CDS1 vs top US CD player

Posted by: Nic Peeling on 09 August 2000

As I built up my main Hi-Fi system I got locked into an upgrade path based on Theta CD products. My amplification has topped out at 52/250, and my speakers are BKS 107 electrostatic hybrids. My Theta kit now comprises a Data Basic transport, Timebase Linque Conditioner "jitter buster" and separate power supply and the DSProBasic DAC. Total retail price about 6,500! (luckily I got everything except the transport second hand). This is CDS2 levels of money and I was interested in how the Theta compared to a top Naim CD player. I have never seen a comparative review of a top level US player like the Theta against a CDS1 or CDS2. I now have a CDS1 (with a new transport and which has been bought up to the latest spec) so have been able to compare that against the Theta (they are of the same vintage), and thought the forum might be interested in my views on the comparison.

Room is 25X18 foot. Both Theta and CDS on two levels of Nordost pulsar points. Both CD players fully warmed up. Wide range of music played including female vocalist, rock, folk, male vocalist, choral, dance.

The big surprise was that in terms of detail and pace/timing I would say they are both equally brilliant. I had expected the Theta with twin Motorala DSPs to have more detail and the Naim to have better timing ... wrong!

There were two major differences. The Theta sound is *huge* compared with the CDS1, and much more vibrant - for example echo on voices is much more prominent (not sure if it is adding stuff or reproducing effects that the CDS1 is missing). The CDS1 has outstanding clarity, e.g. it is easier to follow the vocals than on the Theta.

On some austere productions e.g. Marianne Faithfull's Broken English the Theta wins. On lush productions such as Madonna's Ray of Light the Theta is OTT and the CDS1 wins.

In conclusion they are both very impressive CD players and which is better I suspect is a matter of taste. I love the Theta's exuberance and huge scale, but admire the stunning clarity of the CDS1. If I had to choose I would prefer to live with the CDS1.

The comparison is reasonable fair because although the Theta is more expensive, the CDS has the synergy of Naim CD working into Naim amps.

Hope this is of interest.

Nic P