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Cary Audio CD 500 CD Player Review Print E-mail
Tuesday, 22 February 2011
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Cary Audio CD 500 CD Player Review

Really good components make me want to listen to more music, and the CD 500 had me digging deep into my CD collection for discs I haven't spun in years and enjoying them. Rush's Power Windows is an album with which I never fully connected. The songs and songwriting are topnotch, but the production is so awash with synths and guitar effects that much of the finer details blend together. That all changed, though, when I heard the recording through the Cary player. The CD 500 nimbly navigated through the dense arrangements and brought balance to the big picture. Alex Lifeson's guitar textures were revealed in parts supple, light, graceful and impressionistic. Almost subconsciously I found myself pressing the remote's repeat button, focusing in on a newly discovered dynamic.

Cary Audio CD 500 Front

HDCD playback, on the CD 500, is likewise superb. From my small collection of encoded discs, I heard music presented with substance and vigor, keeping my interest and ears on-duty at all times. Beyond HDCD and silver CDs, the player never failed to read CD-Rs, even some less-than-pristine backups I've had for nearly a decade. As I would expect, the CD 500 read and played every disc that I put in its tray.

Another thing that impressed me about the CD 500 is how good it sounds plugged into amps/receivers across a range of performance and price points. I listened to the CD player coupled with Yamaha's R-S700 Receiver (MSRP $549), my Grant Fidelity A-348 integrated tube amp (MSRP $1,100) and the Aaron Audio no.1.a integrated (MSRP $5,500) I reviewed for previously. This player made fast musical friends with whatever I connected to it, and its performance didn't suffer.  

Final Thoughts

I don't get excited about redbook CD too often, but I must have played 200 discs or so during my time with the Cary unit. My conclusion? The CD 500 is the best non-SACD player I've heard among any costing up to $5,000. Digital has never sounded so good to my ears, and with the up-sampling options it's possible to achieve SACD-like results with redbook discs. Although I don't have experience with the megabuck (10K+) players on the market, it would take a strong persuader to shake me off the Cary tree. At $2,995, this is not an entry-level player or one for casual listeners. But if your shelfs are sagging with CDs and you want to hear them at their best, the CD 500 cannot be recommended strongly enough. Is it time to up-sample? I think so.

System Setup

  • Cary Audio CD 500
  • Grant Fidelity A-348 integrated tube amplifier
  • Yamaha R-S700 Stereo receiver
  • Aaron Audio no.1.a integrated amplifier
  • RS Audio Cables Kevlar Starchord Power Cable 
  • RS Audio Cables Illume Silver Interconnects 
  • RS Audio Cables Illume Silver Loudspeaker Cables 
  • PENAUDIO Rebel 3 loudspeakers
  • Snell Acoustics Type K loudspeakers

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