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sometimesuk 17th October 2008 07:26 PM

Advised Need - Upgrading CD Player
Hi guy's,

I am thinking of upgrading my Musical Fidelity A3 CD Player (at least 8 years old, £800 when new).

I am on a limited budget and I was originaly thinking of buying a new Cambridge Audio DAC Magic, that has recently been introduced, for £200. I am not sure if this would bring any real benefits, as my father has a Cambridge Audio £250 CD player, and although its more clear and transparent, it is not as refined nor does it sound as composed as a whole.

I have recently found out that Musical Fidelity offers a "Fine Tunning" service to their old products and are able to change the componets to new / higher spec.

For £399 - this is what they would change to my CD player:

Upgrade op amps to professional spec type
Replace all coupling caps with low ESR, high temp. type
Replace PSU caps with low ESR, high temp. type
Service and realign laser
Update to the latest software spec
Replace critical bypass caps from ceramic to polycarbonate/polyester types
Replace regulators with selected precision type
Fit new precision clock pcb
Replace all audio path electrolytics with low ESR, high temp. type
Improve digital and analog supply decoupling
Log owner name, model and serial number in Musical Fidelity archives
Issue certificate signed by Antony Michaelson
Soak test for 48 hours

Cost; £399 inc VAT

In the UK we will pay freight to your house.

As I am not technically minded, and doing the work myself is out the question, I was hoping that some techical wizz kid on here, who has tried modifying / building thier own equipment would be able to advise whether the proposed changes would make a difference.

I notice that a new DAC is not proposed, so I dont know whether my money is better spend upgrading the CD player to the higher spec or spending the £399 on a second hand DAC.

Any ideas?

Mooly 18th October 2008 07:40 AM

A lot depends on what you are trying to achieve. And a lot depends on how good the rest of your system is.
Out of all that list I suspect replacing the OpAmps will make the most noticeable change- depending on what is fitted originally.
That's a long list :) When I modded my Micromega I replaced all the electroylitics ( it is 14 year old now ), and changed the OpAmps- they were NE5534 originally.
Replacing regulators- my own opinion- it will not make any difference. Bypass caps, well, maybe but a lot of it is wishful thinking, I prefer to add a small cap directly across each opamp power pins. Replace audio path electroylitics - I am a bit surprised there are any really.
It's all a lot of money ( labour ), I guess there is around 20-30 pounds worth of parts in that lot.
Not counted the clock mod in all that. Never tried that so can't comment.
Do you know what OpAmps are in there. That could be where the biggest change will come from.
On a scale of 1 to 10 if it's an 8 now all that may make it a slightly different sounding 8.5 :)

Puffin 18th October 2008 09:05 AM

Re: Advised Need - Upgrading CD Player

Originally posted by sometimesuk

Update to the latest software spec

Any ideas?


Mooly 18th October 2008 11:48 AM

Re: Re: Advised Need - Upgrading CD Player

Originally posted by Puffin


Eh ?
It's possible, although it won't be anything to do with audio quality. Some operational glitches may have come to light, maybe remote control operation or track programming functions perhaps. Something like that I would guess :)

sometimesuk 18th October 2008 02:50 PM


A lot depends on what you are trying to achieve. And a lot depends on how good the rest of your system is.
Basically, I've heard Musical Fidelity A5 CD player at £1500, a while ago when auditioning speakers, and I couldnt believe how clean it sounded.

I hope on doing a serious upgrade (10kish) to my hifi by upgrading the CD player and Amp together, but that wont be untill at least Jan 2010, so I wanted something that would make an improvement for minimal outlay in the mean time.

My amp, is the matching A3 intergrated (£850) annd speakers are Audiovector Mi1 Signatures, on Partingon Dreadnaught Broadside Stands (£1600). Cables are nordost blue heaven interconnect, and Sola wind speaker cable.


On a scale of 1 to 10 if it's an 8 now all that may make it a slightly different sounding 8.5
If that really is the case, I might just forget doing the upgrade to the CD player, and give the £200 DAC a go.

I dont really know what makes the biggest difference, do you think I'll be better off spending the money on an external dac, as in how much an influence do they have on the sound?

I've looked at spec's on modern CD players and my one, and the signal to noise ration, has improved quite a bit. Would that make a bigger difference.

sometimesuk 18th October 2008 02:50 PM


Update to the latest software spec
My understanding of this, was that it may be a software update that would improve how the existing DAC functions, or prehaps the software that controls the laser?

I dont really know to be honest. hence asking the question here.

Mooly 18th October 2008 04:50 PM

There's no easy answer, only you can decide. You mention the A5. What you really need to do is compare your A3 directly against something you think is just the sound that you are after like that A5. A good dealer should be only to happy for you to bring your CD player along to compare.
Again an external DAC is all the signal processing stages and audio stages. Your A3 becomes just a transport, just a way of getting the ones and noughts off the disc.
I also wouldn't worry to much over specs like signal to noise. Any CD player has a signal to noise ratio that is better than most amps. When you are spending that sort of cash you have to make the right choices and that means trusting what you hear. The highest specifications in the world mean nothing if you do not actually like what you hear.
As I don't think you are going to be building your own amps and so on try and audition some Sugden gear if you can. Forget specs or power output, just listen :)

sometimesuk 18th October 2008 09:15 PM

If anyone is interested here is a link, to another forum where I asked a similar question, except, this was originally sparked by the Cambridge Audio DACMagic.

Basically I've decided to save my money, until I can afford to upgrade the whole lot.

I also completely agree about listening to something before you buy it. To be fair, I've got a good dealer who lets me take stuff home to try. When I upgraded my speakers last time, I ended up listening to 6 different speakers, before I found the ones I wanted.

Just out of curiosity, how hard is it to make your own hifi, particularly on the electronics side of things, like CD player and Amp’s?

I've bought a book on making your own speakers, which has always appealed to me. There are a few bits like “Q” that I’ve had to read over a few times to understand, but I think, If I read over the whole lot, take my time, and plan carefully I could come-up with something that works. It’s just the money side again.

What’s the best way to learn about the electronics side of things, and what different components do? Do I need a formal qualification in electronics, or can I just start at getting familiar with the basic’s, that I’ve learnt and forgot, since school, and going from there?

Mooly 19th October 2008 06:34 AM

Making your own electronics, amps and so on ! Yes it's certainly possible, but you have to be realistic. After a lifelong interest in electronics and a lifetime working in electronics I am still learning all the time.
Probably your best option if you are keen is to have a go at some of the chipamps or "Gainclones". They won't come close to the level of performance you seek though. But good fun, and you will learn a lot.
It's a vast subject, start small, read books, magazines and so on.
Speakers are different, the electronics if you can call it that are simple. It's the woodwork thats hard work there.
And how about modding something, practice on something cheap, then have a go at swapping the Opamps in your A3.

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