Oldie needs upgrade advice


New member
Aug 10, 2019
Hi all. I'm new here and currently in that "how can I improve this" frame of mind.

I currently have :

Technics 8000 pre-power amp

Rega Planar 3 deck with Linn cartridge

Arcam Alpha 1 CD player (also have Cambridge Audio CD5 but it's not very good so still using the Arcam) which plays through a Musical Fidelity X10D box of tricks

Castle Pembroke speakers on Heybrook stands (the old Pembrokes, not the modern floor standers). They had new bass drivers at the Castle works about 13 years ago

I tend to listen to classical music including a lot of choral and large scale orchestral plus classical organ music so I'm asking a lot of any system. As an amateur singer I have fairly acute hearing.

I'm looking to keep things fairly modest as I'm convinced whatever you have your ears soon adjust to it and cease to be easily tricked. I'm also dubious about some of the tricks played by recording engineers and how they affect what eventually comes out

My listening room is not good as it's a modern house with low ceilings lots of soft furnishing and it's an L shaped lounge/diner, i.e. wherever you put things it's never quite right.

On the whole it works well enough but I always feel it lacks a certain transparency and some detail gets muddled on larger works, it's good on chamber music and small scale stuff. I suspect some of this may be down to less than ideal speaker placement - I can't really get them out in the open, there's just not enough room.

You'll have gathered from the above that I'm of the older persuasion ! So what to do chaps and chapesses ? All advice gratefully received

Really depends on your budget and whether you're looking at new, ex-dem or s/hand gear. TBH, looking at your kit it seems to me the CDP is the weak link here.

If you like Arcam then the DIVA CD73T for around £150-£200 will give probably give you what you're looking for. It has a rich, detailed and very musical delivery.


I concur with PP about the CDP

Personally Looking at your kit I would get a mint second hand Marantz Cd 63 Mk II Ki which will cost you £200+


What do your 2 CD players sound like if you don't put them through the X10D? I see reviews of this item are mixed, to say the least.


In a word, they sound harsh without the X10D. It definitely improves and clarifies the sound for me, particularly noticeable on choral music


How old are the tubes? I'm just wondering whether they might need replacing as its an older unit.

Another quick question: do the same problems occur with you TT as with CD? If it's the same (and the Linn cartridges generally lean towards the detailed end of the spectrum) then it could be the amp not the sources- I'd suggest trying a Unison Research Unico amp, which uses a tube preamp, or a Peachtree Audio Nova which also has a built-in DAC, both without the X10D for starters. However, there's a but.

It's a long time since I've heard Castle speakers (the real ones, not the new ones) but I don't remember them as being particularly detailed or dynamic. I know this sounds like hedging bets, but it could be the lack of transparency /muddled sound is a combination of factors, rather than emanating from just one component.


In the light of the comments I've spent some time in the last couple of days going over the system and trying to do some analytical listening. Sound from the Rega Planar 3/RB300/Linn K9 is streets ahead of the CDs in terms both of depth and clarity of soundstage and resolution of detail. (of course it is, I hear you all say, it's vinyl !)

The Cambridge Audio CD5 sounds good and has a broader, clearer sound stage but is poor on detail. The old Arcam is in another league in term of detail but the sound is rather flat and dull but gets harsh when pushed, e.g. Bruckner Locus Iste by the Corydon Singers and that's where the X10D comes in by taming the harsh edginess and clarifying the loud, high bits.

The Castles are a bit boxy but overall very clear and natural - you hear the sounds, not the speakers.

So I think the plan is to tackle the CD player and make a significant upgrade, as I was always told you can't amplify what the source ain't producing. Meantime I'm having a lot of fun going over music I haven't played for a while re-hearing it.

What does anyone think of the Arcam CD17 or the new Rega CD offering assuming I can't get the items recommended on the secondhand market. ?

One thing I do like is reliability. I once had two Musical Fidelity A1s in succession as they both blew their transformers very quickly. Wonderful sound but !!! Hopefully things have moved on a bit now.


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