Product: Heart CD-6000 OSE LE (Limited Edition) CD Player
Manufacturer: Heart - The Netherlands
US Distributor: FS Audio Web San Diego, California USA
Price in U.S.A.: $996 including shipping
Reviewer: Nels Ferré - TNT USA
Reviewed: July, 2003
Shortly after I returned the Nelson Audio Image 66 Integrated Amplifier, my phone rang. On the other end was the genial and unmistakable South African accent of Frank Stuppel. Frank is the U.S. importer for the Nelson Audio amplifiers from China, as well as the Heart line of CD players from the Netherlands. The reason for his call was to inquire if I would
be interested in reviewing the Heart CD-6000 OSE LE (Limited Edition) CD player.
I told him that I thought TNT Audio had already covered it. He explained that we
had in fact covered the older, now discontinued CD-6000, not the replacement model.
He was also aware that I am really hot on the JoLida JD-100A CD player, and that he thought it would be excellent for me to have both players side by side to hash out the similarities and differences "shoot 'em up style."
I couldn't really argue the logic, and admitted to myself that I was quite curious. The player was up and running in my system by the end of the week.
First, from here on out, I'm calling the CD6000 OSE LE just
"LE", because the name is too damn long. There, that's settled. The Heart LE
begins life in a Dutch Marantz factory as a nice if mass market solid state
machine. The Marantz LE costs approximately 25% more than its predecessor. The
power transformer, although appearing to be identical, is upgraded by the use of
oxygen free copper. The low pass section has eliminated opamp IC's in favor of
Marantz's proprietary HDAM module, which has been encased in copper to reduce
interference. Some of the capacitors have been upgraded to "audiophile quality"
The captive power cord has been upgraded with additional shielding to reduce interference, for increased low level resolution. While the SE appears cosmetically identical to its predecessor, it has additional shielding and damping materials inside the chassis to reduce electrical interference as well as vibrations.
The LE weighs in at 12 lbs, about 30% more than the model it replaces. The player has a total of five transformers, three for the power supply and 2 for the audio circuits. Around back is a pair of RCA outputs, as well as both optical and coaxial digital outputs for connecting to a CD recorder or outboard digital to analog converter.
Finally, there are two remote RCA connectors for use with a remote controlled Marantz receiver or preamp, so that either unit would operate the CD player as well.
Rik Stoet's Heart factory performs numerous modifications to
the Marantz design. Most importantly in my opinion is that Heart disconnects the
entire Marantz designed analog section (although it remains in the chassis) and
substitutes a circuit using a pair of dual triode 6922 vacuum tubes. The pair is
energized by two transformers, one powers the heaters, the other the anodes. The
unit ends up with a total of 5 transformers, three for the power supply and 2
for the audio circuits. The printed circuit board is modified and relocated to
reduce interference from the power supply.
The headphone jack has been disconnected to reduce the load on the audio section and increase performance. Additional Philips capacitors are installed in the high pass section. The transformer for 110-120 volt markets has been specially designed by Heart for use in those markets. Finally, additional damping to the chassis and transport has been added over and above that already installed by Marantz. Cosmetically, the only difference between the Marantz and the Heart unit is the addition of a small tasteful "Tubed by Heart" logo below the CD drawer.
I auditioned the Heart LE with my reference system as noted
below. Around the half way point of the review period, I received the new tube
based JoLida Music Envoy monoblocks and preamp ($9500/ set). While that review
is still in progress, let's suffice it to say that the statement JoLida gear was
well up to the task of not only auditioning the Heart, but also comparing the
Heart LE to my current reference, the JoLida JD100A. The preamp made comparisons
easy, as it is remote controlled. I made a few copies of favorite discs by
recording from the JoLida to my Marantz CDR630 CD recorder, and compared the two
in A/B fashion.
There may have been a slight output difference between the two players: the JoLida is rated as greater than or equal to 2V (the industry standard is 2V.) The Heart is rated at a 2.3V output. I did not detect any differences in output level between the two players during my comparison tests.
Because the JoLida monoblocks will not accept spade connections (grrrr), I used Clarity Labs Emberglow speaker cables, terminated with bananas.
I found the Heart LE to be a joy to use. The CD drawer operates smoothly and silently. The most commonly used controls are larger than the lesser used ones, a good exercise in user friendliness. I did find the display to be extremely dim; I was unable to read it more than a couple of feet away from the player.
The SE is fitted by Heart with a pair of Sovtek 6922 output tubes. Frank was nice enough to send along a couple of pairs of vintage tubes to allow me to compare to the stock tubes, a pair each of Amperex 7308 and Telefunken 7308s.
Although an IEC power input socket is the norm on most pieces
of high end gear, the fixed power cord of the Heart LE does have some
advantages. First there are fewer solder joints when using a fixed power cord.
Additionally, there is one solid run of conductor, without being broken by the
Finally, the cord was designed especially for use on this particular player. Obviously, this eliminates tweaking by trying different cords. Both methods of delivering the required juice to the player have merit; it comes down to the camp with which you side as to what is "better."
To truly understand the presentation of the Heart LE, one must
understand that the unit was designed in Europe, to European tastes and mainly
for the European market. Because living spaces in Europe, generally, are smaller
and closer together, midrange purity becomes a paramount concern. Many listeners
are using smaller speakers with reduced, or even absent deep bass response. I'm
not saying that the Heart is lacking in bass, rather that it is very refined,
not big and bold.
Bass response is plentiful; however it doesn't draw attention to itself as with some other players. Although I found the bass quantity from the Heart LE to be roughly equal to that of the JoLida, the Heart was tilted towards warmth, where the Jolida was more punchy. As with most tubed gear, the midrange relay shined, but not in the open, dynamic sense. I found it to be soft, laid back, and mellow. As expected, it was more forward using the Audio Research SP-9 preamp as opposed to the 12AX7 tube based JoLida preamp. The buttery smoothness extended into the nether regions of the upper registers.
It has been my experience that tube based CD players can take the edge off of early or poor quality CDs. The Heart LE is no exception. It does however tend to slightly impart that smoothness over all CDs. Some listeners may find that objectionable; I didn't. Overall, the Heart sounds to me as if someone who really loves analog tried to make a CD player that they themselves would enjoy, and buy if it were their own money. If that was indeed the design objective behind the Heart LE, it turned out, in my opinion to be a resounding success.
Imaging was very good, but soundstaging was stellar with the Heart LE. On numerous recordings, I heard instruments floating in free space a couple of feet outside the speakers. The Heart LE throws a very wide sonic image.
Oddly enough, I preferred the Heart LE with the factory tubes over the far more expensive vintage tubes that Frank supplied along with the review sample. I preferred the Amperex over the Telefunkens; I found that the player became far too polite and relaxed for my taste the more expensive the tubes used.
The price of the Heart SE is due to increase shortly from the current $996 to somewhere in the $1200 range. Because the U.S. dollar is falling against the Euro, I expect to see similar price increases on many imported products.
Buying a high end audio component isn't just about sound; it's also about the human/machine interface. Although I enjoy my JoLida player immensely, I preferred using the Heart LE. The transport controls on the front panel of the JoLida are spaced equally apart, and are of identical size. This often leads me to hit the track forward button when I really wanted to play a disc, or any one of a number of other mistakes. If the machine were at eye level, this wouldn't be a problem, but it's not, and I really don't want to train myself to crouch down every time I use the machine. Alas, the mistakes continue. Once I acclimated myself to the Heart LE, I never made an error, as the most commonly used controls are located on different sections of the front panel and are larger in size.
Neither the JoLida nor the Heart is "right" or "wrong" in their presentations. As the Heart is refined and reserved, the JoLida is big and bold. To my ears, the JoLida is more resolving, but that may not appeal to everyone. Although the JoLida is built in China, it was designed in the U.S. by an American, for American tastes. It's all a matter of preferences and priorities on the part of the end user.
Somehow, my copy of Eva Cassidy's excellent CD "Live at Blues Alley" became badly damaged. I've ordered a replacement and am awaiting its arrival, but the damaged disc made for an additional interesting comparison. The Heart lagged behind the JoLida in the ability to play damaged discs.
Although both players are sonically different, I could be happy with either one. Which player (if either one) is right for you will come down to a matter of personal taste and priorities. For those readers who value smoothness above dynamics or may have a system that is too bright or analytical for their tastes, I would recommend the Heart player, ahem, wholeheartedly.
On the other hand, if a big bold dynamic presentation is important to you, then the JoLida should surely make it to your short list. In short, both players have developed a loyal following, with just cause.
Me? I'm sticking with my JoLida, but it's really a matter of timing. I already own the JoLida, and have been very happy with it for a bit over a year. If the Heart had arrived before the JoLida, I believe I'd be making the same statement now regarding the Heart. I'm not kidding when I say I could be happy either way.
At this price point, I really don't think one will find a "bad" CD player, just different presentations. I do feel however, that this price point is the entry level for a CD player that one will be truly happy with long term, without feeling the need to upgrade. Spending a bit more upfront actually turns out, in my opinion, to be the economically responsible choice in the long run. Call it a "buy it once and buy it right" mentality.
The Heart CD6000 OSE LE is a very well built machine, and an excellent performer. I will remember my time with the tubed Heart quite fondly. I would like to thank Frank Stuppel for providing the review sample as well as the pictures used in the review.
Once again I must thank you for a very good review. You clearly understand the essence of the Heart CD Player, and express it so eloquently.
Kindest regards, and thanks again,
Frank Stuppel - FS Audio Web
© Copyright 2003 Nels Ferré - www.tnt-audio.com