Noob CD player question

Discussion in 'Playback Devices' started by Robert Hoffman, Sep 3, 2004.

  1. Robert Hoffman

    Robert Hoffman Stunt Coordinator

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    As I enter a phase of upgrading my equipement, I've got a rather basic question about CD players. Presently I'm running an older Marantz CD player that has no digital out into a Harmon Kardon AVR-230. The HK does have a direct analog bypass mode for 2 channel music (I do a lot more music listening than movie wathcing). When I upgrade my CD player, should I run via a digital connection into the HK and let it do the D->A conversion or should I continue to use the analog connection and analog bypass mode of the HK?

    I realize the answer is probably 'whatever sounds best to me,' but I'm looking for a little guidance. Thanks,

    Rob

    As a side, if I'm also looking to replace my DVD player (3 year old Pioneer Elite Dv-37a (I think)), should I just buy a DVD player that doubles as a CD player? Would that influence which connection (analog vs. digital) that I should consider using?
     
  2. PaulDA

    PaulDA Cinematographer

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    "Whatever sounds best to you" is a good answer, but another answer might be, "depends on the DACs". If you buy, say a 150$ CD player, chances are the DACs in your HK receiver will be as good, if not better, so a digital connection would be fine. However, if you decide to go with a mid-fi dedicated player from Marantz, NAD or Cambridge Audio, to name but three (available for between 350-700$ retail), then you'd likely prefer the DACs of the player, and so an analogue connection would be better in this case (upon careful listening on your part, of course).

    If you are looking to replace your DVD player and use it to play CDs, two players, of different price categories, come to mind for quality CD playback. At the lower end of the price category, Cambridge Audio makes the 540D (retails 389$ US) and I found it to be so good with CDs that I bought it as my dedicated CD player, even over the 540C CD player they also make (already had a universal player picked out for other duties--in the end, I use the 540D for movies as well, PQ as good as my universal player (Marantz DV6400), far better layer change and a better CD player to boot, IMO). In the upper end of the scale (700$+) Arcam makes some players with excellent CD playback, as well as very good picture quality. These are two DVD players that emphasize CD playback quality, IMO. Some universals are said to be good with CD, (Denon 2900, Pioneer AVi59) but are more expensive than either the Cambridge or the entry level Arcam (they do provide you with SACD capability, which is not available with either Cambridge or Arcam). Other options are the Marantz DV6400 (which I own, and enjoy with hi-res formats, but I prefer my Cambridge for CD playback), Denon DVD2200, said to be decent with hi-res but less so with CDs (I find it has better PQ than my Marantz or my Cambridge, but is not the equal to either, audio-wise). Lots of choices out there, bring some CDs and listen (better yet, try to audition them at home).

    The DVD player, if doubling as a CD player, should be evaluated in the same manner as above regarding analogue or digital connections. (though I wouldn't spend the money on the players I listed unless I was using the analogue connections, FWIW) Note that for hi-res, you'll have to use the 6 analogue connections with your receiver in order to benefit from the hi-res formats.
     
  3. Robert Hoffman

    Robert Hoffman Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for the response Paul. So, to keep this under one thread title.....

    Are DVD players with Faroudja chips mostly considerd hands-down favorites? If so, are there any universal DVD players with Faroudja at modest price points? I'll be runing this into a Tosh 40h80 RPTV.

    Secondly, if I want to go with a dedicated CD player. What would be some great options for under $500. This question is being asked in the context that I would plan to use the CD's DAC versus the one in my HK AVR-230.

    Paul, you would seem to suggest the 540D...do you find the picture quality superb?
     
  4. PaulDA

    PaulDA Cinematographer

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    I can't use the prog scan feature, so I don't know how "superb" the picture is. I'm an audio first kind of guy, though I don't want a crappy picture. I've adjusted my TV with DVE to the best of my ability and I find the picture quite nice, with both the Marantz and the Cambridge. I use the Cambridge for films primarily because it has a much faster layer change than the Marantz. I fully intended to buy a CD player and go with the Marantz for all DVD/hi-res duties but I had a chance to compare the 540C with the 540D through the same receiver/speaker system, with two store bought copies of the same disc, over the course of several hours. I had the discs synced up and A/Bed them. While the test wasn't blind to me, it was blind to the store owner and before I offered a preference, he chose the same one as me, the 540D. To say he was surprised would be an understatement. He'd spent 15 mins describing to me in detail why the 540C is such a great player and how if I liked the 540D, I was sure to like the 540C even more for CDs. They retail for the exact same price, so he wasn't pushing one over the other for money purposes. Now the 640C is said to be a giant-killer among CD players. I didn't audition it as it wasn't in my budget.

    If you are looking for Faroudja, and I've read that it is among the best, then you might be disappointed by the PQ in the Cambridge, as it is a Mediatek (if I'm not mistaken). The best would be to plug it in to your set and look for yourself.

    Among CD players under/around 500$:
    Cambridge Audio 640C
    Cambridge Audio 540C
    Marantz CD5400
    NAD C521BEE
    NAD C541 i
    NAD C542

    I looked at all of these save the Marantz (wasn't out yet). Couldn't afford the first and last ones, found the 540C best of the rest and would have bought it if someone hadn't suggested I try the 540D as well.

    There are other options, such as outboard DACs and other brands. Lots of choices out there. Good luck.
     
  5. Robert Hoffman

    Robert Hoffman Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks again Paul.

    After doing some more digging, it looks like the Denon DVD-2910 might be a great solution. SACD, DVD-A, Faroudja chips, generally good reputation, and hopefully solid Redbook CD quality. Best part is...it comes out any day now and shouldn't be priced too much over $500 (well, maybe around $650).
     
  6. PaulDA

    PaulDA Cinematographer

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    Probably a good choice. I was considering a Denon 2900 when shopping for a universal player but MSRP here in Canada on Denon universals are double the US dollar rate, (even with the exchange it's a hike of almost 70%) whereas the Marantz retails for the same amount in either country, when you factor in the exchange rate. Since my priority was audio and I felt the Marantz compared favourably with the 2900 (and it was 400$ less at retail than the 2200), I went with that for universal duties. It's not that I dislike it for CDs but I wanted a CD player to split the workload and because I own so many CDs vs hi-res, I wanted the best CD player I could afford (turned out to be a DVD player, who knew?). Anyway, the Denon 2910 is likely a very solid choice. Good luck and enjoy the tunes, man.
     

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