What Hi Fi Sound and Vision Mon, 11 Aug 2008, 12:00pm

Arcam FMJ CD17

Tested at £700
80100
4

A player of many talents, namely detail and finesse but slightly lacking in excitement

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For

  • Sturdy build quality
  • extremely detailed, sophisticated sound

Against

  • The excitement factor is missing

Where other machines around this price point may look and feel like entry-level CD players, the Arcam CD17 boasts real maturity.

The Full Metal Jacket (FMJ) aluminium-and-steel casework gives the Arcam a real solid, substantial presence.

The CD17 also uses Arcam's Mask of Silence and Stealth Mat technologies. They may sound like a couple of top-secret army projects, but are in fact designed to help reduce and diffuse unwanted electromagnetic interference.

The buttons on the front of the machine are a little on the spongy side, but the bright green display, typical of Arcam, is large and wonderfully clear.

Unfortunately, the same praise can't be heaped on the ‘engineering' of the accompanying remote control. Even £40 DVD players would perhaps be embarrassed to be in the same box as this cheap, plastic effort, never mind a £500 hi-fi separate.

Feed the Arcam Rihanna's acoustic version of Hate That I Love You taken from the BBC Live Lounge Vol.3 CD, and it's apparent the CD17 is feeding you extra scraps of information that other contenders fail to uncover.

It picks up extra layers of detail from the guitar, while the striking vocal is full-bodied and packed with extra substance.

With the bassline later in the track, the Arcam shows great generosity and weight, pitching the machine somewhere between the Marantz CD6002 and the NAD C545BEE.

Detail and delicate subtlety
A switch to Rossini's William Tell Overture uncovers the CD17's refined, sophisticated side. The track is given fantastic sense of depth and space. Instruments are layered perfectly and positioned deep in the soundstage.

You can then admire the detail and extra subtlety that the player uncovers, especially during the more delicate moments of the track.

But, just because the Arcam has greater finesse than the other players doesn't mean we're willing to sacrifice the excitement and all-important entertainment factor, even if the Arcam is.

It's a trustworthy machine, capable of dredging up detail from any genre of music, but it's ever so cautious.

It just doesn't make a connection with the listener in the same way some other players do. The CD17 doesn't convey the overall rhythm of the Rihanna track especially well, nor the frivolity of the William Tell Overture.

If detail and a comfortable listen are what you crave, then the Arcam shouldn't disappoint. Those of you who fancy a more exciting sound should consider the other players in this test.