Upsampling CD Player or Graphic Equalizer?

Discussion in 'Playback Devices' started by amatala, Oct 8, 2004.

  1. amatala

    amatala Stunt Coordinator

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    Hello,

    I currently listen to my CDs on a Marantz CD5400OSE player connected to a Harman/Kardon AVR430 Receiver and Mordaunt-Short Avant 906 speakers.
    Like most people, I found CD sound to be too 'dry' and lacking midrange warmth, especially when compared to DVD-Audio discs played through the same Receiver/Speakers.
    In order to sweeten the sound a little bit, I've placed an Audio2000s Graphics Equalizer between my CD Player's analog out and one of the receiver's analog in's. I've boosted the lower bass, the highest treble and the mid-range a little bit (not more than 1.5 dBs) and I've obtained a rounded mild "W"-like shape on the equalizer. I found the result to be absolutely amazing: CDs really came to life, with lots of warmts and lot of air in between the instruments.
    Now the question is: could an upsampling CD player provide a better result? My CD player only does 8x oversampling, no upsampling. I've done some tests by using Audio Editing software to upsample CD tracks to 192KHz/24bit and writing them to DVD-Audio. The resulting sound was certainily better that the original CD (a little bit warmer in the mid-range), but still light years away from the beautiful sound shaped by the Equalizer.
    Has anyone else done similar tests? I guess I'm just trying to find out if it's worth investing more money in this - I am very happy with my current CD sound, but there is a little voice somwhere in my head that keeps on saying "Upsampling CD Player" ...

    Thanks for all your inputs!
     
  2. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    Voices in the head, eh? This is probably treatable with medication, councelling, or my personal favorite, going out and just getting loaded. Now to get a bit more serious.

    First of all, not everyone or even most people find CD to be dry. The differences that you've observed between the various media (CD, SACD, DVD-A) are often due to differences in mastering. These differences are sufficient enough to essentially create a new recording. Consider for example, that Miles Davis' 'Kind of Blue' has been released in a number of formats and even several issues within a format. One will find examples that are very good while others are just simply lifeless. This strongly suggests that the skill of the recording engineer plays an enormously signficant role in delivering a satisfactory product.

    By utilizing an equalizer, you have in essence, given your AV430 some of the characteristics of a high output impedance tube amp. When the output impedance of an amp is high (let's say 2 ohms and greater), one finds that the frequency response of the amp is no longer flat for the simple reason that the speaker impedance is not flat across the frequency range. It has bumps and dips where the impedance rises and falls. Since the amp and speaker form a circuit, one finds that the frequency response of the amp now mirrors that of the speaker's impedance curve. The greater the output impedance of the amp, the greater the frequency response variations.

    Note, that I said some. Another aspect of many tube amps is that they add a certain amount of distortion which some call pleasing. In pro circles you may hear something like 'tubes fatten the sound'. Since you seem to enjoy being able to use an equalizer to alter the sound to your liking, I would recommend that you check out some of Behringer's offerings like the Ultra-Q equalizer instead. Essentially this is a paramatric equalizer which also utilizes tubes. It has the capability of dialing in the amount of 'fatness' you want and also provides a bypass so that you can go right around the tubes if you want. It is reasonably priced here in the States and you should be able to find it where you are at a number of pro-audio stores. I'd recommend that you browse around Behringer's website to see other similar offering which may meet additional needs or provide additional capabilities.

    In summation, given your experiences, I'd say you'd probably get more enjoyment out of a product similar to what I mentioned above. You will essentially be able to quite closely mimic, and I do mean quite closely, the characteristics of just about any tube amp out there with your H/K receiver simple by playing with the equalizer and getting the fatness to where you want it. Personally, I think this is a more rational approach rather than switching to a different CD player.

    BTW, how do you like those Mordaunt Short speakers?
     
  3. amatala

    amatala Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks Chu for you detailed explanations!

    You are indeed confirming what I suspected: having an equalizer gives much more liberty to shape the sound than buying a more expensive CD player.
    I've also considered the Behringer products and I have read the manuals of many of them. The problem is that I've found some very negative reviews on the Behrninger products (mostly related to reliability and sound harshness) which made me hesitate. I haven't abandoned the idea, I am just giving it some careful consideration.

    Regarding my MS speakers: I LOVE them! To my ears, they are by far the best sounding speakers I've ever heard under $1000/pair. They sound clean and crisp, without losing the warmth of the mid-range. Moreover, I've never heard accoustig guitar sounding better on any other speaker, and I like guitar a lot! Some people find their sound to be too open and forward, but this kind of sound suits me.
    Anyway, since I wanted to use floorstanders for both my fronts and my surrounds and didn't want to spend a fortune on them, I found these speakers to be the best "value for money" compared to anything else I've auditioned.

    Thanks for your reply!
     
  4. EricRWem

    EricRWem Screenwriter

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    Let me just throw some random down.

    What it really sounds like is: You're being spoiled by high rez audio! [​IMG]

    That being said, you have a fairly nice receiver. (I have the 630 and couldn't be more pleased.)

    Would you consider buying a nice dedicated redbook CD player? I'm thinking maybe getting a deal on a Pioneer Elite 47 or the Cambridge 640c, which can be had for under $500.


    Bottom line: You're spoiled by high rez now. You're never going to get your two channel stuff to sound that good.

    FWIW, I adore HK's Logic 7 Music setting. I like it well enough that, even though the 630 can do HDCD, I found that I still like Logic 7 better. Try it!
     
  5. amatala

    amatala Stunt Coordinator

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    Eric,

    The Marantz CD5400OSE is a dedicated CD player and a fairly good one in its price range.
    You are right about being spoiled by high rez music: I was perfectly happy with my CD playback until I listened to my favourite albums in multichannel hi rez (DVD-A or SACD). Unfortunately I have over 500 albums on CD that are not available in hi rez, so I have to live with this.
    I also do agree with you about Logic7, in fact I only listen to CDs in Logic7 Music mode. I haven't listened to a CD in plain stereo for almost two years now. I have chosen the HK 430 over the 630 becuse I am not interested at all in HDCD processing (Logic7 does sound better) so there were no features that could justify the extra 250 euro.

    Adding the Equalizer to my system made me happy with my CD playback again: my CDs do sound fine now as long as I don't compare them to multichannel hi rez. As soon as I start comparing, I feel like I could throw all my CDs out the window...
     
  6. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    I don't know how it works where you are amatala, but in the pro shops here in the states, the return policy for many of the items you can buy is quite good. Full money back and all that. Also, one generally can get additional money off on whatever their selling price is provided you're willing to do a little bargaining. If such is the case where you are, then the most you're out is time.

    As far as the Behringer's being harsh, that's an awfully broad brush to paint with. Every product and every manufacturer is going to have its proponents and its detractors. That's just the way life goes. I believe you'll find that in the pro audio area, the degree of competitiveness among manufacturers is fierce, keeping performance up and prices competitive. Behringer's been around for a while and to my mind delivers a fairly decent product. Maybe its your cup of tea. Maybe its not. There are certainly worse choices with less return on the dollar.
     
  7. Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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    Adrian,
    The reliability complaint is most often voiced in professional circles, where equipment is often subjected to a lot of punishment being schlepped from one gig to another. That generally isn’t a concern in home audio, and I haven’t seen anyone on these Forums complain about Behringer being unreliable.

    The harshness complaint is most often registered for their cheaper digital equipment, like the Feedback Destroyer equalizer. I believe the equalizer Chu mentioned is analog, so that shouldn’t be an issue there.

    Regards,
    Wayne A. Pflughaupt
     
  8. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    Yes it is but then I've heard some digital gear that does one hell of a job of manipulating the signal so it sounds like something quite else. 'Course, you can make it sound like crap and that's the risk you run when you've got all those things to adjust and just love turning knobs and moving sliders.
     
  9. Drew_W

    Drew_W Screenwriter

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    You can do much better than the Pioneer 47 for Redbook...it sounds comparable to a Denon 2200. You should pick up a 2900 for under $500 if you want a solid all in one machine.

    Hell, for under $500 if you want a CDP, grab an Arcam 72 or 73 even if you can find one.

    On the issue of upsampling, I have an MF A3.24 DAC, which upsamples to 96 or 192kHz. There is no difference between the two modes in either my system, or my friend's system.
     
  10. amatala

    amatala Stunt Coordinator

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    I have bought my Behringer Tube Ultra-Q equalizer and installed it.
    It really does wonders with the CD sound - the warmth the tubes add to the sound is exquisite. I cannot say I've already mastered very well the eq's capabilities (still far from it), but with the settings I've managed so far, I can do AB comparisons between same albums on SACD and CD and not be deceived by the CD sound anymore.
    Of course the SACD still sounds better, but with the Ultra-Q the CDs also do sound good enough even when compared to SACDs.
    I can now listen to CDs again!

    Thanks guys!
     

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