Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by MoatsArt, Oct 18, 2016.
This is a thread dedicated to CD players and transports.
CDs suck as medium to store sound. As objects of possession they are better than files and worse than vinyl. Buy them, rip them first and back them up. Then go scratch the hell out of them, lend them to your friends and otherwise lose and abuse them.
Yes a lot of us still use dedicated CD transports and have CD collections. Just get the appropriate gear and start listening. You can post specific purchase questions in the appropriate thread.
My problem was owning too many CDs that I no longer played. I dunno how many I had...hundreds, collected over 20 years or so. Part of the problem is that I'm a prolific house-mover, and even a few hundred CDs can be a pain to shift (not on the same scale as vinyl though of course). But the biggest issue was what to do with the CDs I'm no longer into (I had some dubious musical tastes in my younger years). They're virtually worthless on the used market, and the hassle of selling them outweighs the small return so they just end up sitting in a box taking up space in my cupboard. After moving boxes from house to house for a few years, I finally got fed up this time and gave three quarters of them to a charity shop. The charity shop was quite happy about this (I also gave them a couple of boxes of DVDs for the same reason).
On the other hand, I really do enjoy the tactility of having a physical object to associate with the music I'm hearing. This'll sound weird, but that's why, for my favourite albums, I'm now buying them on vinyl...despite not currently owning a turntable. Bear with me...most vinyl releases come with a download code, so I get the best of both worlds...the pleasure of fondling a vinyl sleeve & soaking in the artwork, but I also get the convenience of a digital copy. LPs also seem to have a lot more intrinsic value than a CD (which seems worthless as soon as you buy it). I'll also buy a turntable at some point and will already have a ready-made collection waiting. Of course, I'm screwed if I keep moving house because crates of vinyl will be far worse than CDs, but I'm trying to be very picky about when I buy an LP, generally going with a download or streaming unless I really love a particular album.
The flip side of the worthless CD theory is of course that we can pick up cheap 2nd hand CDs...but then that brings me back to having crates of CDs to store. lol!
As long as the master recording with enough dynamic range is on the shiny disk I will continue playing it.
I know you can do more with FLACs and WAVs, but part of me appreciates the physical medium more. As a compromised medium the CD is a good compromise since you can still convert the PCM to whatever you like and find your own solution.
My James Brown collection alone, nope the CDs are staying. In the coming time more Beethoven and Prince because, well music.
OK, on a serious note then.
CDs have vastly improved in terms of reliability/decay since the early days, so as long as you have a good 'pressing' it should in theory last a lifetime. Well, a good 30 years at least. I know home burning is different, but I double archived a 500 CD collection on discs that I knew used the best dyes and came from a specific factory in Japan. I verified each disc after burning. I had to resort to the backup copies in 4 cases 6 months later.
South African pressings can be shit (c2 errors) and the materials like paper quality often are sub-par. I will return CD s here if I don't get a good rip. I know the US is better, but commerce and greed...
In practice they can scratch, and that can cause data loss. There is redundant data interleaved through the disc so if the lens can't get a good read it has a good chance of finding the bits elsewhere on the disc. If it can't and it doesn't interpolate it will skip. Interpolation is a best guess for lost data. I have a rule at home that no new disc may be played until it is ripped . You can't scratch a file.
In more practical terms storage density has been eclipsed. They are nice to have in a shelf, and there is a ritualistic bit that I do get of putting a CD on, much like a record. But they take forever to back up or to compress to another digital format, as it is a manual loading process. Forget searching and cataloging unless you have a Dewey card system!
They don't store metadata. If your player is not internet-connected you get no track listings on the playback device. Even with the case handy it's a pain to navigate vs a player with metadata and a screen (imo).
In short, you want both.
I have a multi-stage system. I ingest all new content in its native form - CD image files with cue sheets, downloads in flac or DSD or however they came, as close to the way I got them. This is my Master archive.
I then transcode to PCM where necessary and compress losslessly to FLAC. This is where I add metadata, album art and so on. This is my main 'Library' and my Source of Truth. I then compress to high bitrate mp3 for portable use, carrying over metada. I back up and verify on a rolling monthly basis and keep a copy offsite.
My wife loves CDs, so those go into the shelf in the living room. I have had to replace several from images over time as they get damaged or lost or what have you.
I have an old Philips CD player which I have hooked up to my DAC. I find that if I listen to a CD I actually sit back and properly listen. When listening to my vast collection of mp3's I tend to skip quickly between songs and albums.
I also do not like having my computer buzzing in the background when I am listening to music.
Space-saving sleeves. I have a couple hundred CDs. They take so little space now and I have them in aesthetically pleasing boxes where I can easily flip through them like the shelves at a record store. It's also actually easier to get the liner notes out now without damaging anything. I'm happier and use my CDs more, my spouse is happier as well.
I now have a real-deal vintage CD transport (I already own an Oppo BDP-103 but it is mainly on living room duties, serving a receiver sort of role).
This is a Philips model (CDV400) but the Theta is literally the entire chassis with different outside casing and a tiny board with an op-amp buffer (for more on this, http://www.lampizator.eu/LAMPIZATOR/REFERENCES/THETA Universal/theta.html)
Regarding the limitations of CDs, yes, they are imperfect and yes, you will (at some point in the next few decades) lose data, scratch them etc. I rip all of my CD purchases before I have a chance to screw them up. But that is the beauty of CDs when you're using proper CD ripping techniques. I can buy some very obscure small CD pressing of a certain master, have it shipped to my mailbox for almost nothing (from any country), clean it if necessary, rip and voila. Perfect sound forever Plus I have the liner notes for my perusal or scanning. There is usually no better metadata than the actual CD liner notes!
I'm all in for team tactile as well. I currently lack the time / money / energy to go vinyl, even partially. Also I came of age when tapes were finally defeated by CDs, so there is admitted nostalgia. Finally, importantly, my local record shop is tiny and awesome. I know the owner (and sole employee) and stop by at least once a month; he always has good recommendations for new music or old music he thinks I might like. I don't have the time to hunt for music with the same dedication and I value this real life relationship, so buying an album in person includes significant intangible value.
After I buy, I back everything up, especially for mobile listening. I am primarily an album listener. I like being able to drop a CD into the player and listen without having to interact with my computer (especially at work where sometimes I must have my computer OFF to get work done).
Anyway, after much local searching I found an acceptable Denon DCD 3000. The more fabled DCD 2700 is nearly impossible to find in affordable and usable condition. I exclusively use the coax output to dekembe modimbo (and before that to Gungnir Multibit). I find the sound satisfying, and I find myself listening a lot more than before I had a dedicated CD transport.
A fellow member PMed me and I ended up writing a long-ass post about CD collecting, music collecting in general and some labels to check out.
So enjoy, spoilered below.
Spoiler: Read my long post
Hi, glad you enjoyed. Hmm, well-mastered CDs in general is a very big category! One of my main interests in collecting is obtaining albums that never made it to digital (my modest but discriminating vinyl collection) or is out-of-print, not on Spotify, etc. Stuff I wouldn't otherwise hear, basically. And many original issue or reissue CDs from the early 90s were basically straight from the master tape. I love lots of music but jazz has been a focus of my collecting. Compared to hunting down a pristine vinyl copy of some jazz album from the 60s, CDs are so much cheaper as well as more likely to give me a clean sound! A lot of vinyl was poorly or cheaply pressed or is simply beat up from being on this earth and changing hands for 50 years. Since CDs are seen as less sexy, some smart use of Discogs can show you if there was an early CD pressing and you can buy it there or look for it on Amazon, eBay, Musicstack etc. I should emphasize that the straight-from-the-tape CDs sound so good because they were just running through an A-D converter which, though we have improved converters massively, is just one step from the source. Some of those early digitally mixed albums from the late 80s or early 90s mangled the audio due to limitations of the gear. So just be careful and use your ears.
Anyhow, I have been talking about reissues of old stuff. If you want well mastered or good-sounding CDs, let me list a few labels for you:
Analogue Productions - current, mainly jazz reissues, use original masters wherever possible and a light mastering touch
Reference Recordings - explicitly an audiophile label focusing on quality audio engineering and signal path. Mainly classical but some jazz and blues as well. Grammy wins and nominations.
BIS Records - huge catalogue dating back to the 70s, exclusively classical and focusing on never recorded, rarely recorded or poorly recorded works. Not an audiophile label but usually sounds really good, especially the current stuff.
2L (Linberg Lyd) - explicitly audiophile. Classical and some more new-agey stuff. Really good sound and some great material. As their site says, "23 american GRAMMY nominations since 2006." If you want to hear some samples in every format, http://www.2l.no/hires/index.html
Waterlily Acoustics. They are all-analog and use just one stereo pair of mics to record and get a very pure stereo image. A lot of boutique labels or releases use this technique but I thought I'd mention it. I became aware of this label with a great album called "Tabula Rasa" by Béla Fleck, V. M. Bhatt, and Jie-Bing Chen. It is a mixture of Hindustani music and Western influences (Béla Fleck is a banjo player).
Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab. Reissue/remaster label. Especially look for Gold CDs made using the original GAIN system designed by Mike Moffat of Schiit DAC fame. The Gold isn't magic but the GAIN system used a nice Multibit ADC. Some MFSL stuff is not great and involves bizarre choices of EQ to deal with a deficient source. So if you find a CD just google and see what people think as some are stinkers.
Most of the more audiophile labels also issue SACDs and hi-res downloads but for older material CDs are often the only format.
I am honestly blanking on much else right now. There are many labels focusing on specific material or sounds. I look for music I like before labels, but that's easy for me as I already put several years into trying offerings from many of the labels I kept hearing about from obsessive collectors. Some of the small labels have tons of their catalogue on Spotify or other streaming services. For example, search the following on Spotify.
If you have a good DAC, amp and transducer (headphone or speaker) you can reproduce what is on that disc faithfully and pleasantly. That is better than the most delicate audiophile recording through a POS. And some of those delicate audiophile recordings are completely boring, bland or corny.
Trying to figure out some of the value in getting a separate Transport + DAC vs just a CD player. I've read some things that say that a standalone player should almost always be better because the they can all share the same master clock. Of course that is also assuming that you are comparing the exact same DAC in a separate enclosure.
To bastardize my argument, say I have $800 to spend on a CD player and I have these options:
$800 CD player
$700 Transport + $100 DAC
$100 Transport + $700 DAC
Which one should I go for?
I never went away from discs, and I like the fact that it forces me to play through whole albums rather than, when using a computer source, act like a twitchy-fingered attention-deficit listener clicking from song to song, often halfway through a track.
These days I'm on a quest to score original CD releases of albums that I like and usually already own but have been "remastered" to hell since their original release. http://dr.loudness-war.info/ and eBay have been great for that.
Thanks for the tip about SpaceSaving CD sleeves. Need those.
I am a big fan of CDs because I see them as a way to collect physical music cheapy. (compared to vinyl) Going to record stores and finding those hidden gems I've been searching for is still a big part of the hobby for me. Also the physical experience of putting a cd in the player and listening to an album all the way through is more enjoyable to me than just skipping through files on my laptop.
I recently acquired a modded shanling CDT100 cd player, which although it has been out of production for a while, its DAC handily beats my Schiit Gungnir Multibit in tone and musicality and therefore makes for a more enjoyable listen overall. I'm sure people will be very polarized on the Shanling's looks but in my opinion it looks just as good as it sounds and that also plays a role in my enjoyment of CDs. If you haven't seen a CDT100 before I suggest you pull up a picture of it on google.
Many high end CD players which sold for $2k+ can be found at small fractions of their original prices now due the the decline in demand for CDs. They can be excellent value in my opinion for those of you looking for players/transports.
That looks f'ing unreal! How much does this go for used???
Something interesting about CDs. The materials used to make the discs affect the sound. The Japanese to this day keep coming up with more expensive and impractical materials to use in an effort to improve the sound.
Barry Diament, a long time mastering engineer, noted that if you take the same master and press it to two different CDs, sometimes even two CDs from the same manufacturing batch, they can sound different on playback. However, if you rip CDs with the same mastering and play them back with software, they all sound the same.
We know that different pressings of vinyl can sound different, even with the same mastering, but I think many people assume that since CD is digital that it is immune to that. It is not. But if you rip the digital files off the CD, then the sound is the same.
I have about 200 CDs and a few assorted SACDs left. At some point I'll get a used player and add it to my rig.
No. Post-hoc fallacy.
"The Japanese to this day keep coming up with more expensive and impractical materials to use in an effort to improve the sound."
"The materials used to make the discs affect the sound."
Some people think the materials used affect the sound. If it all sounds the same in a rip then the rip is the correct form.
I'm sorry but I just don't buy discs sounding different unless you're talking about discs having different properties (how reflective are they etc) affecting the writing and reading of the data. But even then I'm talking about errors.
If that's true I would just rip all my CDs and play them digitally rather than deal with that level of audiophile nervosa. (discless playback is still the grand majority of my playback)
I was able to pick up one with 'level 1' mods for $650. Some people might scoff at a tube based DAC but the tube implementation is so well done the only things my Gungnir Multibit have over the tube output is a blacker background and slightly less congested imaging and soundstage. The far more organic, natural tone and sheer musicality make me turn to my Shanling much more often.
Heres a list of the mods done if anyone is interested:
9 Ultra-fast, soft recovery Hexfred (International Rectifier) and Fred
2 Black Gate Standard Grade electrolytic capacitors
4 Auricap metallized polypropylene "bypass" capacitors
Vacuum Tube Output Stage:
18 Audio Note Tantalum 1/2 & 1-watt resistors - signal path
4 Black Gate Standard grade electrolytic output-coupling capacitors
2 Auricap Metallized polypropylene "coupling bypass" capacitors
Solid-State (Direct) Stage:
14 Riken Ohm (Japan) 1/2 watt (gold-plated leads) Carbon Resistors - signal path
4 Black Gate Standard grade electrolytic output-coupling capacitors
6 Burr Brown "high-performance, audio grade" dual OPA2134 op amps
4 ft. DH Labs (99.99% pure, long-grain) silver, 23 gauge solid-core, Teflon "air matrix" dielectric, output wire
2 sheets of SOUNDCOAT dampening material (applied to internal chassis)
TRT Wonder Solder (a silver content solder) used throughout
Not mine but heres a short clip of its best feature
If you rip a CD and write it back on Black CDRs, on a lot (not all transports) the difference is pretty pronounced (the Black ones are smoother). And they will be bit perfect. I'm not sure if there is a difference in a heavily optimized transport, but i used to be able to tell from a 90s Pioneer Laserdisc player 100% of the time. I have to try that again sometime.
Sweet deal! No one is scoffing at tube based DACs. A favorite of many on this site is the Sonic Frontier and Marv has spoken about trying to add a tube buffer to the Yggdrasil; thus, I'm sure there are merits to having tubes in the output stage.
Anyway, as mentioned before, I love popping in a CD and playing it from start to finish. Musical ADHD and computer playlists don't mesh well with me. At the moment, I have a cheap Toshiba DVD player that I coax out to my Modi Multibit. No complaints here!
Maybe someday I'll upgrade to a better player if I can be convinced that the audio gains justify the cost.
A regularly scheduled reminder that for any question of the form "What is the best mastering of x?" (aka "Did they screw it up yet?"), proceed directly to Steve Hoffman music forums. Do not pass Go(ogle). Do not pay $200.
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