My Pioneer CD player had been playing up these past six months (or could’ve been a year actually) with the tray not wanting to open unless I repeatedly switch it off and on again, pressing ‘open’ immediately. It did this once many years ago (possibly ten) and I sent it to this chabok shop on Abbeydale Road that fixed it for £40. Pity that this repair shop ain’t there anymore. I began to look for a new player in the £150-£200 (plus/minus £50 each way) bracket and thought Marantz or Cambridge Audio could be just the thing to get especially the models that got five stars from What Hifi? magazine. I know, reviews usually don’t match your own ears (I found my 30W Pioneer A300 amp sounded way better than the A400 despite the praises showered by said mag 17 years ago).

Things tend to go pear-shaped whenever I decide on getting a new item, and last night the Pioneer acted up big time and the tray just didn’t open. It had my Deftones CD in it and no way was I gonna leave it in there. It did open once but shut again immediately. Unfortunately, brute force was the order of the evening and, well, the tray mechanism must have broke when I managed to get the CD out. It was a sad moment as I had this CD player since 1995 when I first bought it with my first paycheck (yes, I have an uncanny attachment to inanimate items in the house hahaha). Nevertheless, I dusted the old machine and got the original box out. I thought to myself that I ain’t gonna find an entry level machine that is made in the native country of the company that makes this things any more (yup, fabriqué au Japon it was).

This morning saw me driving up to the local branch of Richer Sounds on Broomhill, and saw that they had a Cambridge Audio Azur 350C, which was one down (slightly from the 5-star 351C which was £100 dearer). The friendly manager was pretty much extolling the virtues of the Cambridge when I asked his opinion on which make was better, ie the Marantz (was considering the CD5004) or the Cambridge. I kinda wanted to get the Cambridge as well, as I’ve always wanted to get a British brand (can’t afford Audiolab, Arcam or Naim) so I was happy that the Cambridge was suggested to be the better option. They then told me that there was only one Azur 350 left which was already out of the box, and they offered a fresh still-in-the-box 351C for £250. Pandai tak? I relented and said yes, as well as (jokingly kot) tell them that they should also sell cars as well.

I installed the Cambridge as soon as I got home (no, I didn’t test the player as it was pointless unless I was buying a whole new set up including the amp and speakers). The obligatory Michael Hedges’ Aerial Boundaries was first, and I was gobsmacked with the detailing. The snap of the acoustic guitar strings was crackingly and the bass was just nice. And this was on my 17-year old A300 amp with cheapo Gale floorstanders. I thought the Cambridge may well be a tad harsh on anything rock (tried out Killswitch Engage’s My Curse, Paramore’s Careful and Coldplay’s Life In Technicolour II), but Deftones’ My Own Summer was absolutely cracking. The snap of Abe’s snare drum and Chi’s rolling basslines juxtaposed was sublime. I guess the production of the music comes into play too and it’d be somewhat of a task to choose an amp and speaker for the range of music I listen to, whenever the time comes.

I have alluded on Facebook that hifi separates were the shiznit among Malaysian undergrads in the UK back in the late 80s/90s. I took out my Eagles CD and put on Hotel California from the Hell Freezes Over record as a nod to them good times. And dang did it sound nice on the Cambridge.

And to my dear old Pioneer, thanks for the good times and insyaAllah, I will try find another chabok shop that may want to repair you (the guys at Richer felt that with it being so old it was not worth repairing especially with parts being difficult to obtain).

Oh, and the new CD player? Made in China. Toldjah.