Upgrading an old system


New member
Aug 10, 2019
My system is old, and got forced into the cupboard under the stairs when we moved to our current house and children started taking over every bit of space. Lately I've had little free time for listening but I've recently started playing CD's and listening to music again late at night, and the eldest has discovered Kylie - at least it's better than renditions of "The Wheels on the Bus" :)

My system consists mainly of an original Arcam Alpha CD Player (from 1990), Pioneer A400 amp and Kef Q35.2 speakers. The CD player is a little sluggish now, and the amp has no remote, which is makes complying with requests to turn it down a chore. Some of the inputs have become unreliable too, which confuses the wife when she can't get any sound out of the CD player (it's connected to the LINE input now). I'm considering replacing one or the other or both of CD player and amp but am not sure where to start, given that I haven't looked at much in the 17 years since I bought them apart from when I bought the Kef's

I can't see any reason to replace the speakers. They seemed good six years ago and if anything are a bit big for our modest lounge.

I'm loath to buy anything cheap and nasty, and really want something equivalent or maybe a little better, so am wondering what level of components to go looking at. If same make cd player & amp could share a remote, that would be a small bonus by reducing the remote count.


Hey there. First of all, buy the kids a cassette player and buy them cassettes for it. Then you'll never have the problem of "dad, the speaker makes funny noises after I pushed it"! That'll be a weight of your chest!

Anyway, perhaps you should try the current ARCAM DIVA series. The CD player - Arcam Diva CD73 is a treat for music, very involving, musical and good when quiet too. Then the matching amplifier - Arcam Diva A70 is also fantastic and very good at making music warm and inviting, but is still incredibly accurate and powerful. The A70 is 50 watts/channel at 8ohms and will be well suited for the Kefs. If you want a little more power try the Arcam A90 which gives 90w/ch at 8ohms.

The CD73 costs around £400, The A70 around £500 or £900 for the A90 (but personally, I do not believe one can justify spending £400 more for something which is only a bit better...save it for the kids!).

This amplifier system will work in perfect harmony together with each other and I think it can be connected together for one remote function (but you'd better check that).

If you want to save a little money or do not like the warmer sound of the Arcam system, try the Rotel 06 series. The Rotel RA-05 (the non-remote version called the RA-04 will save you £100) and the RCD-06 are also fantastic, perhaps have an even higher amounts of detail, but it's a rather more up-front and cold sound than the Arcam.

The RA-05 you should be able to get for £350 and the RCD-06 is available for about £350 also.

All these components are certainly not cheap and nasty, so do not worry on that front and I'm sure they would blow the dust out of the equipment you already have (although I do love the old Arcam CD players!)

Of course, if you want to spend more just look at other brands or higher spec models, but to be honest, these days if you spend more than a grand...the prices get silly for what you really get and they are therfore not as good value.

Think of the kids savings account!

If you need anything else, do not hesitate to ask!

A very Merry Christmas!


New member
Dec 17, 2007
To be honest, I'd be tempted to get your A400 fixed and get up off the couch on occasion!

I sold mine a while back and regret it. The price they go for on ebay confirms that the public at large still want them.

If your Q35.2s are as good as mine they'll be fine.

When you say the Arcam's sluggish, do you mean sonically or mechanically?


If the A400 is that good, get it fixed. It is widely regarded as one of the all time greats especially for the price...but sadly it would be costly and difficult to DIY repair it and just down right costly to get someone to sort it out. Perhaps it needs just a little tap here and there...

Although, as I hate the term "audiophile" (I have a good synonym, but the moderators will probably not approve) never, ever listen to anyone who calls themself that and then tells you "mate, your hi-fi is out of date" because everyone tells me my old JVC A-X400 is rubbish and I can honestly say it will give any new amp a run for its money. Do not listen to them, you will know when your hi-fi is out of date...I couldn't agree more with Gyp in that respect! If that amp is what musically gets you going, then keep it! Keep it until it breaks, and then buy another!

Modern amps are more efficient, usually more reliable and most likely more accurate...but unless you like the sound they make, they are useless. Try getting a home-demo and just connect the equipment up to your old stuff in the normal room with your cds...then you will know for sure how good it is. Also, when testing, adjust the bass and treble to what you like, and then try turning them to the same level you usually have your A400 at...you will then get a feel for how the amp sounds.

Also, bear in mind that all audio-equipment takes a while to "run-in" and will not sound fully open and warm until after around 20hrs.

The only problem is that if the Arcam is becoming sluggish in sound (or to some extent mechanics), it may be on its way to hi-fi heaven (or hell) because Cd players will not last that long due to the laser breaking and all the moving parts inside. But...because it is quite a popular model it is easily fixable so do not worry on that front!

Merry Xmas all!



Try the pioneer A-A9, it is just a newer version of the A400! Brilliant sound, very nicely styled, 55watts both ways (that is an understatement when its playing) yours for just over the £500 mark if you look hard. Very understated and widely disregarded amp!

Go to here for a review and three rivals...it wins hands down!



Well-known member
Nov 29, 2007
the Arcam Alpha CD Player was the CD player that i wanted SO badly back in the day.

One thing that i feel is important is you have not mentioned the buget.

if you get an AMP and CD player from the same produce then they are more than likely work from one.

the one that cam with my amp will do the amp and the cd player (CD switchable to tuner depending on set up).

Speakers yes keep but depending on 1, the budget and 2, the required luxury of a remote i would box the old kit up for a future project and buy new.


The rotel a5 amp is a good one, as is cambridge audio azur 640 and nad c352.Arcam cd73cd player is very good, although pricey. cambridge azur 640,nad c542 and marantz's new cd6002 are also all v good. I would avoid arcam amps. If you liked the sound of the pioneer a400 you will hate th arcam A70.I heard it recently and thought it was awful.No drive or power and a soft bass. Tough decision to make and you will probably have to demo some kit to decide. the speakers you have are pretty decent and worth hanging onto.


Thanks. It been a while since I looked at hifikit, but the usual suspects like Arcam, Nad, Rotel, etc seem to be the ones to look at. Seems not everything changes. I even see Audiolab are around again - I thought they'd disappeared. Build quality on the Cambridge A1 I used when I had a computer room was suspect (I should have taken it backbut never got arountuit), so I'm likely to shy away there.

Budget is probably an average of a few hundred per component - about what the originals cost when new. I was wondering if technology has improved and you get more for less, particularly if manufacture has moved to the far east. e.g. how much need I spend on a CD player to get one just as good? I auditioned the Kef's with an Arcam CD72, and that was good, so I may try and stretch to the CD73 - it's a bit more than I was thinking of, so we'll see how funds are after Xmas!

The Arcam CD player is sluggish mechanically, and can take a while to recognise some discs, so I'm guessing that's something that can only get worse. The remote is a bit dicky too sometimes bit I can use the multi-source remote from my AV amp. Having been browsing for specs, I see that some players now will play MP3 encoded discs, and read CR-RW, which while not exactly audiophile, could be a feature I'd use quite a bit when in background music mode.

Eldest (4.75yo) daughter likes to dance to music, so she either does it downstairs, or it sounds like a herd of elephants are upstairs. Santa's getting her a ghetto blaster I believe.

Unfortunately my stereo is in the cupboard under the stairs, the door for which is off the lounge. My wife then puts all the "big junk" - hoover, ironing board and currently baby carseat in the way, so it's a chore fighting my way past it. Until we can afford a bigger house this isn't going to change.

I shall look into repairing the A400. The sound is big and beefy, and as a rock music fan, that suits me fine. It's only certain inputs, and I remember in particular the struggle to get the tight phono leads onto the CD inputs so I might have forced something and broken a solder joint near the input. The amp otherwise works fine. I pulled the covers off to have a look, and shall ask a guy at a company in the same building as I work in to take a look - he's done the odd bit of soldering of car electricals for me before now.


If the Arcam CD73 is what you want, then perhaps try getting one off ebay or the like. Its been around for a couple of years, so I'm sure you could get an absolutly fantastic condition one for about £250-ish. I bought mine on sataurday for £450 in mk, could have saved myself alot of money!


Update: Bought myself a CD6002. Local Sevenoaks had a 15% discount on, and it was soooo quiet at work between Xmas and New Year...so a long lunch hour brought a back-to-back audition against my old Arcam and I walked out with the CD6002 as well. Amusingly the Arcam and Marantz remotes work with both CD players which caused some confusion.

There wasn't a huge amount in it soundwise. Sevenoaks set it up with an RA-05 and some slim floortanding MA's to try and get somewhere near my own system. If pushed, I'd say the CD6002 has slightly more detail and imaging and a bit more rhythmic attack. The Arcam beats it for the sound of an overdriven guitar though with a slightly thicker sound.

It's very handy to dump a load of mp3's that I've hoarded onto a CDRW and listen to them. As a result I've been and bought a few new CD's which hasn't happened for a while - the new Foo Fighters literally rocks.

I've retrieved some Mission 761's, and a Cambridge A1 that used to be the computer amp, from the loft and made a system to listen to whilst in the garage so nothing is wasted! I spend a fair bit of time in there between fixing motorbikes, bicycles and DIY, so it's not as daft as it sounds although it's a bit cold out there at the moment! A £10 Denon TU260 from ebay rounds it off.

The Arcam seems to have perked up after being transported around - maybe a bit of gentle percussive maintenance helped. There is however something rattling around inside. The chap I bought the Denon from, repairs old hifi, and reckoned that the nylon gears for the tray mechanism on old Arcams go brittle and lose their teeth, but that Arcam are good with spares. Might be worth a peer inside.

It's my birthday soon, and I'm now torn between:

1) Marantz PM7001/Nad 352/Rotel RA-05, etc

2) The road bicycle frameset I promised myself I was going to build up for spring

3) A Fender Stratocaster


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