A highly articulate CD player, Exposure’s 3010S possesses impressive breadth and depth, and good air and detail. Initially hard-sounding, after run-in the Exposure rewards with a musically natural presentation capable of bloom, complex harmonics, excellent rhythmic pace, and deep authoritative bass that’s always easy and effortless sounding.
PrimaLuna ProLogue 8/Classic
An amazing value! Unique tube-based clock. At its best, with the board upgrade, the Eight closes in on even the most expensive competition. It’s blessed with plenty of boogie factor, superb clarity, sensuous mids, and lovely harmonic bloom. Its portrayal of the soundstage is wonderfully transparent. Out of the box, upper octaves are a bit grainy and bright. Tube dampers help significantly, as do vintage preamp tubes.
Simaudio Moon 360D
The Moon CD360D (formerly the CD3.3) uses a proprietary CD drive system, in-house developed hardware and software, and a Burr-Brown 24-bit/192kHz DAC just like the one used in Simaudio’s premium Moon Evolution SuperNova player. Not surprisingly the 360D’s sound is devilishly close to that player’s, and where it slightly misses the mark it does so without detracting from the beauty of the music.
Music Culture MC501A
The MC501 forgoes the ever-changing race for onboard processing of other digital devices, and offers, instead, a CD-only player that has elegant aesthetics, deft ergonomics, and beautiful sonics—which will serve a great many listeners quite well. It doesn’t have the illuminating transparency of more expensive players, but it has admirable rhythmic drive, richly layered textures, and fine resolution.
The UD9004 is one of the first Blu-ray-capable universal players with high-end ambitions, and it makes a strong case for both itself and this new category. After a rather complex set-up process, the Marantz juggles formats with alacrity. Its playback of video and highresolution music—particularly SACD—is unimpeachable. Meanwhile, CD playback is near-reference caliber in dynamics, neutrality, bass, and depth, though there is some grain on vocals and softness on leading edges.
Cary Audio CD 303T
Cary’s CD 303T spells digital versatility to the max. To start, despite endless reports to the contrary, the compact disc has yet to go the way of the buggy whip. And the 303T’s bag of tricks includes Red Book CD/SACD playback with a notable range of selectable upsampling frequencies. You can also choose between tube and transistor outputs. Either way, this is among the finest-sounding players out there, and perhaps the most chameleonic.
In today’s computer-driven marketplace the C31 CD player can just as reasonably be considered a “DAC with transport.” Either way, its performance is uncompromising. With Red Book discs the slotdrive transport gets a slight nod for its more intimate and lush perspective; however, with 24-bit/96kHz material the asynchronous USB wins hands down. A jewel of a player.
Rega’s Isis CD player optimizes everything in the disc-reading process, providing vibration control, disc-specific laser/lens positioning, custom error-detection/correction algorithms, and more. A large buffer temporarily stores audio data until it is re-clocked and fed to the player’s DAC and analog audio section. The resulting sound is exceptionally three-dimensional. The Isis also has an uncanny ability to retrieve low-level information that many players (and DACs) miss. A superb USB DAC, too.