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CD player - upgrade or trade?

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 

I have a Musical Fidelity A3 CD player (from 2002 I believe), classy player in its day, and it still works, though well overdue for an overhaul. Now at a crossroads: upgrade the player, or just use it as a transport.

 

It has a PCM1716 DAC chip and a KSS-240A transport mechanism. Apparently the op-amps in the output stage (NE5532) can be improved & I'm thinking Burson which is a simple replacement. But would that be worth doing in view of the transport? Any other suggestions?

 

As a transport into my Channel Islands DAC2 it does no more than match my Squeezebox Classic, if that, so maybe the upgrade is a better path. Dunno.

 

Anybody? Should I post or cross-post this in Sound Science?

post #2 of 22
Real-time playback of audio CDs is just throwing money away when we have much better options these days.
With real-time playback (an actual CD player, playing at 1x) you have the potential for the disc to be misread. The best-case scenario for a CD player is that it reads the disc perfectly, the worst-case scenario is that a disc will not be read correctly and have audible errors.

If you rip the disc with software that supports secure ripping (dBpoweramp, JRiver Media Center, EAC etc.) you now have a 100% identical copy of the audio that is stored on the disc, that plays back perfectly every single time. So even with a cheap computer-based setup, you are able to create a perfect copy of the audio stored on the disc (assuming your are saving to a Lossless/Uncompressed file) because the process of ripping the disc allows for it to be read as many times as it needs to make an exact copy if it doesn't get read correctly on the first pass. A CD player only ever gets that "first pass" on the disc.


While you can argue over specs on paper, good modern DAC designs are effectively all the same when you are talking about differences that are inside the range of hearing for humans. (up to 20kHz)
This is likely the reason why you won't be hearing any difference between your external DAC and the Squeezebox.

High-end CD transports are a relic from the past, and while audiophile companies will be happy to sell you one, they are not your best option for playing from CD any more.

If you are happy with the Squeezebox, I say stick with it. Personally I prefer the additional speed and processing options that a PC-based setup allows for when running software such as JRiver Media Center, and since you already have an external DAC, you don't need to worry about sound quality from it. (the built-in sound on PCs can be troublesome - I always prefer going through an external DAC)
post #3 of 22
Thread Starter 

Thanks, SS. I'm finding that argument difficult to resist - bit of clinging to the past going on here. Always hard to accept that what you shelled out $$$ for could be obsolete, but it clearly is as you say. I have a computer-based desktop system for cans, so the technology is familiar. My wife OTOH likes to put on a CD, so I'll keep the player in the system for the time being.

 

Burson opamps + a new clock + an overhaul wouldn't leave change from $500 which buys a laptop.
 

post #4 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by bruce108 View Post

Thanks, SS. I'm finding that argument difficult to resist - bit of clinging to the past going on here. Always hard to accept that what you shelled out $$$ for could be obsolete, but it clearly is as you say. I have a computer-based desktop system for cans, so the technology is familiar. My wife OTOH likes to put on a CD, so I'll keep the player in the system for the time being.

 

Burson opamps + a new clock + an overhaul wouldn't leave change from $500 which buys a laptop.
 


Well all I can say is I was in the exact same situation as you, really good (in its day) cd player or go to a PC based setup. I made the switch and while I still have some equipment to buy before it is complete, I can already tell you it is night and day a better way to listen to music!! I can not believe it took me this long to get around to it. It takes a while to rip all your cds to HD, but once you do it is so much better!

post #5 of 22
Computers don't like me. Too fiddly and ripping 800 CDS isn't appealing even if I knew what I was doing. Is playing a CD in 'real time' really so prone to errors if both software and hardware is kept in top condition? (not hard to do.Is playing CDs now really so obsolete...?
post #6 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by brymuse View Post

Computers don't like me. Too fiddly and ripping 800 CDS isn't appealing even if I knew what I was doing. Is playing a CD in 'real time' really so prone to errors if both software and hardware is kept in top condition? (not hard to do.Is playing CDs now really so obsolete...?

 

The question of CD players is not only one of errors, its also about the general flexibility of the system.

 

CD players are in general self contained devices. They only do a handful of things, and enabling additional functionality in them is costly, just for the sake of upgrading them in order to make them compatible with newer standards.

 

PCs are general purpose machines, and its much easier for them to upgrade with standards to provide additional functionality without costing an arm and a leg. Not to mention backups and error free reads.

 

But at the end, its upto you to chose whether you want to learn and use that extra functionality, or keep things simple (Play CD in cd player, buy new cd if the old one doesn't work).

post #7 of 22
If you have a CD player setup that you are happy with, or you don't want to go through the hassle of ripping a large library (note: for that task I recommend dBpoweramp - go through the secure ripping setup once and it's mostly automated after that) there's absolutely nothing wrong with keeping it.
If your discs are in good condition it probably will read them correctly, and there's a certain appeal to just being able to put a disc in and hit play.

But I wouldn't spend any money on upgrading the CD player - especially if you already have an external DAC for it.
And I wouldn't consider buying a new "high end" CD player/transport today.

If your CD player stops working and needs replaced, then you might want to buy something else, but if you already have an external DAC you can probably buy any cheap DVD or Blu-ray player and get the same performance.
post #8 of 22

Well in my case I still have my cd player and I do still listen to a cd through it. I almost always listen to a new cd through it first just because it is so easy, just slide it in and hit 1 button. Eventually though it is going to get ripped to my HD, when I have the time. Parasound still makes a cd player for about the same amount I paid for this one, I may get the new version just to keep the line going in my listening room. I am surprised every time I use it and it still works (it is pretty old).

post #9 of 22
Am I missing out on something? Is there a better sound quality computer file than the original CD (in top condition)?
I can understand why you would buy new music on a higher quality file, but can you actually transfer your existing CDs to a higher SQ?
I think im a dinosaur. I couldn't exchange books for a Kindle either.. smily_headphones1.gif
post #10 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by brymuse View Post

Am I missing out on something? Is there a better sound quality computer file than the original CD (in top condition)?
I can understand why you would buy new music on a higher quality file, but can you actually transfer your existing CDs to a higher SQ?
Under ideal conditions, if all you are doing is playing back what's on the disc, both should give you the same result.
Under non-ideal conditions, the computer should give you a better result because it can read the disc as many times as it needs to extract an exact copy of the audio.
A CD player may just keep skipping with a bad disc.

A computer is not limited to CD-quality audio - you can go beyond 16/44.

While I mostly just play through Albums, JRiver has a great "play doctor" feature that actually does a very effective job of creating a playlist that sounds good, based off a single input - an artist, a genre, your favorite song. Most players that try something similar didn't work well for me.

You have the option of other plugins that will give you Crossfeed or HRTF, rather than requiring you to buy a headphone amp that has those functions.

Even if you're only going to be playing CDs, not all CDs are mastered well, and you can run them through a de-clipper on the PC.
It doesn't fix the compression, but can make them listenable again:
post #11 of 22
So you could potentially remaster your cd collection at point of transfer to computer? I would certainly be interested to hear the difference in SQ the two. I listen mostly to classical and I can hear that recordings from the early days of CD aren't all perfect. I really dont come across many duds these days tho.
Maybe when the CD player gives up the ghost, I will get a dac as a step on the road to computersville... smily_headphones1.gif
post #12 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by brymuse View Post

So you could potentially remaster your cd collection at point of transfer to computer? I would certainly be interested to hear the difference in SQ the two. I listen mostly to classical and I can hear that recordings from the early days of CD aren't all perfect. I really dont come across many duds these days tho.
Maybe when the CD player gives up the ghost, I will get a dac as a step on the road to computersville... smily_headphones1.gif

 

Well, a CD player is a reader + dac combined, a PC can separate the two, so you've got more flexibility.

post #13 of 22
Mastering engineer Barry Diament has stated that computer playback ripped from CD sounds exactly like the master he made, while CD playback doesn't.
post #14 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Radioking59 View Post

Mastering engineer Barry Diament has stated that computer playback ripped from CD sounds exactly like the master he made, while CD playback doesn't.


I wonder what OS he used, which CD-ROM drive was in the machine, and which ripper he used.

I have been ripping discs since the first ripper for Windows 3.1 became available. My own experience with that process has shown that the process is not so clear cut and accurate. A disc with many errors might play quite happily in a CD player, but would not rip properly. Then there are rippers that are more accurate than others. A CD player has the Reed-Solomon error correction built in, but I have never found any reference to that error correction process in any ripper software. 

post #15 of 22
I remember reading that somewhere on the Hoffman forums. I'm sure he details it, but I have no idea what thread it was in.

The CD that plays but doesn't rip drives me nuts. It's happened twice to me out of 1000+ CDs. Ironically both were gold CDs (1 Mofi & 1 DCC) which are supposed to be superior, in terms of being read by laser, to their aluminum counterparts.


Edit: found it http://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threads/music-servers-vs-cd-transports.271009/
Edited by Radioking59 - 5/1/13 at 11:34pm
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