Cambridge Audio CD3 CD-player

One of the most innovative digital engineers in this country is Stan Curtis, who dreamed up the CD3 as an 'affordable' high tech project at Cambridge Audio following the success of his CD1 two box player. But Stan's design skills were never matched by his ability to manufacture to the requisite standards, and Cambridge Audio briefly bit the dust. Now the company has been rescued, sans Stan Curtis, and is operated by Wharfedale.

This is a refreshingly original design based on 16-bit conversion and 16-times oversampling using multiple processors to share the load and improve accuracy. From the outside the CD3 is tackily built, and although it is an improvement on early models, the (Philips) disc loading mechanism transport expired in the middle of the test. Improvements have been made to the control circuits, and the unit has been beefed up to cope with the heavily loaded PCB. Grounding is also said to have been improved.

The switch panel however remains as obstructively laid out and as spongy as ever, while the display is a horrible first generation fluorescent.

There are few features, but enough for normal play and programming needs. There are a couple of interesting additions too, including a 'disc fault' light which illuminates when the error correction is triggered. The display can also be turned off, which in this case is a mercy. Both optical and electrical digital outputs are fitted - the former is a waste of space.

The instrumental Bolinas from the AR album showed the CD3 in a good light: warm and lush, with a clear and well projected top end, though both of the frequency extremes appeared slightly exaggerated, and more prominent than would normally be expected. There was also a slightly crude, metallic edge at times, which was particularly obvious on the busy percussion section of Studio Cafe Blues from the same album.

The slightly larger than life quality was apparent also in the large scale and rather woolly focus of the stereo image. Switching to the Cambridge increased the apparent size of the soundstage and the contrasts between instruments, and provided a clearer sense of instrumental tone and expression, but it did so at the expense of the razor sharp control that is the hallmark of compact disc.

Cambridge Audio CD3 CD-player photo