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  1. #1
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    double-blind CDP or DAC testing?

    About half of audio DIYers think that all CD players above the level of a high-end Sony player are sonically identical, and that there's no point in spending more than $200 or so on one. The other half think the first half are all mad.

    Has anyone done a double-blind test on the double-blind audibility of high end CD players?

  2. #2
    Ajani
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    Ummm A couple of problems:

    1) Sony has some fairly expensive players $3K (Well at least they used to, I think they may have just one such model now)..

    2) Audio Critics also claim that all amps sound the same, cables have no effect... just about the only thing they seem not to complain about is speakers...

    My advice is simply: if you can't hear a difference then don't buy it... but if you can, just enjoy it...

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    I think there's a lot of truth in that. Marginal returns diminish very fast.. Of course there is always the question about system matching, which may have more effect (i.e. speaker amp matching is important with demanding speakers) etc..
    I do think sound varies a lot between speakers, however not so between CDP's and amps. This is broadly what I believe

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    Forum Regular Kevio's Avatar
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    One thing that you forgot to mention is that the people that see value in high-end components generally see little value in double-blind testing. That position sort of deflates the whole issue.

    But yes, double-blind tests have been done and the conclusion is that the ear is amazingly sensitive and can distinguish very subtle differences in sound.

    The ability to determine that something sounds different should not be confused with the ability to determine whether something sounds better (defining "better" may be a problem in itself).

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    I'll add this aswell: even though a higher priced piece of equipment sounds 'different' doesn't mean it necessarily means it sounds 'better'. I was auditioning a pair of JBL floorstanders, big bulky ones, somewhere in the 1k$-2K$. I was able to flip between Kef reference bookshelevs (previous gen), PMC GB1, Infinity (expensive ones with RABOS technologie (about 9 years old i think)) and others at the flip of a switch (or rather, at the press of a button on a remote control. Source & amp was musical fidelity. I can say I heard genuine differences between the different speakers, and the more expensive not necessarily for the better. It's really a matter of taste in the end. The kef's didn't sound any better than the PMC's to my ears even though the kefs are bookshelves and cost twice or more that of the PMC's. The JBL at first sounded 'cheap' but infact have a more open sound. Taste, I tell you taste !
    The bottom line though, to me, is that none of them sounded 'bad'.

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    Music Junkie E-Stat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spasticteapot
    Has anyone done a double-blind test on the double-blind audibility of high end CD players?
    You've brought up an excellent point. The true concept of double blind testing uses a control group with known qualities. This is the way medical DBTs are conducted. Blind comparison testing in audio, however, lacks this important control concept to determine whether or not the test itself is capable of determining a valid outcome.

    rw

  7. #7
    nightflier
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    Off the same amp?

    Quote Originally Posted by audio amateur
    I'll add this aswell: even though a higher priced piece of equipment sounds 'different' doesn't mean it necessarily means it sounds 'better'. I was auditioning a pair of JBL floorstanders, big bulky ones, somewhere in the 1k$-2K$. I was able to flip between Kef reference bookshelevs (previous gen), PMC GB1, Infinity (expensive ones with RABOS technologie (about 9 years old i think)) and others at the flip of a switch (or rather, at the press of a button on a remote control. Source & amp was musical fidelity. I can say I heard genuine differences between the different speakers, and the more expensive not necessarily for the better. It's really a matter of taste in the end. The kef's didn't sound any better than the PMC's to my ears even though the kefs are bookshelves and cost twice or more that of the PMC's. The JBL at first sounded 'cheap' but infact have a more open sound. Taste, I tell you taste !
    The bottom line though, to me, is that none of them sounded 'bad'.
    I'm not sure that qualifies as DBT. You would have more accuracy with two identical systems that you would switch between using the mute button.

    But there's a lot of other issues with DBT, and then there's the whole psychology factor, which has been debated ad infinitum in other threads as well.

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    Ajani and Kevio, you both made excellent points.

    I get annoyed with those who claim there's no difference between audio components. So I now try to avoid those discussions, and I use, discussion, loosely. One thought for the original poster, as different players use good, better best in parts, they use different filtering and some different conversion methods, it would be a bit hard to think they all sound the same.

    AA, when you say all those speakers sounded good, I have to wonder what characters or attributes you listen for in a speaker, or system as far as that goes.. Sure some one might like cheaper stuff better but maybe all they like is a boom. I had a friend stay with me I haven't seen in years, we were listening to my Krell system driving my Dyn's and he tells me I should get an equalizer. I was so shocked I didn't know whether to bust out laughing or boot him in the back side. I think this is close to what Kevio was saying, your average Joe isn't going into a blind test listening for a certain detail or the tonal quality of a violin or sax. It would be interesting to go back a few years on this board to see what CD players everyone had. I don't know if my preaching got to them or it was natural progression but many here now have better sources than they did then. One thing that has been consistent over the years is I had and still have a good CD player and try to tell anyone who will listen the importance of having one as well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nightflier
    I'm not sure that qualifies as DBT. You would have more accuracy with two identical systems that you would switch between using the mute button.

    But there's a lot of other issues with DBT, and then there's the whole psychology factor, which has been debated ad infinitum in other threads as well.
    No this wasn't a DBT and to be perfectly honest I'm not even 100% sure what a double blind test consists of.

  10. #10
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    I'm not sure how to interpret this

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Peabody
    AA, when you say all those speakers sounded good, I have to wonder what characters or attributes you listen for in a speaker, or system as far as that goes.. Sure some one might like cheaper stuff better but maybe all they like is a boom. I had a friend stay with me I haven't seen in years, we were listening to my Krell system driving my Dyn's and he tells me I should get an equalizer. I was so shocked I didn't know whether to bust out laughing or boot him in the back side. I think this is close to what Kevio was saying, your average Joe isn't going into a blind test listening for a certain detail or the tonal quality of a violin or sax. It would be interesting to go back a few years on this board to see what CD players everyone had. I don't know if my preaching got to them or it was natural progression but many here now have better sources than they did then. One thing that has been consistent over the years is I had and still have a good CD player and try to tell anyone who will listen the importance of having one as well.
    Are you saying I like 'boom' and resemble your friend's liking for equalizers?
    I'm not saying there's no difference, I'm saying it's not like speakers, who's differences can be vast. The differences, also, are marginally smaller as you go up the price range.
    Speaking of CDPs, could you tell which CDP (or DAC) was playing if you were to enter a (your) listening room not knowing which one was playing, assuming you had to guess between two that you were familiar with? (I'm guessing this isn't how DBT works but I'm still curious)

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    I kind of agree with Audio Amateur.

    I own a few different digital players and for my part, they sound different to me. None are super high end. My Arcam CD players sounds better than my cheap DVD player when playing back CD's when I use both player's analog outs. It's pretty noticeable, not night and day, but enough that certain parts of songs don't sound quite as "right" on the cheaper unit. That's the most extreme example I can think of in my system. When I use the optical cable, I can't tell any difference for sure between them, and for whatever reason (DAC in my mid-fi receiver?) it sounds better still. But to me, yeah, there's differences in gear and at some point every piece deserves to be re-evaluated.

    For my part the issue of DBT is moot. Both camps, the "wire/cd players-sound-the-same", and the "wire/CD-players-sound-different" side seem to get lost in the results of the DBT. I say if I even have to go to DBT, it's already too late - not interested in the product.

    When I'm upgrading, if I have to spend more than a few minutes in a simple a/b test to prove there's a difference between a $200 and a $2000 anything, let alone if one is better, I don't even want to waste my time with the $2000 item. I dont' focus that hard when I listen to music. The opposite, I relax, and let it do the work. That high end unit better wow the crap out of me pretty fast, and those benefits better be easy to hear. I hear this with amps, turntables, speakers, and to a lesser extent (but equally as important), pre-amps. I really have to work to hear it in CD players and pre-pros. I can't hear it in wire (but I believe it's there in small magnitude). But that's me. I'd rather buy more new movies and music than experience what I already have a wee tiny bit better. That's my judgement call.

    I can upgrade speakers and make big, instantly noticeable, indisputable sound differences for the better, for quite some time before I start sweating the minor differences in DAC's or speaker wire or whatever. At some point the cost of the next speaker or amp upgrade becomes so expensive to generate any meaningful improvement, that I get more value upgrading some other components. I never go to DBT to make my decisions. Even more, I'm confident enough in my hearing that I can hear a pair of speakers and judge whether they're better or worse than my own.

    But I confess, I'm a bit envious of those who have the time and money to dedicate to testing piece after piece, back and forth trying to squeeze that 1 or 2% difference out of their system. They are far more devoted than I am and whatever they hear, it must be immensely satisfying at each stage to find that improvement. I have too many other expensive hobbies and too little free time to have that kind of passion. But I look forward to buying their gear 2nd hand...

  12. #12
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    Lightbulb Modern CDPs are built to sound different.

    Quote Originally Posted by spasticteapot
    About half of audio DIYers think that all CD players above the level of a high-end Sony player are sonically identical, and that there's no point in spending more than $200 or so on one. The other half think the first half are all mad.

    Has anyone done a double-blind test on the double-blind audibility of high end CD players?
    Well measurements show that many modern CD players are built to sound different and as a consequence have idiosyncratic Frequency response curves. I was taken aback a while ago when I read a comparative review in Hi-Fi World (UK) not a single one of the CDP had a flat frequency response! All had what I would call weird deviations from neutrality. Furthermore, a few CDPs have multiple filters, therefore the CDP FR is dependent on the filter setting.

    As a result if anyone bothered to perform a decent DBT of modern CDPs, they will most probably detect sound differences. To the best of my knowledge the situation was quite different at the dawn of the CD, most CDPs measured nearly identical and a large DBT conducted at the time found that many of them to sounded alike, which is as it should be, given the negligible measurable differences.
    Last edited by theaudiohobby; 02-06-2009 at 06:55 AM.
    It's a listening test, you do not need to see it to listen to it!

  13. #13
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Differences

    Quote Originally Posted by spasticteapot
    About half of audio DIYers think that all CD players above the level of a high-end Sony player are sonically identical, and that there's no point in spending more than $200 or so on one. The other half think the first half are all mad.

    Has anyone done a double-blind test on the double-blind audibility of high end CD players?
    I can't recall any DBTs for CDPs but likely they've happened.

    A few things I believe:
    • The ear can hear extremely subtle differences -- although in my case maybe not so much: I am deaf above 10 kHz and suffer from tinnitus which makes "a silent backgroud" pretty moot.
    • DBTs are usually flawed even when carrried out in a scientic way that produces reliable, statistically valid results. To put it simply, they don't do what is necessary to reveal subtle differences.
    • Regardless of rigor or method, DBTs can never prove that differences don't exist; at best they can prove that differences are detectable under the conditions of the test.
    But I wonder how important differences really are if they can't be proven in a reasonably well-designed DBT?

    I have compared two different, (e.g.), cables for hours on end to come to conclusion, (without the rigor of DBT), that, Yes!, maybe one was ever so slightly sweeter or less grainly, (lets say), than the other -- how important are the differences if it took me 3-4 hours of concentrated listening to begin to suspect they exist? Is the ever so slightly better-sounding component with 3x the price of the other?

  14. #14
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor
    I can't recall any DBTs for CDPs but likely they've happened.

    A few things I believe:
    • The ear can hear extremely subtle differences -- although in my case maybe not so much: I am deaf above 10 kHz and suffer from tinnitus which makes "a silent backgroud" pretty moot.
    • DBTs are usually flawed even when carrried out in a scientic way that produces reliable, statistically valid results. To put it simply, they don't do what is necessary to reveal subtle differences.
    • Regardless of rigor or method, DBTs can never prove that differences don't exist; at best they can prove that differences are detectable under the conditions of the test.
    But I wonder how important differences really are if they can't be proven in a reasonably well-designed DBT?

    I have compared two different, (e.g.), cables for hours on end to come to conclusion, (without the rigor of DBT), that, Yes!, maybe one was ever so slightly sweeter or less grainly, (lets say), than the other -- how important are the differences if it took me 3-4 hours of concentrated listening to begin to suspect they exist? Is the ever so slightly better-sounding component with 3x the price of the other?
    I remember reading reviews in Stereophile, where the reviewer spent months auditioning a component and thoroughly enjoyed it... yet dropped it to Class B or C after tedious amounts of detailed comparisons with expensive Class A gear... and I thought to myself at the time: What is he smoking? If you can't easily tell the difference between components that are light years apart in price, then what's the point? Eventually I realized that audiophilia is about the most subtle details and differences... I also realized that I'm not an Audiophile… An Audio Enthusiast - Yes, but Audiophile - No....

    For me, it's about finding the right balance of performance and spending... I'm not going to pay big bucks for differences that take painstaking auditions to notice...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor
    I can't recall any DBTs for CDPs but likely they've happened.

    But I wonder how important differences really are if they can't be proven in a reasonably well-designed DBT?
    Well, you have hit the nail on the head, however mfrs know that audiophiles want those differences and indulge them heartily by tweaking the CDP's response curve to taste . Another point I forget to mention, there are advantages to having a CDP with multiple filters (therefore different FR curves), as gives you the opportunity to tune the sound of the CDP to suit your mood or music.
    It's a listening test, you do not need to see it to listen to it!

  16. #16
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by theaudiohobby
    Well, you have hit the nail on the head, however mfrs know that audiophiles want those differences and indulge them heartily by tweaking the CDP's response curve to taste . Another point I forget to mention, there are advantages to having a CDP with multiple filters (therefore different FR curves), as gives you the opportunity to tune the sound of the CDP to suit your mood or music.
    It's indeed interesting how audiophiles will accept filters on a CDP, but reject equalizers and tone controls on a pre/integrated...

  17. #17
    Forum Regular Kevio's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor
    Regardless of rigor or method, DBTs can never prove that differences don't exist; at best they can prove that differences are detectable under the conditions of the test.
    But I wonder how important differences really are if they can't be proven in a reasonably well-designed DBT?
    I assume you meant to say that a DBT can only prove that differences are not detectable under the conditions of the test.

    This out is used quite frequently by audiophiles who after "failing" an ABX test claim that the only valid listening environment is one with which they are intimately familiar (i.e. their home system). And, in fact, when this condition is met and ABX testing is brought to them, they do tend to score better.

    Which just goes to prove yours and my first point - the ear is incredibly sensitive.

  18. #18
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Either way

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevio
    I assume you meant to say that a DBT can only prove that differences are not detectable under the conditions of the test.

    This out is used quite frequently by audiophiles who after "failing" an ABX test claim that the only valid listening environment is one with which they are intimately familiar (i.e. their home system). And, in fact, when this condition is met and ABX testing is brought to them, they do tend to score better.

    Which just goes to prove yours and my first point - the ear is incredibly sensitive.
    Well, either way, within statistical bounds. But (as a scientist ) I trust you agree that DBTs cannot prove differences do not exist in any absolute sense regardless of method and rigor of testing.

    Simple ABX tests, IMO, are ... uhm ... too simple to reveal anything less than gross differences. I do strongly believer that the listeners ought to be permitted to familiarize themselves to their own satisfaction with both 'A' and 'B' under "sighted" conditions before the test. When the test commences, of course, they must know to know which is which, but ought to allow to control the length of the listening intervals for 'A', 'B', and 'X'. Each listen ought to be allowed a number of ABX trials so they are comfortable with the testing process and not scared or distracted by the process itself.

  19. #19
    nightflier
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    Of course, one way to eliminate all the psychological factors and variances of DBT, is to let machines do it all and just use the charts (i.e. a visual representation) to determine the differences. While this will say nothing about how good something sounds, it does point out the differences. It can also point out serious deficiencies, that may be the result of shoddy manufacturing.

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    AA, I did not say you were like my friend. I tend to ramble from one thing to the other without spacing the lines. I sincerely wondered what you listen for. I listen for detail, such as can I hear something in one that isn't in the other or less noticeable. I think we all listen for low and high end response. Is it tight and punchy, or does it boom, can I hear the bass line clearly etc. Do the cymbals hang in air and fade natural or not, are the highs piercing and will drive me out of the room soon. How the performers are presented in the sound stage.

    Kex, I find it interesting that you can hear differences in amps but not CD players. Maybe it's the control on the driver that you are in tune to or it's probably the fact that you build speakers and you have trained yourself to listen hard for that response. I suspect that not many really listen for detail, such as ambience cues or can that subtle background instrument be heard with this piece. If so, you would notice the difference. Also, it's a texture or weight thing, like does the sax have the proper thickness to the tone to be a real sax or is it thin. Does a drum hit like tupperware or is it substantial like a real drum. I've heard people criticize tubes for being "tubby" but a real tom tom is tubby, it has sort of a rounded sound. Unless people really listen maybe differences escape them. And, I don't think it takes any enjoyment away to listen. The added detail brings me closer to fooling myself I'm at the performance.

    When I got my T+A I talked a bit about filters and flat response. First let me say I believe a filter shapes the music signal at a low level where an EQ attenuates or boosts frequencies. Still at a low level but an EQ that wouldn't introduce noise, distortion and do the job properly would cost as much as most of the other components in a high end system. And, I suppose it goes against the "purest" theory, where your point is well taken. That is why Audio Note has trademark DAC's with no filtering and it's one of the most natural digital sounds I've ever heard. My T+A does have filtering. One is a flat response where the other is not. Guess which one I use most, the one that is not flat. I don't know if it's all frequency response but the one I prefer has a more relaxed and open sound to it.

    The thing about CD players is if they don't bring a detail off the disc you aren't going to hear it period. No matter the amp or speakers. So this leads me to my theory that most do not know how or allow themselves to hear detail. Detail can be anything I already mentioned from the faint congos in the Fleetwood Mac song which title escapes me now, to being able to follow a bass line better, to being able to better feel the performance's enviroment, to the cymbals, and on and on. Cymbals are a dead give away. Horns as well.

    Kex, you mentioned Arcam, I feel they are one of the better CD players out there. Especially, if you want information off the disc and an active soundstage. They are also the fastest I've ever heard. However, their one weakness, this could be the trade off for being fast and detailed, they don't have the thickness or weight to the sound of other high end players. Don't get me wrong I feel they kill most in their price. But I had an Alpha 10 which I traded in for my first Krell, a 250. The Arcam actually had better detail, detail as far as subtleties being easier to depict, but the Krell had the weight to convince one of a real instrument. Same thing not long ago comparing the Diva 192 to the NAD Master SACD. The Arcam clearly made subtle details more distinct but the NAD lacking as it was had such a presence, the sax was hardy and robust.... the differences were plain to me but I couldn't choose one over the other. I clearly like the presentation of the NAD but it bugged the hell out of me that there might be something on a disc I could miss.

    It all could also be a matter of how we listen. Myself, I listen to more hi fi than watch TV/movies. It's an active event with me between the speakers and enjoying JUST the music. I don't turn on the music for background and multitask. There's nothing wrong with that but you can see how you'd miss a lot that way. Exposure to live music helps too. Even if it's a marching band in a parade. If you are paying attention you get the tubby boom of the bass drum, the throatiness of a trombone or snap of a snare.

    And, after all that, it sometimes just comes down to our own perception of what we think music should sound like and how we want to listen to it.

    As far as me being able to hear which CD player is playing when I walk into the room, I'm sure it would be easier on a disc I've heard on those machines before opposed to something I have not. In a DBT where I can compare one to the other side by side, I'm certain I could. I'd love to participate in one of those. Maybe I'm over confident in my ability, or maybe not.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ajani
    It's indeed interesting how audiophiles will accept filters on a CDP, but reject equalizers and tone controls on a pre/integrated...
    Because audiophilia is a very peculiar hobby with utopian goals that lend themselves to idiosyncratic thinking.
    It's a listening test, you do not need to see it to listen to it!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor
    Well, either way, within statistical bounds. But (as a scientist ) I trust you agree that DBTs cannot prove differences do not exist in any absolute sense regardless of method and rigor of testing.

    Simple ABX tests, IMO, are ... uhm ... too simple to reveal anything less than gross differences. I do strongly believer that the listeners ought to be permitted to familiarize themselves to their own satisfaction with both 'A' and 'B' under "sighted" conditions before the test. When the test commences, of course, they must know to know which is which, but ought to allow to control the length of the listening intervals for 'A', 'B', and 'X'. Each listen ought to be allowed a number of ABX trials so they are comfortable with the testing process and not scared or distracted by the process itself.
    Not directly related but relevant, do you recall the infamous SACD/CD tests, that were outrightly rejected on AA, some of the test subjects took the blinds test in the comfort of their own home and system and failed to positively detect differences , In fairness, I gather that some of the younger headphone listeners detected some differences.
    It's a listening test, you do not need to see it to listen to it!

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    Mr, Peabody,

    Your confidence is your hearing ability is well founded as a fellow (Bold Eagle) over at AA measured some Arcams and found that they had a midrange lift which probably account for their "better" detail and lighter balance. As mentioned previously, many modern CDPs are engineered to sound different and Arcams certainly falls into this category with a measureable deviation from neutrality.
    It's a listening test, you do not need to see it to listen to it!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Peabody

    Kex, I find it interesting that you can hear differences in amps but not CD players. Maybe it's the control on the driver that you are in tune to or it's probably the fact that you build speakers and you have trained yourself to listen hard for that response. I suspect that not many really listen for detail, such as ambience cues or can that subtle background instrument be heard with this piece. If so, you would notice the difference. Also, it's a texture or weight thing, like does the sax have the proper thickness to the tone to be a real sax or is it thin. Does a drum hit like tupperware or is it substantial like a real drum. I've heard people criticize tubes for being "tubby" but a real tom tom is tubby, it has sort of a rounded sound. Unless people really listen maybe differences escape them. And, I don't think it takes any enjoyment away to listen. The added detail brings me closer to fooling myself I'm at the performance.

    Kex, you mentioned Arcam, I feel they are one of the better CD players out there. Especially, if you want information off the disc and an active soundstage. They are also the fastest I've ever heard. However, their one weakness, this could be the trade off for being fast and detailed, they don't have the thickness or weight to the sound of other high end players. Don't get me wrong I feel they kill most in their price. But I had an Alpha 10 which I traded in for my first Krell, a 250.
    Actually, I stated I can hear differences. I hear them at most price levels within reason, and especially some of the newer players that are putting more "character" into them with filters etc...To my ears, the differences are just smaller than what I hear with amps or pre-amps...and all those together are smaller than what I hear with speakers. And that makes sense. FR plots will show far greater variability in the response (more difference) when subbing speakers vs cd players or amps etc (unless they're designed to manipulate certain parts of the spectrum in a substantial way, but I don't know many players like that, most put minor touches on the sound).
    The Arcam actually had better detail, detail as far as subtleties being easier to depict, but the Krell had the weight to convince one of a real instrument. Same thing not long ago comparing the Diva 192 to the NAD Master SACD. The Arcam clearly made subtle details more distinct but the NAD lacking as it was had such a presence, the sax was hardy and robust.... the differences were plain to me but I couldn't choose one over the other. I clearly like the presentation of the NAD but it bugged the hell out of me that there might be something on a disc I could miss.
    When I bought the Arcam, it was to complement my 2-channel system because all I had was an older Yamaha player that was nothing spectacular, an older NAD which was worse, and a Technics player which was, well, ok. I definitely heard an improvement going to the Arcam. Night and day, no, but I remember one night I tried proving to my wife that it was worth what I paid for it by rewinding a section of Sarah Brightman's Eden...there was some sort of...I dunno, hash or clipping or something on a whispery, raspy part of one of her vocal sections. I know this song well because I always thought the recording sucked until I heard it on the Arcam. After that I just think there's something my Arcam has my others don't. More on that in a bit. She couldn't understand what I was hearing or trying to point out...dunno how hard she was trying because it sounded perfect to her anyway, but she thought I was nuts. There's some other songs or details or just a gut feeling that its better that I get when listening to the Arcam. I really wonder how much the brain, shape of our ears etc all plays in this...I said it here many times before, but I have an audiologist friend that can show anyone empirical evidence about how much the shape of one's ears affects the FR that gets processed to the brain...we don't all start from the point of reference. I think that's missed in DBT's too - ears aren't standardized...maybe we should develop some sort of prosthetic attachment that would sit on the ear to provide the same surface area, texture...nah..

    When I upgraded my receiver last time I was spending most of my time listening to music on my HT system in stereo mode...dunno why, it's not quite as "good" but I enjoyed the music in that room I guess...That same section came through just as clear as ever on the cheaper player, provided I used an optical cable to let the AVR do the work. Otherwise, well, it sounded like what I paid for it. I was curious why and all I can come up with is the newer Burr Brown DAC's Yamaha uses in that receiver are better than my older receiver's, better than the DAC's in my Arcam and hence the better sound. I really believe tomorrows low-end gear will have better digital processing than today's hi fi and that's what I believe happened here. I've since bought a 2nd receiver for my computer rig that is 2 or 3 years older and it still exhibits the harshness in that music section - different cheaper DAC's? When I play it through my soundcard's wolfson DAC's, again, not there. I know there's a lot more to a CD player than just DAC's, etc, but I have never been able to hear any negative qualities resulting from the assumed presence of jitter or anything like that. I'm inclined to believe as a % of time, those effects are below the human ear/brain's ability to resolve, even if they do show up in measurements, or they're just very, very small...but I have no proof of that, just my gut feeling.

    It all could also be a matter of how we listen. Myself, I listen to more hi fi than watch TV/movies. It's an active event with me between the speakers and enjoying JUST the music. I don't turn on the music for background and multitask. There's nothing wrong with that but you can see how you'd miss a lot that way. Exposure to live music helps too. Even if it's a marching band in a parade. If you are paying attention you get the tubby boom of the bass drum, the throatiness of a trombone or snap of a snare.

    And, after all that, it sometimes just comes down to our own perception of what we think music should sound like and how we want to listen to it.
    I have 2 systems. Our HT room and my junk room...sort of a cheap home studio where I pile all my instruments and gear for playing/practicing, and have my stereo rig. I have some treatment in that room but not as much as the HT. The gear in this room is better than my HT gear, ...I listen to music critically in that room, usually with a beer or glass of wine and in the dark. Usually with no distraction or anything else. I sit a bit nearfield because I really get a cool soundstage depth effect in that setup.

    I've squeezed a lot of performance out of my HT rig too though - and I suppose it's not an immodest setup by some standards. I did upgrade my Paradigm Studio 40's and 20's to the Vifa/Peerless based speakers in that system, and what they lack in bass they certainly make up for in the handling of vocals. Nothing revolutionary, but its certainly capable of functioning as a decent 2-ch rig too. I listen to all my SACD's and multi-channel audio in that room critically. The room plays a big factor in it I'm sure (it's bigger and better treated), but I perceive no additional benefit using the Arcam with that system connected via optical cable - I get the most bang for my buck out of that unit in my 2-ch rig, where any of my other players sound noticeably inferior.

    I do have some friends whose systems I frequent - they have better gear than I do - Musical Fidelity a308, some NuVista brand I've never heard of, and Conrad Johnson tube cd player..those all sound better than my Arcam without a doubt and I'd love to own them, but before I go shelling out 2-3K to upgrade my player, I would probably be far better off spending $1200 on drivers and xo parts, or $2000 - $3000 to upgrade my modest Rotel Integrated in that system...To my ears, those upgrades still yield bigger improvements. Though at some point the CD player becomes the most cost-effective upgrade.

    Sorry to rant on, hope that clears up where I'm coming from.

    As far as me being able to hear which CD player is playing when I walk into the room, I'm sure it would be easier on a disc I've heard on those machines before opposed to something I have not. In a DBT where I can compare one to the other side by side, I'm certain I could. I'd love to participate in one of those. Maybe I'm over confident in my ability, or maybe not
    If I could use "Eden" as the song I think I could prove a lot of naysayers wrong...

  25. #25
    Ajani
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Peabody
    It would be interesting to go back a few years on this board to see what CD players everyone had. I don't know if my preaching got to them or it was natural progression but many here now have better sources than they did then. One thing that has been consistent over the years is I had and still have a good CD player and try to tell anyone who will listen the importance of having one as well.
    I think it's a combination of natural progression and your preaching (at least in my case anyway)... With my old setup I gave almost as little regard to my source as I did Cables... So I used $1.5K worth of Rotel Pre/Power Amplification with a mere $300 Marantz CD Player (which I then replaced with just a Mac Mini playing AAC files)... After I migrated (sold all my gear) and went about rebuilding my setup, I decided to give source first a try (cuz frankly, I wanted to know whether there was any validity to all your preaching over the years - as I hadn't been all that impressed with the differences between computers, DVD players and entry level CD player)... So I got a Benchmark DAC1 as the foundation of my setup...

    The DAC1 with even my ultra cheapo Panasonic headphones is capable of delivering an impressive amount of detail... not nearly as obvious as when I switch to my AKG K701s, but a lot of the detail is still there... you just have to concentrate to hear it, versus it being right up in your face with the AKGs...

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Peabody
    Kex, I find it interesting that you can hear differences in amps but not CD players. Maybe it's the control on the driver that you are in tune to or it's probably the fact that you build speakers and you have trained yourself to listen hard for that response. I suspect that not many really listen for detail, such as ambience cues or can that subtle background instrument be heard with this piece. If so, you would notice the difference. Also, it's a texture or weight thing, like does the sax have the proper thickness to the tone to be a real sax or is it thin. Does a drum hit like tupperware or is it substantial like a real drum. I've heard people criticize tubes for being "tubby" but a real tom tom is tubby, it has sort of a rounded sound. Unless people really listen maybe differences escape them. And, I don't think it takes any enjoyment away to listen. The added detail brings me closer to fooling myself I'm at the performance.
    I suspect you're correct about that... from what I've experienced so far, the biggest improvement from a CD player (assuming a flat frequency response) is detail... but detail is not what grabs most people in an audition and gets your toes tapping, or makes you want to curl up in front of a warm fire with a glass of wine... So IMO, whether or not someone should invest in a good source comes down to how much they value that extra detail... I do value detail, but it's not my top priority when listening to music...

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