Arcam FMJ CD17 review

Proprietary 'Mask of Silence' technology enhances this CD players performance

Arcam FMJ CD17
Mask of Silence works by reducing EMI between the various compnents

TechRadar Verdict

Bass is a little heavy and the treble not always the most open, but there's plenty of energy and rhythmic precision and stereo imaging is very good. Handles voices with confidence and ease.


  • +

    Plenty of energy and rhythmic precision

  • +

    Stereo imaging is very good

  • +

    Handles voices with confidence and ease


  • -

    Bass is a little heavy

  • -

    Treble not always the most open

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Arcam currently offers two regular CD players, the CD37 and the cheaper CD17. The latter, however, manages to offer quite a lot of the dearer model's looks, feel and features, and generally makes a good first impression with the usual Arcam all-metal case and nicely legible display.

Inside, it's a typical Arcam job: neat and tidy with a minimum of fuss, but decent components where it counts. The power supply uses a good size toroidal transformer and there is plenty of local regulation of power rails for the various stages and functions within the circuit.

Arcam has applied its 'Mask of Silence' measures to parts of the circuit, which in practice takes the form of small ferrite slabs glued on top of critical integrated circuits so as to absorb electromagnetic interference and prevent it from contaminating other parts of the circuit.

This, of course, makes it impossible to see the part numbers on the chip, but Arcam is not hiding anything and proudly announces that the DAC chip is the latest part from Wolfson Micro Electronics, the WM8741.

This chip has a mighty-impressive specification for basic operation and also offers quite a few additional features that Arcam has chosen not to implement, such as selectable filters and volume control. One feature that we definitely approve of, is anti-clipping processing.

Digital mastering of CDs these days quite often allows slight overload to occur, which can in some instances sound distinctly rough. Giving a CD player some analogue headroom above the notional 'full level' is very much a good thing and makes such discs more pleasing to hear, though sadly few such recordings will truly qualify as audiophile.

Arcam back

Output from the CD17 is available on twin sets of phono sockets, plus both flavours of digital.

Sound quality

This player's sound seems to have some tonal character to it which makes it something of a question of taste. Most significantly in this regard, bass is unusually present, which for some listeners clearly spoiled the overall effect, especially as this bass did not seem to be as well-integrated with the midrange and treble as one might wish for.

On the other hand, the general effect of this player is lively and rhythmic, which for many listeners will make it an attractive proposition. One might feel there's something of a conflict between lively presentation and over-full bass, but the bass is still quite well-controlled and higher frequencies are taut and precise.

As a result, and as often happens in cases like this, each listener's reaction will depend to a considerable extent on the music playing and the listener's taste. Music without very much obvious low frequency content benefits from the energetic feel and solo voice with guitar, for instance, is very convincing. In fact, voice in general is well served by this player, as long as the bass doesn't start to mask it as can happen at times.

One listener felt the frequency range responsible for consonants in the human voice was a little harsh, but if so it can't have been by much as no one else commented on this. What our listeners did agree on is that the very highest treble reaches are a touch constricted and lacking air.

Despite that, stereo imaging is stable and assured with good depth. Detail is good too, though it takes perhaps a little more concentration to hear all of it.

Overall there is a lot to recommend this player, but we would certainly recommend an audition if only to see how the bassy balance grabs you.

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