With so much to-do about Blu-ray and the impending onslaught of 3D TVs that will also be vying for our collective attention, what is the Managing Editor of one of the largest home theater publications doing talking about a CD player? The answer is simple: the NAD C 565BEE CD Player reviewed here is more than just your run of the mill CD player. It's a two channel enthusiast's dream come true at very affordable price; $799 to be exact.
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At a glance the C 565BEE looks like your typical disc spinner from one of the industry's best, NAD. It's roughly the same size, at 17 and an eighth inch wide by two and three quarters inches high and 11 and a quarter inches deep, as other NAD CD players. However, once you get past the physical similarities, the differences between the C 565BEE and NAD's other CD players is night and day - and it starts with an input on its façade, an input labeled USB.
That's right, the C 565BEE does more than simply spin your favorite CDs, it can also play MP3 files up to 320kbs/VBR from a solid state memory device such as a flash drive or stick, thanks to its internal DAC,which is from Wolfson Microelectronics. The internal Wolfson DAC is a 24/192 DAC setup in a Dual Differential configuration. The Wolfson DAC coupled with NAD's own Sample Rate Converter means that common CDs (sampled in 44.1kHz) as well as other music formats, are upsampled to 96kHz or even 192kHz, making for a much nicer, smoother wave form before sending the signal along to your preamp or processor. However, I should point out that while the Sample Rate Converter and internal Wolfson DAC would be enough, NAD takes it a step further by using higher quality digital filters that feature user selectable roll off controls that allow the consumer to better tailor the sound of the C 565BEE to their liking.
Getting away from sample rates and spec sheet mumbo jumbo for a minute I want to talk about what sets the C 565BEE apart from other CD players in its class and beyond. For years the pinnacle of digital, two-channel playback has been a separate transport feeding a stand alone DAC for the best digital has to offer. Sure, CD players have had some sort of DAC in them since the dawn of CD but many enthusiasts know that for best results you really should use an outboard DAC. The benefit of an outboard DAC is you can potentially connect multiple components into it, allowing it to serve a variety of purposes, which is why I've always been a proponent of a good outboard DAC because it offers more performance and value than your run of the mill stand alone CD player. That being said, I've often been short on space or cash to allow for a separates based CD playback solution in many of my rigs.
Well, the C 565BEE changes that, for it is a CD player but it is also a DAC and damn fine one at that.
Turning my attention to the rear of the C 565BEE, I noticed quite a few more connection options than what I'm used to seeing on a run of the mill CD player. Obviously, there are analog audio outs as well as digital audio outs, both optical and coaxial, which allow you to use the C 565BEE as a transport if you wish, though I kind of think that would defeat the purpose of purchasing a C 565BEE. There is also an RS-232 input as well as a 12-volt trigger, IR input and a detachable power cord available on the C 565BEE's back panel.
But wait, there's more.
Next to the C 565BEE's digital audio outs there is a digital optical audio input. Not only can the C 565BEE play back CDs and MP3s from a solid state device, it can also serve as just a DAC, albeit a two channel one, for another digital device. Now, I was excited to see this little addition but quickly became confused by it - that was until I remembered something...my Mac in my office. More on that later.
So with so much going on behind the scenes, all of the hard controls on the C 565BEE's face began to make more sense, so let's turn our focus back to the front. For starters, the C 565BEE has a slim but traditional CD tray, which is located on the left side of the unit. Next to the tray is the C 565BEE display, which can display a variety of different things from track number and duration to album metadata (when available) and sample rates etc. Oh, and it's very big and very clear, making it easy to change tracks and know what's playing from across the room before the song itself begins. Below the C 565BEE's screen are a series of manual controls beginning with stop/open, source, SRC, random, repeat, display and scan. Play/pause, track forward and backwards are handled by a knob of sorts that sits just to the right of the display screen. Press once for play, another for pause and turn it either right or left for track forward or backwards respectively. Now, many of the buttons are pretty self explanatory; however there are two - source and SRC - which many traditionalists aren't going to be used to seeing on a CD player. Source allows you to chose between the C 565BEE's three source options, CD, USB and Optical, while SRC or Sample Rate Converter allows you to chose which sample rate you want the C 565BEE to upsample to. For example, the feed coming into the C 565BEE from my Mac is 44.1kHz yet it's being sent to my receiver at 192kHz thanks to the C 565BEE's internal DAC.
Which brings us to the remote. The C 565BEE's remote appears more like a simple receiver remote than that of a CD player's. All of the controls are present and accounted for and are clearly and cleanly laid out, though not backlit. The remote feels good in hand and is very elegant, perhaps even a bit more elegant, in look, than the C 565BEE itself.
I setup the C 565BEE in my reference rig featuring the Integra DHC 80.1 (review pending) mated to an Anthem Statement P5, which powers my Revel Studio2's (review pending). The entire system is connected with Transparent Reference speaker cables and interconnects. In my reference system I connected the C 565BEE to my Integra processor using both the analog outputs as well as the coaxial digital output, bypassing the C 565BEE's internal Wolfson DAC.
The second system I called into service was my office system, which features my trusty Denon 4806 receiver mated to an Atlantic Technology 5.1 in-wall system. I connected the C 565BEE to the Denon via its analog audio outs and connected my Mac to the C 565BEE via its digital out into the NAD's optical input.
I then made a series of test discs/playlists/USB drives, all featuring the same content ripped at various resolutions but all taken from the CD itself. I also tested the C 565BEE with a variety of Internet purchased audio tracks which I loaded onto various USB drives as well as played back via iTunes itself.
I started things off with John Mayer's new album Battle Studies (Sony) and the track "Assassin." Via the CD, the opening bells and chimes had a real three dimensionality to them with terrific air and decay, not to mention lively in rhythm and motion between the Studio2's. Mayer's vocals were much fuller and richer than in some of his previous albums that have made him sound a bit flat, harsh and nasally. His presence in the soundstage was lifelike in size and scale. All of the instruments were rendered naturally with a good amount of space between them and held steadfast in the soundstage by the C 565BEE. Bass was taut, deep and detailed, though it didn't plunge quite as deep as some other players I've demoed. Dynamically the C 565BEE didn't grab me by the throat and lead me around the room, instead opting for more of an authoritative suggestion, which I kind of liked and appreciated, for it was never overtly aggressive. Overall, the CD performance of the C 565BEE on "Assassin" was just a touch laid back but rife with detail and air, possessing the type of sound one could listen to for hours on end without fatigue even at extreme levels.