By Don Lindich
Week 12, 2019
Q. I love my SoundWorks Radio CD 745, but the CD player no longer works. Is there anything you recommend as a replacement? I was mostly using the CD player, and really miss it.
-B.S., Bloomington, MN
A. These days there is not much available that plays CDs. The Insignia NS-HAIOR18 ($149) at Best Buy is the closest thing I have seen to your SoundWorks CD 745. The sound quality is not in the same league, but it costs much less than the CD 745 did.
Your radio has a 3.5mm auxiliary input. My suggestion is to get an RCA-to-3.5mm cable and use it to connect the stereo outputs (red and white jacks) from a CD or DVD player to your CD 745. This way you can keep using your excellent radio and enjoy CDs again. Just select AUX to play music from the connected disc player.
A great amplifier for great speakers: I recently wrote about matching amplifiers to the $399/pair, 4-ohm Emotiva T-Zero speakers. After receiving dozens of questions about amplifier compatibility, I reached out to Emotiva. They replied saying the speakers are an easy 4-ohm load, and customers were driving them successfully with modest amplifiers and receivers. This was good to know, but I still felt that such good speakers deserved something better than mass-market electronics. Not only is there sound quality to consider, but pride of ownership, as well.
Great sounding British stereo amplifiers with 20-25 watts per channel have been part of the audio hobby for decades, starting with the legendary NAD 3020, a 20-watt amplifier first introduced in 1978. (How legendary? The 3020 has its own Wikipedia entry.) I did not notice it until recently, but Cambridge Audio has such an amplifier, the 25-watt Topaz AM5. It sells for $169, which is about half of what you would expect to pay for a quality amplifier from a high-end manufacturer. I ordered one to see how it would work with the T-Zero speakers.
When I received the Topaz AM5 I was shocked by the build quality. I was expecting the thin metal side panels typically found in gear selling for under $200, but what I held was a rock-solid piece of gear with a finely finished faceplate, a nicely embossed Cambridge Audio logo on the top and smooth-feeling controls. Opening the manual to the specifications, the Topaz AM5 was listed as compatible with 4-ohm speakers, though 4-ohm compatibility was not mentioned online. No 4-ohm power rating was given, but it seems potent as I could play the T-Zero speakers louder than I could stand to listen. Even dramatic classical music from CDs was not enough to stress the AM5, even at high volumes.
Combine a pair of Emotiva T-Zero speakers with a Cambridge Audio Topaz AM5 amplifier to form the heart of a great looking, great sounding system with high-end panache for a total of only $569. See the speakers at emotiva.com and the amplifier at cambridgeaudio.com.
TCL SOCL100 earphones: As I said last week, you won’t find better wired earphones for under $10. Just be careful to keep the volume in the sweet spot and don’t overdrive them, because they get harsh if you do and excessive volume can damage your hearing. Used correctly, the SOCL100 delivers very pleasing sound, especially in the midrange. In a Bluetooth world, it is nice to have a reliable wired option. I have a more thorough review of the SOCL100 on my website, and you can also see them at tclusa.com.