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  1. #1
    Forum Regular Arch's Avatar
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    Best CD player under $1000?

    I have a pretty entry level music / AV setup right now consisting of a Yamaha RX-V440 reciever, Paradigm Esprit v3 speakers and a Pioneer DVD-353 player. I got this system together very recently, but now that I have a taste of good sound, I am already craving for more... I decided that I will keep my existing gears for the HT system while I systematically build up a good quality stereo system.

    The first piece of gear I would like to purchase for my future high end system is a CD player. Seems like a good place to start my upgrade since the Pioneer DVD player just dosen't sound very good musically. Can anyone recommand a good CD players in the $1000 - $1200(canadian) range?

    I am also open to the idea of a good second hand player. If I can assume that the price of a good second hand player = 50 - 70% of suggested retail price, can anyone recommand a good player that sells for under $2000 canadian a couple of years back?

  2. #2
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Safe bets

    Quote Originally Posted by Arch
    ... Can anyone recommand a good CD players in the $1000 - $1200(canadian) range? ...
    Safe bets would be:
    => NAD 541i @ Cdn$600
    => NAD 542 @ $800
    => Arcam CD73 @ $900
    (Prices could be significantly off however)

    Alternatively you might check out a "universal" player that plays DVD-A and SACD as well as CD. The Philips DVD963SA has a pretty good rep and might cost Cdn$750 or so.

  3. #3
    Forum Regular Arch's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=Feanor]Safe bets would be:
    => NAD 541i @ Cdn$600
    => NAD 542 @ $800
    => Arcam CD73 @ $900
    (Prices could be significantly off however)

    Thanks for the suggestions Feanor. I have heard very good things about the Arcam player, it is one of my top choices thus far.

    Recently I had a conversation with a very respectable audiophile shop in my area regarding my system planning. Their suggestion to me is basically to acquire a player above the $1000 cdn mark because that is the price threashold between a "good" CD player and a "great" player. The arguement is that you can probably get a under-$1000 player that has a good processor and transport, but the overall construction and the rest of the components (e.g. power supply, motors, wiring) will not match the quality of a $1000 player. From the perspective of a long term investment, it is wiser to spend the little extra money now than to upgrade later.

    We have also debated on the merit of a dedicated CD player and a higher end "combo" player. The biggest drawback of this approach is that, according to them, a dvd player uses different laser technology when compared to a audio CD. In terms of sound quality, it is best to stick to the age-old audio rule of having seperate component vs. combo components.

    That's why it's been tough for me to decide the best course of action. I am pretty sure that I will eventually seperate my stereo system from my HT system, but with the emergence of DVD-A and SACD it is becoming difficult to draw the line between these 2 system classifications. There are quite a few good quality multi-format DVD players out there now, the Denon 2200 and the Pioneer Elite 45A are both under $1000 cdn and seem very promising. Decisions, decisions....

  4. #4
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    Excellent Cd Player Ah! Njoeb Tjoeb 4000 With Upsampler

    [QUOTE=Arch]
    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor
    Safe bets would be:
    => NAD 541i @ Cdn$600
    => NAD 542 @ $800
    => Arcam CD73 @ $900
    (Prices could be significantly off however)

    Thanks for the suggestions Feanor. I have heard very good things about the Arcam player, it is one of my top choices thus far.

    Recently I had a conversation with a very respectable audiophile shop in my area regarding my system planning. Their suggestion to me is basically to acquire a player above the $1000 cdn mark because that is the price threashold between a "good" CD player and a "great" player. The arguement is that you can probably get a under-$1000 player that has a good processor and transport, but the overall construction and the rest of the components (e.g. power supply, motors, wiring) will not match the quality of a $1000 player. From the perspective of a long term investment, it is wiser to spend the little extra money now than to upgrade later.

    We have also debated on the merit of a dedicated CD player and a higher end "combo" player. The biggest drawback of this approach is that, according to them, a dvd player uses different laser technology when compared to a audio CD. In terms of sound quality, it is best to stick to the age-old audio rule of having seperate component vs. combo components.

    That's why it's been tough for me to decide the best course of action. I am pretty sure that I will eventually seperate my stereo system from my HT system, but with the emergence of DVD-A and SACD it is becoming difficult to draw the line between these 2 system classifications. There are quite a few good quality multi-format DVD players out there now, the Denon 2200 and the Pioneer Elite 45A are both under $1000 cdn and seem very promising. Decisions, decisions....

    TRY THE AH! NJOE TJOEB 4000 WITH 24/196 UPSAMPLER!
    CHECK OUT THE RAVE REVIEWS ON THIS WEB SITE AND ALSO THE STEREOPHILE MAGAZINE REVIEW.
    THIS CD PLAYER IS WELL ENGINEERED, SOUNDS GREAT, AND HAS A TUBE OUTPUT STAGE. IT CAN ALSO BE USED AS A HIGH QUALITY TRANSPORT.
    I USE ONE....IT KICKS BUTT!
    ZF
    Last edited by zappafreak; 02-14-2004 at 02:03 AM. Reason: SPACING ERROR

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arch
    I have a pretty entry level music / AV setup right now consisting of a Yamaha RX-V440 reciever, Paradigm Esprit v3 speakers and a Pioneer DVD-353 player. I got this system together very recently, but now that I have a taste of good sound, I am already craving for more... I decided that I will keep my existing gears for the HT system while I systematically build up a good quality stereo system.

    The first piece of gear I would like to purchase for my future high end system is a CD player. Seems like a good place to start my upgrade since the Pioneer DVD player just dosen't sound very good musically. Can anyone recommand a good CD players in the $1000 - $1200(canadian) range?

    I am also open to the idea of a good second hand player. If I can assume that the price of a good second hand player = 50 - 70% of suggested retail price, can anyone recommand a good player that sells for under $2000 canadian a couple of years back?

    Why do you think you need a more expensive CD player? It is unreasonable to expect more from a CD player that is more expensive.

    What you need to look at is the acoustics of your setup. Your listeing room, your speakers and the music quality.
    Why not consider a sub?
    mtrycrafts

  6. #6
    F1
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    If I were you, I would upgrade the speaker first. Upgrading to more expensive CD player will make you upgrade your other component because the difference the new CDP will not likely to be significant. But if you upgrade your speaker, the difference will most likely be significant. If you like the sound of Paradigm in general, the logical step is to step up to say Studio series.

    Don't fully trust the salesman though they seem to be helpful. The expensive CD players also source their CD transport and other components from Sony, Philips, Matsush|ta etc. They put the components inside a nice casing and mark up the price. And there is no guarantee that the expensive CD player will sound much better in your room with your system. The salesman will definitely get more margin from more expensive equipment.

    Before you do an upgrade, like Mtry said, make sure you setup your system properly in a room that is good accoustically. Ya, why not a sub?
    Good luck.

  7. #7
    DMK
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    Quote Originally Posted by F1
    If I were you, I would upgrade the speaker first. Upgrading to more expensive CD player will make you upgrade your other component because the difference the new CDP will not likely to be significant. But if you upgrade your speaker, the difference will most likely be significant. If you like the sound of Paradigm in general, the logical step is to step up to say Studio series.

    Don't fully trust the salesman though they seem to be helpful. The expensive CD players also source their CD transport and other components from Sony, Philips, Matsush|ta etc. They put the components inside a nice casing and mark up the price. And there is no guarantee that the expensive CD player will sound much better in your room with your system. The salesman will definitely get more margin from more expensive equipment.

    Before you do an upgrade, like Mtry said, make sure you setup your system properly in a room that is good accoustically. Ya, why not a sub?
    Good luck.
    I've found that a CDP can make a big difference in sound. I have a Sony XA20-ES player that can navigate scratches and imperfections in CD's that every other player I've owned or tried cannot. The error correction circuitry (or whatever) is topnotch. Therefore, the player doesn't skip or get stuck, thereby giving me better sound! . The player it replaced would not play about two dozen of my CD's or CD-R's. the Sony sticks on 1 and that one has a huge factory supplied scratch in it (purchased while on a business trip and I couldn't return it easily). 23 better sounding CD's - I call that an upgrade!

  8. #8
    Forum Regular Arch's Avatar
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    Thanks fellas. My search for the CD player is pretty well documented under the post Arcam vs. Rotel vs. Cambridge Audio.

    What a good learning experience it has been.

    I am now the happy owner of a Cambridge Audio Azur 640c. What I have learned in my selection process are as follows:

    Different cd players DO sound different, and some players DO sound better than others.
    I was able to tell a clear audio differences between a Rotel RCD-1072 and a Arcam CD72 in one test session, and the Cambridge Audio Azur 540c and 640c in another session.

    Not surprisingly, when I hooked up the Cambridge into my home system, it sounded vastly better than my Pioneer DVD player, even with my very modest speakers and receiver.

    (BTW, I do own a sub. I have a Paradigm PDR-10, and it really does add weight to the sound.)

    The logic in my selection process is that, even though I like the Arcam the best out of all the players, I doubt my current system can take the advantage of the sonic improvement the Arcam offers over the Cambridge. The price difference certainly helped the decision (the Cambridge is $200 cdn less than the sales price of the Arcam, which for a $600 cdn player, is a rather large percentage in saving).

    The money I saved will no doubt allow me to upgrade my speakers / amp sooner.

    When the rest of my stereo system is put together (the paradigm speakers/sub, yamaha
    receiver and Pioneer DVD will stay with the TV), I would like to play around with an outboard CD DAC, and the Cambridge will play the role of the CD transport. RCA has some suggestions regarding the Audio Note DAC1.1, and I am already developing a lust for offerings from 47 Labs.....

    If everything goes well, I'll be shopping for the DAC in 3 years time.

    I do have other hobbies that requires my financial assistances....

    Hope this might help other newbies (like me!) out there.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arch
    Different cd players DO sound different, and some players DO sound better than others.
    I was able to tell a clear audio differences between a Rotel RCD-1072 and a Arcam CD72 in one test session, and the Cambridge Audio Azur 540c and 640c in another session.
    .

    But, how you did the comparison of th eplayers do matter a lot. If you didn't control for your biase, your results are rather unreliable. Bias is something you cannot control on your own, that is why a DBT is a must if audible differences is the only important issue for you. So, most likely no one knows, including you, what was heard between the players.
    mtrycrafts

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by DMK
    I have a Sony XA20-ES player that can navigate scratches and imperfections in CD's that every other player I've owned or tried cannot. The error correction circuitry (or whatever) is topnotch. Therefore, the player doesn't skip or get stuck, thereby giving me better sound! . The player it replaced would not play about two dozen of my CD's or CD-R's. the Sony sticks on 1 and that one has a huge factory supplied scratch in it (purchased while on a business trip and I couldn't return it easily). 23 better sounding CD's - I call that an upgrade!

    You need to take care of your CDs better I don't have this problem even with my boombox
    mtrycrafts

  11. #11
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    Well this weekend, my Denon DCD1520 finally gave up the ghost. Expensive 15 years ago at $750 list, $600 retail, it is antiquated technology. The so called high end transport was worn out from countless thousands of hours of use, some discs that played on newer machines would not play properly or at all on that player, and for some reason, the interior seemed prone to collecting dust which required more periodic cleaning than other machines. Its replacement, JVC Z431 a 13 year old machine which has not had much use, maybe a few hundred hours at most. Once again time to re-equalize for the insignificant difference in frequency response. And what would that be? A 1 db cut at 8 Khz. Some people would say that this barely audible difference which was easily compensated for would in an A/B comparison indicate that one player "blew the other away." But which one blew the other away would depend on what speakers you were listening to and what you expectations were. Once the D/A converters are accurate, further imporvement in non linear distortion is totally inaudible and frankly probably only measurable with test equipment able to detect the lowest levels of distortion.

    At an Electrical equipment trade show, I once asked a sales rep for a high end meter manufacturer what made his $120 digital multimeter better than Radio Shack's $70 model. I expected to hear about greater accuracy, ability to be used over a wider temperature range, better electronics, etc. Much to my astonishment, he said that the only real difference was that case his was in was sturdier and would probably survive being dropped on a concrete floor out in the field where the Radio Shack unit would not. As for performance, he said they would be exactly the same. Why? They use the same internal components.

    The same is probably true with CD players. Today, a cd player for a computer costs $5. Don't look for something to last 15 years. This is now a throwaway item. My suggestion is to not waste your money with an expensive player. Save your money for something else. The inexpensive models have reached the limit of what this component can do.

  12. #12
    Silence of the spam Site Moderator Geoffcin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skeptic
    Well this weekend, my Denon DCD1520 finally gave up the ghost. Expensive 15 years ago at $750 list, $600 retail, it is antiquated technology. The so called high end transport was worn out from countless thousands of hours of use, some discs that played on newer machines would not play properly or at all on that player, and for some reason, the interior seemed prone to collecting dust which required more periodic cleaning than other machines. Its replacement, JVC Z431 a 13 year old machine which has not had much use, maybe a few hundred hours at most. Once again time to re-equalize for the insignificant difference in frequency response. And what would that be? A 1 db cut at 8 Khz. Some people would say that this barely audible difference which was easily compensated for would in an A/B comparison indicate that one player "blew the other away." But which one blew the other away would depend on what speakers you were listening to and what you expectations were. Once the D/A converters are accurate, further imporvement in non linear distortion is totally inaudible and frankly probably only measurable with test equipment able to detect the lowest levels of distortion.

    At an Electrical equipment trade show, I once asked a sales rep for a high end meter manufacturer what made his $120 digital multimeter better than Radio Shack's $70 model. I expected to hear about greater accuracy, ability to be used over a wider temperature range, better electronics, etc. Much to my astonishment, he said that the only real difference was that case his was in was sturdier and would probably survive being dropped on a concrete floor out in the field where the Radio Shack unit would not. As for performance, he said they would be exactly the same. Why? They use the same internal components.

    The same is probably true with CD players. Today, a cd player for a computer costs $5. Don't look for something to last 15 years. This is now a throwaway item. My suggestion is to not waste your money with an expensive player. Save your money for something else. The inexpensive models have reached the limit of what this component can do.
    The same is most assuredly NOT true with CD players. Even a cheap $5 computer CD transport will sound MUCH better using a quality soundcard like my Creative Audigy compared to a generic brand, or integrated soundcard. The same is true with modern CD players. The top manufacturers use quality internal components, and you can hear the difference, even if they are all using the same generic transport, which they don't!

    If you got 15 years out of a quality component that was $600 originally then I think you did pretty darn good. Denon STILL makes some great quality mid level priced CD players. Why would you advise other to buy cheap throwaway crap now?

    I will agree that entry level players have gotten pretty good in the last few years. I myself have a midlevel JVC DVD player that plays CD's pretty damn well also. That being said, midlevel CD players ($400-$1000) are now as good as most of the absolute BEST players from a few years ago, and are for most systems, are all that you will ever need. These midlevel players are NOT a throwaway item, just as your Denon wasn't, and in most cases will last just as long. For me I like to buy things of quality that will last, even if they cost a bit more.
    Audio;
    Ming Da MC34-AB 75wpc
    PS Audio Classic 250. 500wpc into 4 ohms.
    PS Audio 4.5 preamp,
    Marantz 6170 TT Shure M97e cart.
    Arcam Alpha 9 CD.- 24 bit dCS Ring DAC.
    Magnepan 3.6r speakers Oak/black,

  13. #13
    Forum Regular Arch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtrycraft
    But, how you did the comparison of th eplayers do matter a lot. If you didn't control for your biase, your results are rather unreliable. Bias is something you cannot control on your own, that is why a DBT is a must if audible differences is the only important issue for you. So, most likely no one knows, including you, what was heard between the players.
    We all know on this board that it is really futile to debate the whole qualitative / quantitative sound comparison issue, but here is my two cents on this matter:

    There are times when the difference between the sound of 2 components are relatively easy to tell, while others are next to impossible. In the listerning tests, the Arcam / Rotel were plugged into the rest of the system one at a time - even the interconnects were the same, and their sound were so different that it is a no brainer.

    BTW, what I listerned to in all these sessions is the same song, in this case "Precious Things" by Tori Amos, from her new album "Tales of a Librarian". I found that it is a great song to do critical listening: Tori dosen't have a silky smooth voice like many other female vocalists, but she has wonderful singing techniques and her voice has amazing range and emotion that IMHO is quite challanging for any audio equipment. So for the Cambridge tests I paid a lot of attention on her voice, often focusing on the same passage over and over again. This time, like the Rotel / Arcam session, the difference became quite obvious when you narrow your focus on her voice.

    To contrast these tests, I spended an entire afternoon last saturday doing another listening test with the new Cambridge at home. I took home a (loaner) heavy duty power cord from the dealer and I was curious on whether it makes any difference at all. Well, I used the same technique as above, using the same song from Tori Amos. I had the Cambridge on the floor, next to the power bar with 2 power cords plugged in, one is the $90 cord from the shop, the other is a freebie cord I borrowed from my computer. This way I was able to do rapid switch over between the 2 cords and resume listerning quickly.

    Well, it took me 3 HOURS of listening to the same song over and over and over again before I narrowed down a passage that did sound different... about 2:05 into the song there is a passge where Tori sang the chorus of the song with the strings and guitar blasting in the background: At the end of the word "Theeeeessssseeeee" I was able to hear her throat's vibe in her "eeeeee" when I use the $90 cord, and with the freebie cord it simply sounded smooth. Towards the end of the 3rd hour I found myself swapping the cords, mute the volumn on my amp, fast forward to the passage, and listen to the exact phase over and over again.

    My "subjective" conclusion: For that little difference in sound it's not worth $90 for the cord, BUT I do confess that I did hear a difference.... after I tried real hard. Now most of you can dismiss my observation outright, its all in my head, etc, etc. But what I have done here is that I have a repeatable method of comparing the qualitative difference of 2 components.... you can try it yourself at home with your own gears and make your own judgement. It works for me (for now) anyway.

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    "These midlevel players are NOT a throwaway item"

    Just wait a few years, they will be.

    As I said, a minor change in the analog frequency response will not impress me one way or another. Unless someone can demonstrate a substantial improvement in the D/A converter in terms of linearity or non linear distortion, I'm not interested. I don't think they can because I'm not convinced there is anything wrong with the cheap ones. I'll stick with the $100 to $300 price level and use the savings elsewhere.

  15. #15
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    It's all in your head

    Quote Originally Posted by Arch
    . Now most of you can dismiss my observation outright, its all in my head, etc, etc. But what I have done here is that I have a repeatable method of comparing the qualitative difference of 2 components.... you can try it yourself at home with your own gears and make your own judgement. It works for me (for now) anyway.
    Good thing that's where you keep your ears and your brain!

    I'd agree that if it requires that much effort to hear a difference, it isn't worth it. To others, it might be. I think that's the crux of the whole issue of subtle sonic differences. If we were to assign an arbitrary 1% difference in sound to CD player A over B, in the grand scheme of an audio system (including room acoustics and software), I think most people would call it meaningless and not worth it. But even a 1% improvement is worth thousands of dollars to some and they might not even call it "subtle".

  16. #16
    Forum Regular Arch's Avatar
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    Absolutely agree with you rb122. I can't say it better myself.

  17. #17
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    . Now most of you can dismiss my observation outright, its all in my head, etc, etc.


    Well, yes, the brain is capable of infusing misinformation to fill in blank holes. That is why one needs to use bias controls IF sonic differences is what you base your choice on.


    But what I have done here is that I have a repeatable method of comparing the qualitative difference of 2 components.... .[/QUOTE]


    You can repeat adding 2+2 and keep coming up with 3 but that doesn't make it so. Repeating a flawed method will result in flawed outcomes, over and over, no ifs and buts about it.

    Now that you think you have isolated a very specific passage in a somg where the difference manifests, a DBT comparison is a snap. Try it and see how many times you guess correctly. Sighted listening for differences is unreliable, period.
    mtrycrafts

  18. #18
    DMK
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtrycraft
    You need to take care of your CDs better I don't have this problem even with my boombox
    You need to take care of CD's??? I thought no necessary care was the main selling point! Or do you mean I need to buy only unscratched CD's? Problem is the dang label and manufacturer like to surprise me! All the scratched CD's and CD-R's were courtesy of the manufacturer. I'm pretty anal about proper care of that stuff

    And what do you mean "even" with your boombox? I thought I read somewhere that a boombox is all you own!

  19. #19
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    dennis the menace

    My system consists of Buggtussel Amygadala floorstanders...Classe6 pre_amp...McCormick DNA-1 POWER DRIVE amp.. Cardas interconnects..and Harnonic Technology speaker cable...Fairly respectable............GREAT SOUND .....Could have spent alot more donero and got "less " music.........My CD player....a used Rega Planet' the most "musical" player under a grand...."check the reviews"....I've listened to players 3x the money and the Planet blows them away......CABLRS and INTERCONNECTS can alter the sound of your system much more than upgreading your CD player.....keep your player as a transport and spend $600 on an Audio Note DAC and really hear your system COME TO LIFE!!!

  20. #20
    RGA
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    Quote Originally Posted by Geoffcin
    The same is most assuredly NOT true with CD players. Even a cheap $5 computer CD transport will sound MUCH better using a quality soundcard like my Creative Audigy compared to a generic brand, or integrated soundcard. The same is true with modern CD players. The top manufacturers use quality internal components, and you can hear the difference, even if they are all using the same generic transport, which they don't!

    If you got 15 years out of a quality component that was $600 originally then I think you did pretty darn good. Denon STILL makes some great quality mid level priced CD players. Why would you advise other to buy cheap throwaway crap now?

    I will agree that entry level players have gotten pretty good in the last few years. I myself have a midlevel JVC DVD player that plays CD's pretty damn well also. That being said, midlevel CD players ($400-$1000) are now as good as most of the absolute BEST players from a few years ago, and are for most systems, are all that you will ever need. These midlevel players are NOT a throwaway item, just as your Denon wasn't, and in most cases will last just as long. For me I like to buy things of quality that will last, even if they cost a bit more.

    Well if nothing else your post dos indicate that the transport has no effect because as you say cheap cd players or cd players in the $400-$1000.00 range blow away the best from a few years ago...the best a few years ago had far superior transports from a technical and build quality perspective than ANY $400-$1000.00 current model comproised of cheap plastic clamps and drawers.

    So we have established I hope that if any difference exists it ixists in the DAC and output stage(after all many are using tube outputs like the one from Marantz err Ah Tjoeb. Since these differences are measurable and significant spikes in the audible range then at least they theoretically can be heard over long listening without stress environments like tests.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by DMK
    You need to take care of CD's??? I thought no necessary care was the main selling point! Or do you mean I need to buy only unscratched CD's? Problem is the dang label and manufacturer like to surprise me! All the scratched CD's and CD-R's were courtesy of the manufacturer. I'm pretty anal about proper care of that stuff

    And what do you mean "even" with your boombox? I thought I read somewhere that a boombox is all you own!
    Well, If you don't put your dirty fingers on the play surface, probably the reason it is so small so you can reach the edges it doesn't need much care at all.

    I never had such problems with CDs. I guess they see you coming

    One would automatically think that a boombox would not play well Mine playes fine
    mtrycrafts

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by dennis
    keep your player as a transport and spend $600 on an Audio Note DAC and really hear your system COME TO LIFE!!!
    Or not come to life, just chug along as before.
    mtrycrafts

  23. #23
    DMK
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    Talking Heh, heh

    Quote Originally Posted by mtrycraft
    Or not come to life, just chug along as before.
    If your stereo came to life, would you train it to gather DBT citations for you? Do your dishes? It's only a boombox so I'm sure it won't eat much but the little bugger could find lots of hiding places.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by DMK
    If your stereo came to life, would you train it to gather DBT citations for you? Do your dishes? It's only a boombox so I'm sure it won't eat much but the little bugger could find lots of hiding places.

    Yes, that is what I will train it for, tight places to find lost treasures
    mtrycrafts

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    Of course the transport has no effect. It either works or it doesn't. The first thing that happens to the signal after it's converted from optical to electrical is that it is reclocked in a storage buffer locked to a quartz oscillator so its timing is dead on. If the speed varies too much, there is a complete breakdown because the register either depletes or is overfilled. If it doesn't, it works perfectly. No in betweens. Do they fail often? With literally billions of them being manufactured for computers, they are outstandingly reliable. When was the last time you heard of one breaking down in a computer?

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