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What happened to the dedicated CD transport ?

post #1 of 95
Thread Starter 

I've never been a fan of juggling CDs - I rip mine to the hard drive then store them out of harm's way - but various companies are still selling CDPs for thousands of dollars, so clearly the rest of the world hasnt followed me lead. Trawling through 6Moons, I came across a review of Stello's CDT100 / DA100 combination, and it got me wondering what had happened to the dedicated CD transport.


On the surface, it seemed like a good plan - separate the moving parts in the transport from the DAC - but I guess that opened things up a little more than some manufacturers would have been happy with. Nothing to stop me hooking your 1K CDT to my $300 DAC using a cable from Tandy/Radio Shack and pronouncing the result to be less-than-stellar. No I2S connection and no control over what came after those pretty gold RCA (or black XLR) connectors on the back of my CDT, not to mention forgoing sales on 2K CDPs in favour of 1K CDTs. 


We also had a period here where new Head-Fiers were routinely told to just go out and buy any-old-DVD-player as a  transport - the DAC was the most important link in the chain and it didnt matter what you put at the transport end. Just as we realised that the USB and Toslink outputs on most motherboards arent exactly ideal mechanisms for audio, the el-cheapo DVD route seems to have run its course. 


Of course, all is not lost for those with deep pockets:




None of this will fix my CD version of DSOTM, but I guess pockets that deep extend to the shelving for vinyl. wink.gif

post #2 of 95

I think Little Dot sells one.

post #3 of 95

Uh... nothing?



post #4 of 95
Thread Starter 

OK - that's four. Four among how many 'integrated' CDP's ??  To be fair, there are CDP's with digital out and CDP's which will function as standalone DACs, but thats hardly the same thing as the dedicated CDT.  

post #5 of 95





Dedicated CD transports are still around, they are mostly just high-end machines now. The Bel Canto is unusual because it costs so little for a dedicated transport. It makes sense if you think about it. Why do you need a $1K transport and a $1K DAC as opposed to a $2K integrated? What is that really getting you? While you can separate the vibration of the transport from the DAC circuitry, you also have to pay for a second enclosure, and that takes a significant amount of cash that you then can't spend on more important internal components. You also have much longer signal paths, and it's easy enough to build two power supplies inside a a single box.


At the high-end level, separate boxes still make sense. The second enclosure price is no longer a concern, and you can build in massive transports and power supplies without the weight of the component getting completely out of hand because the DAC section with its own massive power supply is in a separate box. You can go even further if you want and separate the DAC's digital section and analog section into individual enclosures.

post #6 of 95



This was the one I was considering. A great looking transport under 1k.


Woo audio just put one out at 1k as well.

post #7 of 95
Thread Starter 

Thanks for that, MT - great stuff.


Dave, I feel I need to explain myself in more detail - thank for the great images, btw.


- I am frustrated by the endless jitter debate, particularly the prospect of having to buy something from Empirical/Audiophilleo simply to have a clean signal from a USB port. 2K+ DAC, 1K or so on another box to let that DAC 'work' - annoying

- I started looking at the PWT, given the reviews - expensive but not stratosphere


- vinyl ? Maybe, but not for the bulk of my music. CDs are still out there - who knows how long that will remain the case ?


- started looking at budget CDPs - Marantz etc - then realised that as soon as the transport starts playing up, they are a throwaway. Drive mechanisms often cheap Phillips or whatever - next step up is in same ballpark as the DAC+USB converter mentioned above


The irony is that I dont want MORE boxes - I want less - but if the 'solution' going forward is PWT+PWD, so be it. I know exactly when I will be able to afford that combination, or the equivalent, but I'm not buying a big-dollar USB DAC to be told I need another expensive little box - and cabling - to use the #$%#! thing ! 




I distinctly preferred the JKSPDIF with the Metrum Octave - it seemed to bring out more elasticity and tame some of the glassiness.


It doesnt stop there, Dave - I need battery power too ... 


 The JKSPDIF MK3 seems to be kinder/gentler overall.  Perhaps it's the battery technology?  Phillipe Gruebel (head honcho at Audiophilleo) is on the cusp of formally announcing a battery power unit for his devices.  If you can't wait, I achieved some good results with the KingRex UPower.


All of which brings me back to the killer blow:


PSAudio's PerfectWave DAC (MK1) appeared fairly indifferent to both the Audiophilleo and JKSPDIF.  It sounded superb without such appendages.


I rest my case. Get out of USB-dependent audio until DAC makers fix whatever clocking issues are putting most DACs in the jitter wastebasket. That, or have Darko shot.  rolleyes.gif

post #8 of 95
Thread Starter 

Forgot to mention - I do realise that jitter/clocking issues don't magically disappear when you move to a CDT - if anything, they could be worse with the wrong DAC - but the same issues have been there for years and I dont recall too many owners of modern CDP's banging on endlessly about 'glassiness' and 'digititis' - YMMV.


Part of me says this is all audiophool obsession, but if I'm going to spend the money I dont want to keep spending it every two freakin' months. angry_face.gif

post #9 of 95

The Perfect Wave DAC makes some sense, particularly if you don't want to deal with a computer or USB. Just pop in the network card, attach some HDDs, and you're good. Can that setup beat the best computer and USB DAC rigs, or high-end one piece servers? I doubt it, but the price is also a lot smaller.


The Perfect Wave Transport makes a lot less sense, and from what I understand, it hasn't been a great seller. The price of the two of them can get you into some big dog integrated CD players on Audiogon - Audio Aero, Esoteric, or a classic like a Levinson 390S.


A third route is something like Synergistic's The Music Cable DAC, you plug one end into the computer, the other into your preamp, and you're done. No cables, no battery supplies, no USB converters, no nothing. Frankly I think a lot of what Synergistic does is complete nonsense, but according to TAS, Synergistic's TMC DAC was a match for Empirical's Overdrive in very similar show systems (Mach2Music Mini, YG Acoustics speakers). The Overdrive is one of the very best USB DACs around, so if the $3600 TMC can catch it, that's an impressive feat, although I'm not sure whether that was the standard $4K Overdrive or if it was upgraded.

post #10 of 95
Thread Starter 

Thanks Dave - a lot of dollar signs in that lot, but its all grist for the mill. The prospect of having access to enough money to really go silly with this hobby (not Grande Utopia silly, but silly for me ..) is both a blessing and a curse, but I still have plenty of time to sort this out. Just happens that this thread coincided with a nasty bout of insomnia.   biggrin.gif


We may well look back on this obsession with jitter in a couple of years and laugh, but then I typed something similar in 2010. Steve Nugent and Co know they have a ready market of obsessives by the short-and-curlies.  


(as I have said previously, pls dont read too much into my rants - I am mostly venting. I want it all and I want it yesterday - and I dont want to pay for it. How very 21st century of me ......  rolleyes.gif )

post #11 of 95

Aside from Little Dot's CD transport system, there's offerings from Yaqin and reference class cd transports from Shanling still that go from anywhere between $800-5000 on ebay. 

post #12 of 95
If you've got a warmer amp take a look at a vintage CD player. I've got an old Toshiba that my parents pulled out of the attic that is a detail monster, but like most of the older players it's quite bright, even too much for me and I like brighter gear usually. I'm using a
Toshiba XR-35. It puts anything else that I've heard to shame and there is a particular drum solo on a Reverend Bizarre track that I've heard quite a few times, with that player I was right in front of the drums. Impact like that shouldn't even be possible with electrostatic headphones, but again it sounds pretty lean though not bass shy. You should easily be able to find that player or something similar under $50, what have you go to lose?
It's not a transport, but I highly doubt it has an jitter issues, the timbre was spot on. You usually hear that with high end gear you're only getting the last 10% as opposed to budget gear, but that CD player is miles ahead of my old Burson 160DS. If you do decide to try out the Toshiba there are two things you should know about it. The back of it is sensitive to EMI, so much so that touching it causes the sound quality to drop, so face it toward a wall if possible. And two, it's somewhat sensitive to vibration. I'm no expert with CD players, so this probably is pretty normal, but make sure it's sitting on something solid. My Sherwood amp was fine, my computer desk is not.
Edited by MohawkUS - 6/5/12 at 4:10pm
post #13 of 95
Why would facing it against a wall fix anything?
post #14 of 95
Originally Posted by MorbidToaster View Post



This was the one I was considering. A great looking transport under 1k.


Woo audio just put one out at 1k as well.


That looks suspiciously like the Pacific Valve Vanguard CDM12 I previously owned. A very nice transport I simply decided to go with a high quality player.



post #15 of 95
Originally Posted by Chris J View Post

Why would facing it against a wall fix anything?

I've got my audio rig in my computer room and it picks up quite a bit of EMI if the back if facing any other way. You can hear it if anything touches it, it's a small price to pay for such good sound. It's only the back panel of the CD player that's sensitive as my tape deck with ventilation on the bottom picks up EMI from the vents on top of my amp. It could just be my CD player or it could be the fact that I've got an acrylic window on my computer's side panel. Can't really be sure as I inherited this player from my grandparents and it was in the attic for quite a while.
Edited by MohawkUS - 6/5/12 at 5:16pm
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