Thanks and much appreciation to Carl James of USA HIFI , distributor of Talk and Saxon, for loaning us this player for it's first review - publisher.
Like Toyota and it's sister automoblie line Lexus, Saxon is the affordable equipment line made by Talk Electronics. Both the Saxon and Talk lines are designed and manufactured entirely in England. This CD player is at the top of the Saxon line and retails for $2249.95.
The first thing I noticed about the player is it’s look and build. It is pleasant with the front bottom bevel and 3/8” thick face plate. In this day of the bizarre it is nice to see something that is familiar but interesting. Around the back side I was surprised to see a pair balanced outputs for a player in this price range. The power button is also at the back as well as the usual RCA outs and a SP/DIF digital optical output.
Under the hood are separate power supply transformers for the digital and analog sections. The transport is a Phillips VAM1202 which feeds double Wolfson DAC’s configured in twin differential mode. The signal is upsampled to 192kHz using a Burr Brown sample rate converter. All components are mounted on gold plated PCB boards.
Amazingly, especially compared to the stuff you get at Best Buy and other mid-fi palaces (and even most hi-end vendors) with their 90-day labor and 1 year warranties, this unit comes with a ten year Guarantee excluding motors and laser.
I hooked the Saxon up to my Bel Canto eVo2i gen 2 amp using the Balanced outputs. My speakers are the Nola Viper References.
I compared the Saxon to my Talk Thunder 3.1B CD player which listed at $5000.00 - pretty much twice the price of the Saxon. The Thunder is better as should be expected, but the Saxon is no slouch. Most people who have heard the Talk Thunder consider it be one of the best in the world at any price - a true reference quality player. So when I compare the Saxon to it, any observations of the less expensive sibling should not be taken as short comings per se, rather a comparison to a reference. Because a Lexus is a better car than a Toyota doesn't make the Toyota a bad car. But you already knew that, didn't you.
I might mention here that a totally new Talk is on the way to us for review in about 6 weeks. In fact, the upgrade is so significant that they have skipped all the way up to version SIX for the new top Talk, but kept the price at an expected $5,000. That's the kind of "talk" we like to hear!
When playing Erykah Badu’s "Baduism", I realized that the Saxon had a tightly controlled bottom end which in my opinion is tighter than the Talk player. The Talk is buxom and full while the Saxon is like an Euro uber babe without an ounce of fat to be found. I would not call the Saxon anemic though, because of it’s ability to shake the foundation with authority when called to do so. This control of the bottom end lends to a good sense of rhythm and timing. The top end is clear and clean without the artificial glaze that brings down so many affordable players. The midrange is whole and pleasant, but is not as smooth as the big brother Talk 3.1B.
The areas where my Talk player pulls ahead is in the soundstaging and imaging departments. Where the Talk throws a realistic stage of depth, width and height the Saxon falls a little bit short. The Saxon tends to spotlight on individual items.
Patricia Barber’s "Café Blue" does not open up like the Talk. I do live sound mixing and like to compare this effect to performers holding a candle on a dark stage instead of a microphone. The Saxon lights up only areas of the stage were the direct sound is coming from instead of the whole stage. It is not an issue of soundstage width, but one of completeness. Another area of soundstaging that the Talk is better than the Saxon is in soundstage height. The imaging placement of the Saxon is good, but it does not flesh out the body of the space that it occupies. Don’t get me wrong, the Saxon is a revealing component and serves the music well, but falls short of it’s big brother in this regard.
I like the naturalness of the Talk, but admire the accuracy of the bass of the Saxon.
The Saxon is a good player for the money with it’s balanced outputs, well controlled bottom end, good looks and accurate presentation. My comparison here to a player twice it's price and which also happens to compete with CD spinners at any price, only shows how impressive the Saxon is. If your system is mellow from tubes or has bass that is ill controlled, then I recommend this player like a personal trainer for the overweight couch potato.
The Designer Responds
Thanks for the review of the CD700Mk2 SE, You seem to have covered the main points accurately. My design goal was to try to make an attractive, well featured CD player with class leading sound quality and value, though sound quality is always at the top of our list of priorities. It is a shame that you were not able to compare it with another CD player at the same price like the Rega, Creek or Moon - these being the class leading performers in my opinion. The Talk 3.1 is an extremely good player for the money and it is a little unfair to compare it to the CD700, however as you have found the fact that you can make the comparison and that it is not all one way is a testiment to how good the CD700 is. The bass and female vocals being to my ears better than on the 3.1; well at least the version you have, wait till you hear the new Thunder 6, it’s replacement, at least in price, but as you have found the stereo presentation and overall performance is much better on the 3.1, as you would expect!!
Following comments made by our distributors at the recent CES, there is a small cosmetic change to the player.to make the Talk association more obvious. A Talk metal logo badge is being set into the front panel above the draw front and a new Saxon logo being made smaller and moved to the bottom left corner. Sonically the player is identical, but technically we have been forced to change the display driver chip due to the Toshiba device we had been using being discontinued, As a result, we have taken the opportunity to change the order of the butttons on the front panel to incorporate a Pause in place of the Time button, which again was a request from our customers, So left to right the buttons are now standby, repeat, pervious, next - open, stop, play ,pause - as a result, to clearly identify the player correctly we are calling it the CD720.
Whilst it is not our usual policy to change products in production, we felt that the comments received from our customers at CES on the new Saxon range were valid we felt it could be justified for us to make the changes, none of which affect sound quality. I am sorry for any inconvienience to you or your publication. On the plus side however, it does show that as a manufacturer we listen to our customers and are happy to respond which we think is the most important aspect of being a manufacturer, proving that customer service is a very high priority for us.
Director and president Talk Electronics
For info or purchase, call Carl at 1-877-236-4434 and he will direct you to a nearby dealer. If no dealer is in your area, you can order direct from him.
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