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  1. #1
    Demoted to Low-Fi Carl Reid's Avatar
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    How much difference does a CD player make?

    Yep, it's time to rekindle that age old debate:

    How much difference does a CD Player make?

    I was reminded of this question, when I saw Resident Loser stiring up trouble in the $1k CD thread...

    So my question is:

    Based on your own listening experiences, how big a difference have you found between using different digital sources.... i.e.... computer sound cards, DVD players, cheap CD players, expensive CD players etc?

    I notice a lot of people swear that the whole audio world revolves around having the most expensive CD player in their setup, while others will tell you that there is absolutely no difference between one digital player and the next... all 1s and 0s... I think I'm somewhere in between at the moment... I think there's a difference... I'm just torn on whether it's a big enough difference to justify the extra outlay of cash....

    My Experience so far

    I haven't been able to hear a huge difference between dedicated entry level CD players (NAD and Marantz), ultra cheap DVD players and the sound card of a Mac Mini... Though I did hear differences and my favourite was undoubtedly the Marantz CD5001 (which was actually cheaper then the NAD it replaced)....

    I have heard great sounding setups driven by expensive CD players and ones drvien by cheapo DVD players... So I know it's possible to have a thoroughly enjoyable setup without an expensive CD player.

    Unfortunately, I've yet to do a direct A/B comparision between say a $1K CD player and my $75 DVD player.... I'm dying to do one of those...

    P.S. I'm in the slooooow process of rebuilding my stereo setup - so far I'm considering Revel F12 Floorstanders with a Marantz PM7001 Integrated Amp and MAYBE a Marantz SA8001 CD Player.... So that's part of why I'd love to get some feedback, before I drop nearly $1K on the Marantz.... I mean, why drop $1K if I can get virtually the same sound with a $300 Marantz CD5001 or even my Panasonic DVD player???

  2. #2
    Suspended PeruvianSkies's Avatar
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    Well, my only thought is that CD's have only sounded better as I gradually upgraded in 3 areas: the source, the speakers, and the amplification. However, it also depends on the CD. Poor quality masterings still sound like crap even when my speakers went from a $100/pair to a $4000 pair.

  3. #3
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    So very, very true

    Quote Originally Posted by PeruvianSkies
    Well, my only thought is that CD's have only sounded better as I gradually upgraded in 3 areas: the source, the speakers, and the amplification. However, it also depends on the CD. Poor quality masterings still sound like crap even when my speakers went from a $100/pair to a $4000 pair.
    When all is said and done, 90% of high fidelity enjoyment comes the recording itself. Small differences, e.g. between CD players, aren't going to make or break a recording.

  4. #4
    Crackhead Extraordinaire Dusty Chalk's Avatar
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    I fully believe the source is a big deal, though not as big as the "source first" contingent on Head-Fi believe it to be, for example. I've heard a Meridian G08 in a well-tuned system, and no other source (in a system tuned to that source) I've heard comes close to the detail retrieval (out of redbook, mind you) I heard out of that setup. So on a scale of one to ten -- one being a complete skeptic, ten being a complete believer -- put me in the 9.x category.

    Oh, and just to set things in perspective: I am in the school of "your system is only as good as your weakest link".
    Last edited by Dusty Chalk; 03-21-2007 at 11:06 AM.
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  5. #5
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    In general ...

    CD players and DACs make less difference than speakers, amps, or preamps in my experience. But they make more difference than inteconnects and -- typically -- speaker cables, although the latter are sensitive to the amp+speaker combination. Depending on the environment of your system, they can make more or less difference than power conditioning and cables, and/or anti-vibration measures.

  6. #6
    Demoted to Low-Fi Carl Reid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor
    CD players and DACs make less difference than speakers, amps, or preamps in my experience. But they make more difference than inteconnects and -- typically -- speaker cables, although the latter are sensitive to the amp+speaker combination. Depending on the environment of your system, they can make more or less difference than power conditioning and cables, and/or anti-vibration measures.
    That's actually the conclusion I came to when I first joined this forum... That the order of priority should be Speakers, Amp/Preamp, Source and lastly Cables & Interconnects.

    And so far in my experience it seems to hold true... But I'm still interested in testing these theories.... but I lack the desire to spend significant money on say a CD player, if I could have kept that cash or allocated it to a better amp or speakers...

    For example, as I mentioned earlier... I'm considering a Marantz PM7001 Integrated with SA8001 CD, driving Revel Concerta F12s...

    However, I already have a Panasonic DVD player.... so if I was to use that as the source, I could take the money I would have spent on the 2 Marantz products and buy a Musical Fidelity A3.5 Integrated Amp instead....

  7. #7
    Forum Regular anamorphic96's Avatar
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    Carl why are you considering the PM7001 ? Thats an entry level integrated amp. Did you not keep your Rotel equipment ? The Rotel, Revel and Marantz SA8001 would be a stellar combo. I owned your Rotel combo for a couple of years and it would make those Revel's sing.

  8. #8
    Demoted to Low-Fi Carl Reid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by anamorphic96
    Carl why are you considering the PM7001 ? Thats an entry level integrated amp. Did you not keep your Rotel equipment ? The Rotel, Revel and Marantz SA8001 would be a stellar combo. I owned your Rotel combo for a couple of years and it would make those Revel's sing.
    Nope... The Rotels had to go... for a whole lot of reasons.... So I'm rebuilding from scratch...

    Now as for the Marantz being entry level... it's in the same price class as the Rotel RA-1062 (the integrated amp version of the Rotel amp/preamp combo I owned)...

    I've given up on seperates for now... I don't see the benefit unless you need extra power or want to mix and match... e.g. Tube Preamp with solid state Power amp... I found that the 1062 Integrated sounded just as good as my 1070pre/1080power combo, just with a third the power (which is no issue given the size of my listening room and the 90.5db efficiency of the Revels I'm considering)....

    So I'm considering either:
    1) Marantz PM7001 for $650US + Marantz SA8001 $900US = $1550 US
    2) Rotel RA-1062 $700US + Rotel RCD-1072 $700 US = $1400 US
    3) Musical Fidelity A3.5 $1650US + my existing DVD player = $1650 US

    Other options in the price range I've ruled out are NAD and Cambridge Audio... I have too many concerns about their reliability....

    The reason why Musical Fidelity is high on my list despite the cost difference is because my two favourite speakers the Monitor Audio GS20 and the Revel F12 have both sounded amazing on Musical Fidelity gear....

  9. #9
    Crackhead Extraordinaire Dusty Chalk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carl Reid
    3) Musical Fidelity A3.5 $1650US + my existing DVD player = $1650 US
    If you can stretch your budget just a little bit more, an external DAC such as the MSB Link DAC III (on the used market) or the Zhalou/Zhaolu (?sp) DAC (new) would improve a DVD player's sound greatly. Maybe not quite up to the level of an excellent stand-alone CD player, but renders the music perfectly listenable.
    Eschew fascism.
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  10. #10
    Do What? jrhymeammo's Avatar
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    I would never $1000 for a stock SA8001.
    This is where I got mine.

    http://www.amsound2.com/index.asp?Pa...TS&Category=10

    As much as I love my Marantz, I would rather go with MF A3.5. That is one sweet hifi on a budget.

    JRA

  11. #11
    Demoted to Low-Fi Carl Reid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dusty Chalk
    If you can stretch your budget just a little bit more, an external DAC such as the MSB Link DAC III (on the used market) or the Zhalou/Zhaolu (?sp) DAC (new) would improve a DVD player's sound greatly. Maybe not quite up to the level of an excellent stand-alone CD player, but renders the music perfectly listenable.
    Thanks Dusty, I might get the Revels and the Musical Fidelity and eventually go the external DAC route...

    Based on the replies, I think It makes the most sense to get the speakers and amp I really like...... and then worry about upgrading my source, by either getting a DAC or a dedicated CD player later...

  12. #12
    Color me gone... Resident Loser's Avatar
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    Hmmmmm....

    Quote Originally Posted by Carl Reid
    I was reminded of this question, when I saw Resident Loser stiring up trouble in the $1k CD thread...
    ...so that's what I did! I was wunnerin'...and silly me I thought an alternative POV for more reasonable expenditure was just what the toaster parade needed...

    I mean DC gave me a legit response (which I still disagree with BTW) but PS took it as some sort of personal insult with which I felt compelled to respond in a relatively matter-of-fact (well for me at least) manner...but I digress...

    To insinuate myself into this thread, I recall some time ago a poster began waxing euphoric over a particular CDP with an astronomical price tag...possibly in excess of $10k...Turns out it used an off-the-shelf, top-load Marantz drive and was housed in a highly poli$hed cha$$i$ and sported a carved billet aluminum face-plate with deep and pronounced engraving...A regular work of industrial art...It's DAC had, as I recall, the ability to provide four distinct tonal outputs...they were not called tone controls (as we all know such things are considered anathema by those of the gilded-pinnae crowd) but by a pseudo-techie name like "environmental compensation" or some such circumlocution...

    These things simply strike a certain note with me...and type away I will...

    jimHJJ(...jus' keepin' it real, as the kids say...)
    Hello, I'm a misanthrope...don't ask me why, just take a good look around.

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    "The great masses of the people...will more easily fall victims to a great lie than to a small one" -Adolph Hitler

    "We are never deceived, we deceive ourselves" -Goethe

    If you repeat a lie often enough, some will believe it to be the truth...

  13. #13
    Demoted to Low-Fi Carl Reid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Resident Loser
    ...so that's what I did! I was wunnerin'...and silly me I thought an alternative POV for more reasonable expenditure was just what the toaster parade needed...
    Toasters? Been watching Battlestar Gallactica again? LOL


    Quote Originally Posted by Resident Loser
    To insinuate myself into this thread, I recall some time ago a poster began waxing euphoric over a particular CDP with an astronomical price tag...possibly in excess of $10k...Turns out it used an off-the-shelf, top-load Marantz drive and was housed in a highly poli$hed cha$$i$ and sported a carved billet aluminum face-plate with deep and pronounced engraving...A regular work of industrial art...It's DAC had, as I recall, the ability to provide four distinct tonal outputs...they were not called tone controls (as we all know such things are considered anathema by those of the gilded-pinnae crowd) but by a pseudo-techie name like "environmental compensation" or some such circumlocution...
    Now, that's exactly the kind of nonsense I want to avoid doing... dropping a pile of cash on a piece of fancy artwork with an equalizer/tone controls... Might as well just buy a cheap eq or an integrated with tone controls and save myself some cash....

  14. #14
    Demoted to Low-Fi Carl Reid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrhymeammo
    ....As much as I love my Marantz, I would rather go with MF A3.5. That is one sweet hifi on a budget.
    Thanx, that's pretty much what my decision was about... I can always pick up a CD player later if I need to....

    The MF A3.5 is looking really tempting right now...

  15. #15
    Forum Regular anamorphic96's Avatar
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    In this case then definitely go with the MF. It's a very sweet amp. The Revel's will thank you for it in spades.

  16. #16
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    In my experience there is no doubt that the digital source makes a significant difference. This is a very easy thing to exhibit to yourself and I can't believe so many of you are still in denial.

    Carl, www.amusicdirect.com carries a wide variety of CD players and DAC's with a 30 day return policy. If you have a hi fi shop worth it's salt in your area, you should have no problem arranging a home audition of something they carry. Why speculate and listen to those who do the same when you can easily see for your self? If you don't want to spend a fortune, try an entry level Arcam, or an Alpha 9 off the used market.

    I hope not to offend anyone. I have a difficult time believeing that some of you can't hear diferences in CD players. When I bought a cdp for my daughter I compared an entry level Denon, Onkyo and Yamaha, there was not much sonic difference between the Denon and Onkyo but the Yamaha sounded quite different from them both. So if you only compared the Denon and Onkyo, I could see how maybe some one might think there's not much difference but with further experience you are bound to run across differences. I don't want to list every single experience I've had but I have had more than enough to know there is a difference in players.

    I agree with the weakest link statement, there should be a balance to the level of your gear. However. you need to get the best signal and sound you can from your disc first. Speakers may change the sound but they can't give you anymore detail off the disc than what the CD player sends. My goal each time I add a new piece is to improve my sound, not just to change the sound.

  17. #17
    Suspended PeruvianSkies's Avatar
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    This weekends Test...

    This weekend I will be testing the following players that I have, since I am getting a new DVD/CD/SACD player...the Parasound D3. I am going to make it a point to compare it against the following:

    Denon 2910 DVD/CD/SACD
    Sony DVP-NC80VB DVD/CD/SACD
    Samsung HD941 DVD/CD/SACD
    Denon DCM-280 CD
    Philips DVD-642 DVD/CD/SACD

    I am testing all of these units for their CD capabilities only just for the fun of it. These are all players that I have laying around to check out and there is a variety here of CD and DVD players so it will be interesting to see how they all handle CD's. I am expecting the Parasound to blow the competition away, but it'll be interesting how the rest compare. I am also going to be comparing them with analog connection and digital. I will be keeping all the same cables in the mix so that there are not unfair circumstances.

    After doing this test I'll probably check all of their SACD skills too.

  18. #18
    _ Luvin Da Blues's Avatar
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    Excellent PS,

    and we know that you'll let all of use know what you found, right? I need to replace my old Denon. Thanks
    Last edited by Luvin Da Blues; 03-23-2007 at 04:23 AM.
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  19. #19
    Crackhead Extraordinaire Dusty Chalk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carl Reid
    Thanks Dusty, I might get the Revels and the Musical Fidelity and eventually go the external DAC route...

    Based on the replies, I think It makes the most sense to get the speakers and amp I really like...... and then worry about upgrading my source, by either getting a DAC or a dedicated CD player later...
    Yuppers, makes sense to me.
    Eschew fascism.
    Truth Will Out.
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    you guys are crackheads.
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  20. #20
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Whoa, slow down, Mr P

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Peabody
    In my experience there is no doubt that the digital source makes a significant difference. This is a very easy thing to exhibit to yourself and I can't believe so many of you are still in denial.
    ...
    I hope not to offend anyone. I have a difficult time believeing that some of you can't hear diferences in CD players. ..... I don't want to list every single experience I've had but I have had more than enough to know there is a difference in players.

    I agree with the weakest link statement, there should be a balance to the level of your gear. However. you need to get the best signal and sound you can from your disc first. Speakers may change the sound but they can't give you anymore detail off the disc than what the CD player sends. My goal each time I add a new piece is to improve my sound, not just to change the sound.
    You come close to repeating the the Golden Ears' credo: "Every component sounds different; every difference is significant. If you can't hear a difference your system or your ears are inferior. If you don't care, you aren't really an audiophile." That layers fallacy upon fallacy.

    I don't deny that I've heard, (or thought I've heard), differences among CD players and DACs. I haven't had the priviledge of hearing $2000+ players in my system, but the differences between the units I've heard have been small -- dare I say -- insignificant in most cases.

    The "weakest link" approach is the best from a budgeting perspective. Does that mean you'll always trade up your speakers while ignoring everything else? Of course not, because there will be a point where a significant speaker improvement, (as opposed to mere difference), will cost more than a significant amplifier improvement for example.
    Last edited by Feanor; 03-23-2007 at 11:01 AM.

  21. #21
    Music Junkie E-Stat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Peabody
    In my experience there is no doubt that the digital source makes a significant difference.
    That has been my experience as well. I have five CD/DVD players not counting two CD Walkmen. A GamuT CD-1 exhibits better mid range focus and has a smoother more natural top end than the decidedly less refined response of the Toshiba 3960. Is the former worth 30 times that of the latter? That's a value judgment. Sure worth it to me in the main system!

    rw

  22. #22
    Suspended PeruvianSkies's Avatar
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    On the money!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by E-Stat
    That has been my experience as well. I have five CD/DVD players not counting two CD Walkmen. A GamuT CD-1 exhibits better mid range focus and has a smoother more natural top end than the decidedly less refined response of the Toshiba 3960. Is the former worth 30 times that of the latter? That's a value judgment. Sure worth it to me in the main system!

    rw
    This is a right-on-the-money statement (no pun intended). If more people would realize this there would be less debate when it comes to upgrading, differences in cables, differences in this amp or that amp, etc etc. I have come to realize that the incremental level of distinction as you get better equipment is that it becomes less and less, yet in order to achieve the upper level you need to make that decision for yourself. Is that little bit of extra refinement A. noticeable to you and B. worth the investment. I say YES to both of those as I am in search of my personal Holy Grail of audio. I am not just able to "SLAM" and have it. I must work up to it, but that is what's fun to me. I enjoy getting a little bit smarter and wiser along the path and quite frankly I think that makes me appreciate it more. If somewhere were to just drop a 1 Million Dollar Grand Enigma Reference system at my doorstep I would certainly LOVE IT, but it's not the same as the quest for it. The saving, the toying around, the fine tuning, and the development of a 'ear' for musicality and taste.

  23. #23
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    What did Carl want to know?

    Quote Originally Posted by PeruvianSkies
    This is a right-on-the-money statement (no pun intended). If more people would realize this there would be less debate when it comes to upgrading, differences in cables, differences in this amp or that amp, etc etc. I have come to realize that the incremental level of distinction as you get better equipment is that it becomes less and less, yet in order to achieve the upper level you need to make that decision for yourself. Is that little bit of extra refinement ...
    All true, what you say above. But Carl's question which was, "... how big a difference ... ?". In context this must be taken to mean how big a difference relative to other components in which one might spend one's money. I don't think it was, "If you had more money than you knew what to do with, would you spend it on a better CD player".

    In this present context E-Stat's reference to the GamuT versus the Toshiba is exquisitely irrelevant. For its price the GamuT ought to be f*ing amazing, but yeah, if I had all the money in the world I'd go for it -- but after that pair of MBL 9011's I've been hankering for.
    ...
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  24. #24
    Do What? jrhymeammo's Avatar
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    See........ I suggest you get into vinyl cuz the difference in gears are like KABAM!!!!!

    It makes my crappy system sound like I just spent $10k on a CDP.
    btw, I've never heard any $10k player.

  25. #25
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    What! JRA back already?

    Quote Originally Posted by jrhymeammo
    See........ I suggest you get into vinyl cuz the difference in gears are like KABAM!!!!!

    It makes my crappy system sound like I just spent $10k on a CDP.
    btw, I've never heard any $10k player.
    Gotta laugh about this vinyl suggestion, but hell yes!! You'll hear a lot more difference going that route.
    Last edited by Feanor; 03-24-2007 at 07:11 AM.

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