C.E.C. 780CD CD-player

I've hardly been CD's biggest fan, and the four words which fill my soul with terror had been spoken - cheap compact disc player. When told that the £200 780CD was effectively CEC's top model (the 880's the same but with remote control), enthusiasm plummeted further. And CEC? It's the brand name of Chuo Denki, which has made turntables and CD players for well-known Japanese companies.

The day the player had to be warmed up arrived. I had a pair of Epos ES11 speakers plugged into an Exposure XX amplifier up and running at the time and, in a fit of extreme laziness, simply plugged the 780 into the system. It didn't sound anything like I'd expected. No brashness, no screech, no paper-thinness, no bass-gone-on-vacation. If it still sounded this way when I came back to do my serious listening, I might save myself the trouble of putting it into a more complementary system...

But the old work ethic triumphed, so I tested the player with a Cyrus One amplifier and Cyrus 780 speakers, more representative of the equipment with which it will be partnered.

The first disc into the player was The Black Crowes, the track a slice of grimy bar-room rock called Twice As Hard. On a player with a skewed frequency response or with a hint of forwardness about its presentation, this track will, when played at realistic levels, tear your ears off and nail them to the wall. I waited to feel the trickle of blood touch my collar. I was still waiting when the next track started.

The CEC captured the aggression and excitement of the performance but remained wholly listenable throughout. It even had a surprising amount of heft at the bottom end, with kick drum and bass guitar punching through the mix. I'm not saying it offers the refinement and civility of major league machines, but it has control and behaves itself.

The player's ability to convey the spirit of a recording was also evident on the Beethoven quartets. Whilst it didn't approach the lucidity of top-notch machines, the CEC excelled in displaying the exhilarating passion of the musicians. It recreated the tension, drama and lyrical nature with an ease beyond more cultivated - and expensive - brethren. You could almost imagine the player giving a satisfied nod and knowing wink at the end of the more dexterous passages.

Similarly with Charlie Musselwhite's I Got To Go, the CEC player gave prominence to the way in which Fred Roulette's steel guitar lines weaved around the melody, adding embellishments and frills which would have Charlie smiling behind his harmonica.

Closing with Clive Gregson's version of Move Away Jimmy Blue, I had to admit the player didn't give the best insight into the fabric of the recording, and there was a degree of sibilant emphasis present in its sound, but what the heck, it got me involved in the song, my feet tapping away in time, with Gregson's voice as resplendently earthy as ever.

C.E.C. 780CD CD-player photo