Tuesday, November 01, 2005

NAD C542 CD Player

My first CD Player was a NAD C521i. Because I love this gear so much, I decided to let it go to let the newer C542 mystify my senses. Inasmuch as owning a NAD C542 is a big leap from my former entry-level CD Player, I immediately noticed remarkable improvements, both aesthetically and sonically. The C542 is a notch higher model than my previous C521i and equally smartly built based on NAD's signature of simplicity and superb technology.

Except for the HDCD decoder LED that I now see on the faceplate, the all-familiar battleship grey color on its casework is still immaculate although the newer model now sports a rounded or circular corners on the front plate. The inside mechanism of its moving parts audaciously stands out with remarkably silent operational feel. The C542's sonic character is one that exudes desirable qualities like superb fidelity letting you enjoy more dynamic range, precised imaging, focused soundstage and extremely natural vocal and musical timbre - being an HDCD equipped player. It is like akin to inserting a WS Tono Preamp between the source and the amp whereby the previously faint or unheard of reproduction suddenly becomes alive and readily discernible. As reviewed by its maker - the C542 is boasting in low frequency slam and extension with timbral accuracy and lucid harmonic structure of its predecessor, the C541i.

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This is a player that I would like to settle with for keeps and enjoy over time or until an itch to upgrade to a higher model would, once again, become an incessant craving. I don't profess to be an expert in evaluating audio gears but certainly I wouldn't be contradicting my pair of ears when I say there is little much to be desired in its lucid and clean resolution. Compared to Rotel's RCD 1070 and Exposure's 2010, the best sounding CD Players that I've heard so far, this player doesn't quite rise to the heights of the better models I've mentioned above. Nonetheless, the C542 can recreate the full richness and detail of any recordings, though it may lack the expressive dynamic range of the 2010 and the punch and thump of the 1070. With proper coupling using better interconnects and cables, one can expect plenty of aural experience from the C542. By and large, the C542's overall signature can well be categorized as a good all-rounder CD Player with capability to play a wide variety of music types without slump in overall sonic quality.

As an example, Fleetwood Mac sounded so alive in "Dreams" while my favorite Style Council track "You're The Best Thing" is much like reminiscing the happier moments in life. Steely Dan's "Hey Nineteen" reminded me a lot of my good ole days while listening to "Pieces" by Patricia Barber is so involving. Diana Krall's "Look of Love" simply made me aware of her virtuosity as a pianist while at the same time letting me visualize how seductive she was in that music video of the same title. Playing my reference Chesky CD "The Ultimate Demonstration Disc", the C542's resolving prowess is an epitome of excellence in Rebecca Pidgeon's "Spanish Harlem". Some serious audiophile would say, the first upgrade we should mind to care is to make the most out of our source - based on the time-honored principle of "trash in - trash out". No matter how good our amp can be, aural fantasy simply begins and boils down to how proficient our source can decode, colorize and convey those signals to our amp's input.

Inasmuch as the C542 was christened by the ever reliable NAD, a Canadian firm advocating affordable but musically superior audio gears, this CD Player is warmly recommended.

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