Compact Disc Player
Manufacturer: CARY AUDIO DESIGN
he DMC-600SE is a Compact Disc player with digital inputs and a Bluetooth connection. The Cary Audio company calls it a “Digital Music Center” (hence the DMC in the name). Looking at its functional possibilities, we can say that the company is right – it is some kind of a hub, an integrated digital source. The only thing that could be added to its capabilities is the possibility to play files (see Mark Levinson No. 519 Audio Player; in Polish). However, this means compromise that is really expensive to overcome. For those who would like to obtain a complete Cary Audio digital sound source, the company also offers the DMS-500 file player (“streamer”).
The Cary Audio company that was established in 1989 is a firm focused on electron tubes. However, it noticed market changes at the right time. That is why it included home cinema devices (amplifiers and processors) in its offer some time ago and now it offers the abovementioned streamer and a broad range of digital-to-analog converters, a headphone amplifier and the latest novelty – the all-in-one AIOS system.
The DMC-600SE is the company’s most expensive sound source and, at the same time, one of its most expensive products. As it costs almost 35,000 PLN, it is not cheap, but it is also impossible to say that it is especially expensive for a high-end product – an extremely solid device packed with different functions, constituting an almost complete sound source. What is more, the functions I am talking about are really useful and help us adjust the player to our system and sonic requirements.
The DMC-600SE in detail
It is large, heavy and very well-designed. Its users are aware they have invested their money well and sure that they needn’t worry about anything, but can just listen to music. The player’s primary function is to play CDs using a CD-ROM transport that reads tracks a bit longer but instantly jumps to each subsequent one. Track and settings information (without CD-Text) is displayed on a large clear display with three lines with a blue filter. There are quite a lot of buttons next to it and one can see that the company wanted to double as many functions as possible both here and on the remote control.
As I have mentioned, it is not only a CD player, but also a DAC. A user can connect an external source to it, using the AES/EBU, coaxial (RCA), optical (TOSLink) and USB inputs. The first three of these inputs accept digital signal from 16 to 24 bit and from 44.1 to 192 kHz. PCM signal up to 32 bit and 384 kHz, and DSD signal to DSD256 can be sent through the USB input. One of the most important features of the player is the presence of a Bluetooth receiver functioning in the aptX system, through which one can send CD quality signal without compression. So, one can buy a Tidal subscription and stream signal from a smartphone or tablet.
Signal from CDs and all digital inputs except for USB can be improved through upsampling. Such operations have been known for years and integrated circuits with upsamplers are very popular. Most frequently, signal is upsampled to 24/192 PCM (see Audionet Planck), but equally often to DSD (see dCS Rossini). The Cary Audio company has chosen upsampling to PCM, but in the highest form I have seen so far, i.e. 768 kHz. However, one can also choose one of medium values, both when it comes to asynchronous upsampling (48, 96 and 192 kHz) and synchronous upsampling (88.2 kHz, etc.). It is not only the frequency that is changed, but also word length, to 32 bit.
The Cary Audio company has treated this function really seriously. The upsampler looks like it can be programmed by the user or “on request” and is called the TruBit Upsampling. An adequate algorithm is included in a 128-bit DSP circuit. Effort has also been made to make input signal as stable as possible, so it is reclocked before it reaches the upsampler. What is interesting, signal from the USB input does not undergo upsampling. However, reclocking also takes place there. This operation was also individually developed and is called OSO Reclocking (OSO = Onboard Signal Origination). If this is not enough, one can connect an external clock to the player (like, for example, in dCS devices).
The DMC-600SE has two separate converter paths and two separate output circuits. The D/A section includes circuits made by the Japanese AKM company – the balanced section (XLR outputs) has the four-channel AK4495EQ model and the unbalanced section (RCA outputs) – the AK4490EQ model. Thanks to this, both outputs work independently, in optimum conditions. As I am saying, there are also two analog outputs – a transistor and a tube one. The latter is not an ordinary buffer, but a completely separate output circuit with filters, amplification and buffering. Two 12AU7 tubes are used in it. The company has called this solution the DiO Analog Stage (DiO = Dual Independent Output).
Finally, there was a function that I did not use but that may prove to be a good solution in some systems – the player has an adjustable output and a high level of output voltage, thanks to which it can be used to directly control the power amp. 0 dB level on the display means 2 V RMS on the output (a CD standard), but it can be increased to +8 dB, i.e. 3 V RMS on the output. However, it is worth knowing that output signal level adjustment takes place in converters, i.e. in the digital domain.
I also have a few additional final remarks. The Special Edition version has different (better) components than the basic version, as well as an input and output for an external clock. Both versions have all the basic functions. Both are equally solid, made of thick steel plates and an aluminum front panel. The devices stand on special anti-vibration aluminum feet – large spikes and pads. The latter can later be replaced with Franc Audio Accessories feet, for example. The user manual is very detailed and provides all the necessary information, explaining the technologies used and giving design details. The manufacturer’s website is just as helpful.
The Cary Audio player was placed on the upper shelf of the Finite Elemente Pagode Edition rack on its own feet, without additional pads. I usually use anti-vibration feet under devices, but it was not necessary this time as the player has its own ones. It was powered by the Harmonix X-DC350M2R Improved-Version cable, while signal from RCA outputs (my system performs better in an unbalanced path) was transferred using the Crystal Cable Absolute Dream interconnects. The remaining elements of the path are already known – the Ayon Audio Spheris III preamplifier, the Soulution 710 power amplifier and the Harbeth 40.1 loudspeakers.
The device was compared to three CD players: the Métronome Technologie Kalista, the Audionet Planck and the Ancient Audio Lektor AIR V-edition. While listening to its USB input, I used the Innuos ZENith MkII Std. file player (server) that we are going to test next month, with the USB Curious cable. I checked the Bluetooth connection using the Samsung Core smartphone.
The albums used during the listening session (a selection):
Japanese issues available at
The Cary Audio company has managed to prepare a player that is a really solid and reliable product. I rarely say this as, even though I select the best devices for my tests, ones that are usually checked earlier (I have no time or will to deal with mediocre or simply “good” products), I most frequently select them based on what they sound like or the people behind them. The Cary Audio player not only meets both of the requirements – good sound and people who know what they are doing, but also fulfills another, more intangible requirement of “value”. What I mean is that when you look at it, listen to it and use it, you are sure. The player is like a part of your arm, like a tool that we use without wondering whether it is going to work or not – we trust it.
It is even more so because the sound it offers is better than very good and, let me get this straight right away, so different from what Gerhard Hirt offers in the form of the almost equally costly CD-35 (Ayon Audio) that the choice becomes simple (either the former, or the latter). As the sound of the DMC-600SE significantly changes together with a change of upsampling, as well as when we select the type of the output circuit (transistor – tube), please pay your attention and focus on the comparison below. I think it may help you adequately interpret the description of sound in the configuration(s) that I am going to choose.
UPSAMPLING | TUBE/TRANSISTOR
Let me start with the semiconductor output. Turning upsampling on instantly changes the sound, mainly when it comes to tone. Each of the selected values emphasizes bass in its medium and upper range, as well as significantly deepens the low midrange. It is a change towards “saturation”, but also “emphasis”. So, the tonal balance shifts towards the lower midrange and closes the treble a little, which brings about certain benefits, mainly in the case of recordings in which an important role is played by human vocals and… electric guitars, like in the case of the Rosemary Clooney sings Ballads and T.LOVE albums, respectively.
It is because these two elements gain additional value and incomparably more natural tone – they become three-dimensional and saturated. The treble is softer and also sounds more natural, i.e. instruments are three-dimensional and dense, and they cease to be “thin”. Electric guitars benefit a lot from that, as with upsampling they sound more like real tube guitar amps, the way I heard them during the T. Love concert in Forty Kleparz, which I attended at a time when the Cary Audio player was part of my system.
Additionally, we get stronger bass. Now it is time to decide what we expect from our system, what it is supposed to sound like and how we imagine “real” sound, as the tested player rounds the attack and warms up the low and medium bass range. It is not a short-circuit that makes the attack of the percussion pedal fast or gives the bass guitar high dynamics. However, we get depth and a velvet strike (as the dynamics is high, beyond any doubt). As the sound is warmer and more rounded with upsampling, it is hard to talk about rhythm as we get with Naim devices, for example.
The tube output follows the same path, but the effect is twice as strong. The highest treble is extinguished and vocals get warmed up. So, if there are small instrument sets, they sound more intimate, as if we were sitting closer to the musicians. When there are a lot of instruments, they simply sound too warm and smooth, without too much of a “claw”, unless we… turn upsampling off. Then, the frequency range gets equalized and the advantages of the tube output, such as structure and saturation, come to the foreground and we appreciate them.
As you can see, the possibilities of changing sound are really broad thanks to upsampling and the outputs. I made my choice quite quickly – upsampling to 768 kHz and the semiconductor output, even though I also played music without upsampling and with the tube output, but mainly jazz. Electronic and rock music benefited from “my” settings.
I have already described the sound of the tested player quite clearly. It is serious, mature sound that gives you a lot of information about the tone, 3D images and space. The number of the so-called “details” is not too large, but not because there are none, but due to rounding of the attack. The Cary Audio player sounds like a tube amplifier or a turntable, even when we use the semiconductor output.
The information that I am talking about is formed in a slightly different way than in devices that enter recordings deeply and communicate this fact to us. Let me give you an example: I spent a lot of time during the test wearing my headphones. Let me remind you that I use the battery-powered Bakoon HPA-21 amplifier and the magnetostatic HiFiMAN HE-1000 V2 headphones. It is an extremely precise set that is rich in colors which, however, detects and informs me about anything that is brightened up, sharp or insufficiently filled before it.
With the Cary Audio player, I obtained one of the best sounds in my system ever. Of course, it is obvious that the Métronome Technologie Kalista system sounded much better, the Lektor AIR V-edition showed more information and the Ayon Audio CD-35 charmed me with density and tangibility. Nevertheless, the Cary Audio player matched both my expectations and my headphone system so well that it sounded fantastic.
I was mostly surprised by how well it reproduces recordings that are stigmatized by other sources due to high compression, incomplete mastering or recording errors. So, I listened to the Pet Shop Boys albums for a few evenings and the player extracted a lot of music from them. It was similar in the case of albums that are really well-made, like the Fisz Emade duo’s Drony album and the abovementioned T.LOVE. Rojek’s debut also benefited from the filling and mildness that the player guarantees.
All of this will specifically affect listening to music through loudspeakers. It will smoothen and burn out systems in which we have too much treble or where the treble is too sharp. If you lack filling, the American player will do something you won’t achieve by changing cables or even loudspeakers. It will give everything polish, color and high quality. What is interesting, sources connected via digital inputs (including USB) will sound very similar. USB, combined with the Innuos ZENith Mk II file player (server), sounded like a turntable. At the end, let me add that (thanks to this) playing Tidal through Bluetooth was really pleasant; as long as it is an additional sound source, it will give us a lot of joy.
However, we need to know that, by definition, the Cary Audio player is not a “transparent” and “neutral” device. I need the inverted commas, as the meaning of the statement depends on the context and the point of reference a little. As I compared the Cary Audio player directly to the Kalista system which costs €69,000, I can tell you precisely what I mean.
The sound of the DMC-600SE is quite soft, because of which sounds (especially from the bottom of the range) do not get defined too clearly. Therefore, its subjective dynamics may seem averaged and rhythmicity – slowed down. Objectively, this is true, but (subjectively) it is not a problem, as it also brings benefits that I have already described. However, in warm-sounding systems everything may get too sweet when we get “too much sugar in sugar”, which is not recommended. The player will not make things easier in situations when loudspeakers extend the bass or the amp cannot go too low.
I spent my time with the tested player in a really pleasant way. The device is really functional and its functions are really worth trying out, not just looking at. It also has a solid and sound design, while its sound makes us want to listen to it for a long time and charms us with warm and dense midrange. What we have to sacrifice in return is the definition and bass focus. However, if we set the upsampler and the output correctly, we will see that as the device’s “character”, not a drawback. If what we look for in music are peace and pleasure, the DMC-600SE should be listened to at the very beginning, as thanks to this we may save a lot of time that we will then be able to spend listening to music, reading books, watching movies and TV series, walking and doing sport (best – in company!).
The DMC-600SE is a CD player with digital inputs and the Bluetooth aptX connection. It is a device which starts impressing us a lot the moment we install it on our shelf, thanks to its dimensions, weight and design. The installation will take us a moment, as the company decided to place the device on anti-vibration feet that are not easy to install or level. They have the form of a quite high aluminum cylinder to which we attach steel spikes (at the pick). The spikes extend just a few millimeters further out than the cylinder’s level. They need to be firmly attached and then placed in aluminum bases.
Front and back
The front is made of thick aluminum and it is not a minimalist front, as it includes most of the buttons that control the player’s multiple functions. In the middle there is a CD tray and a large display above it. It gives us information on the input signal frequency (without word length) and the frequency of the selected upsampling, the number of tracks on the given CD, the number of the track that is being played and its duration, as well as the volume. The letter “T” means that we have chosen the tube output.
There are a lot of connectors. On the side there is the analog section with symmetrical XLR and unsymmetrical RCA outputs. In the middle there is the digital section – inputs and outputs, as well as connectors for communication with the (automatic) control systems. There are USB, optical, RCA and XLR (AES/EBU) inputs, as well as transport outputs – the optical and coaxial ones. Next to them there are trigger connectors and the RS232 connector. At the very top there is also a connector to which we attach a Bluetooth antenna.
The inside of the player is divided into three parts: the power supply, transport with inputs and outputs, and a DAC with two types of outputs. The transport looks like a CD-ROM (or a DVD-ROM). Its software seems to have been modified by Cary Audio, which is confirmed by an appropriate label and name: D-10A. The circuits which control the software and decode signal from a CD are located on a board behind it. I have already seen very similar solutions: a large DSP chip with an attached radiator – in Primare CD players, for example.
The transport is separated with a screen on two sides. On one side there is the DAC and output circuits. The DAC includes two large four-channel AKM AK4495EQ chips from the Audio 4Pro series. Four channels are summed to one in it, which makes it possible to minimize distortion. There is a large board over these converters, at the heart of which there is the AKM AK4490EQ circuit. The four-channel converters operate next to the balanced output and the two-channel one – at the RCA output.
At the end there are the transistor and the tube outputs. The latter one has two Mullard ECC82 tubes (one per channel), newly produced in Russia. They work together with beautiful Dale resistors and great coupling oil Jensen Capacitors.
There are power supply units on the other side of the transport. Their basis consists of two R-core transformers with a lot of secondary windings.
Technical specifications (according to the manufacturer):
Compatible formats: CD AUDIO (CD-DA), CD-R, CD-RW
- Turntable: AVID HIFI Acutus SP [Custom Version]
- Cartridges: Miyajima Laboratory KANSUI, review HERE | Miyajima Laboratory SHILABE, review HERE | Miyajima Laboratory ZERO (mono) | Denon DL-103SA, review HERE
- Phono stage: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC, review HERE
- Compact Disc Player: Ancient Audio AIR V-edition, review HERE
- Line Preamplifier: Polaris III [Custom Version] + AC Regenerator, regular version review (in Polish) HERE
- Power amplifier: Soulution 710
- Integrated Amplifier: Leben CS300XS Custom Version, review HERE
- Stand mount Loudspeakers: Harbeth M40.1 Domestic, review HERE
- Stands for Harbeths: Acoustic Revive Custom Series Loudspeaker Stands
- Real-Sound Processor: SPEC RSP-101/GL
- Integrated Amplifier/Headphone amplifier: Leben CS300XS Custom Version, review HERE
- Headphones: HIFIMAN HE-6, review HERE | HIFIMAN HE-500, review HERE | HIFIMAN HE-300, review HERE | Sennheiser HD800 | AKG K701, review (in Polish) HERE | Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro, version 600 - reviews (in Polish): HERE, HERE, HERE
- Headphone Stands: Klutz Design CanCans (x 3), review (in Polish) HERE
- Headphone Cables: Entreq Konstantin 2010/Sennheiser HD800/HIFIMAN HE-500, review HERE
- Portable Player: HIFIMAN HM-801
- USB Cables: Acoustic Revive USB-1.0SP (1 m) | Acoustic Revive USB-5.0PL (5 m), review HERE
- LAN Cables: Acoustic Revive LAN-1.0 PA (kable ) | RLI-1 (filtry), review HERE
- Router: Liksys WAG320N
- NAS: Synology DS410j/8 TB
- Interconnects: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, review HERE | preamplifier-power amplifier: Acrolink 8N-A2080III Evo, review HERE
- Loudspeaker Cables: Tara Labs Omega Onyx, review (in Polish) HERE
- Interconnects: Acoustic Revive RCA-1.0PA | XLR-1.0PA II
- Loudspeaker Cables: Acoustic Revive SPC-PA
- Power Cables: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300, all system, review HERE
- Power Distributor: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu Ultimate, review HERE
- Power Line: power cable Oyaide Tunami Nigo (6m); wall sockets 3 x Furutech FT-SWS (R)
- Power Cables: Harmonix X-DC350M2R Improved-Version, review (in Polish) HERE | Oyaide GPX-R (x 4 ), review HERE
- Power Distributor: Oyaide MTS-4e, review HERE
- Stolik: SolidBase IV Custom, read HERE/all system
- Anti-vibration Platforms: Acoustic Revive RAF-48H, review HERE/digital sources | Pro Audio Bono [Custom Version]/headphone amplifier/integrated amplifier, review HERE | Acoustic Revive RST-38H/loudspeakers under review/stands for loudspeakers under review
- Anti-vibration Feets: Franc Audio Accessories Ceramic Disc/ CD Player/Ayon Polaris II Power Supply /products under review, review HERE | Finite Elemente CeraPuc/ products under review, review HERE | Audio Replas OPT-30HG-SC/PL HR Quartz, review HERE
- Anti-vibration accsories: Audio Replas CNS-7000SZ/power cable, review HERE
- Quartz Isolators: Acoustic Revive RIQ-5010/CP-4
- FM Radio: Tivoli Audio Model One