The GamuT CD-3 CD Player

My first reaction to seeing ads for GamuT in the magazines was, “Where have they been hiding?” My first meeting with GamuT gear was at a New York Stereophile Show about ten years ago. The company had a run of success with their original CD-1 CD player and their line of solid state amplifiers. Both their amps and CD player met with a wide body of critical approval in the audio press and were sought after by many. The CD player, as well as the amps, went through various upgrades and improvements to address some lingering criticisms as to relating to performance in the frequency extremes, for the CD player and, for some, their amplifiers sounding a little too analytical and sterile. The company has since changed hands — Lars Golar is now in charge and is the design and spiritual leader of this Danish company. He believes in using solid science as the basis for his designs and in the end, like any designer worth his salt, he listens.

The CD-3 [USD$6,000.00] is quite large and heavy with well ordered cosmetics. The symmetrical arrangement of function buttons has written words on the brightly lit display, which has three settings: full on, reduced and off. Of course when ‘off’ is selected you can’t read any of the disc information or functions. At least the remote, rather skimpy at this price level, has the usual function symbols. The CD-3’s face plate is of a substantial solid piece of clear anodized aluminum, about a half inch thick, and the unit’s footers have three silicon beads each to further isolate the player from vibration induced distortion.

The CD-3 arrived and I couldn’t turn it on. I contacted David Stevens of Rhythm Marketing (US distributor) and he told me that the on/off switch is on the underside of the CD player, near the front at the right side. I found this a very odd location, not intuitive at all. I later found this mentioned on the inside rear page of the manual. Once I turned on the unit I proceeded to let the unit, burn in for the recommended two hundred hours with a variety of music and the XLO burn-in disc, as well. The burn-in also included a pair of balanced GamuT interconnects which the manufacturer sent along (but are not included with the unit). These are a twisted pair of silver plated copper interconnects that retail for $500.00 for a one meter pair. Therefore, my review also takes into account these interconnects. The power cord was of the standard variety and the manual encouraged the use of after market cords.

Before I get started with sonic impressions, I want to briefly describe some of the technical properties of the CD-3. The CD player is internally separated, by a stainless steel inner chassis, dividing the player into three distinct inner cabinets. This division isolates the separate digital and analogue power supplies from the suspended transport mechanism and DAC, as well as, isolating the amplification section. The non magnetic stainless steel inner cabinet, running down the center of the unit, effectively prevents minute electrical signals and currents from intruding and contaminating the final signal and introducing unwanted distortions resulting in loss of detail retrieval and a smearing of the final sound. A 24 bit 192 kHz asynchronous sample rate converter was used to generate the up sampled signal for the 24 bit Burr-Brown PCM 1792 converter.

My first full listening session was with the supplied power cord and the supplied GamuT interconnects. Reading my notes, they were as follows: dead quiet background, grain free, very dynamic, deep soundstage with excellent transparency and more detail of which I’ve been accustomed. Frank Sinatra’s and Holly Cole’s voices had great immediacy and palpability. Imaging was excellent. Inner detail and voice textures were further revealed. On large orchestral works, string sections were more completely defined. I was hearing more of the individual instruments, the bows being drawn across the strings if you will, rather more like the experience one gets at a live concert sitting in the first few rows of the concert hall. The interplay between sections was also easier to follow. In general, images were more distinct across the board, in all soundstage dimensions. Clarity and resolution were there in spades with more air and separation around instruments. This player drew more detail out of the bits than I’ve previously experienced. That stainless steel isolation must really be working. On the negative side, I noticed a slight bass shyness and a tendency of voices to be leaner and cooler then I thought they should be. Also, the images seemed unnaturally sharp, as if there was too much, borrowing a term from the video world, ‘edge enhancement’. Was this effect the result of the player, the interconnects, or the power cord? It was now time to further investigate. Ah, more fun.

My first change was replacing the power cord with my reference, Acoustic Zen’s Absolute power cord. Immediately, images took on more body and weight and the ‘edge ehancement’ was reduced with, if anything, a gain in inner textures. The images seemed more natural in their presentation. The leanness I had heard was now almost gone. Soundstage depth, already excellent, improved as well. Voices seemed to be richer and fuller. Anyone who thinks power cords don’t make a difference should reexamine those assumptions. It brought out more of what this CD-3 was capable of. It clearly pays to experiment with power cords and at this price level you’re doing yourself a disservice not to. Now it was time to try examining interconnects.

I used Wasatch’s excellent Ultama, Acoustic Zen’s Silver Reference II and Acoustic Zen’s Absolute. All had their individual characteristics but the Absolute really proved to be the best and offered the most complete improvement in the quality of sound. The bass performance further improved with greater weight and articulation. The soundstage seemed to grow in size with greater depth while the sound became noticeably smoother. It further improved localization of instruments and voices in the soundstage. High frequency performance also improved and cymbal strikes had more impact with greater definition with an even further clarification of low level detail. I now felt that this player was reaching heights I had not experienced from a CD player before.

My ultimate criterion for evaluating a component is how close its ability to convey the feeling of the live performance. The GamuT CD-3, with an appropriate level power cord and interconnects achieves this more completely than any other CD player I’ve had in my system. The combination gives a vitality and immediacy that signifies ‘live’. Audiophiles all have differing points of view as to how something should sound and I won’t tell you it will satisfy everyone. As I indicated earlier, the CD-3, gives the listener (at least in my system) an upfront presentation of the music. System matching would be key. If one likes a ‘soft’, ‘tubey’ sound this might not be your cup of tea. If you’re looking to liven up a soft sounding system that is lacking in detail and dynamics, look no further. GamuT’s CD-3 can perform magic. Highly recommended. I will miss this player. Keep listening.

Manufacturer’s Comment

I thank you very much for your detailed and thorough review, explaining in detail the excellent musical characteristics of our CD3. We fully agree on all of your flattering comments on the CD3, and the importance of matching the performance between different components to adjust the character and level of reproduction accuracy of a high performing audio reproduction system.

The CD3, as all GamuT products, are developed to have the highest possible potential of reproduction, which with a small effort in setup and matching with associated equipment and the acoustic surroundings, will result in true to life realistic dynamics and 3-dimensional reproduction of all kinds of recorded music.

We from our side thank you very much for confirming this in your excellent review.

Best regards,

Lars Goller

Further information: GamuT