Naim CD5 CD player with Flatcap 2 power supply Page 3

I didn't play Ry Cooder and V.M. Bhatt's A Meeting by the River (Water Lily Acoustics WLA-CS-29-CD) without the Flatcap 2 installed, but with it, the CD5 kept me in my seat for the CD's entire length. I've heard the strings on Bhatt's mohan vina (his own design) and Cooder's slide guitar sound brighter and more convincingly metallic, and the percussion "pop" with somewhat greater relief, and I've heard a more persuasive rendering of the acoustic space (a chapel in Santa Barbara, California) and the air within it, but never had the overall presentation of this remarkable recording been so rich, coherent, and full-bodied. I'd never enjoyed the music quite as much.

That experience inspired me to pull out Begoña Olavide's Salterio (M•A Recordings M025A), which was also recorded in a large space—a medieval monastery in Spain. The featured instruments are psalteries or salterios, plucked stringed instruments that resemble hammered dulcimers. Olavide plays a variety of psalteries on the disc, and each has a pristine delicacy that has been beautifully captured on this 16-bit/96kHz recording. Again, I've heard Salterio delivered with more air and space, but never as richly satisfying, and never as coherently. I listened to the entire disc for the first time.

Once I'd gotten a handle on the sound of the CD5/Flatcap 2 combo, I replaced the standard Chord DIN-to-RCA interconnects with two cables supplied to me by Nordost: Blue Heaven and Quattro Fil. Both Nordost cables improved the sound, but in my system, the Quattro Fil was the clear winner, alleviating some of the dryness and further relaxing the overall presentation while increasing the resolution of very-low-level detail.

I've gotten greater musical excitement from listening to Frank Zappa's The Yellow Shark (Rykodisc RCD 40560) through other, more expensive digital front-ends, especially in the rendering of the hall space and the spaces between instruments, but the CD5's overall presentation (especially with the Quattro Fil cable) was "just right" and just music. And that's what it's all about.

These are tough times for digital manufacturers and end users. With all the uncertainty about multichannel SACD and DVD-Audio, most consumers are hesitant to invest in a new format—and even more hesitant, it seems, to buy ultra-expensive CD players and transport-processor combinations. Nor are manufacturers rushing to bring such gear to market. Who can blame either of them?

If you want HDCD decoding, or must retrieve every last bit of ambience information from a spatially challenged format, or insist on a digital out jack for dubbing CD-Rs, the CD5 isn't the player for you—the Naim engineers have found that adding an S/PDIF tap to the circuit compromises the sound. But if you don't want any of that, and until a winner in the format wars is finally declared...

If you're looking for a CD player that's well-built, easy to use, reasonably priced ($2250, or $3150 with power supply), that sounds wonderful and provides rich, pure, musical pleasure from audiophile and mass-market can't go wrong with Naim's CD5 and Flatcap 2.

Conclusions Concluded
After I'd written the above, I looked at my 1999 review of Naim's CDX HDCD player to retrieve its specifications template and Naim's address and phone number, and was surprised to read that the CDX had also gotten me to pull out Begoña Olavide's Salterio—not a disc I play frequently. But there's something about the purity of Naim's musical presentation that makes Salterio so enticing. I also was surprised to find that I'd described the CDX as "ruthlessly revealing," with a tendency to sound too "aggressive" or worse, except with the very best recordings.

Not so the CD5, which managed to make music from almost every decently recorded disc I played. Of course, the better the recording, the better the player sounded, but somehow the CD5 was more forgiving than the CDX of real-world recordings while managing to not shortchange the great ones. Dreck still sounded like dreck, but aside from those unfortunate discs, the CD5 allowed me to get more pleasure from my CD library than I've gotten with any other player I've had in my system. And the CD5 without the Flatcap costs $2000 less than the CDX.

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