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Not all transports sound the same? NAD 542 vs Rega Apollo

 

Bronze Member
Username: Betamax

Canada

Post Number: 91
Registered: May-07
I upgraded from the NAD to the Apollo but kept the NAD anyway. Now I have both CDPs hooked up to a Bryston B100-DA via coax digital, and I was surprised to hear a difference between the two. Especially with headphones on, I can distinguish between the two sources. The NAD has a slightler sharper edge, while the Apollo sounds a bit smoother, yet fuller and more 'analog'. The difference is slight, but distinct.

Interestingly to me, those differences between the two are evident in a much more pronounced way using the analog outputs of the CDPs, but I never expected to hear any difference using digital outputs that bypass the individual CDP's D/A converters.

Don't get me wrong, the NAD still sounds immensely improved and the difference is slight, but I was surprised to find any difference.

I had originally thought about selling the Apollo and just using the NAD once I put a DAC into the system, but now I'm keeping the Apollo after all.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 12873
Registered: Feb-05
Interesting, Frank. Thanks for the info.

You used the same cable for comparison, right?
 

Bronze Member
Username: Betamax

Canada

Post Number: 92
Registered: May-07
Excellent question! Yes, identical cables for both.

I really didn't expect to find a difference...I just happened to take a CD I'd played earlier in the day in the Apollo and played it in the NAD and immediately thought it sounded a bit harsh. It was the opening of Cheryl Crow's "All I Wanna Do" on CD, where you can hear just her voice, the opening notes, and hand-clapping. You can hear more variance in her voice on the Apollo. And the clapping sounded flat and sharp on the NAD, whereas it sounded fuller, with more realistic presence (you can almost hear the air move) on the Apollo.

The difference might be lost in a busier passage, but I feel that even then there would still be some perceptual difference that those with an ear to hear it would perceive, even if they might have a difficult time identifying it in a more complex piece.
 

Silver Member
Username: Hawkbilly

Nova Scotia Canada

Post Number: 950
Registered: Jul-07
The two units have completely different transports, so it's not surprising to me that they sound different. I expect the digital/coax and optical implementations are different as well, as would be the power supplies, etc. It all matters.

As you say Frank, the net result may not be huge, but it stands to reason that there would be differences, it's just a matter of which you prefer.
 

Gold Member
Username: Nickelbut10

Post Number: 3076
Registered: Jun-07
Cool Frank. When comparing the Apollo to the MC it resulted in a big difference as well. I also tested a Sony DVD which was a horrible transport. Just for giggles.
 

Gold Member
Username: Dmitchell

Ottawa, Ontario Canada

Post Number: 4032
Registered: Feb-07
Interesting find Frank. Since you're using an outboard DAC, what's left? Is it the quality of the laser? The transport mechanism itself? I wouldn't have thought it would make that much difference.
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Irvington, New York USA

Post Number: 3859
Registered: May-05
The Apollo has a unique reading system. It scans the disc and adjusts the laser, some how some way, to get an optimal reading of the bits. That's probably why there's a decent difference. From what I've read, power fluctuations also influence the reading, which is why the power supply can also have an influence.

Not sure if the B100's DAC re-clocks the signal (the BDA-1 does). If it doesn't, that'll differences more appearent too.

Frank -
Can you briefly describe the differences between the Apollo's analog outs and the B100's DAC?
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Irvington, New York USA

Post Number: 3860
Registered: May-05
And if you'd be so knd, can you also compare the B60 and B100?
 

Bronze Member
Username: Betamax

Canada

Post Number: 94
Registered: May-07
Stu, I'm sure you're right about the source difference being related to the Apollo's laser adjustments and power supply. The difference is subtle, and casual listeners wouldn't notice it, though I'm sure everyone here would pick up on it.

According to the below Sterophile review, the B100 DAC does reclock the signal. I'll include a link to both B100 and BDA-1 reviews, though you might already have seen them.

http://stereophile.com/integratedamps/407bryston/

http://www.stereophile.com/digitalprocessors/bryston_bda-1_da_converter/

Comparing the Apollo analog vs digital outs is a great idea, and I haven't done that yet. I immediately went digital as soon as I got the amp home and boxed up the analog cables. I'll dig them up in the next couple of days and do an A/B comparo.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Nuck

Post Number: 15120
Registered: Dec-04
I ran the BDA-1 and Applo in both configurations into preamps.

The Rega, in analogue to a Mac MC6900 is a baseline, with full bypass on the Mac integrated supplied full value for a 5 yr old proprietary cdp. Full and nary a mis-step, except for a mis-read on a disc, and one failed read in 50.

The Rega feeding the dac was the same disappointment rate, but with the enefit of the Bryston, I felt was a needed boost to dynamics with the Mac amp.

The Rega with a generic dac from asia, I felt added the abilities of the DAC, but could sacrifice the analogue of the Rega.

I still found the Apollo to be worth 1k$.
The market is a bit more convoluted at 1k$ now...
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Irvington, New York USA

Post Number: 3865
Registered: May-05
Thanks, Nuck! Sure you're not a politician? You said a lot and it sounded great, however you never really answered what the sonic differences are.



Please don't take that the wrong way. You're one of the few that I don't think would.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Nuck

Post Number: 15125
Registered: Dec-04
Not a chance I would, JR.

The Apollo analogue out is the known quantity here. A lot of us have owned or spent time with it, right? The Apollo feeding a Mac made for an engaging listen, with the PRAT that the Apollo brings.
As a transport to the Bryston DAC, not all of that was lost.
There was still some 'heart and soul' from the Rega transport, but a dose of body added from the dac, and a bit more when selected upsampling to 192.

I preferred the Apollo as a transport.

The BDA-1 is now accepting files, of course, but also digital feed from a Mac MVP841 DVD/transport.
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