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Upsampler Advice: Bel Canto DAC 1or2 or Perpetual Technologies P1a? (1 Viewer)

GeorgeC

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I'm considering an upsampler between my Sony CD multichanger and Outlaw 950 preamp. I've gotten spoiled by the sound of SACDs and DVD/As, but have a lot of CDs. I'd love to be able to get a slightly less harsh, smoother sound and less listening fatigue from my current CDs.

I've heard great things about both these units. (I've even heard suggestions to just get a Sony SCD-555es, as it has a great price and pretty smooth Redbook playback). I'm pretty new to the whole upsampler thing. I know the Bel Canto has a DAC built in, but I probably don't need that as there should be pretty good DACs in the 950. Any recommendations from people familiar with either or both of these as to which should sound better?

thanks
 

KeithH

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George, you certainly have a lot of options. What Sony changer do you have? Something to consider in going with an external DAC is whether your Sony player will function as a good transport. I wouldn't consider Sony's mass-market changers to be good transports. In addition, many of them have optical digital outputs, and many audiophiles claim that coaxial digital outputs provide better sound. These are things to consider. I prefer coaxial digital outputs because the cables are often more robust than optical digital cables.
If you are going to consider a Bel Canto DAC, also look at MSB models and the Perpetual Technologies P-3A. Many like to pair the P-3A with the P-1A. As stock units, the P-3A and P-1A get high marks, but www.modwright.com has been authorized by Perpetual Technologies to perform modifications to further improve the performance. In other words, having modwright.com do the modifications does not void the warranty. I am considering the P-3A DAC for my main system based on the positive reviews it has garnered.
Another external DAC to consider is the budget-priced ART DI/O. Go to the Digital Drive message board on www.audioasylum.com for more information on this DAC, as there are many inexpensive mods. to consider in terms of cables, the power supply, and removal of a tube that is used in the ADC section. This probably makes no sense now, but a search on Audio Asylum will explain everything. Also, a search over there should provide some useful information on other external DACs.
I would not necessarily assume that the DACs in your Outlaw 950 will be as good as a stand-alone DAC. The chip in the box is only one factor to consider. The implementation of that chip, meaning the overall design of the unit, is important in determining sound quality. For example, the analog output stage is an important design element. So, do consider an external DAC.
Depending on the player you have, you might want to consider a new player. You didn't state your budget, but I can gather $1000 and under is reasonable given the DACs you are looking at and your mentioning the Sony SCD-C555ES. The 'C555ES is a great value and an exceptional value now at $550-600 from authorized mail-order dealers. It wouldn't hurt to give the 'C555ES a try. SACD aside, it is a very good CD player. SACD is thrown in as a bonus. If you were to buy the 'C555ES and still wanted to experiment with improving the sound of CDs, you could always look at external DACs. You would still have SACD. Also, the 'C555ES could very well function as a better transport than your current player. The 'C555ES is built very well inside and out, and it has a coaxial digital output. I have two 'C555ES changers (different systems), and they are wonderful players.
Hope this helps. As I said, you have a lot of options. I would look into new DACs and new players.
 

Phil A

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I have also heard good things about the Channel Island DAC. It is $350. It also has an upgraded power supply available for about $150. Their website is www.ciaudio.com. I would definitely take into account Keith's comments. Some things don't make good transports. Sometimes even good CD players don't sound as good when they are used as transports. Sometimes the package of what is in the CD player functions well as a whole but loses something when it is a stand alone transport.
 

Jeff D.

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If you can stretch to it, consider the Musical Fidelity A3-24. This is an absolutely amazing product. Takes CD replay to an entirely new level. When it is coupled with MF's A3 CD player, the sound approaches the level of their Nu-Vista CD player, which in turn can make a bad CD sound like a good SACD. Definitely worth a listen.
/Jeff
 

GeorgeC

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Thanks, Jeff, Phil and Keith. I really appreciate your comments. The CD player is a Sony CDP-CX350, which I know is nothing too special. The SACD player is the Sony SCD-CE775, which I'm considering get mods done to further down the line. The advantage of getting an upsampler to the megachanger is mostly conveniece, as all the CDs could remain in the magachanger. I spoke with someone who had good experiences with a similar magachanger and the P1a. I also called Perpetual, and ended up on the phone with Mark, the president, who was very good to talk too. I told him my budget (under $1000, and am looking at used, too) and he suggested that the DAC in the 950 should sound very good with the P1a (I could consider changing DACs later, if it sounds like I need it). And the P1a can be software upgraded for speaker and room correction in the future too (I believe those were a few hundred dollars each). I was wondering, though, if the P1a was a better sounding unit than the Bel Canto. Keith, I could always try the upsampler with the 775, too, if the megachanger doesn't do well as a transport. The 775, though I know is not a high end unit, has a better transport than the megachanger. I'll take a look at the Channel Island and the Musical Fidelity units too.

thanks
 

KeithH

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George, I wouldn't expect much from a megachanger as a transport, and I'm skeptical about how the 'CE775 would perform too. I am not saying that neither would benefit from an external DAC, upsampling or standard. It's just that neither is likely to maximize the potential of the DAC. Still, you could give an external DAC or the P-1A a try, or you could consider another player to use alone or with an external unit. There are a lot of ways you could go here, and others have made good suggestions. I've read good things about the Musical Fidelity DAC (e.g., Stereophile review).

I would start by upgrading the CD player. The right player, a single-disc model, for example, will outperform your 'CX350 or 'CE775 on its own and will function as a better transport than either. A quality single-disc player could satisfy you on its own, but you could always explore upsampling DACs or the P-1A later.
 

Mike Matheson

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I was speaking with the Perpetual Tech guys at one of the shows regarding their P-3A, and they mentioned that they don't ship a specific CDP to the show to use with the P-3A in their demo. Instead, they run to a nearby CC/BB/GG/etc. and just pick up some sort of cheap player (whatever's a good buy).

They in fact expressed to me that they'd not noticed differences between transports. . .
 

KeithH

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Mike, interesting perspective, I suppose. However, a quality DAC will do a lot for a Best Buy- or Circuit City-type player, so using a cheap player with the DAC can make for a powerful demo. Imagine a before and after with a $99 Sony CDP-CE275 carousel changer in a quality system. The 'CE275 on its own is a poor player. Now connect it to a P-3A, and you can imagine the difference that will be observed. I'm sure the DAC wouldn't do nearly as much for a $1000 player.
 

Lee Scoggins

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They in fact expressed to me that they'd not noticed differences between transports
Mike,
I am absolutely blown away by this statement. Transports make so much difference. Jitter is real, jitter is audible, and low jitter transports do sound noticeably better. There have even been tests that show the audibility of jitter.
If what you are saying is true, then I suggest the Bel Canto because Perpetual's knowledge must be called into question.
I was just going to say I heard and liked the Bel Canto, but I am really, really surprised by the Perpetual Technology statement.
By the way, megachangers typically have severe jitter issues.
Hope this helps :)
Lee
 

GeorgeC

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Now, doesn't the P1a have serious jitter control?

From their brochure:

________

"Re-clock the input signal to remove jitter and other digital artifacts that harm imaging, stage width, and harmonic signal integrity. (Included in the base model)"

________

couldn't this make a big difference?
 

Jeff D.

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They in fact expressed to me that they'd not noticed differences between transports. . .
I find this quite incredulous. The transport is a very important link in the chain. Any D/A can only do as good as the signal that is fed to it, and a quality D/A deserves a quality transport.

Of course, if comparing standalone CD players to seperate transport/D-A combos, obviously greater improvement will be seen when comparing cheap standalones. There can certainly be no harm in harnessing a D/A to a cheaper transport, though ultimately I would recommend stepping up to a better transport.

I would second Keith's comment however - consider starting with a better integrated CD than a cheap transport/good D/A combo.

/Jeff
 

Mike Matheson

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I'm not arguing with you guys about the differences transports make--I have no experience comparing, myself, so it'd be silly to argue the point. :)
It's actually what they told me, however.
They got a real kick out of telling folks that it was a plain, old, ordinary CDP--something from a chain, they'd just purchased it down the road, etc.--that a fancy CDP wasn't necessary.
Having heard (but not tested myself) that transports make a difference, I asked the guy I was speaking to specifically "Wouldn't a better CDP make a difference?" To which he replied (1) "You don't need a fancy CD player for it to work", (2) "I've never heard a difference", (3) "That's why we demo with a cheap CD player".
Maybe he was just a marketing guy? :)
 

Russell W

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Hey Guys,

We do use $200-$300 DVD players at our Trade shows. However, we believe their is a noticable difference using better transports and would recommend that if your budget allows to get the best you can afford. The use of low end transports is for demonstration purposes only. We do this only to exaggerate the point. We believe there is a noticeable differnce with almost any transport. But, this by no means support the notion that a better transport will not improve the performance of a P1A and P3A significantly.

Call us if you have any other questions about this issue.

Russell Woolfolk

AV123.com/Perpetual Technologies.
 

Frank_S

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Keith,
I would not necessarily assume that the DACs in your Outlaw 950 will be as good as a stand-alone DAC.
I would recommend an in-home audition of any DAC or CD player you are interested in. A couple of years ago I auditioned several CDP's and DAC's in my system and found the differences very subtle. EX. My Classe SSP-25 DAC's vs. Rega Planet CDP, Arcam FMJCD-23 CDP, Cary CD-303 CDP,and Theta DAC. I was using my Toshiba DVD player as a transport with a Camelot jitter filter in line with the external DAC. I also used the other CDP's as transports via Coax link and after all combinations found it difficult to choose. Listen for yourself, see what you think. :)
 

GeorgeC

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Thank you everyone for all your feedback, and thank you Pereptual Technologies for chiming in here too. I appreciate all the comments.

I've found both a Perpetual P1a and a Bel Canto DAC1 on the web used for less than $600 each. I keep reading great reviews for each, but I won't be able to try them side by side, unfortunately, before I buy. If anyone has heard both of these, let me know.
 

Lee Scoggins

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However, we believe their is a noticable difference using better transports and would recommend that if your budget allows to get the best you can afford.
Russell,
Thank you very much for the clarification. I feel much better now. :) I assume you don't have a showroom in Atlanta but wanted to ask just in case since I live there...
There is some good information on jitter at www.jitter.de for those of you who are interested.
Lee
 

KeithH

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Russell said:
I would recommend an in-home audition of any DAC or CD player you are interested in.
I agree. Absolutely. I have never shopped for a stand-alone DAC, but I am considering it. At this point, I don't have a timeframe for getting one, but I will test out different models when I am ready. The P-3A is high on my list based on the price/performance ratio, but I would need to try it out at home. There are certainly other models I could consider, such as offerings from Bel Canto and MSB. I might even try the ART DI/O based on the rave reviews it has garnered on Audio Asylum.
 

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