HI-FI Choice
http://www.hifichoice.co.uk
Finely-honed, articulate and lively sound. Dresses down, needs a high-res system.
 
Manufacturer: Cambridge Audio
Telephone: 0171 940 2240
Price: £250
Reviewed in issue: 159
Some CD players wear their hearts on their sleeves. Others - and the CD6 is a perfect example - conceal their true nature behind a bland facia. There is a touch of originality in the form of a graphical disc-remaining indicator in the otherwise ordinary back-lit LCD function display, but the CD6 is perhaps more notable for the very basic set of controls available on the front-panel itself. The usual twiddly bits can of course be accessed via the remote control.

This is an ambitiously specified player, constructed internally as separate analogue and digital sections with extensive mutual screening and a jitter lock between them. The sophisticated power-supply section consists in total of three transformers and no fewer than 14 regulated supplies. The D/A convertor is a dual differential design built around the Philips TDA1305, with good quality internal wiring. Around the back you may be surprised to find AES/EBU balanced outputs in addition to the standard unbalanced analogue outputs. The digital S/PDIF output takes a BNC connector, but BNC/phono adaptors are readily available.

Sound Quality

Although the CD6 was thought 'scrawny' at times, the panel's comments on this player were generally positive, and on occasion very much so. 'Rhythmic and bouncy', wrote one listener of Keb' Mo's Tell Everybody I Know, adding that there was 'a very strong sense of togetherness. It actually sounds like a band playing together'. In the Ravel piece for clarinet and piano, the same listener described the CD6 as 'very focused - almost mono-ish', and in the finale of Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra, he noted that 'There is less stage width than the others but an altogether more focused and integrated feel.' The Jennifer Warnes track showed very strong voice articulation, which was noted by most of the panel.

After listening to the complete presentation, one listener felt sufficiently moved to remark that the Cambridge CD6 was 'the only player (so far) that makes musical sense'. There was one dissenter, however, who thought the player was 'warm and mellifluous' but with a 'thick, glutinous bass', making for a 'pleasant if less than gripping sound' (Ravel). This one comment apart, the bass attracted nothing but praise. 'Nicely extended' and 'good bass reproduction' (Jennifer Warnes) were typical remarks, and then 'at least it has bass of sorts' according to a third ultra-critical listener who rarely brought himself to utter a positive word about the bass of any of the players in the session he attended.

I disagree about the 'warm and mellifluous' comment; I found the CD6 taut and crackling with energy, acting as an advocate by bringing music to life in a way that eluded most of the others. That said, it needs a good quality, well-focused system to show its best side. It could sound raucous and ill at ease with systems of limited resolution and dynamics - which, in practice, usually means budget systems. If you want something a little easier on the ear, you should perhaps look elsewhere, but if you want to hear, perhaps for the first time, what is on those discs in your collection, the CD6 can do the job as well as some acclaimed players at two or three times the price.

Conclusion

Ignore the boring styling: this player (from the pen of John Westlake no less, formerly of Pink Triangle) is a thoroughbred unit that's well-honed and highly capable. Even better though, it's also thoroughly enjoyable. And with a price-tag of just £300, it's a snip. 

AG