Adcom GCD-575 CD player Peter W. Mitchell
To begin at the conclusion: the Adcom GCD-575 is a breakthrough. It's a CD player that offers high-end qualities at a mass-market price. A $5000 product that advances the state of the art is nice, but when a $600 product outperforms last year's multi-thousand-dollar playerthat, friends, is news worth repeating.
In the past I have not paid much attention to the sonic differences among CD players. The differences in sound quality among recordings (due to miking, EQ, and mixing practices) were so great that player differences seemed relatively unimportant by comparison. Musical enjoyment, after all, is the only real point of hi-fi. Spending several kilobucks on a slightly better-sounding player seemed unproductive if its superiority would be evident only with a handful of musically trivial demo discs. But as the percentage of well-engineered recordings has grown (even on such formerly disreputable labels as CBS and DG), the desirability of a good-sounding player has risen in proportion.
To place my comments in context, I should also say that while I admire Adcom's goals, I have not always been impressed by their execution. For instance, I don't think their GFP-555 preamp deserved the praise it received in one or two oft-quoted reviews. When I heard the preamp, it failed a simple bypass test, casting a veil over the sound. (In fairness, you should know that I write instruction booklets and other literature for a competitor, NAD. Feel free, therefore, to disregard my opinion.)
That said, I am giddily enthusiastic about the Adcom GCD-575 CD player. I started to write a lengthy tribute, but since Sam Tellig and JA described its virtues quite well in the March issue, I will be brief. It measures well, so I expected it to sound a little better than the other midprice players in my collection. What surprised me was the size of the improvementthe precision of its soundstage imaging, its airy reproduction of stage-area ambience, the clarity with which the smallest details are resolved. And unlike Sam, I have no complaints about its shock resistance; it is as well-built as any player in its price range.
In the past I have been able to hear the effects of polarity reversal through Quad electrostatics, but not through multi-way dynamic speakers. With the Adcom's polarity switch, the difference is obvious: the "wrong" setting produces pinched timbres and a loss of air. I don't know why.
The front panel of the GCD-575 is a human-engineering disaster, with 16 identical round buttons in two rows. Happily the remote control, which produces a very strong beam, is much better designed.
In a nutshell, if you want to spend more than $1000 for a CD player, enjoy your search. But in the under-$1000 class the Adcom is the player to beator, more to the point, the player to buy.Peter W. Mitchell