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!