Ok, I’ll try to keep this as brief as possible.
Four years ago I bought a new CD5si to replace my Arcam Apha 5 CD player whose draw cog had given up for the second time - I bought the Arcam second hand for £125 twenty years ago when a student.
I demoed the Naim back to back with a Rega Saturn-r, TBH, to my ears, there was not much between the two but I chose Naim.
A few months later, after burn in I compared the Naim and Arcam - no contest the Naim sounded significantly clearer/better - the hearing things your have never heard before moment. Since then I have made changes to speaker/sub positioning, speaker cable, added a dedicated rack and lately, room treatment and upgraded the amplification, all of which have had a positive impact on the sound - the system is transformed compared with 4 years ago.
What of the Arcam? I added a draw tab to manually operate the draw and use it in the office with an Alpha 7r and Mission 731i speakers. Though not as clear as the main system and contrary to popular opinion, it is a great system for listening to rock and beat driven music.
Lately the power supply of the CDP has been getting noisy so, in these idle moments, I decided to add Dynamat (automotive sound dampening) to the insides of the lid and parts of the chassis + placed a plinth-mounted McLaren F1 model to the top - noise now much quieter. So I switch the CDP on in the office and wow, the sound is much clearer/defined with better imaging etc but still the rocky nature of before.
Out of curiosity I plugged the CDP into the main system and put on the latest Marina album, expecting the Naim, bearing in mind the upgrades to the system, to show it a clean pair of heels. Well, that is not what happened! The Arcam now sounded almost as clear as the Naim but crucially, slightly more full and, dare I say it, with more PRaT! Unaware of the change, my wife came in and started to dance - she said it reminded her of when we lived in a different house many years ago. I then told her which CDP I was using.
So, what conclusions to draw?
Both CDPs now sound better than they have beforehand through the system.
Was the Naim having an off day?
Perhaps Arcam was right - the sound dampening they added to the later FMJ ranges really does make a difference - it certainly has with my CDP. Perhaps if Arcam had added a few £s worth of Dynamat to their CDPs back in the 90s they would be up there with mid-priced CDPs of today?
The Philips TDA 1541 DAC chip has quite a following - perhaps there is something in this?
Postscript - since the experiment I have tried using the Arcam’s Straightwire Chorus RCA interconnect with the Naim and it certainly has more bounce/force in the bass than the Din-RCA Chord Crimson Vee 3 I bought with the Naim. The Chord is more refined though, but the difference is subtle. A Van Den Hul ‘The Bay’ cable that I use elsewhere seems to offer the best of both with the Naim so I am using that with the Naim switched from Din only to RCA only output. The Arcam will be returned to the office (not under the bedrooms) so I can enjoy rock music later in the evening.