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Arcam CDS27 review

Arcam’s CD/SACD player is a safe bet, but won’t satisfy your sense of adventure Tested at £800

Our Verdict

Arcam may have played too safe here; the CDS27 needs a shot of adrenaline for a more enjoyable listen

For

  • Sleek design
  • Reasonable detail and dynamics

Against

  • Restrained attack
  • Slight timing issues
  • Some compatibility difficulty
  • Physically slow

What does it mean when your hi-fi equipment empathises with you?

It’s too early in the morning, and, if truth be told, we aren’t really morning people. Nor, judging by the time it takes to wake up and stick out its tongue for us to feed it a CD, is the Arcam CDS27.

Performance

This combination CD/SACD player and streamer looks sleek, its black metal shell in keeping with the rest of the company’s FMJ line – and when it’s ready, the opening thump and shimmer to 65daysofstatic’s Prisms doesn’t sound too bad at all.

There is good anchor to the bass and the synthesizer flashes to demonstrate a fine amount of detail and decent dynamic range.

There’s plenty of insight here, and a pleasing degree of precision to the way notes are rendered. We’re happy with the player’s authority and its ability to deliver substance to the instrumentation.

It’s smooth and pleasant to listen to, yet the CDS27 struggles with the apocalyptic soundscape. It lacks the desired end-of-the-world urgency and goes for a more civilising approach instead.

See all our CD player reviews

Switching to SACD, and Eric Bibb’s Good Stuff plays right into the Arcam’s hands. Here its innate refinement and subtle way with detail comes to the fore. The extra resolution of the format is heard easily in the CDS27’s fluid delivery of dynamics and its articulate characterisation of Bibb’s emotive vocals.

Much of the same can be said of the streamer section. There’s a nice overall balance, expressive dynamics and a fair amount of detail. Listening to Magazine’s Definitive Gaze shows up the Arcam’s tendency to play it safe though, allowing some of the energy in the music to dissipate.

It’s a bitter-sweet feeling of almost, but not quite, being the complete package – like the CDS27 is taking you out for dinner, but not buying the drinks.

Features and connectivity

The control app isn’t the slickest either. We find it a bit buggy, although Arcam says it’s working on the compatibility issues we encounter with our Naim Unitiserve server.

However, considering the Naim retails at £2400, it’s unlikely to be a preferred pairing and, as such, hardly a game-changing compromise – it does work smoothly with our XiVa musicm8, for example.

Connectivity is generally good here, and the Arcam’s back panel features balanced analogue outputs, a wi-fi aerial connection and a USB socket for flash memory devices.

The CDS27 can connect to your home network through an ethernet cable or wirelessly. The wireless option worked well in our set-up, but we would recommend the ethernet route for greater stability.

Verdict

For an all-in-one, stress-free CD/SACD player and streamer, you could do a lot worse. If ease of use, a nice balance, fair amount of detail and dynamic range are your main concerns, Arcam have that covered in this price range.

However, you may find yourself itching for more adventure – and a bit less safety.

MORE: Best CD players 2020

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What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.


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