Adcom GCD-575 CD player

I once told Larry Archibald it might be worth, say, a 10% loss in sound quality with CD not to have to jump up and turn over the damned record. Sometimes a CD saves you from popping up twice—Mahler's Fifth or Bruckner's Seventh on a single disc instead of three LP sides—or three times—Mozart's Magic Flute on three CDs instead of 6 LP sides. That might be worth a 15% sacrifice.

I don't know that you will need to lose even 10%. Unless, of course, you have a turntable like a Versa Dynamics 2.0 or a Goldmund Reference.

Now, if only the cost of CDs would come down.

That may happen soon. The New York Times reports a growing CD glut. (Goody-goody. Goody got it and he has to get rid of it.) Joe Epstein, of Berkshire Record Outlet, hints of impending CD cut-outs. (How do you "cut out" a CD? Gouge a hole in the edge of the disc?) The Wall Street Journal reports that GE has developed a new resin, which will make it possible for CDs to be molded quicker—that should worsen the glut! And sale prices for "full-price" CDs have already dropped to as little as $9.99 per disc in New York.

There's more encouraging news.

Designers such as Dan D'Agostino, of Krell, and John Bicht, of Versa Dynamics, are turning their attention to CD. Both Dan and John are looking into transports—or rather, the whole "front end" retrieval system, which includes the laser assembly. Audiophiles may be paying as much attention to CD transports as to turntables . . . and perhaps as much money! Expect to see top-loading players with innovative clamping and damping mechanisms, which may obviate the need for such devices as CD Rings (footnote 1).

The transport does make a difference—or, to put it another way, not all digital outs are created equal. Recently, at Definitive Hi-Fi in Mamaroneck, NY, a few of us Thursday night 'philes were listening to CDs through Mike Moffat's Theta outboard digital processor. We tried different players. There were differences. It's hard to say something definitive (ouch), but subjectively it appears that sturdier players retrieve the encoded data with fewer errors. Sony transports sounded particularly good.

Now, a promising player.

Most of my listening took place through the line stage of the Forté Model 2 preamplifier. The Adcom has a variable output, so I also auditioned it directly into a Threshold SA/3 or B&K ST-140 power amp. Interestingly, the B&K amplifier was better at revealing differences than the Threshold. Interconnects were Discrete Technology Platinum and the very promising new Audio Prism Ultima ($160 retail for a 1m pair). Speaker cable was $5.75/yard Naim Cable, which sounds at least as good as, if not better than, some very costly cables with bullshit stories attached to them. Speakers were MartinLogan Sequels.

I ran the dropout tests of the second Pierre Verany test disc on each machine. I also tested a couple of damaged discs in each player. Then I sent the machine to Santa Fe, for measurement.

Adcom GCD-575: $599
I got two samples of this machine—early production and late production. Late production is better, I think—the sound is smoother. Victor Campos of Adcom told me about the changes, most having to do with tighter tolerances and a few parts upgrades.

Never mind the tech stuff, this is a very good-sounding player for the money—devastating to most of the competition at the price in that once I heard the Adcom, most of the other players were unacceptable. What makes the Adcom so devastating is its low-level resolution—ie, clarity. This is from a 16-bit Philips DAC with 4x oversampling. I wonder why I haven't heard this resolution from Magnavox and Philips machines.

Soundstaging is very good, and imaging is excellent. Ambience retrieval, too, is most impressive—just short of the very best you can get with a CD player and far better than what you might expect for the price. Instruments are very clearly localized, and there is air around them—they don't exist in a void, as they do with some CD players.

There are limits to the performance, of course. Dynamics are somewhat reined in. When you get to the fourth movement of Tchaikovsky's Manfred, this machine, like many, gives up—it cannot deal in a totally satisfactory way with the dynamics.

Parts quality looks good for the price, except for the drawer mechanism, made by Sony, which looks like it belongs on a cheap machine. Every time I used the drawer, I thought it might break—but it didn't. Even more disturbing was the poor shock resistance. This player skipped when I walked up to it! And I had it on a Mission Isoplat with a VPI Magic Brick on top. (The Adcom is shipped with no transport screws. Maybe that's a mistake.)

Adcom is known for innovation. The GCD-575 has, in effect, its own built-in line amp, which gives a variable output of up to 5.3V, with an output impedance of 100 ohms. You control the output level with a conveniently located volume control on the lower-right corner of the front panel. The Adcom GCD-575 can probably drive any power amplifier directly. You could have a dynamite duo: GCD-575 and GFA-535 power amp for under $1000 list.

Another novel feature is AFPC (Analog Frequency/Phase Contour). Switching this gives you a dip in the presence region, boosting frequencies below 1kHz by about 1dB, cutting frequencies above 1kHz by an increasing amount to –3.2db at 20kHz. This is akin to a slight LF boost upward with the Quad 34 preamp's tilt control. I found this feature occasionally useful, but it's no substitute for adequate weight in the bass.

The Adcom sports a polarity reversal switch that works via remote. Julian Hirsch says he couldn't hear any difference with the switch in or out. I bet you can! When the setting was right, there was more air around the instruments. More space.

Summing Up
The Adcom offers clarity. But what causes me to hesitate about this player is the flimsy factor—the rickety drawer and the player's exceptionally poor resistance to shock (this on the two samples I had, plus another sample I examined . . . as well as on Julian Hirsch's test sample). Sonically the Adcom GCD-575 is a winner at the price, but not so good that I would be tempted to switch from something like a Magnavox CDB650. I suppose my real complaint is that Adcom did not choose to build this player to a higher price point.—Sam Tellig



Footnote 1: The problem with CD Rings is you can't always remove them without disc damage if you change your mind . . . or change players and then change your mind. We need to see hard evidence—tests, not testimonials—as to what CD Rings do or do not do when used with a variety of players. You might try piggybacking a CD-Ringed disc—or a ringed Mod Squad CD Damper—atop a naked disc. Warning: this will not work in all players, and might jam some. If my ears are not mistaken, you get an effect similar to ringing each individual disc without actually having to do so.
COMPANY INFO
Adcom
PO Box 2668
Sedona, AZ 86339
(602) 773-1909
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