Friday 1 September 2017

Bang & Olufsen Beogram CDX Vintage CD Player

                              Bang & Olufsen Beogram CDX Vintage CD Player 1985

Frequency range 3 - 20,000 Hz +/- 0.3 dB
Signal-to-noise ratio > 96 dB
Dynamic range > 96 dB
Harmonic distortion 0.003 % at 0 dB
Channel separation > 94 dB 20,000 Hz
Channel difference < 0.5 dB
Converter system 14 bit, oversampling 176.4 kHz
Low pass filter Digital + analogue
Damping > 20,000 Hz > 50 dB
Output 2 V RMS at 0 dB
Power supply 5121: 220V
5122: 240V
5123: 120V
5125: 240V
Power consumption 25 W
Dimensions W x H x D 42 x 7.5 x 31 cm
Weight 6 kg

Some Information:

Analogue and digital filter (176.4 KHz over sampling)
LED display with indication of playing time of individual tracks, elapsed time & index, great for recording
Top-loading operation not just a novelty but much less to break - B&O CD50, I'm looking at you
Motor-driven dust cover is a delight to witness
Sensi-touch operation of the controls maintain the sleek design language
ADVANCE and RETURN buttons allow programming of favourites on a disc with upto 40 tracks
REPLAY a track up to four times

Beogram CDX was a beautiful-looking free-standing compact disc player designed from the onset to be used within any system with the correct inputs. In the case of Bang & Olufsen products it was those which had a separate tape socket, or even a phono connection designed for use with a Beogram together with a built-in RIAA preamp.

The CD format in the early to mid-1980s was still a fledgling format.  No one was particularly sure whether it was going to take off or not as the price of compact discs was still relatively high and the number of available discs very low.  On top of that hi-fi manufacturers had just been through the VHS/Betamax/V200 debacle with many companies losing both face and money.  Laservision was fighting a (losing) battle with other manufacturers of video discs and the whole market was very much up in the air. No one was really sure what was going to happen and manufacturers became a little coy when it came to investment in new technologies.  Hence the use of other companies’ products came about.  It was often a safer and cheaper option to use a tried and tested product rather than spend umpteen millions on the research and development of a product or a format which was possibly not going to sell.

Hence the use of Philips CD players came about. In the case of the Beogram CDX it was Philips CD104 which was used as a basis.  Built in Belgium by the Philips giant the CD104 was one of a whole range of Philips’ products which lent themselves to other companies badges including that of the Marantz CD-34, the Mission DAD7000 and the Schneider CD1104. Not forgetting Bang & Olufsen’s CDX, of course.

 Beogram CDX

The CDX was a lovely machine, reinventing itself as the Beogram CDX 2 a couple of years or so later, and many fans of CD music owe thanks to this little machine. It’s interesting to note that for customers with no spare sockets avaiable to connect their CDX, an add on, the CD/Tape adaptor, could be bought separately allowing one to connect up their CDX to the tape recorder lead, using it that way. It fit under the side of the CDX where there is a small push-button to enable its selection.

YOU have to admire the way that Bang & Olufsen have steadfastly pursued their own ideas on styling, and produced over the years a range of smart-looking audio units which could never be mistaken for the products of any other manufacturer. This has given a welcome relief from the ubiquitous look-alikes in four-square black or silver coloured boxes, though it may have lost B&O a few sales in ’separates’ since their units present such a marked visual mismatch with the rest. However, their penetration into the local design-conscious Scandinavian market is doubtless healthy, as it is into countries like West Germany and to some extent the UK.

B&O designers also make up their own minds about what features and ergonomics the customer wants (helped by a panel of ordinary folk on whom all new designs are tried out) and this too leads to designs which have moved away from the norm.

The new Beogram CDX (as a GRAMOPHONE man, I was pleased to see B&O retaining the “gram” suffix for their CD player as well as their turntables) certainly looks and behaves a little different from the general run of CD decks. Except for two push-switches on the narrow front edge, all controls are of the touch-sensitive type and are embedded along with the illuminated displays behind a transparent top panel. The two push-switches are for mains on/off (labelled Play) and Eject.

Pressing the latter causes the machine-long lid to open, the inner compartment to be illuminated, and the disc-platform to be tipped forwards at an angle. In theory this slanting platform should simplify putting a disc into the machine, but I slightly prefer the usual horizontal holders (and of course the CD player industry has almost completely gone over to gliding drawer front-loading configurations to facilitate stacking with other hi-fl units) so here again B&O might be said to be out of line.

To play a disc from the beginning, you just lay a finger on the word “Play”, the lid closes automatically, the player registers the disc’s “Table of Contents” data, and then starts to play the music. The green LED display at the left hand side indicates the total number of tracks, with the current track number in play flashing. A red display on the right shows the track elapsed time, or can be switched to indicate the total elapsed time, or the track and index number.

Other controls are more or less standard, such as track skip (by touching Advance or Return) and track search (by touching the appropriate arrows) when the laser moves at one of three speeds; in steps of 1 second to begin with, then steps of 10 seconds and finally, if you keep your finger on the arrow, steps of 1 minute. To play any particular track, you touch the required number (or pair of numbers for higher track numbers up to 99). Programming a sequence of tracks is done by touching each desired track number followed by ‘Store’, or conversely touching each number you want to omit, followed by ‘Clear’. In either case, the selected track numbers only will light up. Up to 40 items can be programmed in this way, including the same numbers repeated, so that a much longer total playing time can be set up than any single disc actually contains. There is also a Repeat function, for up to four times repetition of the whole disc, or a programmed sequence. Pause is obtained by touching ‘Stop’ briefly, and keeping your finger down for 2 seconds returns the disc to the start. Play is resumed by touching the word ‘Play’.

This is all so very simple to grasp, that it came as a bonus to find that the B&O user’s manual was the best presented one that I have ever come across, The machine comes fitted with captive mains and twin-phono cables of generous length.

How it performed

I found the Beogram CDX operationally very satisfactory, though the touch-panel does start to show finger-marks very soon and should be wiped clean from time to time (with the mains switched off, or you will programme everything simultaneously) to keep up the Smart appearance of the machine.

Mechanical noise is unusually low, presumably helped by the solidly enclosed construction, and the deck is well able to withstand normal shocks and bangs (with sideways knocks being the most bothersome). Electronic error correction is also of a high order, completely concealing all the test disc simulated faults. Cueing time is rather slow at 5 seconds to reach Track 1 and about 7 seconds to change to a newly selected or programmed track.

Figure 1 confirms the virtually flat 20-20,000Hz frequency response which we now expect from CD players, and crosstalk is unusually low at below the - 90dB datum line at all frequencies. The measured signal-to-noise ratio was 95d B unweighted and a superb 13dB weighted. Distortion for 1 kHz at full level met the claimed .0003%. Figure 2 shows the response from a 1kHz recorded square-wave, and its symmetrical shape tells us that the Philips digital plus analogue filtering and four-times oversampling technique is employed - indeed the Beogram CDX chassis is basically that of the Philips CD101. Twin D/A converters are used so that the normal phase difference due to alternate Left and Right channel encoding is eliminated.

All this technology produced a clear and forthright sound quality which lovers of recorded detail will appreciate. The absence of background noise and pinpoint stereo separation were very much in evidence. In general, I have found machines using the Philips converter approach always turn in a more-than-acceptable overall sound, and that is certainly true of the Beogram CDX. Further refinement requires more advanced, and more expensive, circuit elements which B&O are no doubt working on, like everyone else. They have just announced a new CD50 deck (€495) to match their Beosystem 5000. However, the fine results reported here suggest that B&O system owners in particular, and indeed anyone selling a smart new CD machine, need not hesitate in adding this well-conceived player to their music installation.

UK retail price: £349

Taken from ‘Gramophone’ magazine - Dec 1985 (page 139)

If Beogram CDX is in standby position and there is a compact disc on the platter, one push at the PLAY button will start the playback.

If there isn't a compact disc inserted, you push the EJECT button and the motor driven dust cover will open, the platter will lift and the compact disc can be inserted.

Apart from the above-mentioned PLAY and EJECT buttons, all operations are sensi-touch fields, which are operated with a slight touch.

When pushing the field PLAY, the dust cover closes automatically and playback starts.

The display indicates the individual tracks on the inserted Compact Disc. If it has more than 20 tracks, the two first digits in the time display will show the total.

The time display has 3 main functions, which can be ordered by pressing DISPLAY, namely the time of the individual tracks, the elapsed playing time and index, which is a sub-division of the time of the individual tracks.

ADVANCE and RETURN are used for jumping to the next or the previous track and are indicated with a flashing of the selected track on the display.

With the digits 1 to 0, a track can be selected at random and the jump is marked on the display.

With STORE and CLEAR you can select or leave out up to 40 tracks on the Disc.

REPEAT replays the Disc up to 4 times.

One push at STOP gives pause, and by keeping the finger on the field till the Disc stops, you get actual STOP. << and >> are used for fast search within the individual tracks.

When activating it once, you search in jumps of 1 second

By keeping the finger on the field you search in jumps of 10 seconds and after 10 seconds the jumps are 1 minute


Beogram CDX is provided with a fixed signal cable with Phono plugs and can be connected to all LINE inputs. For amplifiers with TAPE inputs which are already being used, we can deliver a CD/TAPE adaptor, type 8950060 (accessory at additional price)

1985 Magazine Review

" The CDX is one of two 'Beograms' which have been promised by B & O for some considerable time. It would seem that to a large extent B & O have edged, their bets, for the CDX is a Philips-based machine while the alternative model uses Sony-sourced assemblies. The CDX is an extraordinarily beautiful machine yet, as we shall learn, is based entirely upon the ever so humble Philips CD?101 (the same player as used by Meridian for the MCD conversion). The styling is obviously intended as match the other B & O units and so the company has an untapped market of existing owners who have been patiently waiting for a CD player. But it is a player well worth considering in its own right as a separate purchase.

Unusually the CDX is a top loader but the lid assembly is powered and in response to the eject button the lid assembly smoothly folds back to allow the disc to be loaded. With the exception of the Eject and Power switches, all the controls are touch sensitive (using a type of capacitive sensing) a choice which I found far from reassuring since I kept wanting to use extra finger pressure to ensure a good contact! My overall lack of confidence was further encouraged by the all black control panel which reveals nothing until the power is applied. Perhaps it's too much like computer screen 'soft keys' for me for I kept wondering if the Play switch would be still in the same place every time I went back to this player!

Two types of display are provided; a digital readout to show track time, total elapsed play time, and track numbers up to 99; and a bar scale of 20 LEDs to show the status of the first 20 tracks. A reasonable range of facilities is offered with both track skipping and fast searching (both backwards and forwards). Tracks can be pre-selected for playback and programming is possible for combinations of up to 40 tracks stored in the memory. Finally a Repeat mode allows continuous playback of the whole disc or of individual tracks.

Once the CDX is opened some idea of B & O's inventiveness can be gained. Into the plastic casing has been dropped a Philips CD101 player complete down to the signal and mains supply cables but less the Switch/Display board. Instead B & O plug in wires from their own front panel and wire connections to their Eject and Power switches. The whole conversion is very neat and since the Philips player is left unmodified all the standard parts fit thus ensuring ease of service.

It has to be said that providing the last word in performance is not needed; the Philips CD?101 is an excellent choice with the CDM mechanism being recognised for its good build quality and reliable operation (it is also to be found in the expensive Revox B225 player). The electronics design largely follows the familiar Philips circuit with 4 times oversampling conversion using a separate 14-bit DAC for each channel.

In the laboratory the performance was much as expected with a generally flat frequency response except for a mild dip of 0.25dB around 7kHz; very low noise (?104dB); low crosstalk between channels and quite reasonable linearity. No problems were experienced when using the error testing discs and this player did very well in playing back some of my badly scratched discs with very few garbled passages.

Auditioning was conducted through my usual system of passive control unit and Krell power amplifier with LC connecting cables. Essentially in terms of sound quality this was very much a case of re-reviewing a Philips CD101 (or Marantz CD63) and the expected high standards were

achieved. The sound can be characterised as open, exciting with a fine sensation of space and depth, and good stereo focus. The weaknesses were primarily at the extremes of the audio band with a warm, stodgy bass and a degree of harshness at high frequencies. However within the context of the B & O system the sound quality of this player would be considered quite excellent.

VERDICT: A beautiful model which will appeal to a wider market than just the traditional

B & O owner. The overall performance of the CDX is excellent and this player can be considered as good value

PROS: Good sound quality. Very good value for money. Beautiful looks

CONS: Rather fiddly to use. Old fashioned top loading "

'Which Compact Disc' November 1985