upgrade cd player or buy better DAC [Archive] - Audio & Video Forums


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02-15-2006, 02:03 PM
Several years ago I got back into the audiophile realm and decided to buy a better cd player. Sony ca80 ES about $350


I bought it because it clearly sounded much better than the other cd player I auditioned at the stereo shop. www.tweeter.com

But last month I went in to another stereo shop (authorized sony dealer/musical fidelity dealer) and the salesman said that I should listen to their musical fidelity X-Ray V2 (older model X-ray)

After the audition I felt cheated by sony. The musical fidelity soundstage and realizm was quite amazing. I heard all the same sounds the sony played but the music was more dynamic by which the sounds of the cymbals were really "crashing" the bass drums resonated and I could hear the vocals literally "inhale". The upsampling capabilities of the musical fidelity cd player also lifted a vail of thin cotton, that the sony cd player possessed.

So I now am trying determine if I should buy a new/better cd player or buy a better DAC for my existing cd player. I have searched the forums but have not come to any conclusions regarding the better cost effective solution.

please help

PSB 600i speakers
ADCOM gfa 555
Myryad MP100 preamp
DH Labs BL1-AG interconnects
Nakamachi 680zx tape player

02-15-2006, 04:05 PM
I am strongly in the outboard DAC camp, I think it's better, they don't wear out, CD players do. I am on my third transport (I sold my first DAC and upgraded, both old and new DAC are still going strong)

1. The external DAC is optomized only for sound, whereas CD players are worried about drawers, looks, sexy displays, remote controls etc.

2. I would buy a used DAC in a minute, but I don't think I would buy a used CD player.

3. A very good used DAC runs $350 to $2K, with my used Levinson DAC a cheap player sounds great. Without the DAC it certainly does not.

4. I suspect a player of equal sound quality would run at least $2K today and the damn thing will probably wear out just as fast as a cheap unit.

Mr Peabody
02-16-2006, 08:10 PM
I've done both and with the couple times I bought DAC's I was able to gain better sound for a lower price than if I had bought the whole player. I bought the DAC's off the used market though. But I think a Musical Fidelity DAC would run you around $1k new where one of their CD players would cost more.

Keep in mind the MF you listened to was probably quite a bit more money than your Sony, you may want to also listen to some more players or DAC's to get an idea of what you are looking for. Do you have a budget or price range?

I bought a used Conrad Johnson DAC for about a 1/3 of retail, around $400.00. I used an older Denon higher end player for the transport. That DAC, even with not the latest decoding, made a dramatic improvement in an Adcom system. And even though I haven't heard every $400.00 player out there I'm sure there isn't one that can touch the musicality of this C-J. In fact, I put it on the end of my Krell and it held it's own pretty well against the Krell's internal DAC.

Later I bought an Audio Note $1,500.00 tube DAC for $800.00 and put it on my 280cd. I kept it there, in my opinion it bettered it by quite a bit. The AN sounded more natural and detailed. The Krell did seem to have better power in the lower octaves and larger sound stage. The 280cd retailed for around $3,250.00. I'd hate to think what a player would cost that could better the Krell.

I'd say you'd have to spend $700.00 or so for an Arcam that would get you into great CD playback. The same $700.00 spent on a DAC could even get you to yet another level.