CDP/Transport in $300-$400 Range?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Doug_B, Dec 30, 2001.

  1. Doug_B

    Doug_B Screenwriter

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    Any suggestions for a new CD player would be welcome. Unit may list at up to US $400 (maybe some flexibility there) and at a minimum provide good transport and digital out functions (going to an Anthem AVM 20). A good DAC/analog sound as an alternative to digital out would be welcome as well, if cost can be contained (AVM 20 has analog bypass).

    I'm currently using a Pioneer DV 333 DVD player as a transport with all new audio equipment (including the AVM 20, of course), so it's unclear to me just how good or bad the Pioneer is, at least as a transport.

    I have little interest in SACD and DVD-Audio at this time. All opinions welcome, including those that suggest to get real good quality music, I should go up a level or two; my system will bring it out (Odyssey Stratos amp, Soundline Audio ribbon mains, although evaluation of the latter still in progress).

    Thanks.

    Doug
     
  2. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Doug, given the quality of your equipment, I feel you should budget more money towards a CD player. For up to $1000 (your system warrants the expense), here are a few options (in no particular order):
    * Sony SCD-C555ES: Maybe you've read some posts from myself and others here extolling the virtues of the 'C555ES. As you may know, it is a carousel changer that plays stereo and multi-channel SACDs in addition to CDs. Build quality is superb (it weighs 24+ lbs.), and the sound is excellent using the analog outputs. Of course, you must use the analog outputs for SACD, but CDs sound great using the player's DACs too. As a changer, I am not sure how good the 'C555ES is as a transport, as I use the analog outputs on mine to a stereo integrated amp. Still, I would take a good look at the 'C555ES. I know you are not really looking at SACD, but the 'C555ES is an excellent CD player, so why not take SACD as a throw-in? While the 'C555ES retails for $1200, authorized mail-order dealers such as Oade Bros. (1-229-228-4480 or 1-229-228-0093) and OneCall (1-800-340-4770) sell it for around $800.
    * Sony SCD-C333ES: The 'C333ES is much like the 'C555ES, except it only plays stereo SACDs. It has been discontinued, but you might still find one around. Try Oade Bros. It was selling for $500-600 as a close-out.
    * Ah! Njoe Tjoeb 4000: This is a Marantz CD4000 single-disc player that has been gutted on the inside by a company in Holland. 'Njoe' is Dutch for 'new', and 'Tjoeb' is Dutch for 'tube'. Thus, a major modification in this player is that it has a tube analog output stage. The stock player is sold by Upscale Audio (www.upscaleaudio.com) for $579, however, you will want to consider an upgrade from the stock Philips 6922 tubes. I have this player and am using Siemens 7308 tubes, and the player is outstanding with these tubes. I bought a matched pair of the 7308s from Upscale Audio for $60. Kevin Deal at Upscale is great to deal with. Upscale's customer service is outstanding.
    Other tube-based players to consider for under $1000 are the Heart CD5000 and CD6000. These are tube-modified Marantz CD5000 and CD6000 single-disc players, respectively. They too are modified in Holland (different company than the one that makes the Ah! unit), and are available from www.fsaudio.com in the US. The Heart CD6000 sells for $750 and is available with either a gold or black chassis. I have read a few good reviews of these players on Audio Asylum (www.audioasylum.com). You might also consider the nOhr CD-1, which is a tube player that sells for $800 and has been reviewed positively on Audio Asylum. I have not yet been able to hear the Heart and nOhr players. Note, of course, that if you use any of these tube players as a transport, you bypass the tube analog output stage.
    * Arcam DiVA CD72 and CD72T: Single-disc CD players that have garnered excellent reviews and are considered superior to the much-revered and discontinued Alpha 7SE. The CD72T is the newer version of the two DiVA players, and it supports CD TEXT (hence, the 'T') and has a few internal upgrades over the original CD72. The CD72 and CD72T can be upgraded to the considerably more expensive DiVA CD92 (I'm not sure if there is a CD92T). These CD72 and CD72T sell for around $600-700.
    * Cambridge Audio D500SE: Another single-disc CD player that sells for $400. It has also gotten excellent reviews and is considered a venerable bargain. See www.audioadvisor.com for more information.
    * Rega Planet 2000: Selling for around $800-950, the Planet 2000 is considered superior to the previous Planet. Note that the Planet 2000 is a top-loader, so be sure you have adequate space before you buy one. Many consider the Planet and Planet 2000 to be excellent transports. Reviews using the analog outputs of both the Planet and Planet 2000 have been mixed. Some like it, and some don't. I heard one once, and it is a good player, but I prefer the Sony SACD changers as CD players.
    Those are a few to consider. My recommendation is one of the Sony SACD changers. You will more likely find the 'C555ES much more readily available than the 'C333ES now. Again, I feel your system warrants better than what $400 will buy you. If you are dead-set on spending no more than $400, a few players to consider in addition to the aforementioned Cambridge Audio D500SE are the following carousel changers: NAD 523 (around $300-350), Marantz CC4000OSE ($400, though it is available on eBay new from a dealer frequently for $250), and the Denon DCM-370 ($250-300). I have the Denon changer, and it is good for the price, but you would do better with the Cambridge Audio player.
    Oh, another single-disc player to consider for $400 if you can find it is the Marantz CD6000OSE. It was discontinued a few months ago and is tough to find, but maybe you can track one down from a dealer.
    Best of luck.
     
  3. Doug_B

    Doug_B Screenwriter

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    Keith,
    Thanks for the response. Yes, I've seen a couple of those recent SACD / Sony CDP threads. Funny, though, that I think I have this natural aversion to Sony products [​IMG] , but I don't doubt the quality of the ES line of CDPs.
    Hmmm, I was hoping that I wouldn't have to swallow another significant expense after what I've already spent recently (and there's still the matter of 3 more speakers and a couple of "accessories" I require), but I knew it was coming. A couple of questions:
    - Any info/impressions on the Musical Fidelity A3CD player? It's a single disc unit. Audioreview.com lists it at $1200, but a dealer told me it listed at $1300 and offered it to me for $1K (with a home demo, but his floor model crapped out).
    - Let's see, some of the others I've read up on before include the Arcam CD72 and CD92, the Ah!, Rega Planet 2000, and nOhr CD-1. As for the brands that are imported (Ah!, Rega, Heart), is the post-sales support (and associated warranty) adequate? Also, where does one purchase a Rega?
    - What about getting my Pioneer DVD player modwrighted, assuming I can live without it for however long it takes?
    Thanks.
    Doug
     
  4. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Doug, I can relate regarding an aversion to Sony. I have a lot of Sony products (ES mostly) that have performed very well, but my MDS-JA555ES minidisc deck broke after six months (broken drawer), and Sony's service has been nightmarish thus far. Still, I have to recommend ES SACD players based on my overwhelmingly positive experiences.
    You certainly can spend $400 or less for a CD player, and such a player (the Cambridge Audio D500SE, for example) will outperform your Pioneer DVD player. However, in the long run, I feel you system warrants a better player than what $400 will buy.
    I've read good things about Musical Fidelity products and the A3CD player, but I've never gotten the opportunity to demo any of their gear. Until recently, Audio Advisor was the sole distributor for Musical Fidelity (a British company), so demoing their gear was not convenient. You might want to go to the Digital Drive message board on Audio Asylum and search the archives on the A3CD (and other players, for that matter), as it has been discussed there. I don't recall reading anything negative about the A3CD.
    Regarding imported brands (note that Arcam is British too; www.arcam.co.uk), I imagine they all offer good customer service. These are established companies. As I said, the Heart players are sold in the US by www.fsaudio.com , so you could call them to get a feel for the type of company they run. When I was shopping for a tube player back in April, there was no US distributor for the Heart players yet, so I went with the Ah! player. You won't find better customer service than what Kevin Deal and Upscale Audio provide. Regarding nOhr, I know there are many members here who swear by their speakers, and I have never read anything negative about their customer service. Finally, there are brick-and-mortar stores around that sell Rega products. I don't know where you live in New Jersey, but Soundex, a large audio and home-theater dealer in Willow Grove, PA (exit 27 off the PA Turnpike) sells Rega. Maybe www.rega.co.uk can point you to a dealer near you.
    As for modwright.com, you certainly could go that route with your Pioneer player. I have never read anything negative about the service provided by the well-known modders, Dan Wright, Richard Kern, and Ric Schultz. They are much-revered on Audio Asylum. However, I think in the end, you would be better off buying a player in upwards of $800-1000 than having you Pioneer DVD player modified. I am sure Dan could transform your DVD player into an excellent CD player, but I doubt it would move up to the level of an Arcam or Sony ES unit.
    Another option for you is to buy an outboard DAC (MSB, Perpetual Technologies, ART DI/O, etc.) for your Pioneer player. However, I questions whether your DVD player in stock form is much of a transport. Probably not. In the end, I think you would be better off with a new CD player. Just my $0.02.
     
  5. Doug_B

    Doug_B Screenwriter

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    Keith,

    Thanks for the feedback.

    Well, I'm still on the fence as to whether to go with a less expensive unit that purportedly serves as a good transport versus going higher up and getting good DACs to boot. The Anthem AVM 20 controller is no slouch wrt to A/D and D/A, and one gets bass mgmt with such an arrangement. But for a few hundred more, having the DACs in the CDP and bypassing the Anthem digital domain would provide added flexibility to determine the best sound on a case-by-case basis. I would like to get something before my speaker trial is finished, especially considering there are a couple of aspects of the speakers that don't sit well with me at this time (so a CDP upgrade can remove what is likely a lower quality variable from the equation).

    With respect to my comment about support for "imports", I was getting more at the support model for the single US distributor vs the B&M dealer. For example, Musical Fidelity is now supported by the dealer at which I bought my Anthem. Arcam also has B&M dealer support.

    In any case, the Ah! is definitely high on my list at this time.

    Thanks again.

    Doug
     
  6. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Doug, no problem. Glad to help. I can understand your position regarding how much to spend on a player. The bright side of all of this is that I have no doubts that the $400 Cambridge Audio D500SE would be significantly better than your Pioneer DVD player. That's the nice thing about moving from entry-level gear. You don't have to spend a lot to observe a significant improvement in sound. Of course, if you spend more to get an Ah!, Arcam, or Rega CD player or a Sony ES SACD player, you will be even better off. I'd be curious to know what you decide to buy and how the new player works out in your system.
     
  7. Doug_B

    Doug_B Screenwriter

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    After some more Internet research, I decided to go with the Ah! I added the Amperex 7308 tubes on top of it (a bit more $ than the Siemens but maybe more appropriate with the ribbons - whatever). Should get it Thursday. How much break-in will be necessary?
    I'll probably be looking for a couple of digitally remastered CDs now [​IMG] .
    Thanks.
    Doug
     

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