Is it me or does the NAD C541i offer slightly more bass than the Music Hall, while the Music Hall is slightly sweeter with a sound favoring the vocals in terms of putting them a little more forward in the mix? Has anyone done comparisons with these two players? Comments?
You may want to look into the NAD T562. Plays DVD-V, CD, CD-R, CD-RW, decodes HDCD, and has optical and co-oax digital outs. The 24/192 upsampling Wolfson Dac's don't sound bad at all. It has a 2v output, and I'm running a Bel Canto Dac2 for CD listening but going direct with DVD movies. (the NAD does not output a 2 ch bitsteam PCM signal with DVD movies so it is apparently not compatable with an outboard DAC when playing DVDs). Interesting how close the T562 comes sonically to the DAC2 with CDs, which also has a 2v output. Switching between the 2 using my Plinius CD-LAD remote reveals just how close the NAD is to what is considered a true state of the art DAC. While I prefer the DAC2, it really took some "X-Ray" listening to draw that conclusion. Who knows what preferences would be in another system?
Here's mine at the moment:
NADT562 DVD/CD Player> X-60 coax> Bel Canto Dac2> Analysis Plus Solo Oval IC> Plinius CD-LAD pre> AP Solo Oval IC> Bel Canto eVo4 Amp> AP Oval 8 speaker cable> Soliloquy 6.5 speakers. decicated ac line with a Sound Applications CF-X line conditioner.
I never would have guessed a relatively "mid-fi" NAD unit would come so close, but evidently technology is moving along at a good clip, and less expensive gear is benefiting accordingly.
I prefer the NAD C541i. The Music Hall sounds nice, but its coloration is not to my taste. I observed that the Music Hall CD 25 can impose a slight richness and cloudy sheen in its sonic presentation that might make it sound better with some recordings or to some ears. The NAD C541i sounds remarkably neutral and clear to me; I think it yields more insight into the music that is (and is not) on the CD and has been a pleasure to listen to.
"Build quality", I guess, is in the eye of the beholder. Underneath the Music Hall's thicker and heavier shiney faceplate, the quality of its parts and mechanics seem sufficient, but are certainly not better than the NAD's. Less importantly, I prefer the NAD's compact remote control to the Music Hall's original retro-sci-fi remote (I just read somewhere that Music Hall now supplies more conventional remotes with more recently-manufactured CD 25's).
The widely-reported reliability and tracking problems in many of NAD's previous CD players, especially with the C540 and C520, have been virtually eliminated in the "i" series ("i" apparently means "improved"). Also, while the CD 25 has a 1-year warrantee, the C541i has a 2-year warrantee.
I'm afraid I may have to agree with you. Although I find NAD to be a repulsive company for a variety of reasons, the C541i seems to be a bit more open and punchy than the Music Hall CD 25. The NAD bothers me a little bit in the highs, displaying a tad of harshness and sibilance, but it seems to have a tad more detail, clarity, speed, and space than the Music Hall. Although the CD 25 does have a nice smooth quality to it, it is the wrong kind of smooth. I find that the player has a tendancy to blur basslines, smear dynamics, soften attacks, haze vocals and bring them forward in the mix, and muddle depth. That said, I still think the CD 25 would be a better match for less expensive or bright speakers such as those with metal dome tweeters and is still very much a likeable, good sounding player. I'm still doing my extensive comparison between the two players, but these are my thoughts at this point. One downside of the NAD is that despite it's strong points, it still sounds cheap to me, though I can't explain exactly why. All of this said, the differences are very minimal between these two players. It is not night and day. It's simply a matter of which sound you prefer. Just so I can put your comments into perspective, may I ask what equiment you are using in addition to your C541i??
When I compared them I found I liked the Music Hall better on: Liquidity/coherence, build quality, and vocals. Since the Music Hall can be modded now, there is an upgrade path as well. I have not regretted choosing the MH. I also read bad reliability reviews about the 541, you might want to do a search.
Honestly, in terms of reliability and build quality, both the C541i and the CD 25 are a pile of shit.
Let me re-phrase that: They are a pile of shit in terms of build quality, but still worth it. They sound so good at their price, that the quirks are tolerable.
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