C.A. vs NAD vs Marantz

Audio 6000N Play

vilfy

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hi all,

i have been surfing the net, reading many forums (incl this one) and also auditioning many brands and have shortlisted Cambridge Audio 540a v2 based on the features it offers compared to its price.

i would like to know your advice / views / opinions on Cambridge Audio 540a v2:

1. compared to nad, marantz, rotel, c.a. azur series offers more power, features, etc for the same price. eg nad 325 BEE (50wpc) is for 23.5k and c.a. 540a v2 (60wpc) is for 18k. does c.a. actually give better bang for buck?

2. i have heard that cambridge audio is a little laid back amp with warm tone. so you need bright speakers with it. is it true?

3. i have heard that there are more quality issues with c.a. when compared to brands like nad. existing users of c.a. pl advise if this is true.

4. of the 3, which is the best one according to you all:
- cambridge audio 540a v2
- nad 325 BEE
- marantz pm 7001

its a tough task selecting a good long time lasting amp when u are new to this field. thanks in advance for your help

cheers,
vilfy
 

Mohan

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There were quality issues with CA wen they were first introduced but I think they have been sorted out for now.

It is very dufficult to recommend an amp because their sonic footprints tend to be different with different source and speakers.

Since you are only interested in buying the amp, I would suggest you to carry your source and speakers to the authorised dealer and BUY the one that sounds best to you. Quality wise they are all fairly equal so do not worry about that. BUY the one that sounds best to your ears and do not go with a particular amp just because it has better/more features or specs.

If you can also carry along your interconnects and speaker wires too when auditioning the amp.
 

vilfy

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thanks mohan for clarifying my doubts on c.a.'s quality.

i currently don't have speakers. my plan is to first buy the amp and then take it to different shops to audition the speakers.

my total budget is 30-35k. most reputed economy bookshelf speakers with similar wattage are in the range of 12-15 k (wharfedale, mordunt-short, polk, psb). however the costs of similar powered budget amps range from 18k to 30k (c.a., nad, marantz, denon). so thought if i can select c.a. which is the lowest-priced of all and offering the same features, i can save money. and then i can buy the speakers best sounding with them.

in the above scenario i wanted your advice on how good is c.a at its low price compared to NAD or Marantz. since this is a long term investment i want to be sure and dont want to compromise on quality.

pl advise.

also is this approach of mine ok or should i first select speakers? i have read abt first speakers theory.

thanks,
vilfy
 

Mohan

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Actually you need to buy the source first and then the amp and speakers to go with it.

This is primarly because the sorce determines the quality of the sound and the amp and speakers have to compliment the source. So I would suggest you hear the entire package at every dealer and decide which one sounds the best.

After you decide which is best for you, you buy them together or one at a time. This way you will not have any compatibility problems when you decide to add a source.
 

vilfy

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hey mohan,

thanks for ur input. my source for playing is going to be my existing philips dvd player (am on tight budget). will carry that also for auditioning.

all experts here, request your help:

how good is c.a. 540a v2 at its low price v/s comparable NAD 325 BEE or Marantz 7001. since this is a long term investment i want to be sure and dont want to compromise on quality before i take the plunge.

all c.a. users:
request your testimonials and actual user experience with c.a.

your inputs would be of great help.

thanks,
vilfy
 

particleman

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It is too early for me to post my experience as such with my Cambridge Audio 540A V2 amp as I have purchased it just 2 weeks back. Price was largely a factor in my purchase (possibility of moving out of town) and so I chose CA over NAD. Another factor for me was that I would be pairing this amp with CA electronics in future (CA CDP, DVD, etc). I've heard these components and really liked their sound over others at this price point. Make no mistake, NAD makes great amps and are reputed for their sturdy construction - but CA's product family won me over as I could see a clear upgrade path. Lastly my choice of speakers (MS 906i) also gels better with CA's amp.

First impressions - this is a powerful amp. With some CDs I need take it no higher than the 8 o'clock position. Works surprisingly well with movies as well (my receiver may enjoy a brief vacation). Have taken it up to 12 o'clock position and no distortion in sound. Surprisingly it does not get very hot. The design is also appealing - both the faceplate and the remote (but read disadvantages below). Overall I am quite happy with it.

The downside? First the remote - I dont mind that its heavy and long but the sensor is a bit unforgiving. I have to aim it directly at the amp to get a response at times. Volume control change response is also not as snappy as other amps - not a criticism as it is actually a good thing, it increases gradually as you press the buttons. Another thing I was disappointed by was the volume control pot on the amp - it is hard to tell what position it is at as there is no LED on it - I put a sticker on it to solve this problem!

I am in the same boat as you as I am using my Pioneer DVD as a source. The verdict? Sorry but prepare for disappointment. People are not kidding when they say a poor source will let down your system - I am hearing some detail I never heard before but there is a very clear sense the amp is being held back, that it could sound a lot better. I heard it very briefly with a CA CD player and the difference was amazing. Use the Philips for now but dont put off the CD player for too long.

The common advice to choose speakers first is a sound one. It is something I tried to follow too but at this budget other factors come into play. Such as how well the amp and speakers play with each other. In the case of NAD, they match extremely well with PSB's speakers.

Frankly you can go with either NAD or CA and both are very good value for money. Just audition the speakers without any bias and pick the one that appeals to your ears. It does not matter if you find yourself liking something others don't. When I auditioned speakers last year, neither of the people with me (both of whom have exceptionally keen hearing and a sophisticated taste in music) shared my enthusiasm for the Monitor Audio RS6 speakers but it is still my speaker of choice in the 50k group.

Have fun with your hunt.
 

vilfy

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particleman,

thanks and lot for your detailed review. it has strengthened my confidence in CA. I have a couple of more qstns:

1. for howmuch did u buy ur amp? from where (in mumbai...fxentertainment?)
2. which other speakers did you audition ur amp with other than MS which are recommended with CA? did u try wharfedale or polk?
3. i have heard nad with psb (recommended with nad). they are detailed yet warm. are CA+MS the same (if you have auditioned nad+psb)?
4. besides CDs, a lot of my music is also in ipod. does 540A v2 have ipod connectivity?

wud appreciate u r help.

cheers,
vilfy
 

Shawn

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Vilfy,

I am not sure about other brands, but Marantz is one of the excellent reciever now a days. I am using one of them. Its best for movies and music both.

Shawn:)

hi all,

i have been surfing the net, reading many forums (incl this one) and also auditioning many brands and have shortlisted Cambridge Audio 540a v2 based on the features it offers compared to its price.

i would like to know your advice / views / opinions on Cambridge Audio 540a v2:

1. compared to nad, marantz, rotel, c.a. azur series offers more power, features, etc for the same price. eg nad 325 BEE (50wpc) is for 23.5k and c.a. 540a v2 (60wpc) is for 18k. does c.a. actually give better bang for buck?

2. i have heard that cambridge audio is a little laid back amp with warm tone. so you need bright speakers with it. is it true?

3. i have heard that there are more quality issues with c.a. when compared to brands like nad. existing users of c.a. pl advise if this is true.

4. of the 3, which is the best one according to you all:
- cambridge audio 540a v2
- nad 325 BEE
- marantz pm 7001

its a tough task selecting a good long time lasting amp when u are new to this field. thanks in advance for your help

cheers,
vilfy
 

particleman

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May 11, 2007
Messages
633
Points
28
Location
Mumbai, India
Hi Vilfy,

I am glad you liked the review although I wrote it in a hurry. Again let me emphasise that users here can simply put forth an opinion or thought but ultimately you should let your ears be your guide while buying.

1. for howmuch did u buy ur amp? from where (in mumbai...fxentertainment?)
Yes I got it from FX Entertainment. They sell it for just under 19,000 - I think it was 18,900 or something like that.

2. which other speakers did you audition ur amp with other than MS which are recommended with CA? did u try wharfedale or polk?
Ah, what a journey it has been. I started looking at speakers and amps in around March of 2006(!). I must have auditioned literally every system offered in Mumbai. The mainstream and the exotic (like Totem), the old (restored Quad amp from 60s), the strange (Magnepan electrostats). Over the course of a year of course. I purposely took my time and so now I have the peace of mind of knowing that I considered all possible options, realistically speaking. On occasion I have auditioned a system more than once and in different combinations - do not hesitate to take your time. While listening to systems I let my own immediate reaction be my main guide - like they say about paintings, you have to consider your immediate reaction to its sound. Is it something that appeals to you? Apart from this my considerations were also: will I be able to get this product serviced easily and also of course, can I add to this product from others in its family or category (as mentioned before).

To answer your particular question, I eliminated Polk Monitor right away as I did not like the sound (my preference, not a fault in the speaker). Wharfedale had a very mature sound and was almost certainly going to be my selection. But here is the thing - I like a little sparkle in my music, a bit of excitement. If I was a purist I would have gone with Wharfedale diamonds, but I wanted a bit of sizzle in the highs and Mordaunt-Short offered me that. It had a bit of zing in the highs even though it did not have such well defined bass as the diamonds. But I do not fuss about bass too much so my choice was clear. I have already explained why I chose the amp and so in my case the two came together easily.


3. i have heard nad with psb (recommended with nad). they are detailed yet warm. are CA+MS the same (if you have auditioned nad+psb)?
Yes, I have heard NAD + PSB. It made quite an impression on me. It was early in my audition phase and I was a bit prejudiced against bookshelves as I wanted a floorstander. But the B25 managed to convince me that it could perform just as well. NAD (it was a 350 back then) has a very powerful sound and the B25 combo gives the impression of an excellent rock-and-roll combo. A lot of fun and yes, a warm sound which you do not tire of hearing. I would say the NAD+PSB sounded warmer to my ears than CA. As for clarity I do not know if that is really something to be found in abundance at this budget - it may be a shade better in this speaker or that. I do recall the PSBs were rather transparent in their presentation and I could not appreciate this quality at the time - I was looking for masala! I would say MS for me combines sufficient clarity with a bit of well-presented highs. As always it comes back to a matter of taste. The CA+MS combo just did it for me and that is why I chose it.

4. besides CDs, a lot of my music is also in ipod. does 540A v2 have ipod connectivity?
No there is no special connectivity as such, you will need to get a dock for good audio/video quality. CA makes the iD50 and iD100 docks. The remote for the CA amp is able to send very basic commands to any compatible iPod dock (such as play, skip, menu.) if you press a certain combination (Aux key + play, for e.g.). I do not own an iPod so I cannot comment further.
 

vilfy

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thanks a lot particleman,

there is nothing more reassuring (besides of course personal auditioning) than a users positive testimonial. thanks a ton.

however last weekend, i was on my 'hunt' and i asked around abt CA. one problem that got reported to me was because of its clipping feature, when u turn up the volume a bit too high, the amp clips down the volume automatically, even when the speakers are able to take the load.

i listen to rock music, and while this system is going to be for my bedroom listening, there might be times when i may want to enjoy music LOUD.

have u tried listening to ur system loud and with ca have u faced clipping problem (if at all there is one)?

just to share with u...last weekend i auditioned paragidm focus bookshelfs with yamaha stereo amp. they blew me away. they were higher priced at 18 k over my budget of 15 k for speakers; but the sound reproduction was amazing - crisp highs clear mids and decent bass.

since your hunt lasted for more than an year adn u auditioned most brands available in mumbai, did u get chance to check out paradigm with CA?

thanks once again for all ur inputs.

cheers,
vilfy
 

particleman

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Location
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Hi, yes the CA amp has a protection feature wherein it lowers the volume if it thinks clipping will occur. It also has other protection mechanisms (read about CAP5 protection) that strengthened my decision as I prefer caution. I do not listen to my music very loud and so I have not experienced the feature kicking in. I do not expect to ever play my music at what people refer to as "party levels" so it was not a consideration for me. If you are keen on higher levels of power you should look at 640A V2 as well as NAD C352.

Unfortunately I do not recall hearing Paradigm speakers and so cannot comment. However I am happy you had that "moment of bliss" as I like to call it when you discover the sound you are after. Who knows, this may be the combination for you. Just take care when you are auditioning to account for the room treatment of the demo room as well. Also consider how well the brand is represented here in India so you don't have trouble getting service in future. Have you listened to any of Monitor Audio's speakers yet? The Bronze series bookshelf may be slightly above your budget but do listen to it, they are very good speakers esp for rock.

Based on what you have told me so far, it sounds like NAD+PSB may be right for you. What did you think of the sound?
 

vilfy

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my review of nad+psb
what i liked about nad+psb sound was the wide sound stage it created (cud be the right placing of speakers at lakozy showroom). when i closed my eyes and heard the small psb alpha b1's, i genuinely felt that the whole room was filled with sound... and lakozy showroom is pretty big that way (almost twice as big as my bedroom).

another thing i liked was the warm tone. its biggest plus side what i feel is that it will never lead to listening fatigue (esp of rock music with heavy distirted rythm guitars in mid-rage, which, if are too sharp will lead to listening fatigue). the downside of warm tone according to me is (percieved) loss of detail or clarity.

previous to nad+psb, i had auditioned marantz+polk monitor 40 and i must say i was impressed with the depth, punch and clarity. i cud really feel that the sound was coming from deep inside the speakers and it sounded very clear and solid. but i felt if i had to listen to 192kbps bitrate ac/dc songs for long, with their heavy distorted rythm guitar sound, i surely would feel the listening fatigue.

all that said however, i feel auditioning also is a skill acquired over a number of listening sessions. Nad+PSB was one of my early auditions this clarity v/s warmth concept (dunno if its right or wrong) i have learnt after many recent auditions (jamo with marantz; wharfedale diamond 9.1, 9.2 & paradigm focus, each with yamaha stereo amp and nad). guess will have to audition nad+psb once again ;-)

i have experienced nad to be a powerful amp (bright) and thats why i guess it drives the warm psb's so well. however the combo is expensive.

also i have learnt that it is better to not audition stuff beyond one's budget, esp speakers, cos after listening to expensive ones, one may not like those that fit into one's budget. i did that with paradigm focus @ 18k and hence i did not like wharfedale d 9.2 @ 15k (luckily jamo e825 @ 24k was only as good as polk monitor 40 @ 14k). hence i have not yet checked out monitor audio or b&w.

have read reviews that CA is a laid back amp with warm tone (do u feel this to be true). so am wondering if i pair up ca with bright speakers like polk, i cud get the clarity & depth as well as the warmth.

i have not been able to audition ca so far - which showroom did u audition ca?

also ca i beileve is far more cost effective than nad - nad 325 bee (50w) is 23.5k and ca 540a v2 (60w) is 18k

any pitfalls u can advise me on buying the speaker pieces kept for demo in showroom? u see the paradigm focus is now a discontinued model. the dealer is awaiting latest models to arrive post which he cud be selling off the only focus pair lying with him at a discount.

thanx,
vilfy
 
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