Arcam- SA30/ PA240/ CDS50?'s

I am finding myself going further down the ARCAM rabbit hole…and wondering if it is a wise idea, as i share many of the concerns on this site. But overall the sound is very dynamic, and full. I also have the CDP50. My next purchase will be the PA240 and I will connect direct to the lower frequency speaker posts, and the SA30 direct to the higher frequency. I have B&W 706’s. I will be upgrading to towers by the end of the year. How has the addition of the PA240 made listening better in your instance? Are you running everything through the DAC? Are you utilizing indirect feature w CD playback? I believe i made a mistake in connecting the CDS50 through the analog XLR output. I was told i should have used the digital connection, as to Bypass the player’s internal DAC as the AMP is equipped with one? So, I guess it’s over processing utilizing both DACS? How do USB wav files sound in comparison w using the CDS50? Also, are you gong direct through the AMP or CDS50 for USB input? Sorry for the redundancies. I’m just realizing the SA30 is not exactly plug n play.

I’ll give you some feedback based on my experiences or what my dealer told me when I bought my SA30.

  • My dealer believes that the CDS50 connected with a high quality RCA cable to the analogue input of the SA30 sounds a notch better than the CDS50 digitally connected to the SA30. I haven’t heart it myself though and I remember reading a review which also compared the CDS50 and SA30 (or SA20) and they heart a very very small difference but concluded it’s a matter of taste. I wouldn’t botter to much about this.
  • If you use DIRAC I would suggest connecting the CDS50 digitally to the SA30, as the DAC of the SA30 can directly apply the DIRAC without doing an AD-conversion first. If you don’t use DIRAC I would suggest to use the analogue connection between the CDS50 and the SA30 in direct mode. In this case only the dac of the CDS5 is used, the SA30 is a pure analogue amp in this case.
  • I have B&W 683S2 towers which also have low impedance at certain frequencies, so they require some power to be driven. Prior to the SA30 I’ve had a Cambridge Audio CXA80 (80 watt) and it was ok, but not great. The SA30 just pushed the B&W’s in another league: more control, more dynamics, more emotion, less fatiguing, … to summarize a clear step up. I can’t imagine that connecting a P240 would make a great improvement at normal listing volumes. Maybe if you have a SA10 or SA20 it would make a difference, in case of the SA30 I think the power reserve is adequate. But… I haven’t heart the combo just saying I don’t miss any power in my situation.

Hope this helps you a bit to get out the rabbit hole :slight_smile:

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First of all the CDS50 looks like a very nice player for the money. But from what I have found on the Arcam web site it does not have switchable digital filters like the SA 30. So the difference the dealer may be hearing is a preference for the stock digital filter in the CDS50. I think using the digital input with the SA 30 and trying different filters you might find a filter in the SA 30 that sounds better to your ears than the stock filter in the CDS50. Plus using Dirac, its a no brainer to me to use the digital input. But I would be curious about playing a SACD using analog outs vs the digital outs.


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Just ordered a CDS50 and was thinking about this, so your information Is useful thanks.

I run a CDS50 with the SA30

I’ve left both analogue and digital connections hooked up

I would agree with the comment that they show a difference but to suggest one is better than the other I think subjective.

I feel with the analogue connection (so using the CDS50 DAC) the sound is a little more laid back and warmer, the digital connection a tad louder, brighter more dynamic. Overall I think I prefer the digital connection and relying upon the SA30 DAC.

A far as I know the DACs are essentially the same though, so honestly I can’t explain the difference I hear. Perhaps cables come in to play, unsure. Perhaps it is the filters. I don’t use Dirac btw.

The thing that annoys me, which is a bit OCD, is that the CD input on the SA30 is only the analogue connection. So when connecting digital you have to use SAT for example and then the SA30 remote will not operate the CD player. It would be preferable if the physical inputs were not fixed but assignable to the functions on the remote, so then you could press the CD button but have it play form a digital input…maybe that’s could be done with software update?

There is little point in using the CDS50 as streamer seeing as the SA30 has this built-in, and the SA30 supports MQA that I guess being the key difference between the two DACs.

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Thanks for the information, I had not realised that the CD button was locked to the particular analogue input and was expecting to be able to change it to whatever I wanted.

I will collect my CDS50 on Monday and I am quite excited to try Some SACDs when I get it home and set up

Yes, unless I am being a total numpty and someone points out I am doing it wrong! :smile:

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Correct, the streamer function on the CDS50 is a moot point. I don’t see any reason to use it. Although i did connect it to the network, nevertheless for updates. I also purchased a standard NAD CD transport, less SACD, that i run through the COAX digital input. I typically play heavier music with exaggerated bass using the DIRAC settings for Lower Frequencies. I utilize the DIRAC settings via Tidal (connect direct) streaming, very a full, big sound stage. I play multiple SACD’s in the CDS50 via the Direct/Analogue input, less any DIRAC settings.

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Ok I will let you know in a few days time once I have worked through the options :grin:

It seems that you are absolutely correct and I could not change the inputs, so ended up putting the RCA cables into the CD and the SDPDIF cable into the BD connection.

Both sound excellent though, though very slightly different as mentioned anywhere.

BTW has anyone had issues updating the firmware on the CDS50?
Mine is stuck on version 08-04 and Net updates fail on Ethernet and WiFI and also USB as well where it tells me it failed to decrypt the file on multiple different USB thumb drives as well.

Are you sure CDS50 is not already up to date?

I seem to recall that the version mentioned on the website had a letter on the version number which made me think what I had was not as new but that wasn’t the case, so trying to update over what is already up to date fails and is I believe expected behaviour.

Not sure what you mean by version 08-04? if your player reports v16 you’re good …note this was released 2019, so if you bought the CDS50 recently it really should already have that

CORRECTION…it wasn’t a letter on the version, just checked my email on it, my CDS50 reported 16-4 and when I spoke with Arcam support on another issue they confirmed I could ignore the 4 and that I was/am running withe the latest software. The oldest reported firmware in release notes is v9 so if you do have v8 I’d suggest you contact Arcam support :slightly_smiling_face:

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Thanks for the reply, and I cannot tell if it is up to date as it does not tie back to anything
If I go into setting->System info that is the version number (which doesn’t tie back to anything)

That was exactly my thought, the SACD player was 8 major versions behind and it was so far it could not be updated :rofl: … Challenge accepted.

I only noticed because my Brothers in Arms plays as a CD not an SACD

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I assume one the brothers in arms SACD you manually tried changing the layer played? I have the same SACD, and CDS50 set priority to play SACD layer first and it seems fine playing the correct layer

Thanks again for the reply
Version 8 does not seem to have that option, that is why I started looking to get the update done.
I see version 16 defaults to SACD

I just spoke to Arcam and they are going to send me a V9 firmware to try and update it.

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Good luck! Hope v9 works for you, then I assume you can upgrade from v9 to v16?

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Well so far it’s all bad, but I am in communication with them still.
Unfortunately the error persists that it cannot decrypt the file including the V9 file.

I just picked up some small Memory sticks from the office that they want me to reformat them and try several different things.
If that works I will update it here as it could be useful for the next man that gets a good deal on eBay


AFAIK it has to be FAT32 and a clean memory stick. Do a full format and not a quick format.

Not with CDS50 but with SA30 I found I had two memory sticks that did not work, and would not work either from external USB powered hard drive of 500GB. although I was just happy to get it sorted and therefore not tested this theory. I think for some reason the update process does not like large GB memory sticks.

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Thanks that seems to be what I have found and I have tried several smaller ones already
Arcam have just confirmed what you wrote and also that it must be smaller than 8GB is required.
I am going to do a full format on a couple more and try them out.

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So after many emails with Arcam they sent me a special field engineers file that boots at startup and bypasses all checks and pushes the update out to devices that are not working properly.
It doesn’t fix the issue with Brothers in Arms playing as an SACD, but at least now I have the default layer option and it is set to SACD.
All my other SACD purchases are working perfectly and thanks for your advice.


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Now you’ve said this I’m going to have to double check my own copy of that! Am away though so will report back over the weekend :slightly_smiling_face: