I won't itemize my gear, but will say the result of my upgrade means I have a lot less metal on my shelves (scrapped all the external processors--DAC, eq, DIP are all gone). Since sonic performance of one piece is dependent on all the other, it was important for me to make sure the moon and stars were all in alignment. The Rotel got me there. The NAD C542 was pretty good, but since I upgraded to a new Rotel amp, I think there was some kind of symbionic meld with the RCD-02 (possibly 100% psychological). As other reviewers have noted, there was an opening of the soundstage both left to right, as well as depth. While the Cambridge machine really adds a lot to the low end, it was mostly in the form of "boom". The Rotel's low end is a much more defined, tight and punchy bass (especially bass drums). The highs on the Rotel are equally clean, and not bright and sizzling like on the Cambridge. This is a tough machine to find, but well worth the effort. I got mine off a craigslist auction and convinced the seller to send it to me. The Cambridge and NAD are easily found from authorized dealers (which made it easy to take 'em back). At a fraction of the cost of Rotel's newer RCD-1072, the -02 is a real value, with only a small amount of compromise in sound quality. In conclusion this product has become very handy and useful.
Before I make comments on this particular CD player, I just want to mention that before CD players, I was strictly a vinyl enthusiast ? so, any short statement I may make that may seem like a short-coming is due in part to my previous analog life. I purchased this player with the intent of having it as a secondary device to listen to music in a room separated from my main listening room. When I set it up, with its RA-02 integrated amplifier partner, I was surprised that it actually played ?music?! I was amazed at the amount of air between the instruments, singers and musicians and found myself moving my head in the direction of each person when they played their part in the recording. I had auditioned many different CD players in the past, always (somewhat jaded) comparing them to vinyl ? and they all seemed to fall short in the ?being there? category. Admittedly, the RCD-02 sounded a little shrill during the initial listening stages, however after a month or so of moderate listening times, I was amazed at how warm the vocals had become, and started feeling such ethereal things such as the tactile sense of a guitar player?s finger brushing against the string of their acoustic guitar. It was then that I decided to hook this player up to the system in my main listening room. It was then that I made my first mistake as I compared it to vinyl directly. My Rega RB205 (Origin Live upgrade) arm wasn?t nervous as it witnessed me hooking up this player beside it ... but I was! I was surprised that on ?like? recordings, the highs from the RCD-02 were crisp, the mids were warm and inviting (whereas, I had previously felt the mid-range of most players were slightly repulsive) and the bass was pleasantly plump. I then listened to one particular recording that pushed me over the edge: Paul Simon?s ? Graceland. On vinyl, I can distinctly hear a part on this recording that almost all CD players I had auditioned before could not reproduce (apart from those CD players that were prohibitively expensive). This part is usually a make or break moment for me in my determination of whether a device is adequately capable of producing sounds from the original recording. The part I am referring to is at the 2:12 mark of ?You Can Call Me Al?. On the right hand side of the ?stage?, there is a distinct male voice that calls out ?One, two, three, four? at the end of the tin flute section. To my astonishment, the RCD-02 detected it with ease and the voice appeared as I had heard it many times before on vinyl, but never before on a CD player in this price range. It wasn?t a voice that I had to strain to hear, rather it had a presence that anyone involved with the recording would have said ?You mean you?ve never heard this before??? A smile floated across my face and the player hasn?t left my main listening room since. I would still rather listen to vinyl ? but this ROTEL player definitely has a little bit of magic in it. Okay ? I?m done my waffling. ;o)