This modern CD system offers a simple but winning combination

Bowers & Wilkins 607 S3 in oak, Arcam A5 and Arcam CD5 on grey background
(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Now this system wouldn’t have looked at all out of place in a hi-fi enthusiast’s listening room a quarter of a century ago. But it comprises all new products for 2023, and we have to say goes a very long way in proving that there’s life in the old compact disc yet. 

The CD won’t ever engender the nostalgia and old-school affection of the long-playing record and those wonder-of-engineering turntables that audiophiles – and new fans of vinyl come to that – still really love; but it’s a better method of music replay than many in this new world of hi-res streaming and downloads will give it credit for.

The system

Available music to buy is plentiful, the quality of playback is right up there with most streaming services, and considerably better than some we could mention. And, of course, it deals rather effectively with that old bugbear of streaming – you never truly own the music. The merry-go-round of artists that leave one platform and join another is a perpetual motion machine, it seems; so there is no guarantee that you will be able to find once again that old favourite you haven’t heard in months on your streaming platform of choice. 

That’s never an issue with the good old compact disc. You bought the disc, you own the music on it, and, unless you are remarkably careless – it is a really rather robust format after all – it will be yours long into the future. 

CD player: Arcam CD5

CD player: Arcam CD5

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

We can’t tell you how delighted we are to be able to have a pair of brand new Arcam products front and centre of this delightful trio of music makers. 

The Cambridge-based company used to dominate the CD player market at under £1000, but its place at the top of the pile has been usurped in the past decade or so by excellent products from the likes of Marantz. The introduction of the new Radia series of products, though, has seen Arcam catapult right back up to the top – as a glimpse at the 2023 Awards pages in both the CD player and amplifier categories will show you.

It has been years since Arcam brought out a new CD model, and you will have gathered by now that it has been worth the wait. The CD5 is a really mature, capable player – and a clear step up in terms of insight and subtlety from the entry-level Marantz CD6007 that sits a class beneath it in our Best Buys for this category. 

The design and build quality of the Arcam siblings are excellent – sleek and minimal and made to a high standard. The CD5 is reassuringly solid yet easy to use whether by the on-board buttons, or the credit-card style remote control. 

There’s a pair of RCA analogue outs, and one coaxial and one optical as digital options. It will play CD, CD-R and CD-RW discs, but not SACD sadly. It will also play music files up to 24bit/192KHz via a USB-A input.

Most importantly, when it comes to actually playing music, the Arcam CD5 is an absolute winner. It is agile and nimble, and the music flows with an assured grace and fluidity. It’s a confident performance that never strays too far into the analytical; this is fun stuff, delivering the music in a truly entertaining way.

Stereo amplifier: Arcam A5

Integrated amplifier: Arcam A5

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

And of course the CD player pairs with its amplifier sibling beautifully. 

Our amplifier Product of the Year for this year, the Arcam A5, made us a touch nostalgic as we started to review it. This is a welcome return to what Arcam used to do so easily – make a product that, remarkably, can be all things to all people. Its products over the past few years have always been easy to live with but somehow lost a bit of the fun along the way. 

Arcam has retained all the sensible features here, but it is also now a really great listen. The A5 has everything you could need as far as specification goes: three line-level inputs share back-panel space with a moving-magnet phono stage; digital inputs comprise a pair of coaxials and one optical – all capable of accepting music streams of up to 24-bit/192kHz. And there is Bluetooth 5.2 capability.

A lovely addition, to go with the aptX Adaptive codec support, is that the Bluetooth is two-way – so the A5 can accept a signal from a smart device, say, but it will also send a signal out to a Bluetooth speaker or a pair of headphones. Which, in this day and age, is a fine bonus.

And, like its CD5 brother, the A5 has a sweet nature that while full-bodied and smooth never errs far enough to rob the life from the music. As we say in its review, it shows impressive composure when the music gets demanding, never sounding stressed or cluttered, even when pushed to higher volume levels.

Playing Mahler’s 10th Symphony, we had no complaints about the stereo imaging either, with the Arcam delivering an expansive soundstage populated with sharply focused instruments. It is nicely layered too, giving a fine impression of depth to the presentation. Larger scale dynamic swings are rendered with conviction and there is a good dose of scale on show too.

The Arcam pairing, as one would hope and expect, works wonderfully together to create music that is truly entertaining to listen to.

Stereo speakers: Bowers & Wilkins 607 S3

Standmount speakers: Bowers & Wilkins 607 S3

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Which could equally be said of the wonderful loudspeakers in this system.

In past iterations of the Bowers & Wilkins 600 series, we have tended to prefer the larger 606 over the entry-range 607 model – they were dynamically more subtle and the bigger cabinet allowed for bigger scale. In this iteration, however, the smaller B&W 607 S3 is the more fun listen; they are really rhythmic and entertaining in their musical reproduction. Which isn’t to say the 606 S3 is a disappointing speaker; far from it. Both 606 and 607 are 2023 Best Buy winners in the standmount speakers category. The 607 S3, however, is so special that it took home the Product of the Year Award. 

“But how do the new 607 S3 sound?” we ask in our full review of the speakers. “Incredibly fun. There’s clarity and refinement in the mix here – to a really admirable level – but we’re struck by just how entertaining, zippy and musical this new pair sounds right from the start. 

Instead of sacrificing dynamic expression and pure enjoyment for a more sophisticated and open sound, B&W has managed to meld these elements together into a capable package that’s simply hugely entertaining to listen to.”


It isn’t always the case that three Award-winning products gel together so well. It is one of the quirks of hi-fi that system matching must be done with care: one slightly bright-sounding product can work wonderfully with a warmer partner; but stick two bright products together, and you risk running into stridency. 

In this system, though, the fun and enjoyment we get from the combination of the pep of the speakers with the full-bodied, sweet nature of the Arcam pairing, is truly memorable. And, of course, if you were keen on a bigger all-round sound, you can always swap the 607 S3 for their larger 606 S3 siblings. For us, though, this is the perfect combination of pace, precision and pizzazz to do true justice to any music. Enjoy.


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Jonathan Evans
Editor, What Hi-Fi? magazine

Jonathan Evans is the editor of What Hi-Fi? magazine, and has been with the title for 17 years or so. He has been a journalist for getting on for three decades now, working on a variety of technology and motoring titles, including Stuff, Autocar and Jaguar. With his background in sub-editing and magazine production, he likes nothing more than a discussion on the finer points of grammar. And golf.