Arcam's CD players all look very similar. In fact, externally, this is identical to the CD192. It's considerably simpler inside, though, lacking the latter's upsampling function and highly specified DAC board.
Arcam has fitted the CD73 with a Wolfson DAC, which like nearly all such chips oversamples anyway, so the differences may not appear that vast, but other components are also considerably more modest, such as the op-amps performing filtering and output-buffering functions.
Disc replay starts with a familiar-looking audio CD transport, which is connected to the player's single main circuit board, and upon which all the major sections reside. The mains transformer is a medium-size toroidal affair, and a selection of familiar regulator chips are used to smooth its rectified output.
Passive components are good-quality, with particularly well-regarded plastic film capacitors in the audio path, while the op-amps are mid-range types. Among a few fillips to the basic spec are twin output sockets and CD Text display. We've long admired Arcam's CD player display, which is particularly clear and readable. We also like how separate front-panel buttons handle the track skip and search functions.
The casework is nothing fancy, with a steel tray enclosed by a thin aluminium lid, though a gently curved metal front panel adds a touch of class with its neatly flush-fitting CD drawer.
And, in fact, we'd count the thin lid as a plus, because it has very little tendency to resonate mechanically. Quite apart from the contentious suggestion of electrical microphony, mechanical resonance in casework can be a significant contributor to the 'sound' of audio electronics.
Lots of positive comments greeted this player. It evidently has the knack of presenting musical information pleasingly and in detail, without any effort on the listener's part. How else to explain such a variety of praise, for bass, treble, dynamic ebb and flow, singers' diction and more?
As one listener pointed out, this is a highly detailed player which makes it very easy to hear deep into the layers of any recording. Yet it doesn't make a big deal of it, offering up the detail rather than hurling it at you.
In keeping with this, imaging is precise and stable, with good depth as well as width. As for tone, none of our listeners' comments suggest any hint of unevenness in the midband, nor did we detect any in our later sighted listening.
Treble response is extended without being bright, and bass is extended, weighty and above all tuneful, being particularly confident with quiet low-frequency sounds.
The definition of where a note starts and stops seems particularly clear with this player, and this was of real benefit on the piano track, which sounded extremely solid and tangible. Only in female vocals did the sound seem just a touch muted and lacking in solidity.
Or was that merely because of a couple of players we heard earlier that were just a shade brighter? At this level of refinement it's hard to tell.
And yes, we do realise the implications of talking this way about what is, after all, a budget CD player: this one has some star quality which wouldn't embarrass it in the company of far more expensive machines. You can get a lot of CD player for under £500 these days, and this is a fine demonstration of just how much.
If the sonic performance of the CD73 is generous for the price, its measurements are outrageous. In almost every respect, it's pretty much state-of-the-art for CD replay and, indeed, at the edge of reliable measurement. Take distortion: worst-case figures of around 0.001% would be perfectly respectable for any high-priced exotica, as would the absence of any detectable signal-related distortion below about -20dB. Jitter is at or below the measurement threshold of about 120ps, and noise only a couple of dB worse than the very best figures we've seen.
The weakest measurement is the near-22kHz attenuation, which is no better than average, with just a little ultrasonic output above 24kHz too. There's also some audible mechanical noise from the transport, which we estimate at -85dB in a typical listening environment. The player inverts polarity (absolute phase), which can be easily corrected at the loudspeakers if desired.