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CD player recommendation

IMF+TDL

Active member
Chazk said:
I'm also looking for a good and probably last cd player. I have a built in DAC with my Hegel H160, so I don't need another DAC. I've done a decent amount of exploring and research and still haven't found much clear around the quality/value sweet spot for cd players. I like using the library of actual cd's I have vs burning them on to a digital file storage. I also have redbook cd's and no SACD's.
Have people here had experience that have noticed greater purity of sound with more expensive cd players like Ayre or Hegel or Bryston etc vs say the Oppo 103/105 or even the latest NAD/Marantz type cd players? I'll be going to have a comparative listening session at my local audio dealer, but it can be hard to do careful listening comparisons in showroom setting. I'm currently using my 70$ sony dvd player as my cd player which sounds surprisingly decent, but seems a bit thin and fatiguing over time.
What is the upper limit of your budget? Are you willing to pay the price of a unit from Hegel, Bryston or other such companies?
Are you going to buy new or used? The Oppo 103/105 have been replaced by the 203/205.
Would you be amenable to buying a CD transport (disc drive only without a built-in DAC) and using the DAC in your Hegel amp?
 

Chazk

Member
Thanks for the replies. I was really curious to see if there was much difference in my Sony BDP S6500, which I run a Audioquest Carbon digital coax to my Hegel. Last night I compared a cd I know well to the same cd through Tidal over Airplay to the Hegel. The cd sounded clean but very thin in comparison lacking body to try and put into words. A surprisingly disappointing showing from my Sony.
So I don't need a DAC as the Hegel is more than sufficient. I'm open to used or new and 1000-1500$ would be the upper range of my budget, a similar spend to my Rega RP3 with external power supply etc. I was open to the idea that most digital sources would sound similar, but after multiple comparative listening sessions with my little cd player in contrast to the same music streamed or on vinyl, my own anecdotal experience says there is a difference.
I've been looking at the Oppo 105, not sure the Darbee update is worth it for music, which will be the primary use? The Primare CD32 and Hegel CDP 2A or 4A or Exposure are all considerations. Once again after my less than satisfying experience with my Sony DVD/CD, I wasn't sure if you get more of what you pay for with cd players and it was worth going beyond the Marantz/NAD less expensive players? I do appreciate you all's perspective, especially as we already share an appreciation for natural and transparent speakers with Harbeth.
 

Jeff_C

Member
Chazk said:
Thanks for the replies. I was really curious to see if there was much difference in my Sony BDP S6500, which I run a Audioquest Carbon digital coax to my Hegel. Last night I compared a cd I know well to the same cd through Tidal over Airplay to the Hegel. The cd sounded clean but very thin in comparison lacking body to try and put into words. A surprisingly disappointing showing from my Sony.
So I don't need a DAC as the Hegel is more than sufficient. I'm open to used or new and 1000-1500$ would be the upper range of my budget, a similar spend to my Rega RP3 with external power supply etc. I was open to the idea that most digital sources would sound similar, but after multiple comparative listening sessions with my little cd player in contrast to the same music streamed or on vinyl, my own anecdotal experience says there is a difference.
Have you considered that the bit-stream from Tidal, and from your Sony CD player are different? 'Lacking body' sounds to me like that Sony stream is just quieter. I can think of a couple of reasons why that may be so. The Tidal stream could have had some digital gain applied, or it could be a from a hotter master than the CD you play on the Sony. How have you verified that the source material is in every way identical?

Here's something that you could try to get to the bottom of the puzzle. Rip the CD you have to a lossless format. You can verify that the rip is accurate using 'Accurate Rip'. What that means is that each and every bit of data has been extracted from the CD correctly. Compare the CD via the Sony into the Hegel DAC vs the computer file into the Hegel DAC. They should sound the same. Identical bit-streams into the Hegel, are going to sound identical. If the Sony is unable to correctly extract the data from the CD (highly unlikely) such that it sends a persistent and consistently incorrect stream to the Hegel, then that could be a reason why the streams sound different, but I would wager a large sum that that is not happening. Why would I be prepared to wager a large sum? Because it is quite straightforward to accurately rip a CD in 2 minutes using a 10$ CD reader in a computer, which means that it can correctly read and extract each and every bit of the data from the CD in one pass 30x faster than normal CD playing speed.
 

Milosz

Active member
Chazk said:
I've been looking at the Oppo 105, not sure the Darbee update is worth it for music, which will be the primary use?
I use the Oppo as both audio and video player so it's a very worthwhile unit for me. However, I wouldn't call the Darbee feature an "update" as I actually don't use it at all. If your TV is professionally calibrated like mine, Darbee can only make the picture worse, not better. Trusted professional told me that turning the Durbee enhancer off is the very first thing he does when he's calibrating a TV set paired with an Oppo player. And that's how I personally perceive it; the higher the Darbee setting, the worse is the picture on the screen. If your TV is calibrated, the whole job of the BD player is to provide a bit perfect video stream through HDMI. Darbee, just as all other similar video enhancements, cause that the stream is not bit perfect anymore, which can be easily measured. And seen.

Regarding the comparison of a CD against same music played from Tidal or vinyl, I think it's very hard to do as we can never be sure if same masters were used. Actually with vinyl it is 100% sure that masters were different. Many people hate modern remasters and very often it's the only thing we can get on CD. The question is if you're sure that the same disc would sound any better played on a different player than the Sony? It would be best to try a different CD-player at home before making purchase decisions.
 

Chazk

Member
I will try some more comparison and try ripping a cd in lossless as Jeff suggests. I am running Tidal in HiFi mode so I should be getting cd quality, thus what seemed like a fairly decent comparison to the same cd through the Sony? I realize they could all be from different masters. What seems harder to ignore for me is the somewhat thinner sound from the cd player. And this is playing a variety of recordings and types of music. So my question still remains, do fellow Harbeth owners notice a more realistic playback through higher quality cd players? And is there a sweet spot? Say 500$ for the NAD or Marantz or Adcom's of the world? Or more added value at the 1000-1500 price, probably used for the Primare, Hegel, Exposure sort of player? I'm not interested in more expensive alternatives.
 

Chazk

Member
Regarding the Oppo, I had also heard the Darbee was not helpful, with audio or video. However I can find an Oppo 105 for under $1000, just not sure if dedicated CD player channels a purer sound than universal type disc players...the jack of all trades master of none syndrome?
 

Milosz

Active member
Chazk said:
Regarding the Oppo, I had also heard the Darbee was not helpful, with audio or video. However I can find an Oppo 105 for under $1000, just not sure if dedicated CD player channels a purer sound than universal type disc players...the jack of all trades master of none syndrome?
Darbee chipset is video only, it's got nothing to do with audio.

As I said, the Oppo sounds just as good as my older dedicated CD-players from Audio Aero and Plinius, which were four times more expensive than the Oppo. If there are in fact differences, they are too small to bother. I don't see any reason why a good universal player should sound worse than a dedicated CD-player.

Regarding disc transport part of the player, to my knowledge, either the audio or video digital signal is bit perfect or not and there's nothing in between. What more can be possibly achieved than digital accuracy?

As regards DACs, there can be differences indeed, but they are not at all that big. My own experience tells me that the Advantage CD-1 player sounds identical to the TEAC UD-501 DAC. I still have both of them at home, so making comparisons is simple. As these two units have absolutely nothing in common except the standard 2V analogue output, the only explanation of the fact that they sound the same is that they both sound correct. I am currently using a cheap Pioneer PD-30 player in my second system and I'm positive it also sounds correct.

My suspicion is that if one CD-player sounds very different to another one, it can only mean that one of these player's outputs was deliberately messed by the manufacturer in order to make it sound different and stand out in a competitive market.

That said, I wouldn't like to use a cheap BD-player, such as your Sony, to play CD's, for various, mainly practical reasons. I'd rather buy either a cheap player like Marantz, Pioneer, NAD and the like or a more expensive universal audio/video player like the Oppo. In both cases I'd be totally confident that I am getting best possible sound quality, and if I don't like the final result, I can blame any other factor that may matter in listening to music at home, but not the player itself.

IMF+TDL said:
The Oppo 103/105 have been replaced by the 203/205.
203 is already in the shops but 205 not yet. I didn't care about the new models because I'm happy with my plasma and I'm not going to buy a 4K TV.

https://www.oppodigital.com/blu-ray-udp-205/
 

willem

Well-known member
A cd player is two devices in one: a disc transport and a DAC. Of these two, only the DAC has a potential impact on sound quality. Since you already own the DAC part, and of reputable quality, you only need the transport part of what constitutes a cd player. Since disc transports have no sonic signature, the cheapest one will do as long as it has a digital output. That disc transport can be a cheap cd player, but also a Bluray player. They all produce a bit perfect output, so as long as you feed their digital output into the Hegel the sound will be identical irrespective of the source.
Obviously, if you want the player to also play movies, picture quality comes into it as well.
 

ssfas

Well-known member
willem said:
A cd player is two devices in one: a disc transport and a DAC. Of these two, only the DAC has a potential impact on sound quality. Since you already own the DAC part, and of reputable quality, you only need the transport part of what constututes a cd player. Since disc transports have no soci signature, the cheapest one will do as long as it has a digital output. That disc transport can be a cheap cd player, but also a Bluray player. They all produce a bit perfect output, so as long as you feed their digital output into the Hegel the sound will be identical irrespective of the source.
Obviously, if you want the player to also play movies, picture quality comes into it as well.
There are excellent and very popular options from Oppo. I have a Tascam CD-200 that cost less than £200. It uses the exceptionally robust TEAC 5020A drive unit. I now use a Denon DN-500BD that cost £300 that I use more for DVD playback and is a third the thickness.. The only thing to make sure is that the device has digital outputs as well as the standard analogue.
 

kerouack

Member
I bought a second hand NAD cd 545 cd reader (digital output ) for 180 euros in ebay, shipment included. I mean, there are lot of good and cheap second hand options.
Also a blueray player is a good option, i just did not want blueray.
It is not worth it to spend lot of money.
 

Chazk

Member
And if an inexpensive cd player is what is used, is there a better way to connect it to my Hegel so I'm utilizing the good DAC in my amp? I don't really understand the difference between digital coax, USB and the other possibilities for connection and sound quality tradeoffs, if any? Thanks
 

boogy

New member
Digital coax into Hegel is enough. The digital bits from the cdplayer go straight into the DAC of Hegel instead of the CD player's own DAC if you use the coaxial out from the cdplayer, as opposed to connecting the analog rca to the amplifier where the conversion from digital to analog is done in the cdplayer.
 

willem

Well-known member
Disc players do not normally have a usb output. CD players and the like usually have a coaxial digital output, but sometimes it is an optical digital output. What you have to ascertain is if your Hegel has the same type of input as the output of your disc playe
 

Chazk

Member
I've done more listening and the dvd/cd player seems to be sounding better, fuller bodied, after 50 hours or so of use. Or my psycho acoustic self is adjusting to a different sound than previous Tidal HiFi or certainly vinyl. It also seems that only using the cd reader fed through the digital coax allows my Hegel DAC to do the processing that may lend itself to better sound. In which case, my tentative conclusion is don't spend much on cd player and have a decent quality DAC to run it through. Assuming a good quality DAC makes some difference in the quality of the sound reproduction, I'm more pleased with my integrated Hegel and built in DAC and I've saved a bunch of money using my little 75$ dvd/cd player.
 

IMF+TDL

Active member
Chazk said:
And if an inexpensive cd player is what is used, is there a better way to connect it to my Hegel so I'm utilizing the good DAC in my amp? I don't really understand the difference between digital coax, USB and the other possibilities for connection and sound quality tradeoffs, if any?
Consider these test reports for your Hegel H160 and an inexpensive CD player:
http://www.stereophile.com/content/hegel-music-systems-h160-integrated-amplifier-measurements
http://www.stereophile.com/content/marantz-cd5004-cd-player-marantz-cd5004-cd-player-measurements

Precisely what is it that makes you believe the performance of the DAC in the inexpensive CD player is significantly or audibly worse than the "good" DAC built into your Hegel amp?

An optical connection provides galvanic isolation and is far less likely to pick up noise or conduct it between the CD player or transport and the DAC.
 

Milosz

Active member
Oppo seemed to have a very good product when it comes to universal digital players and certainly was a successful company so it comes as a surprise that they just announced that they stop developing and manufacturing any new products and only sell existing ones while stock lasts. Which for the UK is expected to be this summer. Oppo says existing products will continue to be supported, warranties will still be valid, and both in-warranty and out-of-warranty repair services will continue to be available but I can’t say how reliable that is. Alan and others are right that it is important to buy from companies that are well established in market for years and are going to stay for years to come.

No reasons for that decision were revealed but I suspect it can be due to the fast replacement of all audio and video physical formats by internet and streaming services and the fact that the latest video medium which is 4K UHD Blu-ray did not prove as successful as expected, which probably hurt sales of the latest Oppo UHD players.

https://www.oppodigital.com/farewell.aspx

https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnarc.../#620cdd9a3acc
 

willem

Well-known member
Wow that is a real warning not to wait too long with getting a new disc player if you need one. I am not so sure about the reasons, however. I agree that in the long run video streaming will take over, but unlike with music, streaming of films is still hardly a serious option at this moment in time. Netflix programming is crudely commercial with only a small selection of mostly B movies.
 

acroyear

Active member
Milosz said:
Oppo seemed to have a very good product when it comes to universal digital players and certainly was a successful company so it comes as a surprise that they just announced that they stop developing and manufacturing any new products and only sell existing ones while stock lasts. Which for the UK is expected to be this summer. Oppo says existing products will continue to be supported, warranties will still be valid, and both in-warranty and out-of-warranty repair services will continue to be available but I can’t say how reliable that is. Alan and others are right that it is important to buy from companies that are well established in market for years and are going to stay for years to come.

No reasons for that decision were revealed but I suspect it can be due to the fast replacement of all audio and video physical formats by internet and streaming services and the fact that the latest video medium which is 4K UHD Blu-ray did not prove as successful as expected, which probably hurt sales of the latest Oppo UHD players.

https://www.oppodigital.com/farewell.aspx

https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnarc.../#620cdd9a3acc
that's surprising news, I was looking to buy an oppo at some point but have always been reticent because my cheap Samsung bluray player using its internal DAC with rca (and hdmi) out I bet has 98% of the performance of the pricier, better made models so I had held off. I imagine UHD disc hasn't really kicked off because the relative upgrade from 1080 is pretty minimal, more a refinement that the significant jump from dvd to blu ray. I will admit being a 'discophile' I way prefer owning the physical disc if I feel the content is worthwhile. If my player dies there are plenty options out there.
 

Ult1mat3X

New member
Here is a link to an old Technics that resembles the Fisher I remember seeing:

http://www.thevintageknob.org/technics-SL-P10.html

And here is a Fisher:

http://www.thevintageknob.org/fisher-AD-850.html

And a Pioneer:

http://www.thevintageknob.org/pioneer-P-D1.html

Here is an interesting Pioneer that has level meters, but I do not think you can see the disc spin:

http://www.thevintageknob.org/pioneer-P-D70.html

You can search that site for more such units. Your difficulty will be in finding one that works, and since they are now rare and collectible, they will cost you much more than a player that will sound just as good that you can buy for next to nothing at a thrift store. But if you want to see the disc, you will have to pay extra for the privilege.
 

pkwba

New member
Although I am professed user of Oppo universal players (now 105 BD) in audio systems (decent hi-fi speakers of the same class and manufacturer arranged for surround sound), I had to replace older Marantz cd-17 KI in my stereo audio rack in my studio with a new player around year ago (total ageing and collapse of the drive, they did not have the replacement one at authorized repair shop for more than one month). By chance I won the auction at local portal for brand new Arcam cds 27 for I would say very occasional price (one third of factual street price). The player came in original cartoon box with all the papers. Up to now I had no time to dig deeper into its digital network receiver section but I can't say even one word of complain on its sonic quality. Very pleasant musical experience, moreover it is capable to re-play also sacd recordings and has got high quality usb port which enables listening to hi-res files up to 24 bit resolution. Great digital disc and files player made by people who must be real engineers and experts in audio world. I suppose that every serious music lover who have decided to pick - up any player from them turns into their sworn client. No-nonsense product, needs some insight into manual but the lecture pays-off with revealing its vast versatility. Worth each penny, even at current street price level. For hard - core audiophiles there are also xlr outputs if one fancies coupling audio elements this way (I used them only because I had dusted noble, top grade and thick high quality Ixos cables, at least 20 years old :) ). Purely musical tool. Quiet operation of the drive. Sincere recommendation.
 
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