GamuT CD 1 CD player
I needed a digital front-end, but which one? I abhor complexity, so I wanted an integrated unit. I'm picky, so it had to be something that sounded good. I wanted to be realistic, so it couldn't cost a fortune. And I wanted to try something new. I sat down with my notes and brochures from recent hi-fi shows and began shopping.
After a couple of hours and a few cups of coffee, I settled on the $2999 GamuT CD 1. I'd heard the unit in GamuT's killer room at the 2002 Consumer Electronics Show, where it was mated with their D-200 amplifier, C2R preamplifier, and a pair of Magnepan MG 3.6/R loudspeakers. The sound was great, and since a chain is no stronger than its weakest link, I reasoned that the CD 1 itself must be pretty good. I exchanged a few e-mails with Ray Lombardi, GamuT's West Coast distributor, and the deal was done.
A Straightforward Design
The CD 1 is a straightforward, front-loading, integrated CD player—an "everything you need, nothing you don't" sort of unit. The 10mm-thick front panel—chrome-plated brass on mine, though brushed aluminum is the standard finish—houses the CD drawer, the display, and all of the necessary controls in an inset brass panel. A row of round buttons controls the standard functions; Stop, Drawer Open/Close, Play, Track Forward and Back. The full-function remote control permits programming functions as well, but my much-traveled demo unit had lost its remote somewhere along the way. I made do with the front-panel controls.
The rear panel is equally simple, particularly in the case of my early-production unit, which had only a bare minimum of graphics. The CD 1 has both unbalanced (RCA) and balanced (XLR) analog outputs, a single S/PDIF (BNC) digital output, and an IEC receptacle for a removable AC cord.
Inside is a lot of empty space, with smallish, neatly laid out circuit boards for the various functions. The largest is the analog board, which houses a Crystal Semiconductor CS4390 two-channel D/A chip, this selected, according to GamuT, for its low jitter as well as for its converter performance. (The CS4390 also includes the digital filter and the analog low-pass filter.) Another large board contains all the digital control and signal processing circuitry, and smaller boards carry the power supply, analog output jacks, and digital output.
The main digital and analog boards each has its own power supply, starting with a large toroidal transformer. Each board is rubber-mounted for improved mechanical isolation, as is the transport assembly. During final testing, each CD 1 is hand-trimmed for optimum performance.
Use and Listening
I've become really finicky about CD players in the past few years. Part of this stems from my continuing reliance on analog, and the superb performance of my VPI/Grado combo. But another part of it is that, over the last couple of years, I've been spoiled. I've gotten to review and use an unbroken stream of really great players—the Wadia 830 and 861, the Oracle, the Simaudio Moon Eclipse. Before that, I'd been perfectly content with the "good for the money" players I'd been hearing and using for years, a group that included the Marantz CD63SE, the Parasound CDP-1000, a couple of Arcams, and my favorite, the now-discontinued Ultech UCD1000.
But when my Simaudio Moon Eclipse was recalled for updating and I swapped in the Parasound CDP-1000, I discovered just how finicky I'd become. The sound was nice enough, and I heard again everything I'd originally liked about the Parasound, but there just wasn't the resolution I've since grown used to. The music seemed subdued and slightly washed-out—it just didn't have the live, engaging feel and presence that was there with the better players. As good as the Parasound was, there seemed to be a huge chasm between its performance and the Simaudio's. So the GamuT's first test, after warming up for about 100 hours, was to confront this chasm.