Arcam has garnered a huge fan following ever since its humble beginnings in England nearly 40 years ago. The brand has always impressed audiophiles with high-quality equipment, with new additions being made to their HiFi lines every few years. The latest range of HDA components retain the brand’s build quality, appearance, and finish while adding new design and performance features.
In this guide, let us review the latest CD player from Arcam, the CDS50 to find out whether it lives up to the expectations of the brand’s fans.
Arcam CDS50 Review – UPDATED 2021
Arcam has been offering some of the most popular CD players and powerful integrated amps for years. It is the company that designed the first CD player to be manufactured in the UK in 1986 just four years after the format was introduced. Soon after this, the brand also released an entry-level UK-built player that competed with the Japanese giants like Sony and Denon.
The CDS50 was launched after Harman International took over Arcam. The player is manufactured in China, but it shares a lot of features and capabilities with the old CDS27 despite a few welcome changes. One of the significant modifications is the softer, smoother style that extends across the current line-up of modern AV and stereo products.
The Arcam CDS50 is no different from present-day CD players a lot of which have turned out to be multifunctional devices, some featuring network streaming while others offering extended digital input facility. Where it stands out is its disc-playing capability because it is not just a network-enabled CD player but also capable of playing SACDs.
This functionality is quite unusual for a standalone CD player and is generally reserved for some high-end stereo units and a few Blu-ray players. This means the Arcam CDS50 is one of the most affordable CD/SACD players in the market.
Arcam HDA CDS50
A DAC is the most important component when playing from a digital format, so Arcam includes a 32-bit DAC on its entire HDA range. The Arcam CDS50 not only plays digital music files stored on discs and digital media in different file formats like WAV, FLAC, Ogg, aac, and more but also supports playback of audio files from hard drive, USB, home computer network and even allows streaming through internet network.
The unit features coaxial and optical inputs in addition to analog inputs on balanced XLR and RCA to let you use its 32-bit/192kHz ESS DAC as a standalone digital to analog converter for other sources. This means you can always choose the best connection for your system, whether you pair it with an Arcam amplifier or some other component.
The DAC is upgraded from previous models and has a digital re-clocking technology to eliminate jitter and improve performance for optimum detail. The CDS50 keeps the design simple with a plain front panel featuring just a large power button and four controls below the display. However, it retains the sturdy build of the brand to provide years of listening enjoyment. The controls are easy and you can quickly scroll through your files though you can do that more conveniently from the app.
The unit comes with a multi-functional remote control that gives you access to all the features not available through the front panel like playback mode, display window info, display brightness switching, and direct track access. It also works for integrated amps from the brand and lets you control balance, volume, and input selection.
An impressive thing about the remote is that all the buttons are backlit so that you can access them even in low lighting. There are two buttons for brightness on the remote, allowing you to adjust the brightness for the amp and CD player individually. The CDS50 can also be controlled using your device with a dedicated app ‘MusicLife’ available for Android and iOS. With this app, you can control the basic functions and audio of the equipment. You can browse the content and use streaming services like internet radio, Deezer and Tidal with this app as well.
Arcam CD Player Review
The Arcam CDS50 is a disc spinner that not only supports playing super audio and regular CD but also streams digital music from network computers, laptops, hard drives, and other peripherals through CIFS and UPnP standards. With support for a large number of audio file formats, the CD/network player recognizes any mix of content you throw at it.
Signal to Noise Ratio – 118dB unbalanced, 122dB balanced
Output Impedance – 47-ohm unbalanced, 600-ohm balanced
Frequency Response – 10Hz-20kHz
Maximum recommended Load – 5kΩ
Voltage – 110-240V
Maximum power consumption – 20W
Dimensions – 433x87x283mm
Weight – 5.3kg
- Outstanding performance
- Excellent connectivity
- Great operability
- Support for a large number of file formats
- Remote control included
- iOS and Android app control
- Construction is not so solid
- No support for Bluetooth
- No USB for computer connection
The Arcam CDS50 delivers an exceptional performance with CDs, better as compared to SACDs. However, the SACDs sound as good as some other players, meaning it does not sound inferior on its SACD player but excels at optimizing the sound with CDs. All the instruments are beautifully heard and super-low-level noise is handled without any jitter or external sounds.
There are many other players with the capability to get deeper into the disc sound but they are quite pricier as compared to the Arcam and may lack network functionality. Those devices can feel too forward for some users but the CDS50 slips into several systems without any issue and sounds impressively rich across a wide range of music styles.
The only area where the CD player may lack finer details is with large-scale recordings, whether streamed from online sources, sourced from local storage, or played from a disc. However, the music sounds quite big like anything else played with this unit, and a few users should have a problem, particularly when looking at the flexibility, value for money, style, and quality.
Arcam CDS27 Vs CDS50 – How They Differ?
The CDS50 is introduced as an update to the Arcam CDS27 CD/SACD player and network audio player. It is a more affordable CD player with an integrated DAC that shares the features and capabilities with the CDS27 but comes with a few important changes. The main difference is the adoption of a new look in the form of HDA that replaces the functional FMJ style of the past models from the brand.
The Arcam CDS50 is designed to replace the older CDS27 but relates closely in several aspects. At first glance, the two CD players look similar right from the layout of the boards and CD/SACD transport to their switchmode power supply. Though there is some tidying of internal routing between the two components, the USB and network board, as well as the transport, are similar.
The Arcam CDS27 used a Sony mechanism which is a Blu-ray drive generally found in Playstation models giving it the dual capability of CD and SACD. A big difference between the two models is the brand’s choice of DAC. The CDS27 used the PCM1794 which is traded for a more compact ESS DAC that is a surface-mount, low-consumption chip found in high-end mobile phones also used in portable DAC solutions.
Comparing the Arcam CDS27 and CDS50 in terms of sound quality, it can be said that the latter has more openness and vitality about the presentation and a sonic balance. Based on the difference in the output level of the CD and SACD, switching between two layers of a disc shows that the CDS50 has a greater ability to bring out detail and dynamics.
Arcam CDS50 Vs Marantz ND8006 – How They Differ?
Both Arcam CDS50 and Marantz ND8006 are CD players with built-in DAC and network capabilities. The two devices share several similarities though they are different in many ways. The Arcam CDS50 is a more affordable unit ideal for those who want a functional entry-level CD/SACD player while the Marantz ND8006 is a solid, rigid, more expensive unit built to the brand’s high standards.
Just like the Arcam CDS50, Marantz ND8006 uses an ESS DAC with a dual-clock system for digital conversion. But the latter isolates the circuits for digital inputs from audio circuits to eliminate noise. Both these units play CDs with support for most audio file formats though the Marantz has no SACD compatibility. It does support the DSD file format used on SACDs when it operates as a DAC with its optical, coaxial, and USB inputs.
Both the Marantz and Arcam HAD models allow network streaming, offering a facility to play up to 24 bit/192kHz files from its inputs and over a network. The devices can also be controlled using a remote control and app. Which of the two is better depends on the needs and preferences of the user though both of them excel at what they are intended to offer.
Whether you are an old-school music enthusiast with a preference for CDs and SACDs or a modern user interested in downloads and streams, wired as well as wireless, the Arcam CDS50 takes care of everything. It does it well while delivering you an outstanding quality of sound at an affordable price.
The CD player maintains the simplicity and warmth of its ancestors but does not lag in offering dynamics and detail when required, giving you results that you feel like listening to all the time. It also offers a rich set of features that combine to make it a great choice for those who want to enjoy CDs and streams without adding different components to their hi-fi system.