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At what price range, do CD players gain a major jump in sound quality?

post #1 of 66
Thread Starter 
I was wondering, I wanted to spend about 300 dollars max on a CD source but I can save up or use a credit card if need be in order to get a very nice one.

On a side note, I am very new to dedicated sources. Hopefully you guys can recommend me one that can stand alone and won't need a DAC.

EDIT: BTW, my set up will be based around RS-1 ---> Woo Audio 3
post #2 of 66
I've been looking around at cd players for a few days and it's making my headspin. I heard that sound quality between different players isn't that great once you get move to an individual player. so i'm just going to buy a sony 2000es, +amp+ sa5000 later this year.
post #3 of 66
IMO, it all depends on your ears. You could find a $300 player that sounds better (to you) than most $1,000 and $2,000 players. I couldn't really say at what price point you would notice the most difference because it depends a lot on the other components in your system, the type of music you listen to, your room (if you're using speakers), etc.

In fact, there have been demonstrations at high end audio shows where an iPod was used to drive systems that cost over $100k in total (speakers, amps, preamp, cables) and the audience was led to believe that an expensive CD player was being used as the source. Most of them couldn't believe it when they were told it was an iPod. So it really depends on a lot of factors.
post #4 of 66
Wayne is correct. Your willingness to spend and the quality of all of your existing components are major factors, but so too is your, well, perception psychology. I don't buy the cliche that going up to higher end equipment is all about subtle nuances or refinements; no, to my ears so far, ultra high end components simply change the state of my mind in terms of what can really be achieved once you get into the "unobtanium" price points. When I heard a couple of high end CD players, I quickly concluded that my heavily modified DVD universal player could not begin to even compete with a source component dedicated to one proven and established format - the CD. Once I began listening to different CD players, I realize that they are as individual as people. A difference of only $500 USD or less could be like meeting a new personality in a different CD player priced higher. Also, technology is not everything. The final proof is in the sound quality of the CD player. A price difference of about $2353 USD convinced me to spend save and spend that extra amount between two different sounding CD players with different functions.

At your price point, I would seriously recommend that you ask yourself what you want to achieve in terms of both features and sound quality. Do you want just a CD player or do you want a multi-format source component? How do you plan to use it? How oftenly each day?

If you want the best bang for your buck, then you have only one choice: a multi-format universal DVD player. It will offer enough flexibility with all of the existing formats both audio and video so that you can enjoy what's out there without fussing with the formats. I suggest a Pioneer DV-563A, 588A, or Yamaha SD-500 universal DVD player.

If you want to just play CDs, which I strongly recommend for performance reasons, you may want to consider a NAD 521BEE.

It's up to you. Let us know what you decide. Also, don't charge it on your credit card. Just save up and pay cash. It's just a CD or DVD player; it ain't worth charging. Especially at my price point.
post #5 of 66
My STOCK Toshiba SD-2960 with vibrapods is just about as good (sounding...interface is a different animal) as my Rotel RCD-991AE and that's welll over a 1000 dollar difference in cost.

I'm not sold on high end cd-players given the performance of these budget DVD players. I'd spend my money elsewhere.
post #6 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by proglife
My STOCK Toshiba SD-2960 with vibrapods is just about as good (sounding...interface is a different animal) as my Rotel RCD-991AE and that's welll over a 1000 dollar difference in cost.

I'm not sold on high end cd-players given the performance of these budget DVD players. I'd spend my money elsewhere.
Are you taking into account transparency? Because as much as I like the sound of my Toshiba SD-3980, it's piss-poor in terms of background blackness and transparency (i.e. how much difference you hear between recordings) and seems to have a strong "house sound" that homogenizes everything. High end CDPs should be much better in this regard, due to cleaner power and better analog output stages. My Rotel soundly spanks the SD-3980 in this department, and although I don't find it subjectively as involving as the Toshiba I have to give it the nod for these indispensable qualities. I suppose some judicious mods to the Toshiba would improve it though.
post #7 of 66
In one South FL meet couple of years ago we did an A/B face-off of a Meridian dedicated CD player (>$2000) with my modded Toshiba 3950 DVD player (less than $200 in total, mods included). We used an A/B switch, feeding the same amp and headphones, so the only variable were the sources, well and the cables between sources and switch box. By the way the Meridian had the nominally "better", more expensive cables. Iirc, the amp was a Single power MPX3, and the headphones were HD650+Zu. Quite a resolving combo if you ask me. Granted, these were meet conditions, and the comparisons were just seconds, not more than minutes.

Playing Buena Vista Social Club on both sources simultaneously (we had two of these CDs), and switching the sources instantaneously with the switchbox, to me the Meridian and the modded Tosh were indistinguishable at the meet. What was most surprising to me, one headfier claimed that in his opion the Tosh was one ofthe best sources he had ever heard. Another headfier told me at some point he thought he detected some difference pointing to a better sound for one of the sources, and then he realized to his surprise that the switchbox had the Toshiba selected, not the Meridian. Another headfier suggested to try to hear the differences in the blackness of the background, the quiet passages, not the loud ones, that's where the differences between sources are most clearly distinguishable in his opinion. I tried and had to admit, couldn't detect differences. He grabbed the headphones and tried himself, switched the switch box a couple of times, took the headphones out and said "Can't say, I don't know what I'm really talking about..." You can check some of the impressions at that South FL meet impressions thread.

It is possible that with some other music, another recording, and in quiet, non-meet conditions, some clear difference shows. One player might more effortlessly play loud complex passages than the other, one might show more musicality, cleaner background, better dynamics... who knows. Yet for me, I really couldn't tell them apart, and some sharp ears at the meet not only had trouble distinguishing one vs. the other, accidentally seemingly even preffered the modded Tosh at some instances.

In conclusion, from that experience I left with the conviction that some inexpensive modded players can enter dedicated high-end CD player sound quality.
post #8 of 66
I use 3 sources for audio home use a (DVD Player) Philips DVP642($60) a (Multidisc CD Player) Marantz CC4300(~$200) and a (Single Disc CD player) NAD C542 (~$400). All have the same cables and go through a passive (Niles Audio) switch box to an M^3 and thence to Sennheiser HD580s.

At this modest end I really cannot reliably tell much difference between the sources - I cant do a blind test as such but despite really wanting the NAD to be better (it is more expenisve, a dedicated single disc CD player and gets good reviews) I honestly cannot reliably tell them apart. After 22 years of interest in digital audio I begin to suspect that differences between digital sources are less fundamental than I used to think, alternatively it could be that my hearing isnt what it used to be
post #9 of 66
In my experience the bigger changes with highend CDPs appear to be in soundstage, which is hard/impossible to judge on headphones to begin with.
Also i personally never experienced a CDP sounding musical or having good prat, even the ones which are said to have these attributes. Maybe i'm lucky and these things just dont affect me at all
However that doesnt mean i'm a fan of cheap gear
post #10 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by rsaavedra
In one South FL meet couple of years ago we did an A/B face-off of a Meridian dedicated CD player (>$2000) with my modded Toshiba 3950 DVD player (less than $200 in total, mods included).
For most people though, who don't have the necessary electronics experience, it's gonna cost them at least $200 (plus the cost of the player) to have it modded -- which is about the same price as a used entry level high end CDP. Not to mention that the build quality of these DVD players is poor, and they are known to often fail after only a very short time. Also you'll typically get little info. on the front panel display, as they're designed to be hooked to TV sets.

Not trying to discourage anyone from going the DVD player route, but be aware of the downsides...
post #11 of 66
I think the law of diminishing returns simply kicks in pretty fast.
Did I hear a difference between my audigy and emu1212m? Certainly, I d even say it was night and day(in the sense that a very quick listen will let it show).
However It s harder to see the difference between the zhaolu, 1212m and presonus central station dac.They can be heard, but it s hard to say how is one better than the other.
Nevertheless I would encourage you to spend the most on the source(after the headphones/speakers), since it s the starting point of the signal.
post #12 of 66
I don't believe in a direct correlation between price and quality. The smaller "audiophile" companies have less demand and less supply and must have higher prices compared to a more mass volume consumer piece of equipment. Also they do not choose to use the more extreme designs nor parts at times. Such things are the realm of mods and/or DIY things. I believe if you wanted a true bump in performance, mods and DIY is where it's at. There's plenty of bottlenecking in the digital source and it's hard to overcome that so it's an uphill battle.
post #13 of 66
I'm curious if anyone has had trouble telling the ultra hi-fi sources(e5, meridian) apart from lo-fi sources in their own homes.
post #14 of 66
This indeed a very funny hooby: most of you are practically saying that sources don't matter that much, or even that an ipod can be as good as a medium end CD player.

My experience is completely opposite. I have just been at the nat meet in New York and tried a lot of different stuff with the same headphone: my W5000, as it was extremely noisy, so there was no point in using open cans; also I wanted to take the HP of of the equation, because was interested in choosing an amp.
I tried intensively 5 or 6 different amps and, while the difference within these amps using the Lavry DA10 as source was relatively small, the same amp (and HP) with other sources could sound extremely badly or much better.
I ended up buying a little, very cheap Chinese amp (the Original Master) which totally blew me away playing form an Original CD Player. I have not received yet the amp, but I am almost sure I will not get the same magic sound, as certainly most of the SQ I was hearing was coming from the CDP
post #15 of 66

Your totally wrong There Is a Night & Day Difference Between CD Players & DVD Players

To address one of the points someone made on this thread about not being able to tell difference between CD & DVD sound for CD's, I think that is only true if you are a casual unobservant fan of music, nothing personal. Someone who say is a dedicated listener of either a genre of music, ie. blues, or a particular music group, will notice an immediate difference. I was listening to CDs for the past few years on a Harmon Kardon 31 DVD player connected to my Denon 3001 receiver to my Orb Audio Speaker & Sub system. THe sound was quite good but I always sensed something was missing & I couldn't quite put a finger on it. Then on a whim after doing careful research I bought a Pioneer Elite PD-59 CD player. The difference in sound quality between this CD player & the DVD player is to me night & day. The DVD player was making the sound too bright & kind of messed with the dynamics & kind of muddied the sound compared to the CD player in which everything comes alive & is much sweeter, smoother & richer & seems to spread the music out more. It's not so much that I hear things I didn't hear before but the CD player lets me notice them more, if that makes any sense. I'm told that is a common difference between CD & DVD players. The funny thing is I was all set to by a Denon 2900 Universal player when I read a review that was meant as a compliment but totally changed my mind which said "for a Universal player the sound is almost as good as a CD player, which is some feat"!
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