flimsy, well made? I've seen the Cambridge and the NAD and they seem solidly built. Haven't found a Marantz yet. I too have the coax/optical problem, though that won't prevent me from getting the NAD if it's a clear winner.
     

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