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CD Players - Remember Them?

post #1 of 42
Thread Starter 

I've started testing out some alternatives to iTunes on my Mac Pro. Right now I've got Audirvana Plus, when the trial runs out I will try Pure Music.

 

The funny thing is that these alternatives are actually reminding me how much I prefer my CD player to my computer for listening to music.

 

 

bijou_300x225.jpg

 

Please note I am not suggesting that CD players are better than computers, rather that I think my CD player is better than my computer.

 

Also, I'd love the opportunity for a double blind listening test, I am very aware of the power of suggestion and auto-suggestion in assessing hi fi components, and so my liking of my CD player may be completely a product of auto-suggestion.

 

My CD player is actually a Sugden CDMaster. A few years old now. Sometimes I use the DAC that is built in, other times I use it with my Meier-Audio StageDAC. Difficult to pick a preference, the two DACs really are very close. CDMaster's built in DAC is possibly just a bit more fluid sounding.

 

I still buy nearly all music on CD so for me the CD player is relevant.

 

A very important thing about music is that is remains coherent, that all parts of the music work together successfully. Very often so-called hi-end hi-fi fails this and is disintegrating in nature. This disintegration of the music is often mistaken for quality, the music, in its disintegrated form actually sounds initially to be of higher quality, the different elements sound more apparent. However, in fact, I think something which holds it all together is missing.

 

My CD player is so good at keeping everything coherent. The different elements have their say, but they remain always together and integrated.

 

It is a curious thing that in "Dedicated Source Components" forum I see so many thread about Vinyl reproduction and reproduction from files on computers, but rarely do CD players get a mention.

 

I confess that my Sugden CDMaster killed off vinyl replay for me. I had been using vinyl since the late 70s and had a few CD players before my Sugden CDMaster, but it was the CDMaster which made, for me, turntables redundant.

 

So I am wondering if I will find some computer replay system that will make my Sugden CDMaster redundent?

 

Right now I am thinking "not yet" :) Sugden CDMaster still rules in my house!

 
post #2 of 42
If you hook up both the CD player and the computer up to your DAC for playback, the computer should win every time.

CD players are reading the disc at 1x in realtime, so any marks on the disc or errors in reading are audible.

Assuming you are using software that is capable of secure ripping, the computer has as much time as it needs to read and re-read sections of a disc, until each track is ripped perfectly. Then on playback you are using a perfect rip, and you are guaranteed the same results every time.

Even if a disc appears to be pristine, you will sometimes find an older disc, or a newer one that was a bad pressing, will rip considerably slower than a "good" disc when you put them in a computer - these are the ones you should be wary of when playing in a dedicated CD player.

While there is the convenience factor of being able to put a disc in and play it immediately, if the disc is good, it should take less than five minutes (maybe ten on an older computer) to fully rip the disc to a lossless file for playback - and then you have it available to be played back at any time without having to go and find the disc the next time you want to play it.


And for what it's worth, as long as you go to the "Audio Midi Setup" app on your Mac and change the output to 44100Hz and 2ch-24bit, and don't use the software volume control or EQ inside iTunes, you should have bit-perfect playback of CD quality files. No need to use other players.

If you don't think CD audio sounds good like this, you need to change your DAC. If you are only playing audio through your computer, I would probably recommend the ODAC (or O2+ODAC combo) as it is relatively inexpensive and should give you high end performance.
post #3 of 42
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by StudioSound View Post

If you hook up both the CD player and the computer up to your DAC for playback, the computer should win every time.

 

 

Your posting is very interesting for me, so I thank you for it.

 

I do hook up my CD player and computer to my DAC. With my CD player I sometimes use its built-in DAC, sometimes the separate DAC, the same one as the computer.

 

I do think the CD player sounds better, but I am very aware of the influence of suggestion and auto-suggestion in assessing audio systems. It is very likely that I simply have an association of "CD player = good" and "computer = surely not as good" in my mind. I've been using Hi Fis for many years and it never ceases to amaze me how powerful suggestion and auto-suggestion are.

 

I do have a question however, about the technical issue raised in your posting. First I am not knowledgeable about using computers for audio, it is something I have been doing increasingly only over the last couple of years. You write how the file on the computer is more easily accessed and read than the CD in the CD player. I have no doubt that is the case. However if the CD player has a good transport, then is it not the case that the transport is "good enough", in other words, the reading of the music will be error free with decent quality CDs, and thus the problem of data not being read correctly would be extremely small?

 

I'm going to check out this:

 

And for what it's worth, as long as you go to the "Audio Midi Setup" app on your Mac and change the output to 44100Hz and 2ch-24bit, and don't use the software volume control or EQ inside iTunes, you should have bit-perfect playback of CD quality files. No need to use other players.

 

I will make sure the computer is set up this way. Then revisit this.

post #4 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by p a t r i c k View Post

I do think the CD player sounds better, but I am very aware of the influence of suggestion and auto-suggestion in assessing audio systems. It is very likely that I simply have an association of "CD player = good" and "computer = surely not as good" in my mind. I've been using Hi Fis for many years and it never ceases to amaze me how powerful suggestion and auto-suggestion are.
That seems to be the most likely reason.

It's also possible that the CD player's DAC is either better than your external DAC, or potentially less accurate than your external DAC, but in a way that you prefer the sound of. (e.g. rolled-off higher frequencies)

With both sources going through the same DAC, there shouldn't be any difference between how they sound, as long as the output from both is bit-perfect. (i.e. outputting a 44.1kHz signal, rather than an upsampled one)

Quote:
Originally Posted by p a t r i c k View Post

I do have a question however, about the technical issue raised in your posting. First I am not knowledgeable about using computers for audio, it is something I have been doing increasingly only over the last couple of years. You write how the file on the computer is more easily accessed and read than the CD in the CD player. I have no doubt that is the case. However if the CD player has a good transport, then is it not the case that the transport is "good enough", in other words, the reading of the music will be error free with decent quality CDs, and thus the problem of data not being read correctly would be extremely small?
The main difference is that with even the best CD transport, it is not going to read the data perfectly 100% of the time - particularly if the disc has any flaws. (which may not be visible to the eye) On playback, because it is reading the disc at 1x and playing in realtime, it only gets one chance to read things.

With computer-based playback, it can read the disc as many times as it needs to create a perfect lossless file. Once you have that perfect rip, playback of that file is trivial for the computer to do - it will be decoded and stored in memory for playback. It isn't trying to decode the data in realtime, so there's no possibility of imperfect playback.


So the absolute best possible output from a CD Transport, is the standard output from a computer with a securely ripped copy of the CD.

You could have a ten thousand dollar CD player that can't read a damaged disc perfectly, which would sound worse than even the cheapest computer, because the computer can take as much time as it needs to extract the audio when ripping the disc.

If you are using a digital output from the computer, really the only thing you have to worry about is jitter, and most good DACs should be able to eliminate jitter these days. (and it is debatable whether jitter is even audible)
post #5 of 42

Studio, I'm just curious what transport system you used to do this comparison to come to this conclusion? Or is it just common knowledge that everyone knows a computer source beats a transport every time, regardless of what the transport is?

post #6 of 42
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by StudioSound View Post


With computer-based playback, it can read the disc as many times as it needs to create a perfect lossless file. Once you have that perfect rip, playback of that file is trivial for the computer to do - it will be decoded and stored in memory for playback. It isn't trying to decode the data in realtime, so there's no possibility of imperfect playback.
 

 

Well that is interesting, however it doesn't answer my question which was, if the CD player reads the data just fine, then there wouldn't be an advantage to the computer. The CD player reads the disc in real time, but they do buffer the data I guess and "real time" is a pretty slow way to read data from a disc, meaning that misreading the data is unlikely for the CD player. So, in this regard using a computer isn't going to fix anything, if you like, compared with the CD player.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by StudioSound View Post

With both sources going through the same DAC, there shouldn't be any difference between how they sound, as long as the output from both is bit-perfect. (i.e. outputting a 44.1kHz signal, rather than an upsampled one)

 

But I'm wondering about things like Audirvana, or Amarra. Audirvana, which I'm trying now does seem to have a significant influence on the sound. It seems that these data processing engines do interpret in some way. Is the iTunes interpretation necessarily the absolutely correct one, and thus Audirvana would be an adulteration? If there are possible alternatives to signal interpretation, then maybe the CD transport in my CD player which I am using has, what might be for me, a preferable interpretation?

 

This is not something I have expertise in, it is very interesting for me.

 

post #7 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by Golfnutz View Post

Studio, I'm just curious what transport system you used to do this comparison to come to this conclusion? Or is it just common knowledge that everyone knows a computer source beats a transport every time, regardless of what the transport is?
If you have a jitter-immune DAC, and the computer is configured correctly. (24/44.1 output) then the computer is playing back perfect audio every time.

If your DAC is not jitter immune (most are these days) then the source with lower jitter might sound better - assuming that the CD transport has read the disc perfectly, and that you believe jitter to be audible. In this case, a theoretically perfect CD player could sound better than the computer.

But it would be far cheaper to replace the DAC than buy this theoretically perfect CD transport.
Quote:
Originally Posted by p a t r i c k View Post

Well that is interesting, however it doesn't answer my question which was, if the CD player reads the data just fine, then there wouldn't be an advantage to the computer. The CD player reads the disc in real time, but they do buffer the data I guess and "real time" is a pretty slow way to read data from a disc, meaning that misreading the data is unlikely for the CD player. So, in this regard using a computer isn't going to fix anything, if you like, compared with the CD player.
Yes, if the CD transport reads the disc perfectly, it will sound the same as the computer - the issue is that no CD transport will read all discs perfectly all the time, no matter how much you have spent on them, especially if the discs are not in pristine condition. (which can even apply to new discs, as the quality is so much worse these days)

The computer spends as much time reading the disc as necessary the first time when ripping, so that you are guaranteed perfect playback every time from the resulting lossless file.

So in a comparison, either the computer sounds exactly the same as the CD transport, or the transport sounds worse.
Quote:
Originally Posted by p a t r i c k View Post

But I'm wondering about things like Audirvana, or Amarra. Audirvana, which I'm trying now does seem to have a significant influence on the sound. It seems that these data processing engines do interpret in some way. Is the iTunes interpretation necessarily the absolutely correct one, and thus Audirvana would be an adulteration? If there are possible alternatives to signal interpretation, then maybe the CD transport in my CD player which I am using has, what might be for me, a preferable interpretation?
Lossless digital files (FLAC, ALAC etc.) can only be decoded one way. Either you are playing back the file correctly, or you are manipulating it in some way. (EQ etc.)

If you play back an Apple Lossless file inside iTunes when your system is set to output 24/44.1 (no resampling) and you have the EQ, Sound Check, and Volume Controls disabled, then you have bit-perfect playback.

If these other players sound any different at all, then they are not a bit-perfect representation of the original audio.

The main difference with these players is that iTunes cannot switch sample-rates on the fly. So if you have a 24/192 file and a 16/44 CD file, both will be output as 24/44 if that's what you set the system output to. These other players will switch the system output to match the file samplerate.
Edited by StudioSound - 3/10/13 at 9:59pm
post #8 of 42

I have two transport systems. One sounds the same as the computer system, the other sounds better. All three are feeding the same DAC (2 transports and coomputer). As a matter of fact, there are occasions when the music is interputted by the processing of the computer. I've never had this with either of my transport system.

post #9 of 42

If you are feeding the same dac different sources, but they sound different, the sources are coloring the information being sent and/or the dac is having issues with reclocking the information.  As far as I'm concerned, this is normal.  My dac sounds different when sending it usb, optical, or coaxial.  Usb needs the most reclocking correction, then optical, and coaxial needs the least reclocking correction.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Golfnutz View Post

I have two transport systems. One sounds the same as the computer system, the other sounds better. All three are feeding the same DAC (2 transports and coomputer). As a matter of fact, there are occasions when the music is interputted by the processing of the computer. I've never had this with either of my transport system.

post #10 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by hodgjy View Post

If you are feeding the same dac different sources, but they sound different, the sources are coloring the information being sent and/or the dac is having issues with reclocking the information.  As far as I'm concerned, this is normal.  My dac sounds different when sending it usb, optical, or coaxial.  Usb needs the most reclocking correction, then optical, and coaxial needs the least reclocking correction.

 

Hodgjy, I agree with you. However, this guy is saying computer source beats any other source everytime - that I don't agree with.

post #11 of 42

I don't agree with that either, especially if it's being sent over USB.

 

I would say a really good cd transport with a good master clock would be the best source because the dac wouldn't have to reclock as much.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Golfnutz View Post

Hodgjy, I agree with you. However, this guy is saying computer source beats any other source everytime - that I don't agree with.

post #12 of 42

Wow, this is some interesting stuff here, I am kind of in the same situation, switching from a dedicated cd player to using the computer for my music. I do have a question, you say that when ripping a cd to the HD the computer will do error correction to get a 'clean' file. Is this automatic? Does it depend on the music player used, for example Windows Media vs Winamp?  I am currently using WMP and ripping using windows lossless format, if it is better I could switch to Winamp (which supports flac) if that would make any difference in the resulting audio quality. From what reading I have done they are pretty similar, but I don't recall seeing anything about error correction for either.
 

post #13 of 42

Remember them?  That's all I use....other than my universal players.

post #14 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by HPiper View Post

Wow, this is some interesting stuff here, I am kind of in the same situation, switching from a dedicated cd player to using the computer for my music. I do have a question, you say that when ripping a cd to the HD the computer will do error correction to get a 'clean' file. Is this automatic? Does it depend on the music player used, for example Windows Media vs Winamp? I am currently using WMP and ripping using windows lossless format, if it is better I could switch to Winamp (which supports flac) if that would make any difference in the resulting audio quality. From what reading I have done they are pretty similar, but I don't recall seeing anything about error correction for either.
If you don't want to buy a dedicated ripping program, read up on how to use EAC (exact audio copy) with Secure Ripping, and AccurateRip to verify the results. (there are a number of guides available online)

If you can afford $38 and have a big collection of CDs, I strongly recommend dBpoweramp, as it requires considerably less set-up, and has a number of useful features. (first-time setup with dBpoweramp)

I don't know that programs such as Windows Media Player, Winamp or iTunes are capable of Secure Ripping.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Golfnutz View Post

I have two transport systems. One sounds the same as the computer system, the other sounds better. All three are feeding the same DAC (2 transports and coomputer).
Then something is going wrong with at least one of the devices. CDs are digital audio - there is only one correct sound for them. Computers are capable of spending the time necessary to extract the original data exactly and storing that in a losslessly compressed format - provided that you use software capable of secure ripping. (primarily dBpoweramp or EAC)

CD players may or may not grab the audio stream exactly, and certainly do not do that with all discs 100% of the time.
So there are potentially differences between how a CD player is reading the data (i.e. incorrectly) compared to a computer.


The next potential difference is the output from the player. If your PC is configured correctly (24/44.1 output) and you are using a good player (iTunes is fine, but I recommend JRiver - I don't have any experience with others like Windows Media Player or Winamp) then you will have a bit-perfect output of the original data on the disc - you cannot get any better than this - and it is bit-perfect 100% of the time because the file is decoded in advance of playback, rather than being read in realtime.

A CD player may or may not be upsampling, may not have read the disc accurately, or may be processing the audio in some other way before outputting. They are essentially a "black box" and you don't really know what is going on inside them. With a digital audio output, that should be less likely, but I certainly wouldn't trust the analog output to be accurate. (just like I wouldn't trust the analog out of a PC)

If a CD player sounds different, this is the likely cause. And if they sound different, then they are inaccurate - potentially they are changing the audio in some way that you prefer - or at least think you do, because you spent X amount on this high-end device so different must be better.


The final potential difference is jitter. This is something PCs have traditionally been quite bad with, but newer devices should not be as bad as they once were, and you will find many sources that argue that jitter on the level that we see from most outputs, is completely inaudible.

And there are several different ways that modern DACs go about it, but all good DAC designs should be completely immune to jitter these days, so that it doesn't matter how much jitter your source has, as the DAC removes it anyway.

There should not be a difference between Toslink, Coax, USB etc. If there is a difference, something is wrong with your DAC - or it's in your head.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Golfnutz View Post

As a matter of fact, there are occasions when the music is interputted by the processing of the computer. I've never had this with either of my transport system.
I'm not sure how you have music skipping on the computer, that really shouldn't happen these days. How old is your hardware, and what player are you using? (on Windows, I recommend JRiver MediaCenter, though I did not have any problems with iTunes)
Quote:
Originally Posted by hodgjy View Post

If you are feeding the same dac different sources, but they sound different, the sources are coloring the information being sent and/or the dac is having issues with reclocking the information. As far as I'm concerned, this is normal. My dac sounds different when sending it usb, optical, or coaxial. Usb needs the most reclocking correction, then optical, and coaxial needs the least reclocking correction.
If your DAC is performing this correction, then there should be absolutely no sound difference between the three formats because they are all running off the same clock.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Golfnutz View Post

Hodgjy, I agree with you. However, this guy is saying computer source beats any other source everytime - that I don't agree with.
Perhaps I was being hyperbolic. Correctly configured, a computer will have 100% bit-perfect playback of CD audio, 100% of the time.
A CD player can potentially also have 100% bit-perfect playback of the CD, but it will definitely not be 100% perfect all of the time - no CD player can do this.

So you either have a relatively inexpensive source that is perfect 100% of the time, or a potentially very expensive source (once you start going high end) that is never going to be bit-perfect 100% of the time, and under ideal conditions (brand new disc from a good pressing etc.) can only sound exactly the same as the computer at best.

I don't know about you, but I would rather use a source that is inexpensive and guarantees perfect playback, rather than an expensive source that is inconvenient and does not guarantee perfect playback.
post #15 of 42
Quote:
Originally Posted by p a t r i c k View Post

But I'm wondering about things like Audirvana, or Amarra. Audirvana, which I'm trying now does seem to have a significant influence on the sound. It seems that these data processing engines do interpret in some way. Is the iTunes interpretation necessarily the absolutely correct one, and thus Audirvana would be an adulteration? If there are possible alternatives to signal interpretation, then maybe the CD transport in my CD player which I am using has, what might be for me, a preferable interpretation?

Aftermarket players like Amarra, Audirvanna, and Pure Music do have significant influence on the sound.  Configured well, they better optimize how the computer sends data to the DAC, and IMO offer a very audible improvement over basic iTunes - even with asynchronous DACs.  

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