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Is there really difference in cd player sound?


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23 replies to this topic

#1 of 24 OFFLINE   EdNichols

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Posted March 28 2003 - 05:44 AM

I have read many threads comparing speakers, receivers, and separates vs receivers that talk about the difference in sound of these components. For example, one brand may be described as having a "warm" sound and another may be "bright". In your experience, is there really a difference in cd players as far as "warm" vs "bright". Or is the differnce mostly in features and convenience of operation? If there is a difference, how would you describe the sound of one brand vs another and what brands have you compared that you can describe?

#2 of 24 OFFLINE   John Royster

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Posted March 28 2003 - 06:34 AM

Sure Ed, CD players most definately have a "sound" to them.

Players I've owned:
Sony 555es - warm
Adcom - neutral and open
NAD - slightly warm but still detailed
Nakamichi - very edgy
Denon - Can't remember, that was back in college. Posted Image

#3 of 24 OFFLINE   Lam Nguyen

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Posted March 28 2003 - 06:44 AM

Ed, I had the same question until I bought a Sony 555es cd/sacd player a couple of month ago. Before, I was using a Sony 300 disc DVD changer to listen to music, but when I hooked up the 555es for the first time, I notice the difference right away. The the high frequency had more detail, the soundstage was much bigger and the music was just clearer. More expensive CD player will get you better D/A converter and better build quality, and this does make a difference in the sound.

#4 of 24 OFFLINE   EdNichols

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Posted March 28 2003 - 07:23 AM

Thanks guys, that kind of what I thought, but I just haven't heard cd players sound described too much so it is hard to know what brands to start looking at for comparison.

#5 of 24 OFFLINE   Scott_N

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Posted March 28 2003 - 07:45 AM

Ed what kind of price range are you thinking about for a CD player? There are good players under $1000 made by Sony, Arcam, Rega, Jolida, NAD, Music Hall, nOrh and AH!.

#6 of 24 OFFLINE   EdNichols

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Posted March 28 2003 - 09:09 AM

To be honest I haven't shopped for a cd player in while. Are they something like receivers in that you have a "lower" line and "higher" line? Example, Onkyo and Integra, Pioneer and Pioneer Elite etc. If that is the case I would probably be interested in the one of the cheaper "higher" line players. I don't care about a lot of bells and whistles, just good sound. Suggestions?

#7 of 24 OFFLINE   Rich Stone

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Posted March 28 2003 - 11:01 AM

You could shop around for a used Pioneer Elite PD-54 or PD-65 - both great players. Lots of others to pick from, I basically tried them out in my system until I found one that I really liked. Above all have fun... Rich

#8 of 24 OFFLINE   KeithH

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Posted March 28 2003 - 01:06 PM

Ed, most major manufacturers offer a range of players that vary in quality. With some companies, the difference in sound quality from the bottom feeder to the top-of-the-line model can be eye-opening. A case in point is Sony. The difference in quality between Sony's $140 CDP-XE370 and $3000 SCD-XA777ES is several orders of magnitude, if you know what I mean. By contrast, the difference in quality between Rega's two model, the Planet 2000 and the Jupiter, is not nearly as significant. In the case of Rega, their lower model, the Planet 2000, is far better than the Sony 'XE370.

What is your budget for a player? Are you interested in a changer or a single-disc player, or does it not matter? Is SACD or DVD-Audio of interest? With some criteria from you, we can make some suggestions. Posted Image


Rich said:

[quote] You could shop around for a used Pioneer Elite PD-54 or PD-65 - both great players. [quote]

Good suggestion. I have the PD-65, and it's a great player. Plus, it looks great! Posted Image
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#9 of 24 OFFLINE   Carl Johnson

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Posted March 28 2003 - 01:26 PM

I've been told that there is a difference but honestly I've never taken the time to do an a-b comparison to find out for sure. My CD player is a 6 year old Sony CD multichanger and I don't know that I could tell it apart from a brand new top of the line player in a double blind test.

#10 of 24 OFFLINE   DanaA

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Posted March 28 2003 - 04:02 PM

I have four CD players, excluding DVD players, portables, car, and boom boxes. The are an Adcom, a Harman Kardon, an Onkyo, and an Arcam 72T. While some may be warmer and others brighter, the chief differences I find are in dynamics, clarity of tone, detail, definition, etc. Each player sounds different and, to me, it's very noticable. The Arcam is easily my favorite and the best player I've owned. And, it sounds a lot better running it analog through my Rotel 1066 than via using the Rotels DAC's through a digital connection. Among the others I tried during my recent purchasing/auditioning were ones made by Denon, Sony, and Rega. Although I personally preferred the Arcam, the Sony (an ES/SacD model) came in second. But, it is personal preference on my part. A lot of people, for instance, love the Rega Planet 2000, but somehow it didn't meet the sound I wanted. One note is that I'm really bad at audio memory. The Denon and Sony were at one place and the Rega and Arcam were at still others. Each was played mated to different systems in different auditioning rooms. So, I really have a hard time saying, for sure, how they all would have sounded in my room. Luckily, there was a thirty day return policy on the Arcam, but I pretty much knew after a couple of hours of playing it at home that I really loved the thing. I can say that it does sound better, again to my ears, than the other players I own and am very familiar with.

#11 of 24 OFFLINE   LanceJ

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Posted March 28 2003 - 04:25 PM

Yessiree different CD players have different sounds BUT it isn't usually something that will smack you upside the head.

After breaking my 8 year old Technics SL-PG4 player (I overestimated my soldering skills :B) I bought a Pioneer PD-F407 changer for $120. As soon as I hit "play" I heard the difference: "thicker" bass and an overall smoother sound. But I don't like hassling with changer mechnisms so last year I bought my second single-disc Technics SL-PG4. This player seems to have no particular sound of it's own, i.e. it sounds neutral, which is fine with me (that first Technics was one of the first models with their "MASH" digital-to-analog convertor--maybe they altered it in those intervening 11 years?).

Again, the differences were SUBTLE. I had been using one player for eight years & so was intimately accustomed to its specific "sonic signature". So casual listeners might have heard nothing different.

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#12 of 24 OFFLINE   Mike Matheson

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Posted March 30 2003 - 11:06 AM

I've heard big differences when using a CDP's analog outputs into a high-quality 2 chn system. Subtle differences (to me) are more common when using the digital output from a CDP.

#13 of 24 OFFLINE   KeithH

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Posted March 30 2003 - 12:48 PM

Carl said:

[quote] My CD player is a 6 year old Sony CD multichanger and I don't know that I could tell it apart from a brand new top of the line player in a double blind test. [quote]

In a good system, I think you could readily hear the difference. Of course, how are you defining "top of the line"? Posted Image
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#14 of 24 OFFLINE   RobWil

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Posted March 31 2003 - 05:33 AM

I originally owned an Onkyo CD player which was in the $180.00 range...this was around 7 yrs ago. I found my current HK HD7600II on clearance for $250 (originally around $500) and the difference was astounding. I think the difference you will hear depends on what you are going from compared to what you are going to, i.e. small money difference = small to no change, large money difference = larger change. However, I'm sure there is a point of diminishing returns where the differences will tend to be very subtle at best.
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#15 of 24 OFFLINE   Robert_Dufresne

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Posted March 31 2003 - 02:09 PM

Ed One question to ask yourself is weather you will use the CD's DAC or use it as a transport (ie. using the CD's digital output and your receivers DAC ). If u use your CD's DAC, your CD performs the conversion from digital to analog . In this case, the difference is more noticeable from one player to the other, primarily in the signal to noise ratio. Today's machines, even the less expensive ones have distortion values that are to low to be heard. If u use your CD as a transport, your pre/pro or receiver's DAC is doing the conversion. In this case, the difference between players becomes much less noticeable. IMO you dont have to spend K$ for an excellent CD player. Look for one with a good S/N ratio ( above 110 ) and a solid built. A CD player doesn't have to be made from a single block of titanium to sound good. Of course I am not talking about SACD or DVD-A which is another ballgame Robert
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#16 of 24 OFFLINE   Craig_Kg

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Posted March 31 2003 - 04:46 PM

Why is DVD-A/SACD another ball game as far as construction quality vs sound quality?
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#17 of 24 OFFLINE   KeithH

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Posted March 31 2003 - 11:49 PM

Craig, while I cannot speak for Robert, I have found that even inexpensive DVD-Audio and SACD players can sound outstanding with the high-resolution formats. For example, I have used budget machines such as the Panasonic DVP-CP72, Sony DVP-NS500V (discontinued), 'NS755V, and SCD-CE775 (discontinued), and all handled the high-resolution formats very well. It is true that more expensive players sound better, but I have been surprised by the sound quality of these budget players. That said, their CD replay leaves a lot to be desired in my opinion. In the end, I have generally found that the more one spends, the better sound one gets in the high-resolution formats (better build quaity inside and out). However, I am not sure the difference is as striking as with CD players. In my experience comparing Sony's ES and non-ES SACD players, the difference in CD playback quality is far greater than SACD playback quality. SACD is still better on the ES machines, but those budget players seem to be serverely lacking with CDs. Just my opinion.
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#18 of 24 OFFLINE   Scott_N

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Posted April 01 2003 - 02:38 AM

Well Keith I sure don't have buyers remorse on my Cary 308T!!! I have about 300 hrs on it now and sounds even better than when I last posted about it. It's still the least digital sounding CDP i've heard.

#19 of 24 OFFLINE   Charles J P

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Posted April 01 2003 - 09:13 AM

Another thing to consider besides if you are going to use the players DACs or just use it as a transport, is if you're reciever/pre-pro has a true digital bypass mode. My Yamaha receiver does not, so unless I am using the 5.1 analog input (which is already taken up by the DVD player) my reciever will perform an extra A/D and then D/A conversion. So I can either use the players DACs and hope that they have a pleasing impact on the sound and then run it to my reciever and hope it doesnt nullify the effect of the CD players DACs, or I can just use it as a transport, and hope it makes a better transport than a cheap CD or DVD player.

#20 of 24 OFFLINE   Craig_Kg

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Posted April 01 2003 - 01:26 PM

Thanks Keith. I had thought that a high quality SACD player should be cheaper than a corresponding CD player since the decoding is a fair bit more straightforward (aside from bass/time management issues). I'm still trying to figure out why cheapish DVD-A players can sound good - perhaps it is the reclocking forced on the PCM due to the unpacking of the MLP?
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