Arcam CD37 - £1,300

SACD playback has a low profile in the case of the CD37, but the presence of a Wolfson DAC is definitely a bonus

As SACD players go, this one is remarkably low key. There is an SACD logo on the front, but it’s not immediately obvious and the legend at top right clearly says ‘Compact Disc Player’. But it does handle the hi-res discs, thanks to a DAC which handles DSD (the SACD ‘bitstream’ format) in native mode.

That’s an interesting detail, as most DACs these days convert both high-bit PCM (CD, DVD-A etc.) and DSD into low-bit PCM before the final conversion to analogue. But the Wolfson DAC used here can convert DSD directly to audio and Arcam has implemented that. Does it make a difference? Well, theoretically, it’s the ‘purer’ option, but there are plenty of other variables.

As usual for Arcam, build quality and exterior finish are excellent, with that nicely legible green display (no CD Text, though) and separate buttons on the front for skip and scan: why do so many other manufacturers fail to realise that one often wants to search for something in a disc immediately after loading it, at which point the remote is usually 10 feet away on the sofa? Good on Arcam for removing another of life’s unnecessary frustrations!

There appear to be three completely separate power supplies inside, one switch-mode and two transformer-based, which feed a circuit board characterised by extensive anti-interference measures – ferrites stuck on critical chips and mechanical damping on some passive components. The audio output is unbalanced only, but is duplicated so you can feed two systems, or a recorder in parallel with the amp, which is another nice touch.

Sound quality

In a group which our listeners felt maintained a high overall standard, this player was one of the most favourably received. The least successful track was one from the Penguin Café Orchestra, a distinctly miscellaneous mix of instruments that, in all honesty, is not superbly recorded. As a result, it needs all the help it can get at the replay end and the CD37 proved slightly less adept than some at maintaining the individual instrumental characters.

There were also a couple of comments about very slight roughness on voices and, in general, it seems that the CD37 is just a touch uncertain in the upper treble or ‘presence’ region, especially in busy textures. All the same, under any circumstances other than direct comparison with other highly talented disc players that could easily pass unnoticed.

Against that, one must set this player’s unusually good delineation of space and, in particular, depth in images. Reverberation has a marvellously realistic spaciousness to it and both our classical music tracks benefitted from this. The large forces in Brahms’s German Requiem were easy to picture, spreading well behind and beyond the loudspeakers, even giving an impression of height – always a good sign, given it’s actually a physical impossibility from stereo!

Tonally, the CD37 could do with a shade more weight in the bass. This is a minor problem and the bass has good energy and definition to it. In general, this is a very musical player and a great ‘fit and forget’ component.

LIKE: Very good detail and imaging, with a great sense of space
DISLIKE: Occasional slight roughness on voice
WE SAY: Lovely music-making, which transcends any minor technical deficiencies one might identify

TYPE: CD/SACD player
DIMENSIONS: (WxHxD) 430x85x355mm
• Analogue output: dual unbalanced
• Digital output: electrical and optical S/PDIF
TELEPHONE: 01223 203200