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Head-fi's Recommended Digital Sources call for nominations

post #1 of 142
Thread Starter 
This would be in a spirit similar to the very useful "Headphone Of The Year Awards 2003" thread, courtesy of 3lusiv3:
I have forwarded that headphone award link to several friends to back up my recommendations on headphones that I haven't auditioned. A similar list of recommendations for sources would be a nice thing to have here in head-fi as well.

WhatHiFi categorizes by price ranges, Stereophile and Absolute Sound think that doesn't make sense, they have this notion of layers of sound quality (Classes A+ to E, or 1 to 5) and products fall into them depending on how they sound, in principle regardless of price. I think price ranges help because people might be interested in spending up to a maximum budget. What price ranges make more sense for sources I'm not sure though.

Multi-format capable players could be nominated on a format-specific basis, appearing on the different lists if they qualify on the different formats. Stereophile's ranking hi-res capable players just based on their hi-res playback I think is a terrible idea. Many people want to know how a hi-res multiformat capable player's CD playback ranks compared to other multi-format players' Cd playback, as well as compared to dedicated CD-only players. Universal players category added temptatively after Welly Wu's suggestion. The overall combined performance of the player on all supported formats should be taken into account for a nomination into this category.

I think we shouldn't include mp3 or portable players here. Purchase decisions for those are based on many other things besides sound quality and price, like features, weight, portability, battery life, ease of use, speed of file transfer, etc. etc. But if you think some have a sound quality worth their price, and you've compared them to similarly priced (or higher) standard digital sources, then do submit your recommendation.

Taking advantage of 3lusiv3 suggestions and rules in his own thread, reusing some of them here:

* When nominating, please use the full name and brand of the source.

* Don't nominate something just because you own it. This is not a best selling contest, and the question here is not "What's your source", but in your experience what are the best sources for a particular playback format, and within specific price ranges. To nominate a source, you should have auditioned at least few units in a similar price range (or higher).

* If there is a source that is very good and underpriced, it can be submitted into higher categories. For example: you can submit an excellent $400 source for the under $500 category, and also for the under $1000 categories, provided you think it's good enough, or highly competitive/outstanding in that higher price range.

* Please provide with your nomination the most realistic price, e.g. latest "street" or web price of the unit, or approximate used priced for discontinued units, otherwise MSRP. Also, if it applies, separately indicate the highest price range where you nominate the unit into.

* If you see a player already in the nominations and you haven't nominated it already, don't hesitate to submit your own nomination, again, provided you think it is among the best or highly competitive in a particular price range, and that you've heard at least a few other representative players in that same (or higher) price range. I will count the repeated nominations for a player in each category, and will put that number of submissions in parenthesis. The count will show how many headfiers agree that's a highly recommended source for the specific playback format and price-range.

* If there are no nominations in a category, the category will be eventually removed. Btw please make suggestions about refining these categories, they can certainly be improved. This list will be changing as submissions arrive.

* How to read these lists: given a budget X, look for the smallest price range that covers your budget in the lists of your format of interest. The cost of entries in that sublist are around your budget, some might be pricier up to the amount naming the list, some might cost much less, in that case it's an underpriced but very good sounding source. Its appearance in that higher list just means it is supposedly competitive (sound-wise) even up to that price range, or maybe even higher! So in general, explore neighboring price ranges to see the "recommendation coverage" of any specific source.


=============================================
Best CD playback:
=============================================

---- $Cost no object
47Labs PiTracer/Progression DAC
Krell kps25sc
Linn CD12
Meitner DAC6 w/ Meitner modified Philips SACD1000 (2 votes)
Nagra DAC1
Naim CDS3

---- Under $10K
Audio Aero Capitole MKII
Audiomeca Mephisto
Krell kps 28c
Mark Levinson 31 transport + 30.5 Dac
Mark Levinson 360s dac w/ Sony dvp 9000es
Metronome T2/C2A
MSB Platinum Reference CD Station II
Musical Fidelity Tri-Vista
Naim CDX2/XPS2
Simaudio Moon Eclipse

---- Under $5K
Meridian 588
Simaudio Moon Eclipse
Shanling CD-T100 w/ Underwoodhifi Level 1 or 1+ mods
Shanling CD-T200 w/ Underwoodhifi Level 1+ mods
Wadia 301
Wadia 302

---- Under $4K
AudioNote 2.1x w/ Superclock II mods
Audionet ART V2
Linn Ikemi
Meridian 506.20
Meridian 588
Meridian G08
Shanling CD-T100 w/ Underwoodhifi Level 1 or 1+ mods
Sonic Frontier SFCD-1
Sony SCD-C555es w/ Sacdmods
Wadia 301

---- Under $3K
Audio Analogue Maestro CDP
AudioNote 2.1x w/ Superclock II mod
Cary 302/200
Naim CD5
Shanling CD-T100 w/ Level 1 Underwoodhifi mods
Simaudio Moon Nova
Sony SCD-C555es w/ Sacdmods

---- Under $2K
47Labs Shigaraki DAC
Ack! DAC
Audiolab 8000CD
AudioNote 2.1x w/ Superclock II mod
Ayre CX-7
Bel Canto DAC2
CAL DX2
Carin Fog 2
Electrocompaniet ECD-1 DAC
Micromega Stage 3
Muse Model 2 DAC + Pioneer PD-65
Philips SACD1000
Primare D20
Simaudio Equinox
Sony SCD-C555es w/ Sacdmods

---- Under $1600
47Labs Shigaraki DAC
Ack! DAC
Bel Canto DAC2
NAD 542
Pioneer Elite DV-59AVi w/ HiBit+Legato pro enabled
Primare D20
Sony SCD-333es w/ Sacdmods
Sony SCD-C555es w/ Sacdmods
Toshiba SD-3950 w/ Rossi mods

---- Under $1200
Ack! DAC
Bel Canto DAC2
NAD 542
Philips 963sa w/ Sacdmods
Primare D20
Sony SCD-333es w/ Sacdmods
Sony SCD-C555es w/ Sacdmods
Toshiba SD-3950 w/ Rossi mods

---- Under $1000
Ack! DAC
Apogee Mini-DAC
Arcam DiVA CD73t (2 votes)
Benchmark Media DAC1
Marantz CD6000Ki Signature
NAD 542
Philips 963sa w/ Sacdmods
Rega Planet 2000 (2 votes)
Sony SCD-333es w/ Sacdmods
Toshiba SD-3950 w/ Rossi mods

---- Under $600
Ack! DAC
Apple Ipod
Cambridge Audio Azur 640C
M-Audio SuperDAC
MSB Link w/ upsampling DAC
NAD 541i
NAD 542
Scott Nixon TubeDAC w/ power suppy
Sony DVP-NS500V w/ Sacdmods
Sony SCD-333es
Toshiba SD-3950
Toshiba SD-3950 w/ Rossi mods

---- Under $250
Cambridge Audio D500
E-MU 0404
E-MU 1212m soundcard
M-Audio Audiophile USB soundcard
Marantz CD6000 OSE
Micromega Stage 2
NAD 521i
Terratec EWX 24/96 soundcard
Toshiba SD-3950
Toshiba SD-3950 w/ Rossi mods

---- Under $100
Toshiba SD-3950


=============================================
Best CD Playback (Vintage/Discontinued, but well worth a listen)
=============================================

Meridian 200 Transport (2 votes)
Meridian 200 w/ DPA Digital PDM2 DAC+Deltran clock conversion (~$6500 in 1992)
Rega Jupiter CD Transport + Rega Io DAC (~$1800 in 1999)


=============================================
Best SACD playback:
=============================================

---- $Cost no object
Meitner DAC6 w/ Meitner modified Philips SACD1000 (2 votes)
Musical Fidelity Tri-Vista

---- Under $5K
Shanling CD-T200 w/ Underwoodhifi Level 1+ mods

---- Under $4K
Sony SCD-C555es w/ Sacdmods

---- Under $2K
Philips SACD1000
Sony SCD-333es w/ Sacdmods
Sony SCD-C555es w/ Sacdmods

---- Under $1600
Pioneer Elite DV-59AVi
Sony SCD-333es w/ Sacdmods
Sony SCD-C555es w/ Sacdmods

---- Under $1200
Philips 963sa w/ Sacdmods
Sony SCD-333es w/ Sacdmods
Sony SCD-C555es w/ Sacdmods

---- Under $1000
Philips 963sa w/ Sacdmods
Sony SCD-333es w/ Sacdmods

---- Under $600
Sony DVP-NS500V w/ Sacdmods
Sony SCD-333es


=============================================
Best DVD-Audio playback:
=============================================

---- $Cost no object

---- Under $5K
Meridian 596

---- Under $2K
Pioneer Elite DV-59AVi

---- Under $1200
Denon DVD 2900

---- Under $100
Toshiba SD-4900


=============================================
Best Universal (overall or combined performance on all supported formats):
=============================================

---- $Cost no object
Bel Canto PLayer-PL1

---- Under $10K
Bel Canto PLayer-PL1 (2 votes)

---- Under $6K
Teach Esoteric DV-50

---- Under $2K
Denon DVD 5900
Marantz DV8400

---- Under $1600
Marantz DV8400
Pioneer Elite DV-59AVi

---- Under $1200
Denon DVD 2900

---- Under $600



Submit your nominations!
post #2 of 142
rsaavedr --

I have no nominations, but...
I feel the need to bump this up!

C'mon, someone suggest something!
I don't want this to go to page two!

Scott
post #3 of 142
Best universal under $1,000 USD MSRP: Denon DVD 2900
Best universal for $1600 USD MSRP: Pioneer Elite DV-59AVi
Best universal under $2000 USD MSRP: Denon DVD 5900
Best Universal period: Bel Canto Design Player-1
post #4 of 142
By CD "playback" we should include external DAC's and Sound Cards via Lossless compression, as well.

And qualifications for nominating should include actually having heard the component being nominated in question?

-Ed
post #5 of 142
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by Edwood
By CD "playback" we should include external DAC's and Sound Cards via Lossless compression, as well.
I think that'a a good suggestion. Notice I named the category CD playback, not really Cd players, so that anything playing redbook CD pcm goes, including SACD players, DACs, computer cards, etc. etc. I only think we should keep portables out, maybe in a separate recommended list of portables thread.

Notice the idea is that a good SACD player may end up in the SACD recommendations, while not in the CD if it doesn't play CD's well enough. The reverse could also happen, as well as a SACD player entering both categories, if playing both formats well enough. That format-specific recommendation is what I think would be most valuable.

Quote:
And qualifications for nominating should include actually having heard the component being nominated in question?
I would think that should be the way. But now that I see not many have made submissions, probably not many here have heard many sources???
post #6 of 142
are you gonna do transport/dac combos?

or best transports under...etc?
post #7 of 142
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by sleepkyng
are you gonna do transport/dac combos?

or best transports under...etc?
Well, maybe the transport/DAC combo as a whole. To get the actual sound out of the CD you would need to pay for both, so the whole combo is the device that would be nominated into let's say best CD playback between $x and $y.

Again price categories are to be refined, nothing categorical yet. I think the price ranges of the submissions will help refine them, suggestions are welcome.
post #8 of 142
Thread Starter 
Modded units could be nominated as well, taking into account price of unit + modding, + maybe shipping if heavy enough to be an expensive shipping.
post #9 of 142
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by Welly Wu
Best universal under $1,000 USD MSRP: Denon DVD 2900
Best universal for $1600 USD MSRP: Pioneer Elite DV-59AVi
Best universal under $2000 USD MSRP: Denon DVD 5900
Best Universal period: Bel Canto Design Player-1
Welly Wu your submission suggest that we better had a separate "Overall" or "Combined" category, instead of separated by formats? Or would it be possible for you to rank them according to how their CD and SACD playbacks are separately?
post #10 of 142
Okay, here it goes:

Just to be sure, I thought that we should have a combined category because it that is the nature of the universal player. I think that putting it into price categories is okay of an idea. I also thought we were comparing independent source components as units unto themselves instead of breaking them down by their strengths and weaknesses which can be done in separate reviews.
post #11 of 142
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally posted by Welly Wu
Just to be sure, I thought that we should have a combined category because it that is the nature of the universal player. I think that putting it into price categories is okay of an idea. I also thought we were comparing independent source components as units unto themselves instead of breaking them down by their strengths and weaknesses which can be done in separate reviews.
Well, that's the key difference. At least to me, it is a bit of a mystery how good the CD playback of the Marantz SA8260 is according to the Stereophile folks, same as with the Sony SCD777ES. They rank the former as class A, and the latter as Class A+, but that's (in principle) exclusively their SACD playback ranking. They say "Very good with CD", or "price just as a standalone CD player would be justified, on top you have top-notch SACD capability". Well, still there's no ranking for the CD playback part. How good is that good, when comparing their CD playbacks to let's say the Rega Planet 2000? The Rega is a Class B, but that's for CD playback, it's a CD player and nothing else after all. Maybe the Marantz playing CD's is not as good as the Rega in comparison, same with the Sony, they might possibly correspond to class C or D with respect to CD's, maybe those or some other SACD players wouldn't even enter the rankings as CD players despite superb rankins as SACD machines. That's what I mean. I think multiformat players should have as many rankings as formats they support. It's only an idea that I think could be helpful, in particular for people interested in good CD playback, but open to the new formats, and debating whether to have one single source or possible more because of the several formats available.
post #12 of 142
My nomination:

Best CD playback under $200: Terratec EWX 24/96 computer soundcard (average street price: $150)
post #13 of 142
Thread Starter 
Given all the CD players I've recently auditioned, I'll add a submission myself.

Less than $100 and less than $200 CD playback: Toshiba SD-3950.

I think it might qualify for the <$600 category as well, but will leave it as that for now. Bass could be improved after all. Many other headfiers will probably listen to this Toshiba soon, so let's see if anyone reaffirms it as a worthy submission
post #14 of 142
We get a lot of talk about the SONY SCD-555ES and newer NE-555ES or something like that. Those should be added under the appropriate categories in your original compilation. There should be a provision for the SACDMod version of the SCD-555ES as we have an actual review about it too.
post #15 of 142
THIS THREAD SHOULD BE MADE INTO A STICKY!
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