AVS Forum banner
  • Get an exclusive sneak peek into our new project. >>> Click Here
  • Our native mobile app has a new name: Fora Communities. Learn more.

Just auditioned Cambridge 540R and NAD 753

2381 Views 22 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  Ricky
********** PART 1 *****************************

I’m shopping for a receiver and I'm just a joe who likes music. My main priority is sound quality for music (regular CD and DVDA). Movies sound and features is not that important as long as I have at least DD and DTS. I currently have an old Arcam AV50 5x50w that is only Dolby pro logic. My speakers are a pair of NTH 1.3 main, a pair of NHT 1.1 center, a pair of NHT Mod.1 rear and a NHT sub powered by MA1A mono amp.

My short list is the NAD 753, the Cambridge 540R, the Marantz 7500 and the Arcam AVR250.

Today I got a chance to get the NAD and Cambridge.

Where I live, the NAD sells at $1500cnd and the Cambridge $850. By the price difference I was clearly expecting more features on the NAD and yes it has. However, I was also expecting better sound but I was in for a surprise.

On 2 channel stereo analog music, the Cambridge was quite a bit nicer, richer, more definition and warm. Side by side, the NAD was kind of dull however well defined. I know these terms are not objective but this is a bit how I felt. So the Cambridge wins hands down. By the way I listened to Patricia Barber, Enya and Lenny Kravitz.

So that's it, I thought some of you might be interested by these comments. My quest will continue on Saturday when I'll get the Marantz and the Arcam side by side. Yummy, I predict I will endup with either the Cambridge and my wallet still half full or the Arcam and my wallet empty! haha


********** PART 2 *****************************

Tonight I did a one on one between the Arcam 200 and 250. Speakers were Proac Studio 100. Unfortunately the store did not have the Cambridge 540R.

So both of those Arcam receivers really sounded impressive. A step up in musical quality from the Cambridge and the NAD. They both have certainly a bit more detail and a little more natural sound than the Cambridge. However, I'm not sure yet if it is night and day or just a bit better since I did not have the Cambridge side by side but I should have that tomorrow at another store.

Now, I had the 200 and the 250 side by side, so, is the 250 worth the difference in price from the 200. I think yes. The 200 was $1400cnd and the 250 was $500 more. The 250 has a little more character, tighter bass and a tiny bit more detail but really not much. So was is it worth the $500 difference, for me I would say yes because if you're already willing to pay $1400 well I prefer opening the wallet a little wider and getting the best I can get. However, the real test will be tomorrow when I compare the Arcam AVR250 at $1900cnd versus the Cambridge 540R at $900. That is double the price!!!

Remember that my main criteria is music sound quality so for me I'm not considering much the movie features because if I was, then sure the Arcam would justify it's price difference more easily.


********** PART 3 *****************************

Well today was the final test. I went to the store with my NHT 1.3. He had the Cambridge 540R and the Arcam AVR250. So we started with the Arcam and wow is this receiver well matched with my NHT. I think it is an even match with the more expensive Proac Studio 100 I heard it with last night. So then we hooked up the Cambridge. As expected, it is not as nice but by how much and why. Well the bass generated by the Cambridge was less tight and more present which kind of resulted in a loss of detail in the mid. Don’t get me wrong, the Cambridge sounds better to my taste than all the other receivers I’ve tested but the Arcam is clearly a winner. Is it worth double the price, probably not if you are objective, probably yes if you are a bit crazy about music sound quality like me.

Today I also had one of my friends with me who is shopping for a kit of 5 speakers around $1000. Since my testing was over, we decided to do his testing. He owns a Cambridge 540D so hey, we just had to move some speakers around to continue the test. We started with a pair of Mordaunt-Short, I think it was the Avant 902. Very nice but my NHT sounded better. Then some Gale, na, not too nice. Then the Monitor Audio B2, oups, hum, wowwww. This Monitor Audio speaker is really, but really well matched with the more rounded bass the Cambridge produces. It was a clear difference versus my NHT. So bottom line, the Cambridge for it’s price would be a really incredible value if I also needed speakers and I would match it with those Monitor Audio B2.

Well, now that I’ve heard both the Cambridge and Arcam side by side, it’s clear that I’m an Arcam sound lover, so more so with the match of my NHT speakers. I have to admit that if I did not already have speakers, I would have bought the Cambridge with the Monitor Audio B2. Since I have my NHT and don’t intend on changing them, I think I will have to stick with Arcam. However, I have to sleep over it because this is way more money than I intended to spend in the first place and it again brings me back to my original dilemma, wouldn’t I be better to get myself a separate pre-pro and be able to expand even more later. I don’t know why a company like Arcam doesn’t take the pre/pro they have in the AVR300 and make separates with it. They could sell it for a more descent price than the receiver and make a lot of people happy!

Anyway, this was all fun, I'm not sure yet if I’ll buy, but one thing for sure, if I buy it will be either the Arcam AVR250 or 300. The AVR200 is not a significant enough price difference, I’d rather spend a bit more and be happy for a longer time. The Cambridge 540R is a definite best buy if matched with the right speakers. The NAD T753 is nice but not a musical sound that I like that much.

Please remember, my main priority is music and I’m just a joe with absolutely no pretension of having any kind of talent in judging audio equipment. I just thought it might be interesting for some of you to read my comments.

Don’t hesitate to give me yours, it’s fun to read your opinion or if you have suggestions for me and the tough decision I have to take!!!

See less See more
Not open for further replies.
1 - 20 of 23 Posts
NEC baby,

I have found similiar results. I think Cambridge is making a very good product for performance at reasonable prices. I don't think NAD is shabby, but on musical, more detailed speakers, it is not the best fit. On speakers that demand more oomph and a linear sound, the NAD works very well. The Arcam is like a Cambridge to another degree and the Marantz sounds in the middle. It will be interesting to see your comments, but I can see that my taste resembles yours from what you are saying... Good luck
Yes, I guess you have a good point, it's also a bit speaker dependant but I think the result would have been the same whatever speakers, just to a different level... really looking forward to see if the Arcam can have a significant enough difference to justify the price!
With a decent set of ears (meaning general listening experience), you should be versed enough to be able to hear the receiver as opposed to the speakers. Lets say you goto ABC store and listen to the NAD on speaker 123. You play a specific movie/music. Now you goto XYZ store and listen to speaker 456 on the Arcam. You play the same movie/music. Assuming that the speakers are in a somewhat similiar price range, you should be able to note a difference between receivers. Obviously, there are more variables here, but you get somewhat of an idea - and that is to have a reference point where you can be familiar with the media you use for the demo. For me, hearing the Arcam in some AB testing just showed me how much detail and musicality I was missing with any other receiver in it's price range. When I'm ready to buy, and if I have the $2k budget, I would get it because I heard a difference. Your experience may differ, and if you use a reference point (your media you are familiar with) and experience something that you enjoy, your $ will be well spent...regardless of what you choose (Cambridge, NAD, MArantz or Arcam...or maybe something else.) Remember, have fun!
See less See more
NEC baby - I look forward to your direct comparison of the Arcam with the Cambridge. I disagree a little with 7Below, because I think it's very hard to compare amps/receivers/preamps when the speakers and room are different. IMO speakers and the listening room impact sound quality much more than anything else. Without those being constant, you just can't be sure what is accounting for the differences you hear.

Like you, I'm also in the market for an AV receiver or pre/pro. I have what I consider to be a very musical mid-fi 2 channel setup (Rotel RC-972 preamp, Parasound HCA-1200II amp, KEF Reference 103/3 speakers), but I want to add surround sound. I was considering getting a Pioneer 1014 and feeding it thru my preamp, but now I'm thinking about using the CA as my AVR/preamp and selling the Rotel. Although the Pioneer certainly has its fans on this board, I personally feel a lot better about what the CA is all about. I could care less about having 79 DSP modes. I just want something that will give me the basics that I need (surround sound decoding of DD 5.1/EX, DTS/ES, and PLII), but at a very high quality.
See less See more
I agree with you Jeff. For me most things have to be equal for comparison, specially speaker and room. To make sure today I'm bringing my NHT with me to the store!

I'll let you know later what I think...

I think that a great deal of the difference you were hearing when you listened to the Arcams was the Proac speakers (and probably the room as well). These are very detailed and refined and would really make the Arcam receivers shine. What speakers did you use to listen to the Cambridge and the NAD?

I'm not knocking the Arcams - I think they are beautiful receivers, especially the 250, which sonically is closer to their 300 model as opposed to their 200 model as the 200 is for the most part a clone of the NAD T752 so it should sound very close to the T753. The Arcam 200 and the Nad T752 are built on the same assembly line in China and utilize the same components (parts) and chasis, they are simply voiced a touch differently if I remember correctly.

If money is not an object, I would jump for the Arcam 250 over the Cambridge but I am interested to hear what your final impressions are.

Gents, I do agree with you that room, speakers, etc., will effect the sound created. You are absolutely correct. However, all things considered, when I have listened to a similiarly priced speaker setup vs. another similiarly priced speaker setup on different receivers, I could hear what the receiver was doing and how it affected the sound quality. In a perfect world, a true side by side test in the same room, with same speakers etc. is the absolute best test (actually an in home demo/comparison would be best - NEC's "bring in his speakers" is also a good test). Since this is often hard to achieve for many people, using at least one constant (media) can assist the listener (if they are critical listeners) in hearing a component's strengths. Not everyone has the experience of listening to a variety of speakers and components, and not many people actually spend the time demoing with A/B tests, their own speakers, etc.. This would result (not doing a correct AB test) in a poorer evaluation if you do not have this "experience". This would also be totally wrong if you did a comparison of lets say $6000 speakers on the Arcam vs $1000 speakers on the NAD. My simple point being, listen to as many components and speakers as you can. When you have this under your belt, it is easier to understand what the receiver/components are doing as long as the test situation has similarities (Speaker Price, general room characteristics and the same media). This is a simple solution when other methods aren't available. I also honestly think people generally buy whatever they perceive as the "hot" item. So it's nice to see you guys are concerned about the demoing, etc. I was beginning to lose faith on the forums after reading nothing but "My XYZ speakers/receiver are the best...buy them here www..... )

So, I agree with your comments about the BEST way to properly demo, but also still believe that in a non-perfect world, an experienced listener can tell the difference with some reasonable constants.

Other interesting comments: I remember hearing the AVR200 vs. T752. Sound was very different indeed on a true platform of testing (same spkrs, room). I recently went to go listen to the Cambridge again for fun. For it's price, I was rather pleased. It was sort of like an AVR200 with a little more detail and power. The lower price made it even more attractive. Feature set was rather simple, but it would work for most small/medium rooms nicely. I also am a fan of the AVR250, but am not thrilled that it does not have a pre-amp out section. Not an issue for most, but I want to use other amps - so I'm waiting for Arcams new lower cost (still around $2200) pre-pro as it will fit my needs well (will listen first of course!). Still saving my pennies for the speakers...

Good luck
See less See more
****** Added part 3 of my test above... *******

7below, where did you read that Arcam will have a seperate pre-pro? I also am disapointed that the 250 has no pre-amp out. Maybe I would never use it in my lifetime but heck, when you spend that much money on a receiver they should included that.

I found the ARV200 nicer than the Cambridge 540R but you are right, it was unfortunately not with my NHT and the Proac speakers might have influenced it's performance quite a bit. Anyway, for the price difference, I find that I would be more satisfied with the 540R and the AVR200. If I can convince myself to open up the wallet wide open, then I'll get the AVR300 and have a large smile for a while! haha

Kevin, yes I did try the SR7500 but I did not talk about it since my test is not well done like with the Cambridge and the Arcam.

What happened is the Marantz was already connected in another room at the store I went to and there were other customers that were using that room. So yes I went in and listened to some music with Monitor Audio Radius speakers. I was not very impressed, the musicality was not quite as nice as the Cambridge and the Arcam. On a movie it was doing a very good job for sound effects tough. So bottom line I did not push the guy to install it in my listening room test with my speakers. Maybe the Marantz is not so bad but I would be really surprised if it would be equal to the Arcam for music anyway, to the Cambridge maybe, but sure did not look like it.

I might go back to the store this week and try it out again because I want to go back to do a one on one between the Arcam AVR250 and the AVR300 and this time I will bring my old Arcam AV50 with me. My old AV50 sounds so nice with music that I'm having a hard time telling myself that I need to spend so much money for a new receiver. If the AVR250 or 300 completely aneliate my AV50 then it will be easier for me to justify the decision!

See less See more
If you try the Marantz, let me know your feelings. I will be picking one up myself, the 7500, and fell in love with it once I heard it. Initially I was torn between the Denon 2805 or 3805, but once I heard the Marantz, that was it for me.

It was on display at the CES show and "Gary" from ASL (N. America Arcam Distributor) spoke about it in another thread...I'm not a "need all feature guy", but the new pre-pro did have HDMI switching and Balanced Audio connections which was neat. Although I think the Arcam Amp section sounds great, I am interested in some more performance, so I think that this Pre-Pro will satisfy my processing needs and provide the 2 channel/music performance I am looking for (when combined with some power amps). We'll see after I can actually get a demo...and I don't know when they will be available :(
Kevin, I think the 7500 is indeed an interesting compromise. It certainly has more movie/surround features than both the Arcam and the Cambridge. In analog stereo, I did not find it that far from the other two even if my test was not really done with the same environment. For me the priority is on the music so I'm quite sure I'll stick with Arcam. There is also Rotel that I did not check out but heck, I can't test everything.

7below, the pre-pro is interesting but I hope they don't put too much features and we endup having to pay the same price as an AVR300 for it!

Unfortunately, the new Arcam pre-pro will be in that price point from what was said. Since my emphasis is on sound quality (first priority), features second (a bonus for HDMI switching), it will be a top contender when I get to build my system. I am not interested in a compromise, and by getting sound quality - macthing the pre-pro with the amps and speakers I want, I can build what is most enjoyable to me within my $ means. The other offerings (Marantz, Rotel, etc) are also great contenders. At the end of the day, neither unit will make the customer frown - they all perform well, it just comes down to your priorities and budget in choosing a receiver. For me, listening is and will be the deciding factor...and I've listened ALOT.

1900 cnd (or ~ 1500 usd) is a big hefty outlay.

Have you considered moving up the NHT ladder? You could compare your 1.3s to a pair of Evolution M5s or M6s....or the older, music series 2.5i or 2.9 angled baffle towers. Better NHT speakers plus a lesser receiver could sound better than 1.3s with the $1500 Arcam 250.
Ricky, I kind of tought about that. However the NHT 1.3 really do sound quite good with the little passive woofer, and specially in my room. I listened to the Arcam 250 with a pair of Proac Studio 100 on Friday, it does sound great but I kind of like my NHT as well. I know that I'm probably close to their total potential with a receiver like the Arcam or even more with a pre-pro kit but I don't think I'm ready to change them yet.
Originally posted by 7Below

However, all things considered, when I have listened to a similiarly priced speaker setup vs. another similiarly priced speaker setup on different receivers, I could hear what the receiver was doing and how it affected the sound quality.
I hate to tell you this, but there is exactly no way you could even make that conclusion with any degree of confidence. If the speakers OR the room is different, the receiver could be identical and you'd have no way of telling. There is simply no way of listening to the sound of one component without keep all other ones the same, especially the speaker/room. There is literally 100+ times as much difference between any two rooms or any two speakers than there are between any two receivers.

If you can bring your 1.3s to an NHT dealer, you can compare them to other NHT models.

The difference between NHT 2.9, VT2, ST4 towers and your 1.3 bookshelfs +SW1 6.5in sub combo (both from 1990 production) might be greater than the difference you heard between the Arcam 200 and 250 receivers (both amp sections are rated 90x2, preamp sections are probably the same, so how much "better" can the 250 be?).

1 - 20 of 23 Posts
Not open for further replies.