ASTINtrew At3500 CD player

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ASTINtrew At3500
ASTINtrew At3500 CD player

For the best part of 2007 my regular CD player has been ASTINtrew’s At3000. I like it very much – my only (slight) misgiving being the way it sounded when used in its 24bit/96kHz upsampling mode. The new At3500 looks virtually identical to the At3000, and offers much the same mix in terms of features and facilities. However, internally it’s a different story. The At3500 has a higher specification digital clock, with an accuracy of 5 parts per million (ppm) and its own dedicated low-noise isolating power supply. At normal operating temperatures the makers claim that distortion is held to less than 2ppm – an exceedingly low figure.

Another improvement is the inclusion of a second isolating power supply for the upsampling clock. This is claimed to reduce digital distortion, while improving the isolation of digital components from the power supply. Other power supplies on the DAC board have been upgraded and improved. Higher quality capacitors have been used in critical parts of the circuit, including Auricaps for the output of the DAC and buffer amp. Finally, the At3500 has improved feet for better damping of vibration and isolation. These upgrades can be retro-fitted to an existing At3000 (which continues to be available at a price of £647) at a cost of around £650, while the new At3500 costs £1150. ASTINtrew’s Michael Osborne worked on these changes and upgrades in conjunction with Graham Fowler of Trichord Research, but is keen to point out that the solutions chosen for the At3500 differ from those used in Trichord’s own CD players and low-jitter Clocks. He also warns that, when brand new, the At3500 needs something like a fortnight of continuous burn-in time before the sound reaches its optimum. And while the At3500 sounded quite good straight from the box, it does ease-up and open-out after a week or two. He puts this long burn-in time down to the use of the Auricaps.

The new At3500 retains the clarity and lucidity of the At3000, but sounds freer and more natural. Its musical presentation is very smooth and beautifully integrated. The sound has plenty of bite and attack, yet the upper treble remains sweet and very clean. There’s a nice fullness and warmth about the sound. The bottom end sounds deeper and fuller too. Bass lines emerge with greater weight and presence, sounding lucid and clean with considerable power. CDs that normally sound thin and bright are reproduced with greater warmth and richness. Yet there’s no loss of brilliance or immediacy – actually, quite the reverse.

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