Marantz might have staked its claim for top honours in recent tests, but NAD will have something to say about that.
The last meeting between the two companies resulted in victory for the C545BEE over the now discontinued CD6002.
And, it doesn't take long for the C545BEE to remind you why it's a five-star machine. For a start, the sound is expertly organized.
Every instrument and vocal takes its place in an open, airy soundstage.
The NAD's lively, fleet-footed delivery ensures there's no sluggishness, but at the same time, the player doesn't use this as an excuse to skip over the finer details of a track.
Crisply defined notes
The edges of notes are crisply defined, the NAD's sure-footed approach to music is unwavering and confidence inspiring.
The player reproduces all those subtle dynamic shifts that can elude less capable machines. It displays some nice feats of agility during the opening and closing sections of Oasis's Don't Go Away, Noel's guitar strumming following a natural and fluid path.
Spin Feeder's Tender, and you get another glimpse of the player's thoughtful approach to music.
It's willing to take the time to get the pace and rhythm of the track spot on, exhibiting beautiful balance; and this delicate approach really brings great dividends.
Bass quality ahead of quantity
Low frequencies sound punchy and zesty – the NAD serves up a thumpingly rhythmic and textured bass line to accompany Notorious BIG's attitude-filled Got Beef?
Some players are capable of kicking out greater weight, but the NAD puts quality ahead of quantity without sounding lean or malnourished.
Lined up comparable machines, it's fair to say that the C545BEE is the last player to catch your eye.
The rounded edges and smooth buttons look tidy, but there's no real hint that there's a talented disc-spinner lying beneath this chassis.
Sockets are limited to a pair of analogue outs and coaxial and optical digital outputs. There's no headphone jack or USB input.
The look and feel of the remote control does nothing to enhance the player's aesthetic appeal, but spend some time with it and you realize that the compact button layout works in your thumb's favour.
The C545BEE is a great CD player for the money, but it can't quite beat the Award-winning Marantz CD6003.