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Budget system

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matthewpiano:Audition Report 1 Went to demo some kit this morning and thought I'd feed back to everyone with some thoughts. First up was the Marantz CD6002 and PM6002 with the B&W 865 speakers. Initially quite pleasant sounding with decent levels of detail. I played a range of music and, whilst the system sounded quite warm and musical at times, I quickly grew disatisfied with the sound it was making. The top end sounded quite splashy to me and there was a distinct lack of drive in the bass. Everything was a bit bland sounding. In the quieter passages I also found the transport on the CD6002 a bit on the noisy side. Half an hour of listening showed me that this system was not for me. Although I knew some of it could be the speakers, the characteristics I didn't like were very similar to what I disliked about a PM4001/CD5001 I had briefly. To me, the 6002 components do not reflect the reviews and plaudits received in WHFS&V and I think a review I read elsewhere is much closer to the mark. They are budget components which sound like budget components and, to me, the PM6002 doesn't touch the NAD C325BEE. I wanted to try the Pioneer PD-D6 and A-A6 combination but the dealer didn't have them on site and was quite dismissive of them, suggesting that they weren't particularly musical. He did, however have something else for me to listen to... Next up was the new Arcam FMJ combo (replacements for the CD73 and A70). Having been disappointed with an A70 some months ago, I was very cautious about Arcam and the WHFS&V reviews hadn't really filled me with excitement. They were certainly extremely well built units with fit and finish a step up from the old DiVA range. I tried them with the 865s first and there was an immediate and obvious improvement in sound quality over the Marantz electronics. Playing the Tchaikovksy ballet music, the sound was more open and detailed but with musicality in spades. Listening was suddenly an event rather than just being like wallpaper. Playing through my other demo tracks I quickly became convinced about the sound of the Arcam kit. Its got more drive and enthusiasm than the DiVA stuff ever had but without losing any of the traditional Arcam musicality. Consequently, Barclay James Harvest's 'In My Life' drove ahead with vigour and got my foot tapping, with more balance across the frequency range than the Marantz CD and amp were capable of. I still felt, however, that things weren't quite there. Playing 'Worthy Is The Lamb' from Handel's Messiah showed that the Arcam/B&W combination wasn't quite coping with the various layers within the choir and orchestra. The choir, in particular, sounded a little too indistinct and with some hardness in the treble that I'd also heard with the Marantz kit. At this stage I decided to swap the 685s out for my own Wharfedale Diamond 9.1s and suddenly, the whole picture fell into place. The diminutive Wharfedales showed themselves to be superior in every way, despite their lowly price tag. The midrange allowed voices to breathe properly and the top end was informative but without the slight harshness of the B&W's tweeter. Most surprisingly of all, bass was more lively and fuller sounding and the Diamonds were seperating the layers of more complex material whilst retaining a togetherness and musicality that I've missed for a long time. Whether playing orchestral music, opera, rock music or Joni Mitchell, the Arcam/Wharfedale combination sounded vastly superior to anything I had heard all morning. Joni Mitchell's voice hung with beautiful warmth in between the speakers on 'I Don't Know Where I Stand', almost to the point where she could have been in the room. So what have I done then? Well, at this stage, nothing. I do still very much want to look into the Rega option before taking the plunge. However, I am VERY impressed with Arcam's new electronics and the synergy with my Diamonds is superb across a range of music. I actually didn't want to stop listening, which is a very good sign indeed. Again, I can't marry up the WHFS&V review of the new Arcam FMJ components with what I heard today. To me they are very superior pieces of kit and a bargain at their retail prices of £450 each. As for the B&Ws I think they have been vastly over-rated and I was very disappointed with them. They just didn't touch the Wharfedales in terms of coherency, definition or tonal quality and for what they actually bring to the party, I think they are very over priced. The treble is particularly poor but they just don't have any real drive or life. There is a very strong chance I'll end up with the Arcam FMJs in my lounge. Its up to Rega now to change that.

Cheers for that. Just out of interest which units out of the Arcam FMJ range did you test??