SUGDEN CD-21 player
Sugden name is a legend. British cottage industry hero, Mr. Sugden used
to make very basic, simple transistor amps which sounded almost as good
as tubes. He valued pure, kosher designs, careful selection of
transistors, hand made PCB's, the Jaguars of the Hifi world.
When CD era had begun, he used to make equally good CD players, like
many companies in UK - based on Philips. (Meridian, Naim,
Musical Fidelity, Creek, Arcam, Cambridge, Quad, etc.)
CD21 comes from much later era - still Philips based, but not so
much garage anymore, and not so heavy like from the TDA1541A stables.
Does this Sugden featured here hold to the legend? Does it prove to be
"like Philips but better " Lets see.....
The face is a no frills, even more than that of a NAD. Bordering on "no
buttons at all" design. The front is a brushed alu, not like Wadia but
still - not plastic either. Sort of acceptable.
I admit I really like the display - simple and legible.
There is no marketing bullshit on the front like "delta sigma pulse flow technology 300 x
oversampling natural sound pure stream trechnology with 76 bit digital
Thank God (or Mr. Sugden) for that.
The PCB is simple but looks good. No SMD, quality MKP bypass caps, not
many opamps - just one high quality opamp per channel.
Above - the power supply section. Nothing is oversized, not many
regulators, discrete diodes, and many - 5 secondaries - individual AC
feeds from the transformer. Two for analog stage, one for digital, one
for display and one for mechanism. Very nice solution. Usually there is
Mechanism is cheap plastic-fantastic but reliable and easy to buy -
Philips linear VAM1202.
The whole mechanism is 100% un-modded Philips stock.
The power transformer - only one but large enough - 50 VA toroid.
All 5 secondaries are visible.
The analog output RCA sockets are from me - unfrotunately even sugden
employed the cheapest PCB mounted sockets which break automatically at
the sight of a stiff IC cable like Siltech. Any WBT plug - breaks these
original sockets at once.
BUT - WHATS REALLY INSIDE THIS SUGDEN CD-21 PLAYER ?
At the heart of this PCB is the ... TDA1549 DAC from Philips. YES -
THAT one. The rares da on earth, used only in 4 players : two Philips
CD751 and 753 , and their clone, Philips-made Marantz CD5000. In fact -
the three machines are just one with different badge.
So somehow Sugden identified that this DAC is VERY good and worth a try.
Have they beaten philips by the home made surrounding PCB ? (mechanism
in Sugden and those Philips machines is identical)
I listened to the stock Sugden and I really liked it, but so I liked
the original Philips. Is sugden better - not to my ears. It looks
less vulgar, it has a better name, but sonicaly they are all very nice
but unmistakenly op-amp players. If you already have the sugden - keep
it, but if you don't have it - don't chase it either.
Would it be wise to lampize it - in short - OH YES. But I did not - I
was only allowed a peek under the hood.
Generally - I was disappointed. Sugden could have done better. They
took the easy and lazy approach. Just imagine - a better supply plus
one FET stage and a killer it would be. They used opamps instead
and aimed ad miediocre. Sad story.