NAD Classic Series C 565BEE CD Player
Category: Budget Leader
Speakers -- Revel Ultima Salon2, Magico V2, PSB
Synchrony One, Mirage OMD-28
Preamplifiers -- Blue Circle Audio BC3000
Mk.II, Benchmark Media DAC1 HDR D/A converter, Anthem Statement D2v
Power amplifiers -- Blue Circle Audio BC204,
Axiom Audio A1400-8
Integrated amplifiers -- Classé Audio
CAP-2100, Zandèn Audio Systems Model 600
Digital sources -- Simaudio Moon Evolution
SuperNova CD player; Oppo Digital DV-980H DVD player; Benchmark Media DAC1 HDR, Stello DA220
Mk.II, Blue Circle Audio BC501 D/A converters
Speaker cables -- DH Labs Silver Sonic Q-10
Signature, Siltech Classic Anniversary
Analog interconnects -- Nirvana Audio S-L,
Nordost Quattro Fil, Siltech Classic Anniversary
Digital interconnects -- Nirvana Audio
Transmission Digital, i2Digital X-60
In October, I reviewed Zandèn Audio
Systems ultra-expensive 2500S CD
player ($22,000 USD). If youve read some of the comments Ive made in the
last few years about the future of CD playback, you might find it strange that Im
now reviewing my second CD player in a single year. CD sales have long been waning,
and when I reviewed Slim Devices (now Logitech) Transporter network music player in
late 2006 and experienced firsthand what a computer-based source for digital recordings
could do, I knew the handwriting was on the wall for the Compact Disc and its players,
even for audiophiles.
But the CD is dying a slow death. And despite what
some feel about the ability of SACD (now relegated to niche status) and audio-only Blu-ray
Disc to encode high-resolution sound in two or more channels, no new physical medium is
going to supplant the CD. Computer-based audio is where everything is heading.
That doesnt mean we all should immediately scrap or
sell our CD players. Nor does it mean that we might not need another player, particularly
if the price is right. The Compact Disc has been the dominant physical music format for
almost 30 years now; its likely to be quite a few more years before everyone
considers it obsolete. A good CD player bought today can still be considered a wise
purchase because its a convenient way to play what discs are and will be available.
Not everyone wants to rip their entire music collection to a computer just to play some
Enter the C 565BEE ($799), the top model in NADs
very reasonably priced Classic Series of CD players. For a CD player, its a lot more
interesting than you might think.
The Classic C 565BEE measures 17"W x 3.5"H x
11.5"D, including connectors and feet, and weighs 11.5 pounds. My experience with
some past NAD components has been that, while generally inexpensive, they looked and felt too
cheap -- with flimsy chassis, wobbly knobs, and buttons that seemed ready to fall off.
The C 565BEE is a good bit better than that, with a substantial-enough chassis,
excellent fitnfinish, and sturdy-feeling buttons and connectors.
The rear panel has one pair of single-ended RCA analog
outputs, an optical digital input, one optical and one coaxial digital output, a 12V
trigger input, an IR (infrared) remote input, an RS-232 port, and a two-prong mains
receptacle for the basic black power cord.
The C 565BEE is chock full of features. At its heart
are 24-bit/192kHz Wolfson DAC chips in what NAD calls a "dual-differential"
configuration, and a transport that reads CD, CD-R, and CD-RW discs. In addition to
16-bit/44.1kHz "Red Book" CDs, the C 565BEE can decode MP3 and WMA files
(up to 320kbps) stored on a CD-R, as well as MP3 and WMA files (again up to 320kbps)
stored on a FAT-formatted storage device hooked up to the USB port on the NADs front
panel. The C 565BEE lets you browse through up to 128 folders and eight subfolder
levels on the attached device using the front-panel display and controls or its remote
The USB port is handy for rippers of MP3 and WMA files
(Im not one, which is why I didnt use this feature), but the one thing I
really wish the C 565BEE could do is provide support for WAV, Apple Lossless, or FLAC
files at 16/44.1 or higher resolution. If it could, this player would be a game-changing
device for audiophiles whose music is already stored in a lossless, CD-resolution format;
it would basically make the C 565BEE an audiophile-grade music server. Unfortunately,
the NAD doesnt do that -- and thats the only knock I have against it.
The C 565BEEs front panel is unique in lacking
the usual Play, Pause, and Track Skip buttons. These functions are instead handled by the
large Play/Pause/Skip knob on the right, just above the USB port. You skip through tracks
by turning the knob left or right, and Pause or Play by pushing it straight in. Clever.
The fluorescent display is bright
enough to be read from across the room. Under it are eight pushbuttons; from left to
right, these are: Stop/Open, for stopping play as well as opening and closing the disc
drawer; Source, for selecting the playback device (transport, optical digital input, or
USB port); SRC, which activates the sample-rate converter and toggles between the native
sampling rate of the recording being played, or upsamples it to 24/96 or 24/192; Random,
equivalent to Shuffle play of the tracks from the selected source; Repeat, to program disc
tracks (CD) or files and/or folders (via USB) to play repeatedly; Display, which toggles
to show different types of playback information, depending on the source; and Scan Back
and Scan Forward, to search within the track or file being played.
The remote control basically duplicates the front panel,
but adds one particularly relevant option: Filter. This button lets you select among five
digital filters, labeled Filter 1 through 5, each of which has its own sonic signature
based on how it handles group delay, ripple, and stopband characteristics. Along with the
choices of upsampling, these filters make possible some interesting fine-tuning of the
NADs sound (see below).
Another thing I particularly like is how the C 565BEE
is turned on and off. As long as its plugged in, the player is always powered up
and, therefore, warmed up; to ready it for day-to-day use, you press the Standby button,
at the far left of the front panel. But if a disc is already loaded in the drawer, you
dont have to first press Standby -- the C 565BEE will come to life and start
playing the disc as soon as you press Play. Likewise, pressing Stop/Open will open the
drawer without your having to first press Standby. Finally, the C 565BEE
automatically goes into Standby mode when its been left idle for ten minutes --
handy if you dont like walking up to the player and pushing the button to turn it
off for the day, or if you doze off while listening to music.
One-button startup is a small thing, and NAD isnt the
only company to offer it. But not all CD players do this, and its little things like
this that make using the C 565BEE that much easier and more enjoyable to use.
Furthermore, the number of features and the clever way some of the button functions have
been conceived indicate to me that NAD is constantly looking for ways to improve their
players, even in CDs twilight years. More important, theyve found ways to
greatly improve sound quality, as youll read about below.
Im not sure I knew exactly what to expect when I
inserted the C 565BEE in my system, but I sure didnt expect it to sound much
like my reference CD player, a Simaudio Moon Evolution SuperNova ($6500). The SuperNova is
of reference grade for both its build (massive, all-metal construction) and its sound --
the latter is basically beyond criticism. These two players werent similar in how
they were built but in how they sounded -- when I closed my eyes and listened, I could
swear that they werent just siblings, but identical twins.
The C 565BEE had the same warmth, richness, and
presence as the Nova -- qualities that give all music played through the Simaudio a
feeling of tangible weight. Voices were rich and present, but without any syrupy character
or hazing-over of detail. Willie Nelsons voice on Stardust (CD, Columbia CK
35305) hung perfectly between my speakers, isolated in space, with sound that was deeply
textured and present. It sounded really real. The NADs bass was deep and
tight, and with that warmth and presence of the mids, drums had wallop and weight, and an
overall sense of robustness that translated into a very realistic, natural sound.
As impressed as I was by the NADs rich, present
sound, I was blown away by the refinement of its high frequencies -- always the
Achilles heel of lower-priced CD players and DACs. Most often, inexpensive CD
players make cymbals sound splashy, and the top end of acoustic guitars exceedingly
brittle. My Oppo Digital DV-980H DVD player sold for under $200 when available, and its
reproduction of CDs is decent enough for the money -- but that doesnt mean it sounds
good, period. Through a hi-rez system such as mine, the Oppo sounds splashy and brittle,
and its fatiguing to listen to for any length of time.
The C 565BEE had not one of those objectionable
qualities. In fact, with most recordings, the C 565BEEs HF refinement was
neck-and-neck with the SuperNovas -- astonishing, given that it costs less than
one-eighth as much. Cymbals were ultraclean, guitar was never brittle, and, provided a
recording contained such information in the first place, the NADs re-creations of
"air" -- the sense of physical space surrounding an instrument or voice -- and
HF detail were beyond reproach. This level of refinement was why I didnt hesitate to
include the C 565BEE in my reference system when I reviewed Revels amazing Ultima Salon2 speakers ($22,000/pair).
The player might cost only $799, but its suitable for use in systems that approach
the state of the art.
I used my trusty ol reference CDs to test the
NADs soundstaging and imaging: Ennio Morricones choral-based score for the
film The Mission (Virgin CDV2402), and Ani DiFrancos mainly acoustic Up Up
Up Up Up Up (Righteous Babe RBR013-D). With The Mission, I listen to the
delineation of the choral voices, to hear if theyre clearly separated, as well as to
the expansiveness of the soundstage, from left to right and from front to back. That stage
should sound big, and through the C 565BEE it did. The NAD conveyed a lot of
space, allowing the chorus to fill the front half of my large room -- the width and depth
were outstanding. Within that stage, individual voices, and their positions relative to
other voices, were easy to discern. I havent heard any CD player, at any price, do
substantially better than the C 565BEE did in this regard.
Playing the very beginning of "Everest," track 7
on Up Up Up Up Up Up, I listen to the positioning of the male voice counting
"one, two, three, four." The voice should be centered in the stage but recessed,
surrounded by a certain amount of ambience. Throughout the rest of the track,
DiFrancos voice should be placed very close to but not touching the left speaker,
and "housed" in a tightly focused space about 3 behind the plane described
by the speaker baffles. Those unfamiliar with this recording are usually surprised by
where DiFrancos voice is positioned in the mix, but, deliberate or not, thats
where it is. These voices were not only correctly positioned, the spatial cues around them
were extremely easy to hear, and the space around each sounded exactly right. For me to be
able to hear so well into recordings indicated that the NAD C 565BEE was a CD
player of very high resolution.
In fact, the C 565BEEs level of refinement and
its ability to extract detail so impressed me that I took some extra time to switch back
and forth between it and the SuperNova, to hear precisely how close their performances
were, and if there were any areas in which the NAD might actually surpass the Sim. To do
so, I relied exclusively on the highly resolving, full-range Revel Ultima Salon2s to
ensure I was hearing the full audioband -- a decision that proved vital.
The two players high-frequency detail and refinement
were so close that Id call it a draw -- high praise for the NAD. When I played discs
that dont have much truly deep-bass content -- e.g., most pop and rock
recordings, which shelve off at 50 or 60Hz -- it was basically another draw. At the very
low end of the audioband, the SuperNova edged ahead with a slightly more weighty and
impactful sound; but the two players were still very close. And this slight difference was
audible only with certain recordings, such as Ola Gjeilos Stone Rose (SACD/CD,
2L 2L48SACD), which effectively captures the low end of an acoustic piano; and the Cowboy
Junkies The Trinity Session (CD, RCA 8568-2-R), whose opening track,
"Mining for Gold," pressurizes the room. With these, the SuperNova eked out a
touch more grunt and heft, to sound more powerful overall. This was where the Revels came
in: If Id been using smaller, less-than-full-range speakers, I probably
wouldnt have been able to hear much difference at all.
The C 565BEE had a gorgeous richness and presence in
the mids that made voices sound tangible and real; the Nova has basically the same
character -- then ups it with just a bit more of the same. But that little bit more
results in great presence, which makes for a slightly bolder, more realistic sound. The
players overall characters may be almost the same, but even identical twins reveal
tiny differences over time; in this pairing, the Nova had just a bit more robustness
and richness -- it was the twin with just a little more charisma.
Most remarkable, perhaps, was the level of detail the C
565BEE revealed, something I would never have expected from something costing under a
grand. Id received for review a Benchmark Media Systems DAC1 HDR D/A converter
($1895), and was listening to it hooked up (via an i2Digital X-60 digital link) to the
transport section of the Simaudio SuperNova. In terms of detail, the $799 C 565BEE
equaled that $8395 combination. Going head to head with the SuperNova revealed that the
C 565BEE got awfully close, falling just a bit short on only the smallest things. For
instance, the SuperNova makes those tiny spatial cues just a little bit easier to hear; in
DiFrancos "Everest," the space around the male speaking voice extended
slightly more, and the edges of the room were easier to hear. And the expansive
soundstages throughout The Mission expanded by just a percentage point or two.
To make a credible CD player for under $1000 that invites
few criticisms is impressive. To create something at that price that, across the board,
can hang with something thats close to the state of the art is extraordinary -- and
thats what NAD has created in the C 565BEE. The player comes within inches of
the very best, at a fraction of the cost.
The two features of the C 565BEE I havent yet
touched on are the user-adjustable upsampling and digital filters. Neither drastically
changed the players sound, and thus dont affect anything Ive said so
far. Instead, they made very subtle changes to the sound that will likely have you picking
one setting for some types of music, and another for other types.
I experienced the same thing with the NADs upsampling
options as I did with other components offering this feature: no upsampling offers a
starker, more immediate sound, and as I moved up from 16-bit/44.1kHz to 24/96 and then to
24/192, I heard a touch more high-frequency emphasis, which resulted in an increased sense
of spaciousness -- but with a slight loss of the immediacy provided by no
upsampling. There was one more thing: Depending on the recording, the HF emphasis and
increased spaciousness could sound a touch like a swirly DSP hall sound that was sometimes
distracting. When fellow reviewer Philip Beaudette listened, he heard the same thing, and
described it as a slight "ringing." Some people might like it because it makes
the C 565BEE sound almost "golden." Not I -- most of the time, I left the
The five digital filter options proved more interesting. I
heard far greater differences among these settings with a straight 16/44.1 datastream than
when upsampling the same to 24/96 or 24/192. My preferred settings were in order of
preference: Filter 2, described in the manual as "Medium rolloff filter that has high
group delay, low ripple, and medium stopband characteristics"); Filter 1 ("Slow
rolloff filter that has low group delay, low ripple and wide stopband
characteristics"); and Filter 5 ("Medium rolloff filter that has lower group
delay and wider stopband characteristics"). Filter 1 gave the starkest, most
immediate presentation. Filter 2 was just a touch more subdued, imparting a hint of ease
that worked well with recordings that had some inherent bite or edge. Filter 2 also
sounded more spacious -- similar to what upsampling provided, but without the swirliness.
Filters 3 and 4 were very similar to Filter 2, and were often indistinguishable from each
other with a lot of the music I was listening to. Because Filter 5 sounded like a
combination of attributes of Filters 1 and 2, youd think it would be the one I used
most often, but that wasnt the case. Instead, Filter 5 sounded more like a
compromise between 1 and 2. If I wanted what Filter 1 was doing, I would use that;
likewise for Filter 2.
In short, each filter offers something subtly different;
which one youll prefer will be dictated by the recording and your personal taste. I
mostly listened to the C 565BEE with the upsampling off and Filter 2 engaged, but I
can easily imagine someone else using a different combination of settings.
Although Ive now reviewed two CD players in 2009, I
wouldnt be surprised if I didnt review one in 2010 -- or ever again. CD
playback is dying out; from here on, computer-based audio at higher resolutions is likely
to be the focus of my reviews of digital source components.
That said, the NAD Classic Series C 565BEE is about as
good as any to be the subject of my final CD-player review. Its well built, rich in
features, and easy to use. Most important for audiophiles, it delivers sound quality that
approaches that produced by the very best players on the market, and for only $799.
Thats no insignificant thing -- the world doesnt need a cost-no-object player
for a dying music format; it needs a player that will provide cutting-edge performance for
a budget price. In short, it needs the C 565BEE.
The NAD Classic Series C 565BEE is a CD player
thats close to the state of the art while being something regular people can afford.
For many, it will be the last great CD player theyll ever need to buy; in fact,
its so good it might tempt even those who are convinced that theyve
already bought their last CD player. For so many reasons, very highly recommended.
. . . Doug Schneider
|NAD Classic Series C 565BEE CD Player
Price: $799 USD.
Warranty: Two years parts and labor.
633 Granite Court
Pickering, Ontario L1W 3K1
Phone: (905) 831-6555