Law Of Diminishing Returns - CD Players


Bronze Member
Username: Darrenmc

Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada

Post Number: 37
Registered: Mar-04
I've always believed that the biggest improvement in sound you can make to your system is changing your speakers and room treatments. But if you are to upgrade the CD player in your system, at what price point does the CD Player begin to not have a noticeable affect, $500/$1000/$1500?/$2000?

I've seen many posts about very expensive CD players being purchased and buyers stating that their $3000 cd player didn't sound much better than their old $500 player. Why would one move to such an expensive CD player if there is no discernible difference in sound quality or difference from a sonic standpoint? Is it because you can or are you trying to achieve audio perfection? I would like to know what made you move to a more expensive cd player and was their a noticeable difference?

Silver Member
Username: Nickelbut10

Post Number: 918
Registered: Jun-07
Darren, for one I have heard many cd players at many different price points. And a lot of guys on this forum have heard way more even than I have. The fact is price does not mean it is going to sound better. Unless your comparing a 250 dollar cd player to a 35,000 dollar cd player, then maybe. The thing is, I have heard a 500 dollar cd player stomp all over a 1000 dollar cd player, personally, in my setup and in others. I will get into detail tomorrow as im half hammered and its new years and I must get back down

Quick example though...Rega many cd players more money than it. I had a NAD 521bee that I payed 350 taxes in, and when I compared it to a 800 dollar Pioneer Elite, the NAD sounded way better to my ears. Why did I updrade my cd player from a 350 dollar cd player to a 1200 dollar cd player? Because it sounds better..of course. Noticeable difference?? Pace, separation of the instruments, and a few other things. THings that do make a difference. Im not trying to acheive audio perfection, nobody can do that. We can just get to a point where we like the sound of our systems, and where Music then comes first. Some of us on here may think...oh man I hate NAD, no way could it sound good. Or..I listened to Rega once, and thought it sounded like $h!t. Really though, how do we know what it sounds like until we have sat in that guys room and listened. I have heard entry setups blow away much more expensive setups due to synergy, room, and just me underestimating what the equipment is actually capable of. Never let someone tell u certain equipment is better until u have heard it for yourself.. I hope this makes sense..Im going to go get another whiskey. Cheers and happy new years Darren.

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 11934
Registered: May-04

"But if you are to upgrade the CD player in your system, at what price point does the CD Player begin to not have a noticeable affect, $500/$1000/$1500?/$2000?"

No one can answer that question without specific examples of players and an idea of what is important to the person making the decision to purchase or not purchase. That is one reason most of us would suggest you closely audition any component before making a purchase.

If your idea of an "improvement" in sound quality is wrapped around "speakers first" upgrades, you're likely to be listening for very simple things. There's no problem with that mentality; but more bass, deeper bass, cleaner highs, etc. are just a few items on most "audiophile" listener's check list. However, if your priorities extend mainly to the basics of frequency response and "clarity", most CD players will sound quite a bit alike as will most amplifiers. The "sound" of a turntable will completely escape you. In some ways, such simplicity in listening habits is commendable. Too many "audiophiles" get caught up in the fads and minutia of subjective listening that have little to do with the ability of a component to simply make music interesting.

As you listen deeper into the music and performance, you'll probably discern more individual characteristics of a player's personality. If these are characteristics which are, or can become, important to you, then you'll be drawn to the better player no matter the price. No one can surmise your personal preferences and priorities except you.

Do you read subjective viewpoint hifi magazines? Then you'll likely want what the reviewers are talking about in terms of sound qualities they consider important, things such as pacing, soundstaging, imaging and palpability. If you read the objectivist magazines which claim all things that measure the same are the same, you'll likely find most things digital to sound similar.

If you listen to live music or play an instrument, you'll probably have some different ideas about what recalls the live experience when your preferences are compared to someone who merely listens to recorded music and has no frequent exposure to live sound. I can tell you from personal experience that two listeners can sit side by side in front of a single system and walk away with different impressions of how well the system performs various "audio ideals".

I have no idea where you fall on this chain of "improvements" and "absolute references". I would suggest you listen to a fair amount of live music with an ear toward your emotional and physical responses to good playing and excellent writing. Does your toe tap? Do you follow the line of music from phrase to phrase? Can you hear how a performer makes their intention known to the audience? Or is it all wrapped around volume and impact and light shows? Depending on your responses to live music, I would then suggest you go listen to various players. You should be able to understand why some one would or would not pay more for what they consider to be better music making.

It's all about your response to the music and no one can tell you what you might hear. As to what others hear, read a few of the subjective reviews in magazines such as Stereophile, The Absolute Sound or the on line magazines such as TNT, Enjoy the Music or Six Moons. You'll either get your answer or consider this all to be a lot of hoowie. From out here we cannot predict which is which for you.


Silver Member
Username: Nickelbut10

Post Number: 919
Registered: Jun-07

Silver Member
Username: Mike3

Wylie, Tx USA

Post Number: 990
Registered: May-06
Darren, If you allow that Jan's post is logical and a good path to follow then I would take you back to a point Nick made. Synergy.

Someone can have a very good CD player capable of delivering all that is advertised, it may even have wowed you in the audio store's listening room but it sucks when you play it home. Do not just consider one aspect of a system in judging what best fits for you. Each piece is a part of the whole. How well you balance the pieces go a long way to whether you spend $6,000 and get the most fabulous detailed musical system you can imagine or whether you spend $60,000 and have to get up and walk away from your system after an hour because you can no longer stand to listen to it.

Someone who likes the Rega sound could do very well with an Apollo, Brio 3, P3, R5 set up.

I have done well with my hodge-podge of parts.

It is much easier to screw up than get right.

Metaphorically consider an armada where the speed of the fleet is that of the slowest ship. Your system will be as good as the weakest link will allow for.

Room dimensions, speaker placement, room treatments, isolation treatment, interconnects, power, speaker wire, all weigh into the equation and can have as much or more effect as does the source, pre-amp, amp, and speakers.

If you commit yourself and take the time to move your system along you will be happy with the results.

Bronze Member
Username: James_lehmann

Post Number: 20
Registered: Nov-06
Of course, the sound is of paramount importance, but we shouldn't overlook build-quality as a very significant factor in what people are prepared to pay for a decent bit of kit.

I don't know about you guys but I've been through several 'cheap' CD players - Marantz, NAD etc - and eventually they all seem to develop mechanical or electrical faults after 5+ years or so of intensive use.

This is one reason I'm sinking a sizeable amount of cash into a new Naim CD5i - I am expecting the high price to pay for itself over time, which is why I am prepared to buy into Naim's awesome reputation for build-quality and reliability. I am not expecting the sound to be subjectively 'three times as good' as my present $500 AMC player (that's an almost immeasurable concept anyway), but I am fully expecting the $1500 Naim to last three times as long, and that is worth paying for IMHO.

Gold Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 6031
Registered: Feb-05
And that Naim sounds awesome as well...nice bonus!!

Gold Member
Username: Mike3

Wylie, Tx USA

Post Number: 1052
Registered: May-06
JL, but might you get more than 3 times the pleasure. You are not just raising the level of your CD BTW, you are raising the level of your system!
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