NuForce CDP-8 CD player Page 2
And my beloved combo of Mac, Bel Canto, and Musical Fidelity? Not quite so detailed, not quite as crisply harmonic, and maybe, just maybe, a tad lighter in the loafers. I loved the NuForce's way with the bottom end.
One disc to rule them all
I then installed the CDP-8 in my big rig and compared it with my longtime reference disc player, Ayre's C-5xeMP, in a system comprising Vivid's G1Giya speakers and Luxman's C800f preamp and B100f monoblocks. Heck, that system has cables that cost more than the NuForcea lot more. While I can't say that the CDP-8 smoked the Ayre in this hi-rez system, it certainly had nothing to apologize for.
With Gong's "Isle of Everywhere," I thought the NuForce had more bass impactactually, not so much deeper than the Ayre as perhaps a slightly different em-pha-sis. The NuForce sounded slightly crispergreat for Steve Hillage's solo, but not an unmixed blessing overall. The Ayre definitely loped along with heartening alacrity, but then, it's always been a champion in the pacing department.
The differences between the two players were vanishingly small on "Comin' Back to Me." Maybe I heard Rickie Lee Jones change from six- to twelve-string guitar more emphatically with the Ayre, but I might also have been clutching at straws.
I heard the biggest difference between the two players with Buddy Miller's "When It Comes to You": The Ayre definitely let me hear how nonexistent the soundstage was on this recording. The CDP-8 didn't hide it, but the C-5xeMP shone a spotlight on it.
One mo' time
Well into my audition, John Atkinson suggested I use the CDP-8's BNC output to drive his 2003-vintage Benchmark DAC1 ($995), using the Benchmark's volume control to match levels. Greater love hath no editorthe Benchmark is JA's go-to DAC. Since the NuForce's outputs are all isolated from one another, it was as simple as could be to compare the CDP-8's analog output to the Benchmark's.
The only problem was that hearing meaningful differences between the two components was damn hard work. The DAC1 sounded quite different than I remembered itthe slight graininess that I recalled from my earlier audition was gone, or, at least, almost unnoticeable.
I don't trust rapid A/B switching in auditions, finding that it leads to listener fatigue, and isn't something anyone would do in real lifeI prefer more extended listenings to a given component. In this case, however, I toggled between the two components using the tracks I'd used in the other system. Not much to reportboth the NuForce and the Benchmark had clarity, sparkle, and effortless rhythmic feel. They didn't sound identical, but discerning any meaningful differences was nigh impossible.
With more extended listening, however, very small differences did emerge. The DAC1 put a bit more bloom on all that pixie dust in Gong's "Isle of Everywhere," while the CDP-8 sounded somewhat leaner, giving Hillage's guitar a touch more bite.
Jones' sotto voce singing sounded more sung through the DAC1or, to put it another way, a tad more tuneful. The Benchmark hardly bettered the NuForce in dynamic contrast, however. I don't know if the CDP-8 did microdynamics better, or if it just made me notice them more. Not the same thing.
Extended listening didn't clarify differences with Miller's "When It Comes to You": The Benchmark and the NuForce both got the good stuff right, and let me clearly hear the not-so-good stuff. Perhaps Miller's voice sounded a tad richer through the Benchmark, but this disc didn't exactly give it gold to work with in the first place.
In sum, the Benchmark is still slightly rough compared to the NuForce's liquidity. On the other hand, some listeners might find the CDP-8 a trifle on the crisp side, and the Benchmark's midrange just right. I think each is worth its asking price. I'd be happy to live with either.
Still, they're quite different beasts, and while both are ambitious digital products at roughly similar prices, they're not really direct competition for each other in the marketplace: The Benchmark DAC1 is a preamp, a headphone amp, and a DAC with versatile digital input options. The NuForce CDP-8 is "just" a CD player.
One for the ages
There's nothing wrong with being "just" a CD player. In fact, NuForce points out that by optimizing the CDP-8 to do just one thing and do it well, they've created a product superior to Swiss Army Knife universal players.
I agreethe NuForce CDP-8 is a remarkably good CD player, one of the best I've heard in years. It's built well, a joy to use, and never failed to please. Except for the stuff nobody wantsa thick faceplate and an inflated priceit has all the trappings of a high-end classic. Sure, you can buy a CD player for $79 these days, but to get a player this good, you'd need to spend a lot more than $1500. NuForce has come a long way in only a few years, but the CDP-8 might be the product that catapults it into the big leagues.
Yes, people still make CD players. A handful of companies make exceptional CD players. Anyone looking for one of the latter should startand finishwith the NuForce CDP-8.