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$400-$500 DAC vs $400-$500 CD player

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 
I never see comparisons between these different categories of sources, specifically. For the money, which would buy the better sound? Forget about convenience. (The comparison would be a CD ripped to FLAC played through the DAC vs. CD straight into the player.)

I'm considering the entry level Emotiva CD player, the Marantz cd player in that range, or the Cambridge Audio CD player in that range


The Schiit DAC, the new V-DAC II, rDAC, etc.

I know generalizations are terrible in audio, but can it be said that in this price range one is better than the other? Maybe because with a CD player you're paying for the transport, where with a DAC the money would go to a better chip--or, a CD player would have a better power supply, less emi than a computer, any jitter is self contained, etc.

I haven't found any discussion like this, and am curious to hear your opinion. I'm going to be investing in a good source soon, and am not sure which path to go down.

post #2 of 3

I have always preferred the sound straight out of a player until I got my Calyx 24/192. It's the first DAC I've preferred USB playback on.


At the range you're considering I'd probably go for the CD player. If you get one with decent digital out options you can always just use it as a transport when you invest in a higher quality DAC. 


I've really enjoyed my time with my Emotiva gear so far but I haven't heard one of their players personally. There's a few people on Head-fi that have them in their systems though. The fact it can feed 3 amps is pretty cool, IMO. 


EDIT: This is of course if spinning CDs is your main source for music. If you only have a few CDs and more music on your computer just get a cheap transport and a USB DAC like the Bifrost.

Edited by MorbidToaster - 4/26/12 at 10:12am
post #3 of 3

I strongly disagree.  I have owned $800 Rotel cd players, auditioned music hall and cambridge audio for a bit less, owned a rega saturn, owned a cayin (forget the model nbr, 17 ?). the cayin smoked the others i mentioned. I had these as my player at my desk at work. My home cd player is a Naim cd5 with outboard power supply (over $3000 all told) and IT smokes the cayin.


I am now auditioning a grant fidelity tubedac-11 (i have a few hundred hours on it) and although it is not at the level of refinement of the Naim set-up (in that it certainly exhibits more of a digital signature), it is a very good sounding unit and makes my cd's sound far better than any of the mid price cd players i've mentioned. Add in the fact that for hi rez of 24/96 it sounds much better than it's price would suggest, there is no way in heck I would replace it with a cd player under probably $1200 to $1500. And it costs only $350 bucks.


I would not be surprised if purely as a DAC (it also functions as a preamp with 2 analog inputs and multiple digital inputs, has 3 discrete output modes plus a headphone amp built in) it can be surpassed for a hundred to 350 more. so for $700 or less I KNOW that I can own a DAC that blows away those 500 to 1000 cd players, because this one does. I am probaly going to move up before all is said and done as I'd like a DAC that is even better than this (being spoiled by my naim and my analog rig) but if your budget is 500 or so I strongly advise a DAC. If possible auditon some of the players you mentioned and a couple of good mid price dacs, and let your ears decide. .   


edit: after another week on the tubedac-11, I am going to try tube rolling as an upgrade path, as the sound of this unit has just gotten better and better even with just it's stock tube

Edited by analog'd - 5/5/12 at 1:52pm
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