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Recommendations on $500 CD player DACs important


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#1 of 29 OFFLINE   John Royster

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Posted April 04 2002 - 01:59 PM

I've been so far out of the know on CD players but my 7 year old ADCOM does so well. Alas it may be showing its age. I'd like to get a new CD player where analog output stage and DACs are top notch. Digital out is really not required. I very much prefer the DACs in my CD player now over the ones in my denon3802 receiver. Any ideas? I'd really like a changer because it is SO convient. For example if I can get a great single player for 400 or a great changer for 500-550 then I'll get the changer. DVD-A or SACD would be nice. But the main goal here is playing CDs (analog out) and the players design should be as well. thanks in advanced! John

#2 of 29 OFFLINE   KeithH

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Posted April 04 2002 - 04:03 PM

John, look no further than the Sony SCD-C555ES. It is a beautiful player. The 'C555ES is a five-disc carousel changer that plays CDs, stereo SACDs, and multi-channel SACDs. Build quality is first-rate, as the player weighs 24 lbs., 5 oz. More importantly, it sounds great with both CDs and SACDs. The retail price of the 'C555ES has dropped twice in the last six months, and it is a real bargain now. It retails for $800, but J&R Music World (1-800-221-8180) quoted me $600 for it yesterday. Some here have said that J&R has quoted them $500 for it. Either way, the 'C555ES is a bargain. I bought one last October for $800 and am very happy with it. As a point of reference, when the 'C555ES came out last April, it retailed for $1700. If you have a Sony ES dealer in your area, give the 'C555ES a listen. Just note that you will probably get a better price by mail (J&R, OneCall, or Oade Bros.).
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#3 of 29 OFFLINE   John Royster

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Posted April 04 2002 - 06:21 PM

Thanks Keith, Do you listen to yours via analog out or do you use digital? I tend to shy away from sony but I'll give it a listen. Maybe you see my dilema - I REALLY need a good analog output stage. I'm somewhat spoiled by the adcom. Let's put it this way, I've got so many hours in this player the LED display is quite dim. If I can't find something that meets or beats my current one then why bother? oh well...she's been good to me. Maybe I can demo a c555es.

#4 of 29 OFFLINE   Norm Strong

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Posted April 04 2002 - 06:51 PM

How does your Adcom "show its age?" Gray hair? Doesn't turn the CDs around as quickly as it used to in its youth? What is it about this player that needs replacing? Maybe then we can make some realistic suggestions.
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#5 of 29 OFFLINE   John Royster

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Posted April 04 2002 - 07:55 PM

Why old?



Difficulty reading last tracks of some disks, maybe one out of 15 that show no visible scratches and play well in other players like my DVD players. I can hear the changing mechanism really strugling sometimes.



but hey...you gotta understand I've had hundreds of night where I went to sleep with this thing playing on repeat. Been a tough sucker. I mean the LED disply is almost literally burned out. Posted Image Sometimes I can hear the laser lose track or what have you - a very faint tick-tick-tick on quiet passages like when there is only a soft instrument and femal vocals.



I'm quite proud of her actually. Maybe I should put 'er under the table and clean/regrease the transport?



-edit- most definately doesn't spin the disk like she used to. It is the sound and the audible "sounds like there are scratches when there aren't" that makes me think "showing its age" jeez, now I'm getting nostalgic and heart broken. Posted Image

#6 of 29 OFFLINE   KeithH

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Posted April 04 2002 - 09:20 PM

John, I use the analog outputs on the 'C555ES. I run the stereo analog outputs to a stereo integrated amp for CDs and stereo SACDs and the 5.1-channel outputs to an A/V receiver for multi-channel SACD.
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#7 of 29 OFFLINE   Scott H

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Posted April 04 2002 - 10:31 PM

There are a number choices, but the first that I would look into is the Cambridge Audio D500SE. However, you prefer a changer and I detest them, and this is not one. But, it and the Rega Planet are probably the most revered players under $1K, and the D500SE can be had under $400.
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#8 of 29 OFFLINE   KeithH

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Posted April 05 2002 - 04:10 AM

Scott, as with anything, there are a lot of opinions out there on CD players. I have always read mixed comments about the Rega Planet and Planet 2000. I've heard the Planet 2000, and it is a warm-sounding player. Some will like that, some will find it overly warm. I tend to feel it is overly warm. I have not heard the original Planet. The Planet 2000 is not right for me. Much to my surprise, I read a negative review of the Cambridge Audio D500SE in either What Hi*Fi? or Hi-Fi Choice (both out of the UK) a few months ago. I can't put my finger on that issue right now, but I know the review wasn't positive. Overall, I've heard good things about the D500SE, but it comes down to personal preference. I feel anyone looking to spend $500 or so on a CD player should look at the Sony 'C555ES. The D500SE and Planet (used) are also worthy of consideration. I would also throw the Ah! Njoe Tjoeb 4000 into the mix. It is a nice player for the money. There are certainly other players to consider (Heart CD5000, NAD C 541i, Music Hall MMF-CD25, Arcam DiVA CD62).
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#9 of 29 OFFLINE   John Royster

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Posted April 05 2002 - 06:01 AM

The tube output stage of the Ah njoe seems like a pretty good idea. maybe it will take some of that "digital edge" I hear so often. thanks again for more options, now I gotta figure out how to listen to them. I definately don't want a bright player cause my speakers are a little on the bright side.

#10 of 29 OFFLINE   Scott H

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Posted April 05 2002 - 11:17 AM

KeithH, I actually agree with you regarding the Rega Planet. But what I said was that it and the D500SE were probably the most revered sub $1000 players, based on the balance of reviews and recommendations by reputable publications. Even the various publications have began to note that.



Could you link to the bad review of the D500SE? I have read every review I know to exist, and none have been negative. The review by Hi Fi Choice was positive in context (it is a recommended component for them, as it is for Stereophile) and the link is below, and to my knowledge What Hi Fi has not reviewed it but the lesser D500.

http://www.hifichoic...ead.asp?ID=1359



The Ah! Njoe Tjoeb 4000 isn't the only tube CD player out there under $1K, so those interested in that configuration should dig deeper. Also, in comparative reviews that I have seen, the D500SE was generally preferred over it.



For the record, I do not own the D500SE. Yet. But I am very much leaning toward it, with the silver faceplate option (elegant, has better display, no more expensive). My priority is two-channel, and personally I would not purchase the Sony C555ES, nor any other Sony, based on my experiences and critical reviews. I think Sony players make good transports, but that's it. And, ironically, the D500SE uses both a Sony mechanism and a unique controller chip made by Sony for Cambridge Audio. And yes, I have owned ES players. Furthermore, SACD doesn't mean squat to me as better than 95 percent of my CD library is unavailable and was recorded for two-channel playback. The majority of my favorite recordings will likely not see a SACD release, which is appropriate. In other words I'm not interested in the SACD program material at this time, I'm interested in listening to my vast CD collection and very good stereo sound. Just my op.
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#11 of 29 OFFLINE   Scott H

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Posted April 05 2002 - 11:32 AM

[quote]

I definately don't want a bright player cause my speakers are a little on the bright side. I definately don't want a bright player cause my speakers are a little on the bright side.

[quote]



Again, just my op, but the Sony would seem to contradict this. Smooth and musical is not a Sony attribute, though a Sony ES player may seem so compared to a lesser Sony player.
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#12 of 29 OFFLINE   KeithH

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Posted April 05 2002 - 04:49 PM

Scott asked:



[quote]

Furthermore, SACD doesn't mean squat to me as better than 95 percent of my CD library is unavailable and was recorded for two-channel playback.

[quote]



The vast majority of music has been recorded for two-channel playback. So you know, the SACD protocol calls for each and every multi-channel disc to have a discrete stereo track (no folding down). I hope you don't consider SACD to be a multi-channel format. That's inaccurate. By the way, what kind of music do you like?
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#13 of 29 OFFLINE   KeithH

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Posted April 05 2002 - 05:25 PM


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#14 of 29 OFFLINE   Mike Matheson

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Posted April 05 2002 - 06:12 PM

John,



You might also try picking up a player with the intent of having it modded, or maybe even a el-cheapo player and a DAC such as the Perpetual Technologies P-3A or Art DI/O? Heck, you could even mod the DACs.



Audio Asylum has a lot of posts discussing just such topics, if you're interested and have a lot of spare time (there's a LOT of posts). Audio Asylum Digital Drive forum



Oade Brothers offers an inexpensive mod on the 555ES but that additional $175 would take things out of your indicated price range.



Audiogon would be a good source for a used CDP to mod and/or a used DAC.



Have fun,



Mike

#15 of 29 OFFLINE   KeithH

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Posted April 05 2002 - 07:07 PM

Mike, good suggestion of looking for an outboard DAC. I am intrigued by the ART DI/O given the high praise it has garnered on Audio Asylum, especially given the low price. However, I'd love to give the Perpetual Technologies P-3A a try in my system. It's worth noting that Perpetual Technologies has authorized Dan Wright of www.modwright.com to perform modifications to the P-3A. In other words, Perpetual Technologies will honor the warranty on modified units. That's great. I'd like to try the stock unit and then consider mods. later on.
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#16 of 29 OFFLINE   John Royster

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Posted April 05 2002 - 09:28 PM

WOW!



lots of great information. thanks guys. If I could get into a separate DAC for a decent price and maybe outperform a stand alone player now we're talking. Goes back to value - can I get a nice changer for 500?

can I get a better single player for 500?

can I get a good transport with an excellent outboard DAC for 700?



if the tran/dac combo outclasses the single player solutions for not too much more money then the choice is obvious. My system wouldn't be considered revealing or hi-fi (3802, HK 2 channel amp, old polk RTA11tl, adcom gfa555) but you always have to pay close attention to the source.



I might be inclined to try the Ah njoe. Heck just the fact that I can change tubes to taylor the sound gives me a woodie.Posted Image

#17 of 29 OFFLINE   Scott H

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Posted April 05 2002 - 09:38 PM

Keith, that is truly the first negative major publication review that I know of for the D500SE, and I dug deep. It is recent and possibly not online for non-subscibers, perhaps why I missed it, or perhaps not... Like you said, these are all subjective reviews, but I find it interesting that they (with a star rating at least) praise some other players for which not particularly positive reviews prevail elsewhere... Like the NAD, which has been referenced in many reviews of the D500SE as a lesser player (and I'm somewhat defensive of NAD, for the dollar). I 'upgraded' from totally unreliable Denon to a Sony 222ES (single CD/not SACD) to an NAD 512, from which I am looking to upgrade now. I have listened to many more players than these of course, with close friends' systems incorporating competing offerings from Marantz and Rotel.



Regarding the critical comment about appearance, I agree with regard to the basic D500SE. However, the silver faceplate option is no additional charge, includes a better (though bright) display and IMO (and all others I have read) results in a rather elegant piece, far more upscale looking than the basic version. And the addition of the brushed aluminum front results in a solid all-metal construction.



Funny you should mention upgrading the power cord of the Ah!, I have neglected to mention in any post I've made here that replacing the power cord on the D500SE is apparently status quo right out of the box due to it's shipping with a poor fitting and poor sounding one. It seems less of an esoteric decision than a practical one. I would like to know if What Hi Fi did that, as other reviewers have noted doing so. This Cambridge Audio power cord issue is pretty well documented at Audio Asylum and the generica reviews at Audio Revew.



Regarding SACD... Potential two-channel sonic benifits aside, listening to multi-channel presentations of two-channel material is not a rewarding experience for me (no DPL for me either), and the selection is incredibly limited for my tastes. As for what kind of music I like, I honestly don't know how to answer that. I play and record, and I appreciate all music. I listen to practically zero commercial radio. I guess I could name some of what is in my car right now? Sparklehorse, Sleater-Kinney, Kasey Chambers, Wilco, Pavement, Patsy Cline, Thelonious Monk, Grandaddy, Uncle Tupelo, Lucinda Williams, Bedhead, Spiritualized, Cat Power, Junior Brown, Morphine, X, Vladimir Horowitz, Gillian Welsh, Steve Earle, Nick Cave, Berlioz, Tim Rogers, Gallon Drunk, Daniel Lanois, Guided By Voices, Roy Acuff, more...



I admit that I must audition the Ah! Marantz conversion players, though I have read a bit more hype than positive reviews of them, certainly in comparision to the D500SE. And, go figure, I find the cosmetics of the Ah! inferior to either version of the D500SE. Posted Image



In any event, I will certainly listen to the Ah! players before buying the D500SE. Sony is a much harder sell with me.
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#18 of 29 OFFLINE   KeithH

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Posted April 05 2002 - 11:07 PM

Scott, in the end, let your ears guide you to the best player for your money. Maybe the D500SE will work out for you. However, I am quite certain that the Sony ES SACD players will best the Sony ES player you had.



I too have heard of issues with the power cord supplied with the D500SE. My guess is that What Hi*Fi? used the stock power cord for their review. I also agree that the silver version looks much nicer than the black version.



You have varying tastes in music, as do I. Of the artists you listed, unfortunately, I can only come with one artists that has something on SACD, and that would be Kasey Chambers. "The Captain" appears on the two-disc The Sopranos: Peppers & Eggs set. I have both the CD and SACD, and the SACD is noticeably better. Chambers' voice is smoother on the SACD, for example.



Give the Ah! Njoe Tjoeb 4000 a listen if you can. I agree that it isn't a looker, but it is a good performer for the money. I just can't wait to tweak it further.



You said:



[quote]

I'm somewhat defensive of NAD, for the dollar

[quote]



Me too. I love NAD's stereo amps for the money. Great products.
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#19 of 29 OFFLINE   Scott H

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Posted April 05 2002 - 11:43 PM

Keith, do you know if the Heart modded Marantz CD6000 has a variable output like the Ah! 4000? I'm keen on a direct connection between the CD source and the amp, though perhaps through a Creek passive volume control/switch like the OBH-12 (for combining two-channel and HT). I actually have an OBH-10 currently. I need to look into the Heart player as well, though it's twice the price of the D500SE... However, I like tube pre's with SS amps, and with the Ah! I may can lose the pre altogether which offsets the cost diff. CD source would likely feed an Odyssey amp to B&W speaks. Moving on from an NAD source and Acurus amp. May incorporate Outlaw 1050 for HT and powering center and rears. Also, you are correct regarding the Norh CD-1. It's no longer being manufactured. I'm not even sure that any were sold here.
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#20 of 29 OFFLINE   KeithH

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Posted April 06 2002 - 04:41 AM

Scott, I would imagine that the Heart players have a variable output. The variable output on the Ah! is a Marantz feature included with the stock CD4000, not an add-on by the manufacturer of the Ah! So, since the CD4000 has a variable output, I would imagine that the more expensive CD5000 and CD6000 have it as well. Note that there is a Heart CD4000 available in Europe, but www.fsaudioweb.com , the US distributor of Heart products, only sells the Heart CD5000 and CD6000. I am intrigued by the Heart CD6000 (especially with the champagne chassis). Unfortunately, there was no US distributor of the Heart players when I was shopping for a tube player a year ago. In the end, I am happy with the Ah! and am pleased to see a growing list of tweaks for it.



If you do go for the Ah! or a Heart player, I'd like to hear your thoughts. I'm sure one of those players would sound sweet through a power amp directly.
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