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CDP upgrade question

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
I currently use an NAD 502 CD player for my headphone system. It's a great little player (Stereophile Class C Rec), and it even reads CD-Rs fine.

I'm wondering how much of an upgrade I would need to get a noticeable improvement in sound. Also, how much further up would I need to go to get a *substantial* improvement?

I guess my other option would be to get a good DAC.

EDIT: the reason I ask is that I am planning on getting a substantially better headphone amp, so a better source is probably in order
post #2 of 12
Here is what you want the CREEK OBH-14 DAC I used to own this puppy before I bought a $1500 DAC, and it's well worth every dollar.

Retail for $399 you can buy it online for $350 or click here and get it for $315 http://www.hififarm.com/creekobh14.htm

->24-bit DAC with a passive preamplifier.

->D/A conversion at up to 24-bit resolution, with automatic sampling frequency conversion up to 48 kHz

->convert digital signals for CD, DVD, DAT, DAB and other digitalsources into analog signals

->high grade volume potentiometer for adjusting the amplitude of either the analog or digital output.

->Both coaxial and Toslink optical digital inputs are provided.

Here is it's spec list http://www.creekaudio.co.uk/products/tec/obh14_tec.htm

"in the June 1999 issue of England’s Hi-Fi World. "At the money, this multi-talented DAC has no competition.

Stereophile Magazine Recommended Component

Also there is the MSB link DAC as well which is really amazing for the price $349, check out the MSB as well, it is a very worthy competitor.
post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 

C'mon, with all this talk of CDP's, y'all have to have more feedback for me, no?
post #4 of 12
CDPs have been discussed at Headwize at length, so let us hope its archives will be accesible again some time soon. My favourite CDP so far (and I have tried dozens) has been a Copland CDA-289. In Germany it retails for 5.500 Marks = 2,500 US-Dollars. I tend to judge components by the pleasure they give me, by the degree of musical involvement I perceive, and the Copland was the most enjoyable. But I am kind of holding my breath, because they are about to release a replacement CDP called CDA-822 in September, that will be cheaper (maybe 2,200 Dollars) and is supposed to have better dynamic range due to 24 Bit/96kHz technology. Dynamic range and harmonic coherence are certainly strong points of the 289, so the 822 might really be an improvement. My runner-up has been a Jadis JD-3 with valve output-stage, retailing for 10,000 Marks = 4,500 Dollars.

There is a review of the CDA-289 at UHF-magazine that decribes its merits rather well. I did not like the much heralded Linn Ikemi by the way. It's not too inviting, even a bit harsh, thin and certainly not as full, musical and involving as the Copland.

I have listend to a NAD as well, but I don't remember which one, I did not like it too much. Many people say, you have to pay 2,000 Dollars or more to get a worthwhile CDP. I am afraid this is true for me - us older folks who have been raised with vinyl tend to be very skeptical about digital sound in general, even offended by it. So I am very picky when it comes to CDPs.

If you upgrade with a seperate DAC, you will have no master clock to battle jitter problems but it might be worth a try. However, most high-end CDPs seem to be integrated ones nowadays. As always: you have to listen for yourself.
post #5 of 12
You might want to look into upgrades ala lcaudio.com. I'm going to be trying out op amp swapping on my DAC and perhaps my CDP if I can manage to get to the PCB.
post #6 of 12
What brand pot is used in the Creek amps? The one in the picture looks like the common cheap carbon kind. Are there any dual carbon ones where the two channels are well matched?
post #7 of 12
Hey MacDEF

I personally have developed "Hamsta's Rule of Fives" when looking at upgrading equipment (I can just see Raymondlin and Davidcotton's eys rolling up with that "Here we go again" expression ).

Basically it goes something like this......
To get a SUBSTANTIAL and SATISFYING improvement from any kit upgrade, that's not going to leave you wanting to do it again in a year's time, you're probably going to have to purchase a component that has a recommended retail value of around FIVE TIMES that of the component you are replacing.

Okay, so maybe that's a bit steep as a "rule" (although it does hold true for my last CD and amp upgrades, the speakers are next), but I think looking at components AT LEAST TWICE the price of what you've got is recommended. Too often we like to change components for a "different sound" rather than a "better sound", and it leaves us wanting more again in a year or so's time. Some people turn over their equipment so often (and losing money with each change) it becomes a financial "disease" known in hifi circles as "upgraditis". I guess a headphone example might be looking at changing your Senn HD580s for a pair of Grado 325s when you're probably better off hanging out for a while and saving some more cash for a pair of RS2s or even RS1s.

The old 502 is a great player and I reckon you'd be looking at the best part of US$1000 to get a really satisfying upgrade (IF you were replaacing the whole player). The DAC may be the better way to go as a cheaper option, but remember for future upgrades that you don't find too many stand alone CD transports below a few thousand dollars, and otherwise you'll be paying for a new DAC with a new player anyway.

Of course, all the above is just my opinion...... I enjoy lively debate so anyone can feel free to disagree.

post #8 of 12
Thread Starter 
OK, so I've been looking at the Musical Fidelity A3CD, which has gotten rave reviews. However, I just found a bunch of info on the Sony SCD-C333ES. I'm not a fan of changers (I really want a single-CD unit), but the reviews this thing has received are pretty phenomenal for a changer. It is supposed to be a great SACD player, but allegedly sounds pretty amazing with standard CDs, as well. It made Class B in Stereophile's latest list, and the reviewer really sang it's praises. That was at $1200 -- I've found it brand new with full warranty for as little as $599. Not bad for a Class B CD player that also happens to play SACD (not that I actually have any SACDs LOL).

Has anyone seen/heard this unit? Anyone care to compare it with the A3CD?
post #9 of 12

I bought mine from Oade (http://www.oade.com) for $550. Go to their site to get their phone number, and then call them to see if they have any in stock for that price.

-- Jude --
post #10 of 12
Hamsta, although I agree with your method of upgrading, but 5X is way out of my league at the moment. That would mean a £2500 CD player if I had to upgrade, and I do find another slight probelm of upgrading this way. That is if one component at a time.

Take my system for example, CD player £500, amp £400, Speakers £300. Even my dealer call it a balance setup, so upgrading any 1 component will expose the rest of the setup's flaws. It'll also limit what the new component can do, so normally I perfer to save up until I can make a big jump for a complete new system. It might mean seems a bit much at the time but you can also get better discount this way.

And you can make sure the system gel as a whole before you buy it, rather then buying a new CD player to suit you system, o a new amp to suit you existing speakers. The whole system now can be pick from anything.
post #11 of 12
System matching is very important, so checking out a CD upgrade at the same time as your potential amp upgrade would be wise.

The technology in CD players is changing pretty quickly, so even given that the NAD was a great CD player for the price when it came out, it may not compete with current players at the same price point now. I have only heard the 502 briefly so I can't comment on how it compares. Certainly outboard DACs can be a good upgrade at a reasonable price for many units. I would advise trying one out first though because different DAC/transport combinations will sound differently.
post #12 of 12
I'm a little tardy for this discussion, but better late than never I guess. Ever thought about getting a jitter filter (after your dac purchase of course)? The Monarchy dip mk II appears to be a good transport upgrade based on reviews.
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