List Price: $3,200
Grant Fidelity is an Importer/Distributor based out of Calgary Alberta who specialize in Chinese imports. They import many brands and are the North American distributor for Jungson products. Jungson solid state equipment destined for North America are relabeled Grant Fidelity. The product under review is originally manufactured as the Jungson Impression II CD Player which for the North American market is relabeled the Grant Fidelity CD-1000.
It is an attractively styled top loader player with four massive out rigger legs with acrylic inserts. These inserts glow blue upon powering up with tubes inside. Pretty cool but not really over the top gaudy. The player is constructed with the idea that the more physically and electronically isolated the different sections of the player are, the better the sound. If there is one thing that has been recognized in the last few years, it is that isolation from internal and external vibration, resonance and dirty current is extremely important to producing pure, clean audio. This player seems to that fact to a a new level. Even the heaphone section has its own section and separate tubes. Makes sense.
A thick aluminum contoured plate tops the player which is available in a brushed finish or a luxury polished finish. In the center of the top plate is the rear hinged transport cover. A magnetic puck holds the CD in place while playing. The front of the player has a large, blue display screen showing the operation of the player. The control buttons for the player are in the top instead of the front.
The right side panel contains the outputs which are either run through a mosfet output or a tube output section. The mosfet section offers both balanced and single ended connections while the EH6922 tube output offers only single ended outputs. The left side features an EL84 tube headphone output with a variable output control. Also on the left side are the digital outputs, featuring a RCA and an XLR output connectors. The power supplies are located in the separated corner foot sections and are isolated from the transport circuitry. The transport mechanism is a Sanyo DA11VZ CD drive.
The left and right channels are separated with individual Burr Brown PCM1794 Dacs.
The CD-1000 comes with 3 sampling frequencies – 44.1kHz, 96.2kHz and 192kHz. You need to stop or pause the disk that is playing first, then press “mode” on the remote control to adjust the sampling rate. You will notice that on the LED display screen far left, there is an icon showing SR/L, SR/M, or SR/H. "SR? stands for sampling rate. L, M and H stand for Low (44kHz), Medium(96kHz) and High(192kHz) sampling frequency.
Although the LED display looks very much like a touch screen, it is not. You cannot operate the player by touching those displays. You have to use either the buttons on the top of the player or the remote control. If you have balanced inputs on your preamp,the CD-1000 gives you nine possible combinations in the analog output section for playing back your CD collection, six options if you run only unbalanced. You have the three above-mentioned sampling rates. Plus you have three different outputs, RCA tube, RCA transistor and Balanced transistor. Some upsampling players and/or seperate DAC's do not allow playback at the native Redbook CD rate but force you to upsample. The problem is, sometimes (many would argue most or ALL of the time), music does not sound better with upsampling. That, of course, is up to the listener, but at least with the Grant you have the option of listening to the CD "as is". If nothing else, it allows you to hear the difference between normal and upsampled audio. I think you will find that not everything sounds the best with one setting. Some people mark which combination sounds best for their system or tastes on each CD in their library. They find it fun to experiment and very rewarding for maximizing the enjoyment of their music collection.
Of course the big benefit of owning an tube audio component is that you are not limited to the sound as supplied to you. With Solid State CD players you are relying on the designer?s idea of great sound and performance. With the CD-1000 you are in control. There are many options for replacing the stock EH6922 and EL84 tubes from Electro Harmonix. The best place to shop for alternative tubes is online – you will find a vast amount of tube knowledge, opinions and options.
Unlike certain tube audio components that have tubes exposed on the top and allow end users to switch tubes easily, the CD- 1000 tube rolling takes a bit of work.
First of all, before you attempt to tube roll at all, turn off the CD- 1000 by turning off the ON/OFF button at rear panel and unplug the power cord. This will ensure that you will not accidentally touch the ON/OFF button and have the unit powered on while you are working on changing tubes. Leave the unit off for 5 minutes to dissipate energy, prior to entering the unit.
Secondly, find a soft large cushion to put the player upside down with disk loading top at the bottom. You need a soft enough surface to make sure that you will not accidentally damage or scratch the top plate and the disk loading cover. Left side is the tube headphone section, right side is the CD player tube output. Once the bottom is removed, you will see a circuit board mounted with long screws to the chassis. Carefully remove those screws then pull out the circuit board – the tubes are installed onto the circuit board.
The CD-1000 comes with a round black magnetic disk stabilizer. It is to be placed on top of your CD or the disk will not read and you will hear strange spinning sounds. THe top is electronically operated, raising and closing as if it were about to lift off into space to go where no man has gone before. Nott the indents in the transport that lets you load and unload a CD without having to touch the playing surface.
I set up the Grant Fidelity CD-1000 in direct comparison to the Talk Thunder 3.1B CD Player. The Talk is a British made player that goes for over $3,000. I should say it "went", because it is soon to be replaced by a new model that is said to be around $5,000. Our publisher James Darby will be reviewing that puppy when and if it ever comes in. Just a few years ago though, the Talk was considered by many to be one of if not THE best sounding CD player anywhere. It certainly ranked in the top echelon. But digital technology has improved greatly in just the last three years. It pretty amazing how good those shiny little silver disks can sound these days.
I hooked both players into my preamp so that I could switch back and forth and compare the players. By the way, since all outputs are always active, you can hook up the different outputs of the player to different inputs on your preap and switch between them so you can hear the differences there. Very cool. I chose the Katie Melua track “Piece by Piece” as a comparison track loaded into both players. The track features a great female vocal with excellent image and sound staging. Half way through the song a bass guitar fills in the bottom end with power and authority. I switched back and forth between players while playing the song over one hundred times.
The CD-1000 had a nice clarity of image focus compared to the more diffuse focus of the Talk player. I found the decay of notes to be more extended with the Talk. Bass on the other hand was won hands down by the Grant with its incredible depth, slam and control in the bottom end. The Talk in comparison sounded weak and boomy. The Grant had a more natural sounding vocal midrange, with the Talk sounding a little bit rough but quite likable. In some aspects the Grant typified the strengths of a solid state amp and the Talk sounded like a tube amp.
While the Grant CD-1000 plays all genres of music very well, you may find yourself digging out those recordings with strong or interesting bass content, whether it be jazz, classical or rock. I happen to like the electronica group Infected Mushroom. There is lots of ultra low synthesized bass that made me think I had just bought new speakers. BIG speakers! The Grant seems to just shore up the foundation of every recording without adding additional bad bass artifacts. It just seems to dig deeper. And faster, which may be what's really going on here. Faster and better processors plus the extreme attention to isolated circuits = better playback.
As far as the top end goes the Grant was clear and clean with the Talk sounding a little more laid back. The Grant soundstage had a little wider scope and more fleshed out.
The second comparison I did was comparing the Grant tube outputs verses the Grant mosfet outputs using single ended connectors for consistency. I found the tube outputs to be smooth and the mosfet outputs to be more up front. The tube outputs seemed softer by 2 dB.
I'm not a headphone expert, but the Grant's separate output for 'phones sounded unusually good with sharp dynamcis, wide frequency response and a lifelike soundstage that was not concentrated right in the center of my head. Plugging in a headphones to the CD-1000 will automatically defeat the player's tube output but not the transistor output. If your amplifier is connected to the transistor output, you will hear music coming from both your headphones and your speakers. Turn your amplifier volume to the lowest or simply turn the amp off, now you can enjoy your headphones for listening to music privately.
The Grant Fidelity CD-1000 is an amazing package for the money. It looks like a statement product instead of a boring box and is well constructed and laid out. It pushes all of the audiophile’s buttons in sound staging, clarity and most of all, tour de force dynamics and bass control. I have never heard a CD Player make such an incredible difference to a system by controlling the bottom end like this one does. If you are dissatisfied with the bass control of your system give the Grant Fidelity CD-1000 a try before changing out your speakers or amp. If your CD player is more than three years old, no matter how good it was back then, you are probably missing out on the quality of your CD investment. As I said,
faster and better processors plus the extreme attention to isolated circuits = better playback. For me, the most obvious example is the low end. It may be something else for you.
The Grant CD-1000 will show you just how good CD playback can be in 2010.
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