Digital Transports - USB Solutions, CD and SD Players, DAPs, and More!

Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by Hands, Oct 11, 2015.

  1. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    June '16 Update: See thoughts on D100 vs. Mutec 3+ w/ Regen and LPSU to both: Link

    Also this for other things rammed into the Mutec: Linky

    March '16 Update:
    Recently purchased the Soundaware D100 and am very much enjoying it as a digital audio transport. Wonderful sound. See my full thoughts here: http://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/soundaware-d100-transport.1580/

    I felt like spinning up a new thread to discuss various digital audio transports. That is, everything from CD or SD card players, USB->SPDIF converters, PCI/PCIe cards for USB or SPDIF out, and so on. Less so in the realm of devices that reclock and/or clean up the USB line, like the Wyrd, but feel free to discuss those as well.

    I'll start with my experience with the Theta Data III. I can't speak for how good these players are in an absolute sense, or even just when it comes to this particular unit, but I was intrigued by some earlier discussions elsewhere about how good CD players might have subjective benefits over even some of the best USB->SPDIF or just straight USB implementations.

    I actually gathered some parts together to build my own ugly CD player, based off a particular Asus DVD-ROM drive w/ SPDIF outout pins and, from what I could find, a surprisingly clean and accurate signal output. Thing is, I've been either busy or too lazy to slap that together, so I haven't tried it yet. Snatched up a Data III on eBay for the time being. (Holy shit, is this thing massive...makes the Theta Gen Va or Yggy look petite.)

    Anyway, on to how this thing sounds just as a CD transport, using the SPDIF, BNC output. Will shorten the name to D3. This is vs. a battery-powered tablet running straight to my Channel Island Audio Transient MKII USB->SPDIF converter without the available linear PSU.

    - Differences do not reach out and grab me in an immediate way. This is going to be difficult. Subtle differences at best, in the realm of causing placebo. Smaller than DAC differences.
    - D3 seems to have a harder hitting sound. Similar amount of thickness, but a hint more slam than Transient.
    - D3 seems to sound cleaner, clearer, and more precise. Better defined edges without adding additional sharpness or other unpleasant artifacts.
    - On closer listen, D3 seems to have a clearer sound because it has less perceived digital artifacts to the sound. This is most noticeable on cymbals. The metallic shimmer sounds cleaner and less confused on the D3, allowing the next hit to sound a bit more noticeable and defined.
    - D3 might have better low-end pitch and articulation. Maybe.
    - At least a bit more resolving throughout.
    - Not sure I'd be able to blind test this.

    What did I learn? Well, any differences, if really there, are going to be very subtle. There's always the possibility other CD players sound better, including other Data IIIs. Or, what about if I warm the Data III up more? Maybe. This has also made me more curious how the CIA Transient MkII will sound with the dedicated LPSU. It just runs off USB power otherwise, which I'm sure isn't doing it any favors. Pairing the Transient with the Wyrd made it sound overly edgy, though it did bring out some additional technicalities. Or maybe my tablet doesn't have enough gigglehurtz and Coors for the bits to breathe.

    I think I'm starting to get a glimpse of what a really good CD player might offer over USB-based solutions. But this also helps me put things in perspective. Differences among truly good, digital transport implementations of any kind should be very, very subtle, if noticeable at all. However, for the sake of discussion, let's say a good CD player will trump a USB-based solution. I still want to think you can get 99% of the way there with the right computer setup, USB->SPDIF converter or other USB solution, clean power, good cables, and maybe even your choice of product similar to the Wyrd. Whether it is easier or more cost effective, I don't know. I think you have to start looking at products like the Transient or Off Ramp 5 to really get there, but you do gain the benefit and convenience of having your whole music library available. No CDs to mess with.

    That said, after hearing the Data III, I think I'll keep it. I think I hear a subtle, but positive difference. Cuts through the mess a bit better without adding something artificial, edgy, or otherwise unpleasant to listen to. Maybe. But, I gotta say, it does make me respect the Transient MkII that much more as a very solid USB->SPDIF converter even without the LPSU.

    Now, if only I could find a really nice SD card player, to rule out any differences being mostly related to USB, or have the funds to build a PC focused on a good USB or SPDIF output implementation...

    That ends my stream of consciousness for the time being. Tell me more about your thoughts and experiences!
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2016

  2. bixby

    bixby Friend

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    Interesting idea playing from SD card. In my experiments the SD card playback on my mac was kind of thin sounding and I did not prefer it. But recently I have tried ripping directly to an SD card then transferring to network drive for playback. Call it crazy or me, but it sounds cleaner than ripping to the internal spinning disk or to the network spinning disk. Flame suit is on. Try it and hear what you hear. I have to do some more to make sure I am not hearing things that are not there. :eek:
     
  3. Judeus

    Judeus Wow, I made it this far without being a friend?

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    I agree
    digital transports are in the realm of cables for me, sometimes i think there is a difference but sometimes not, very subtle

    as always the main 3 things to focus on are dac,amp and cans

    magic cables, ac power regenerators, transports, voodoo rocks etc etc are things to experiment with to maybe tweak the sound even if it is placebao
     
  4. shipsupt

    shipsupt Head flea in the market - Admin

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    If you're using the built-in DAC then choosing the transport is important to me. Since I don't, I don't get very excited about it. I was pretty happy with a NuForce CDP-8 in the role of transport only for a long time. I only swapped to an OPPO-BDP 105 so I could play some SADC material I had. It plays anything I put in it and sends bits to my DAC. That's all I'm really after.
     
  5. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Hm, yeah, maybe you are going crazy there. :p

    I was talking more about dedicated SD card players that pull from the card and send directly to SPDIF outputs (OK, well, not directly, but no USB, if you know what I mean). Something sort of like this: http://www.qlshifi.com/en/wzcapi/qa661.htm

    I think these use a digital output chip of some kind that has inherently high jitter, but this is the sort of concept I'm thinking of. Another possibility is a PC built with audio in mind that has a nice PCI/PCIe card that sends out a good SPDIF signal. You know, just curious if USB really is limiting things or if we're getting in the realm of craziness here.
     
  6. Pyruvate

    Pyruvate Friend

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    I recently grabbed a Toshiba DVD player from the year 2000 from Goodwill ($13 lol) and use it as a transport by coaxing it out to my Bifrost. Like Hands said, the difference is tinier than a DAC upgrade when compared USB. Actually, a cable swap on my LCDs yielded a more noticeable difference.

    I'm still a low level pyrate though and maybe someday I could appreciate a fine piece of transport. But I really like the convenience of popping in a CD and letting it run from start to finish and not be worried with my musical ADHD when on the computer, where I would constantly switch in and out of tracks, and queuing the next track. For once, I can actually "listen" to my music.
     
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  7. Judeus

    Judeus Wow, I made it this far without being a friend?

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    make sure to get the audiophile sony sd cards with lower electircal noise:rolleyes:
     
  8. zonto

    zonto Friend

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    I appreciated the discussion of the Oppo BDP-105 in the gumby/yggy comparison thread. I use a BDP-105D myself (Netflix and discs, Mac Mini via USB in, and WiiU via ARC from HDMI1 Out). Anybody else using an Oppo?
     
  9. IndySpeed

    IndySpeed Friend

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    I have an Oppo BDP-103, and I was less than impressed with it from an audio perspective. If you are disc spinning, then you are good to go. For me, I've started moving towards ripping my entire CD collection. Oppo's support for streaming flac files over the network is less than stellar. Their official method is to use DLNA, and it is slow off the BDP-103 and no gapless support. Also, I experience both sound drop outs, odd sounds, and clicks / pops sometimes (not all of the time) with both DLNA and SMB. Also, I have opened tickets with Oppo when I found something consistently a problem, and even in that circumstance I just get the run around and ultimately give up. In addition, their SMB networking is much faster and reduces the gap between classical tracks, but Oppo only supports that from an "experimental" perspective (read: don't bother opening a ticket on a problem). Some of the networking audio features just feel like they are still in beta (sort of like their network apps such as NetFlix). Now if you are using it for Blurays, DVDs, CDs, and even MKVs (DVD rips) over the network, the player is awesome and rocks!! I choose the BDP-103 instead of the 105 partly because of expense, but I also knew that I would never use the analog out. I use an out board DAC. Currently, I have a Violectric V800 although I recently got a Bifrost Multibit for my desktop listening and it is way better, so I plan to upgrade the V800 to a Gungnir Multibit in my main listening setup probably within a year or two.

    CDs have for the longest time started become more and more less common. Big box places, Best Buy, and etc have significantly reduced their selection. Seems like eventually we will reach the same thing with CDs as Vinyl that it will become more of niche. Most typical audio consumers seem to have moved to music streaming and/or MP3s, so CD players with reasonable quality and cost will probably disappear at some point. So, I have been moving towards flac files. I believe that is the future of high end audio listening. Although, the problems I have had with this method is finding a good network player at a reasonable cost (less than $1000 perhaps) that decodes flac with DLNA, SMB, or even NFS in a gapless way without a noisy fan and with a SPDIF coaxial output. If anyone has suggestions, I'm all ears. Until I find something in that regards, I finally found something I'm willing to use for USB transport. I now use a Schiit Wyrd and Schiit Bifrost Multibit in my desktop listening rig which I always considered my "low end" setup. But this now beats my main listening setup. So, I'm contemplating moving to a similar setup in my main listening rig. The only downside I see are two. I don't want to dedicate a bunch of space to it, so I will probably use a laptop instead of a HTPC or tower computer. Also, computers typically have some fan noise which I'm not a fan of... In my desktop setup, I currently use a Linux system with a DeaDBeeF audio player and that works awesome. I am able to go directly to the USB card through ALSA so I don't have to worry about resampling or other layers of software that sometimes you might have to fight in a traditional Windows based system.
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2015
  10. OJneg

    OJneg The Most Insufferable

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    I'm really curious about the Emotiva CD player/transport. Looks like really solid build

    At the San Diego I heard the EAD player/transport and it was pretty damn good. Better than my Marantz player.
     
  11. velvetx

    velvetx Gear Master West/Vendor Spotlight Moderator

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    I am thinking of picking one the emotiva since it's only $399 right now on sale. I have had Marantz and Oppo and I think they both do a good job.
     
  12. zonto

    zonto Friend

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    Only $100 more gets you a 103 though.
     
  13. velvetx

    velvetx Gear Master West/Vendor Spotlight Moderator

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    Yes but no balanced outputs.
     
  14. Marvey

    Marvey Loves sex and records

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    The Channel Island Audio Transient MKII is supposed to be a really good USB converter, I'm not surprised differences are not huge.
    Also on the Data III, make sure you are in CD mode and turn off the display. Yeah, turn off the display. It's in the Theta manual.
     
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  15. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Indeed, it is quite a good converter even without the optional LPSU. I have yet to spend the cash on the LPSU.

    I run the Data III exactly like that. I am always sure to read the manual first. :) I do like that the Data III is ever so slightly darker, but slightly clearer, than the Transient MkII without LPSU. Plus, I guess I just feel like a real man using a big, black box to play shiny discs.
     
  16. Luckbad

    Luckbad Basshead - Friend

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    All I can say... if you sell your Transient, sell it to me. Thanks! :drunk:
     
  17. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Buy your own! :p
     
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  18. Luckbad

    Luckbad Basshead - Friend

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    Schiit fans wait for trickle-down tech. I wait for Hands-me-downs.
     
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  19. zonto

    zonto Friend

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    I just ordered an Oppo BDP-103D that has been outfitted with an Audiopraise Vanity103 HD upgrade board which, among other things such as jitter reduction and VCXO reclocking, enables the digital pass-through of high-resolution PCM streams (e.g., DTS-HD Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD tracks on Blu-rays) through a 75-ohm coaxial output. Also performs DSD-to-PCM conversion for SACD playback.

    Will be pairing with the Yggy in a video 2.0 system and comparing to a stock Oppo BDP-105D currently used as transport.
     
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  20. Rotijon

    Rotijon Friend

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    What kind of USB transports are you guys using though?

    I like listening to speakers in the dark, so i'd like to control everything via an ipad or something.

    My best bet now seems to be an auralic aries.

    Do you guys have any other ideas?
     

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