Xindak Muse Deluxe 1.0 CD Player
by Alfred Fredel
||"The tube analog
output stage definitely helped to round out the sound, presenting an enjoyable, comfortable
midrange. When listening to the solid-state RCA outputs, I found the unit to be a bit
antiseptic and not very engaging." Via the tube output, "each instrument of the trio
(piano, bass and drums) sounded accurate, and the unit conveyed the music of this intimate
acoustic setting with a clear soundstage. The music was both warm and rich, which served to
enhance the playful interplay between the players and their instruments." "However,
when it came to the higher frequency regions, while the Muse Deluxe 1.0 was respectable, it
could have used just a bit more clarity and focus."
||"It uses solid
technology, adopting Analog Devices AD1852 DACs and a Texas Instruments delta-sigma sample
rate converter to upsample the data. There is also a precise clock circuit to reduce jitter
and distortion, this specially designed by Xindak engineers." "There are three pairs
of high-quality analog outputs: one pair of XLR outputs (the Muse Deluxe 1.0 does not have a
truly balanced circuit) and two sets of RCA outputs. Xindak has chosen to use a single 6922 in
line with a pair of the RCA outputs to lend some analog warmth to the player's sound."
||"The remote is very
cleverly laid out with several features, including a dimmer that turns down the LEDs so you
can turn out the lights and enjoy the music without the blue lights from the player beaming
into your eyes." "Although the player read and played most of the CDs I fed it,
there were times that it would just not read some of my favorite discs, no matter what I
||"It targets the
value-conscious consumer in a crowded field of mid-priced players, and it manages to hold its
This years Olympic games gave China the
opportunity to show off its athletic muscle and cultural richness while demonstrating the
coming of age of its thriving economy. As the worlds foremost manufacturing power,
China caters to companies from around the world that have chosen to have products built
there and then ship them back to their markets, often with great cost savings and the
resulting increased profit margins. Several decades ago, Chinese-manufactured products
were of poor quality and were almost considered disposable. In recent years, that has all
changed. Factories in China are now more sophisticated and are very capable of producing
goods that are more reliable and of high quality.
In the world of audio, there are many products
that are manufactured in Chinese factories but designed in North America, Japan or Europe.
Taking advantage of this incredible opportunity of having some of the most important audio
companies playing in its own sandbox, the Chinese have started to learn from their Western
business partners and are busy at work creating their own companies while designing and
manufacturing their own audio products. But when the first Chinese components hit the
American market, they were considered a great bargain until tales of catastrophic failures
and charred entertainment centers started to flood in to the audio dealers. Needless to
say, most dealers dropped these products like hot potatoes. Today, these incidents are not
as common, and Chinese manufacturers seem to have addressed the quality-control issues.
One deeply rooted Chinese audio manufacturer is
the Chengdu Xindak Electronic Company, which has been building audio equipment since the
late 1980s and has a fairly strong foothold in the Far East. Makers of amplifiers, CD
players and cables, Xindak, as this company brands its products, is noted as a
high-quality manufacturer in its market. The Muse Deluxe 1.0 ($1250 USD) is the company's
most ambitious CD player and is built to compete with the big boys on the world stage. It
is a Red Book-only player that can handle CDs, CD-Rs and CD-RWs and plays both standard
and 3" discs. It offers some interesting features that you don't often see with CD
I like the industrial look that the designers of
the Muse Deluxe CD player are trying to achieve, but it is not quite there yet in my eyes.
The unit measures 17"W x 4 1/2"H x 15"D and is heavy at about 22 pounds.
The choice to use what appears to be a beautiful machined-aluminum front for the chassis
with a black center control section is nice; however, the gunmetal-gray painted back panel
does not mesh well with the overall look of the product. In addition, there are bolts that
stick out on the top and sides that should probably be more flush with the chassis. I was
painfully reminded on several occasions that they were there as they scraped my hands when
positioning the unit on my rack.
The remote is very cleverly laid out with several
features, including a dimmer that turns down the LEDs so you can turn out the lights and
enjoy the music without the blue lights from the player beaming into your eyes. The remote
feels like a heavy bar of aluminum, but ergonomically is a little uncomfortable to handle
because of its width and sharp edges. As with many products from China, the Muse Deluxe
1.0's instruction manual is poorly written and provides little information about
maintenance. Gloves and a cover for the player are also provided.
Inside, the Muse Deluxe 1.0 is well laid out. It
uses solid technology, adopting Analog Devices AD1852 DACs and a Texas Instruments
delta-sigma sample rate converter to upsample the data. There is also a precise clock
circuit to reduce jitter and distortion, this specially designed by Xindak engineers. As
part of the analog-signal amplification, the unit uses Burr-Brown OPA2134 and OPA134 op
amps, military-grade resistors, and high-quality mica capacitors.
There are three pairs of high-quality analog
outputs: one pair of XLR outputs (the Muse Deluxe 1.0 does not have a truly balanced
circuit) and two sets of RCA outputs. Xindak has chosen to use a single 6922 in line with
a pair of the RCA outputs to lend some analog warmth to the player's sound. For power, the
unit uses a specially designed, closed 70VA transformer with high flux and low magnetic
leakage. This has a steel shield that helps to reduce electromagnetic interference.
On the front are the main power switch as well as
a sleep button, while around back is provision for a detachable power cord. For use with
an external digital-to-analog converter, the unit includes coaxial and TosLink outputs.
Care and feeding of the Muse
All of my gear runs through several levels of AC
filtering, including a Jack Bybee Quantum filter and a PS Audio Ultimate Outlet that are
all connected to hospital-grade outlets. I have also upgraded the power cords to my
equipment, with products from Audio Art and Transparent. I believe that using high-quality
interconnects and power cords is essential to good sound.
Nowhere was the effect of this philosophy more
apparent than with the Xindak CD player. While the supplied power cord will do the job, an
upgraded cord is a must. What I heard was like night and day. With the supplied cord, the
sound was a little unfocused and seemed a bit constricted. While the soundstage was fairly
believable with the supplied cord, I noticed a sizable difference when I used my
Transparent Powerlink Super power cord with the player. The sound really opened up and
Loudspeakers Magnepan MG1.6.
Amplifier PS Audio HCA-2.
Preamplifier PS Audio 6.1.
Digital Audio Refinement Complete
and Cambridge Audio 840C CD players.
Analog Moth Audio Alamo X turntable
with Moth Audio Mk 3 tonearm and Goldring 1042 cartridge, Linn Basik turntable with Linn
Akito tonearm and Linn K5 cartridge, Pro-Ject Phono Box SE phono stage.
Interconnects Audio Art ICE-3.
Speaker cables Audio Art SC-5.
Accessories PS Audio Ultimate
Outlet, Bybee Quantum AC Filter, Bybee Slipstream filters, Custom myrtle support cubes.
This unit is one of the most sensitive pieces of
equipment with regard to how good, clean power can improve performance that I've
encountered. Because the unit I received was brand new, I ran the Muse Deluxe 1.0 for over
100 hours to allow it to break in before sitting down to take a good listen. I also
encountered an operational quirk: Although the player read and played most of the CDs I
fed it, there were times that it would just not read some of my favorite discs, no matter
what I did.
My initial impression via the tube outputs was
that the units presentation was warm with a very believable soundstage. The tube
analog output stage definitely helped to round out the sound, presenting an enjoyable,
comfortable midrange. When listening to the solid-state RCA outputs, I found the unit to
be a bit antiseptic and not very engaging. I cant imagine that the XLR outputs would
have sounded much better, given that the player doesn't offer truly balanced circuitry. I
listened to the tube outputs for most of the review period, because I believed they
offered the best sonics. In this configuration, the unit excelled in the presentation of
much of the vocal and acoustic selections that I played.
I began serious evaluation of the Muse Deluxe 1.0
with music from Luciano Pavarotti, one of my favorite tenors of the modern era. In Primo
Tenore (London, 417713-2), Pavarotti performs "Che gelida manina" from
Puccinis La Bohčme with the New Philharmonia Orchestra. On the Muse Deluxe
1.0, his voice had its characteristically ringing, bright quality. It was not forward or
overbearing, as I have painfully heard on several other systems. The Xindak CD player was
a bit reserved and warm. The unit sounded quite realistic and musical; the orchestra in
this recording had a sound that was full and rich with a good sense of presence.
Next, I moved on to a recording by Ellis and
Wynton Marsalis of music from the Peanuts series called Joe Cools Blues
(Columbia CK66880). On "Peppermint Patty," I was introduced to what were to be
two of the strengths of the Xindak CD player. Each instrument of the trio (piano, bass and
drums) sounded accurate, and the unit conveyed the music of this intimate acoustic setting
with a clear soundstage. The music was both warm and rich, which served to enhance the
playful interplay between the players and their instruments. To round out my acoustic
sessions, I chose Women of Latin America (Putumayo PUT228-2) to give the unit a
little more meaty acoustic music that it could chew up. On this album, Tania Libertad
sings an Afro-Peruvian tune called "Anda Mareado," which calls for a good deal
of Afro-percussion and cajón along with strong vocals. Here the Xindak CD player
held the bass line together in tight fashion, and the snap of the percussion instruments
was very natural. Again, the sound was clean, clear and warm without any grain or
At this point, I switched back to the solid-state
outputs to listen to them again, but the comfort that I had found with the tube output
stage was immediately lost in the units fully solid-state sound. The warmth was not
there, and the perceived musicality that I had grown to enjoy also vanished. What was left
was a dryer version of what I had previously heard.
When given more challenging music that included
driving percussion, electric guitar and rhythm that naturally demanded quicker responses,
the Muse Deluxe 1.0 was right on top of it, with an accurate reading of the content of
several of the discs that I played. On "Burning Down the House" from Talking
Heads' Speaking in Tongues (Sire CD23883), the guitar-and-percussion intro was
right on target and sounded just how I would have imagined it would have sounded in the
studio. The bass again was warm and tight; it sometimes becomes muddy with much of the
tube gear that I have heard. This tightness is a very good quality for a modestly priced
unit; however, when it came to the higher frequency regions, while the Muse Deluxe 1.0 was
respectable, it could have used just a bit more clarity and focus -- the sort of
tightness, perhaps, that it displayed in the bass, which would have given the entire
presentation greater precision.
All in all, the Muse Deluxe 1.0 turned in a solid
performance. It targets the value-conscious consumer in a crowded field of mid-priced
players, and it manages to hold its own.
Bring on the competition
One of the most difficult things for a reviewer
to accomplish can be establishing a relevant head-to-head comparison of comparably priced
products. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, and their makers have their own
design philosophies, putting their best foot forward to offer a satisfying experience.
When faced with qualitative equals, it's difficult to delineate one from the other.
And yet we try. The Cambridge Audio 840C ($1499)
is on the cutting edge of the digital world with advanced technology that employs highly
sophisticated Adaptive Time Filtering (ATF) asynchronous upsampling DACs developed by
Cambridge Audio in partnership with Anagram Technologies of Switzerland. The ATF system
interpolates 16-bit/44.1 kHz CD data to 24-bit/384kHz data through the use of a 32-bit
Analog Devices Black-Fin DSP. This provides information to two 24-bit/384kHz DACs from the
same company in a dual-differential circuit. Each channel also has completely separate
analog-filter circuitry, and the units design and layout are symmetrical. I chose
the 840C as my comparison point, because both it and the Xindak Muse Deluxe 1.0 are
manufactured in China and, of course, are similar in price.
The first recording that went into rotation was The
Sky is Crying (Epic EK547390) by blues master Stevie Ray Vaughan. "Chitlins Con
Carne" presents an aural palette that includes electric guitar, electric bass and
drums -- nothing unusual. I was interested in hearing how both units handled imaging and
detail retrieval with this recording. The Muse Deluxe 1.0 sounded detailed but a bit
reserved, presenting an enjoyable and relaxed performance. It was laid-back and smooth --
perhaps a bit too smooth with this cut for my tastes. When I placed the same CD in the
Cambridge Audio 840C, it was obvious that I was dealing with a totally different animal.
The instrumental detail and the imaging were fiercely accurate, almost as if the musicians
were playing right there in front of me. Where the Muse Deluxe 1.0 was polite and
well-mannered, the Cambridge Audio 840C tore into the music with fire and complete
Next on my list was Sarah McLachlans Fumbling
Towards Ecstasy (Arista 18725-2), an album that uses a good deal of electronica and
highlights her extremely wide vocal range. On the cut "Fear," she sings in what
is probably the top of her vocal range. On this tune, the Muse Deluxe 1.0 turned in a
strong performance, with detail retrieval that cleanly separated all the musical
components of the tune. It also sounded very even and exhibited good tonal balance. I did,
however, find that there was a little bit of sizzle missing from McLachlans upper
register. Turning back to the Cambridge Audio 840C, the higher frequencies of her
stratospheric soprano were as clear as a bell with a "no holds barred," faithful
reproduction reminiscent of the many times that I have heard McLachlan in live
Finally, I turned to one of my favorite dramatic
mezzo-sopranos performing a classic aria from Cavalleria Rusticana. In The Art
of the Dramatic Mezzo-Soprano (Telarc CD-80557), Dolora Zajick performs some of the
most beloved arias with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. This CD is well produced and
well recorded and is a fitting ending to this duel between two formidable CD players. This
time, I began with the Cambridge Audio 840C and was immediately drawn into the music and
performance through the units captivatingly wide soundstage. "Voi lo
sapete" was four minutes of sonic bliss, which I again found remarkably accurate
compared to the several occasions that I have heard Zajick perform this aria live. The
Muse Deluxe 1.0 sounded similar to the 840C in many ways, but it was also more
conservative and relaxed, reducing the impact of Zajick's voice.
There is no doubt that these are both good CD
players, but their sonic signatures and objectives are completely different to my ears --
and to yours as well, I would bet.
Some final thoughts
The Xindak Muse Deluxe 1.0's performance is quite
good -- best via its tube outputs. Its delivery is a bit reserved, never pushing the
envelope of dynamic range, yet it has a solid soundstage and reproduces the music in a
believable way. It has a warm, refined sound, and for those listeners seeking a more
subtle and relaxed presentation, it may be absolutely ideal. From a price standpoint, the
Muse Deluxe 1.0 represents good value, and is worth auditioning if for no other reason
than to determine if the tube outputs present the right sound for you.
|Xindak Muse Deluxe 1.0 CD Player
Price: $1250 USD.
Warranty: One year parts and labor.
Xindak Co. LTD
No. 126, Section 2, East 1 Round
Chengdu, Sichuan, China
Phone/Fax: +86 (28) 84711993
Lotus Audio Import
230 Madison St.
Oakland, CA 94607
Phone: (510) 759 - 4865