Acoustic Research CD-07 CD-player

Ever since this well-known loudspeaker manufacturer branched out into electronics it's had a pretty rough ride. Most painful has surely been the disinterest shown in its CD players, and particularly the most recent 'Special Edition' version of the CD-06 which, by all accounts, was an unmitigated disaster.

But having had its fingers well and truly burned by going it alone, AR has turned to Philips' Bit Stream technology to give its latest CD player, the CD-07, a head start in life. In fact, AR has taken the added precaution of buying the insides of Rotel's RCD-865BX CD player to fill the bowels of its new and extra-sleek alloy casework. The Rotel RCD-865BX is Europe's and America's version of Britain's highly acclaimed Rotel RCD-865. Apparently, the bods at Rotel UK considered the older RCD-865 to have the edge over its BX successor and have so far refused to give the BX the light of day in this country.

Armed with this information you won't be surprised to learn that the CD-07 sounds rather like the bitstream RCD-865BX. I know this because I heard an 865BX recently. Believe me when I tell you it represents a grand step forward for AR: the player is a long way from the disappointing multi-bit models, the CD-06 and CD-06SE, that AR produced before. Gone is the muddy, confused and somewhat bland sound, to be replaced by something quicker and substantially more articulate.

Tonally the CD-07 has a crisp balance, with reasonably good definition - percussion is never harsh or abrupt but manages to sound suitably, well, metallic. Bass is tight, too, though a beefy track like Madonna's Justify My Love lacks the thunderous impact, the rib-moving clout, pulled out of this track by the very best bitstream CD players. JVC's XL-Z1011 CD player is especially impressive in this regard, though, of course, at £520 it's rather more expensive than the CD-07.

Instead, the CD-07 sounds firm rather than deep or 'big'. The music is always well-controlled but often the CD player fails to let rip when the music demands that it should. When this happens, there is a vagueness about imagery, a lack of convincing focus that often robs music of any tactility which, in turn, reduces the impact or atmosphere of the most poignant recordings. With some types of music the poor focus of instruments to the left and right of the soundstage left me feeling a little cheated.

For example, the player wasn't best suited to the grandiose complexities of Mahler's 5th Symphony. Not that it sounded unpleasant, just a little bland and unconvincing. Yet the CD-07 is quite at home with the fruity sound of a jazz quartet or the uncomplicated elegance of a vocalist like Mary Black. Listen to the track Katie and, yes, you'll find other players will impart a little extra definition, a little extra conviction to the backing guitar and piano, yet few will paint a picture of the vocalist herself with anything like the same degree of gentleness.

You'll find that most other £300 CD players are better equipped than the CD-07, though the stark simplicity of the AR's facia is undoubtedly effective. AR has done away with all but the load and play controls by putting all other feature controls onto a matching remote control handset. The latter operates on a one-to-one basis with the CD player, so there's no need to 'talk' to the CD-07 via an amp or receiver.

But, be warned. It is possible accidently to defeat the CD-07's functions by inadvertently pressing the remote's Tuner, VCR or Tape controls. However, pressing CD again will revive the track skip, search, programming and direct access facilities. So now you know!

The eject mechanism on the CD-07 is not quite as ponderous as on AR's previous machines and, furthermore, you won't need a 3in CD adaptor to play CD Singles because the CD-07, unlike the CD-06, is equipped with the more up-to-date CDM4 transport, which caters for both disc sizes.

The CD-07 is a qualified success. It offers the much-vaunted smoothness and subtlety of a good PDM Bit Stream CD player but this is tempered with a degree of vagueness.

Acoustic Research CD-07 CD-player photo