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Why does the Cd Player make a difference

 

New member
Username: Crl21

Ann Arbor, Michigan USA

Post Number: 7
Registered: Mar-04
I'm new to hifi and I'm trying to understand why the CD player in the system would make a big difference. It is very clear to me why the receiver and speakers would impact the quality of the system, but I can't quite understand the CD player. Here's my thought process. If a CD player is hooked up with a coaxial cable or optic cable, the CD player is simply sending the receiver 1's and 0's. If a CD player can do that then anything above that is just bells and whistles right? Help me understand this. Thanks.
 

Moffball71
Unregistered guest
Hi There Chad;
There are many factors involved in what constitutes a good CD player. Not all CD players are good. These factors involve the quality of the CD transport, that is, the mechanism that spins and reads the CD. A poor qaulity transport will be susceptible to jitter and may have difficulty reading all the information on a CD, therefore requiring the increased use of the inbuilt error correction of the CD player which can significantly alter the sound.

The other factor to take into consideration is the quality of the D/A convertors (Digital to Analogue convertors). In general, CD has a sampling resolution of 44KHz at 16bits. This means when an analogue waveform is recorded and converted to digital information, a point on the waveform is sampled and given a value represented by a string of 16 ones and zeros. This is done 44,000 times a second. So hypothetically, if you have an audio frequency of 1Hz (one complete wave cycle a second) it will be sampled at 44,000 different points.

A CD player's D/A convertors do the reverse. They convert this digital information back to analogue, or in the case of where the CD players digital outputs are connected to a home theatre amp, the amps D/A convertors would do that job. I consider CD audio resolution to be fairly inadequate. I do a fair amount of hobbyist audio engineering and therefore I am forced to work within the limitations of CD when I master a track. When the D/A convertors, convert a digital signal back to analogue, special filters are often required to fill in the gaps inbetween each sample in order to obtain an adequate analogue sound. Depending on how well these filters perform will determine the quality of sound and not all D/A convertor/filter circuits in CD players/DSP home theatre amps are exactly the same. Some filters may colour the sound in different ways to others. If the compact disc format were to have a higher sampling rate and bit depth, the less work the filters would have to do.

It is because of the limitations of CD audio resolution (which in turn limits the frequency range and dynamic range of the audio it produces), that I am still a huge vinyl record fan. But CD has its advantages, including low signal to noise ratios, compactibilty, ease of use etc.

One more factor to consider too, is the quality of cable used to transfer the signal from CD player to Amp. Even if it is a digital cable the quality will still have an impact.
Don't be under the misapprehension that because something resides in the digital realm that it is incorruptible.

I hope my information has been accurate enough to give you some idea of what to expect with Digital Audio.

Regards
Simon
 

Silver Member
Username: John_a

Post Number: 345
Registered: Dec-03
Simon,

I agree on all counts. Chad posted the identical question on Help me understand the CD Player. Let me express to Chad my mild irritation at posting a lengthy reply, designed to help, but essentially the same as yours!

I agree also about vinyl. I am convinced we were all conned by Sony/Philips in 1982 when they introduced the CD with its "perfect sound that lasts forever". The same companies are now touting SACD, as an improvement on perfection, AND using analogue remixes from the pre-digital era to illustrate how much better the new medium is. They must think we are either stupid or have very short memories - probably the latter, maybe their target customer was not around in 1982.

If you want sound as good as LP, try DVD-audio (NOT SACD!). There are some lively threads here on this, e.g. SACD or DVD-A - which way will the industry go and What does "DVD-audio" mean here?. The latter was started by me whan I did not really know what DVD-A was. The European market is some way behind N. Amerca on this, I think, though some of the best recording engineers are in Europe, see e.g. K&A associates, who have done some amazing DVD-As for Naxos. Audio has long been this way, I think. Perhaps European (especially UK) producers are more ready to explore what for the time being are perceived as niche markets.
 

New member
Username: Timn8ter

Seattle, WA USA

Post Number: 2
Registered: Dec-03
"If you want sound as good as LP, try DVD-audio (NOT SACD!)."
If you're only interested in audio playback can you easily play DVD-A without a television connected?
 

Bronze Member
Username: Two_cents

Post Number: 32
Registered: Feb-04
You can play DVD-A without a television connected. All you need are three pairs of analog cables connecting the DVD-A player to the receiver.
 

Silver Member
Username: John_a

Post Number: 359
Registered: Dec-03
That's right. Three pairs of analogue interconnects for 5.1. Only one pair is required for 2-channel (stereo). DVD-A gives stereo at 24-bit, 192 kHz, compared with Cd at 16-bit, 44 kHz. DVD-A 5.1 is 24-bit, 96 kHz, still miles ahead of CD.

It may be a bit more difficult to set up a DVD-A player without on-screen display.
 

New member
Username: Timn8ter

Seattle, WA USA

Post Number: 4
Registered: Dec-03
"It may be a bit more difficult to set up a DVD-A player without on-screen display."

That's exactly my point. That doesn't make a very good replacement for vinyl or CD in that respect. Why am I not able to have a music only system with a high-quality digital source? Oh, I guess I can, with SACD. However, DVD-A will probably win the format war. By the way, if you want a good CD player for less than $250, take a look at the Sony DVPNC685V. Yep, it's an SACD player however, it appears it's one that Sony is selling as a loss leader to get people to try SACD. It has a very stable platter and decent DAC so it's makes for a nice CD player.
 

Silver Member
Username: John_a

Post Number: 364
Registered: Dec-03
Timn8ter,

Maybe you can just put in a DVD-A and play, with no OSD. All you really have to do is choose between stereo and 5.1, I think. That will be true for SACD, too.

If and when I get a DVD-A player I shall report back, but others will know already. If I just put a disc in and press "play" now, I get DVD-V Dolby AC-3, by default, which is not what I want. I guess it will be DVD-A when I have the player. That would be OK

"Loss leaders" are regarded as an in investment. I am told drug pushers do the same thing... I am am hostile to SACD, I confess. The strong encrytion is the main objective. Code has to be watermarked in the disc transport, and in non-playing parts of the discs. This is expensive, and serves no audio purpose. When they have got us using digital amps, too, there will be no escape.

See Arcam chairman's comments on DVD-A/SACD:
http://www.arcam.co.uk/news/index.cfm#49

I remember with pleasure some discussions with you on the speakers forum last year.
 

New member
Username: Timn8ter

Seattle, WA USA

Post Number: 5
Registered: Dec-03
Thanks John, I don't spend much time on this forum anymore. I've been busy concentrating on my two-channel speaker designs and hosting a DIY audio event. Anyway, back to the point. The weakest points of most disk players is the output stage and the transport mechanism (platter). Don't underestimate the importance of the source. It's like the old computing axiom: garbage in, garbage out. If your disk skips with the slightest disturbance, how accurately is it going to be able to read? Prices are kept low by the use of really cheap parts in the output stage. There's good reason why a decent player will cost several hundred dollars.
 

Silver Member
Username: John_a

Post Number: 365
Registered: Dec-03
Thanks, Timn8er.

I agree completely. This is another big reason why the CD player indeed makes a difference. With turntables we were all painfully conscious of the need to eliminate acoustic as well as structure-borne feedback. These have different effects with CD/DVD, but they are still there. I think I hear some break-up of my DVD sound at high volumes, and intend to investigate whether this is a feedback/vibration effect. It does not sound like clipping. Currently my DVD player is perched on top of a pre-amp, and that on a flimsy shelf, in a floor-standing cabinet. Maybe if I fix that, and relocate the sub. For me, wall-mounting the player is not a lot of help because the walls of the listening room are just boards. I get structure-borne feedback through my turntable at high volumes despite having it on a wall-mounted shelf. There seems to be no audible effect as long as you stay below the feedback threshold.

The Cambridge DVD-A player states it has a low-resonance chassis, so these folks have not entirely forgotten these factors.

I do DIY tweaks from time to time. I stopped my Marantz CD player from skipping by taking out the retaining spring (which pulled to one side) and packing the disc-holder with blu-tak, to let gravity do the job, instead. It cost nothing and improved the sound no end!

Anyhow, DVD-A is really something, I hear that already just with 5.1 DTS. I hope to get a DVD-A player within about two weeks, and will let you know.
 

Unregistered guest
Which of the new systems DVD-A or SACD will gain ascendancy? Will it be another duel between video recording formats like VHS vs. Beta?

And which has the better sound quality?

Bill





 

New member
Username: Timn8ter

Seattle, WA USA

Post Number: 8
Registered: Dec-03
In the non-biased reviews I've read it's nearly a dead heat for sound quality. Those that have a vested interest in one format or the other will naturally say their's is better. SACD has some HF noise that is easily filtered at playback and has stronger copy protection. IMHO, DVD-A will dominate, not because it's necessarily superior but because it has a wider consumer base to start with. Purely my perspective;
The Progression of DVD.
Step 1: Everybody has a TV
Step 2: Hey, let's get a DVD player
Step 3: Hey, let's get surround sound
Step 4: Hey, let's play DVD music videos
Step 5: Hey, let's play DVD-A
The Progression of SACD
Step 1: I've got a decent stereo
Step 2: I've got vinyl or CDs but I'd like to step up to high quality digital
Step 3: I'll get SACD because I can have high quality digital sound and still play my CDs without having to hook up a TV to my stereo.
Again, this is just my personal perspective.
 

Silver Member
Username: John_a

Post Number: 373
Registered: Dec-03
bilfreed,

There is a whole thread "SACD or DVD-A - which way will the industry go" - see also March 14, above.

Timn8er,

Like it! There are probably difference progressions for different people. Mine are:-

DVD-A progression

1. Nice stereo. Family watches video tapes, indulging me by allowing hook-up to stereo. Family likes; wants DVD.

2. Get DVD-player, hooked up to stereo. Sounds surprisingly good. It's also a better CD player than the trusty second-generation Marantz.

3. Discover there is something called 5.1 surround sound. Somewhat reluctantly, get HT A/V receiver, to use with pensioned-off speakers from the loft, thinking it is not for serious listening. Find it sounds suprisingly good. Buy new centre speaker; buy active sub (how times change... wouldn't have allowed one in the house in times gone by). Family loves it. We all enjoy movies at home, now.

4. Buy just one DVD-Audio disc which says "plays on any DVD player". Find it does. Also sounds terrific. In DTS. Better than CD. Also has surround sound, a new experience.

5. From my dumb newbie posts here, discover that DTS is not "real" DVD-Audio.

Decide DVD-Audio is the way to go. Will report back...

SACD progression

1. Read late 1990s hype from Sony, everywhere, about new two-channel format, available only on their discs, playable only on their players. Recall they defined CD as perfection. Conclude there is one born every minute.

2. Kind wife buys one stereo-only SACD by mistake. It won't play on our trusty Marantz CD player. Decide against new SACD player just to play one disc. Try to calculate astronomical cost of replacing entire CD collection. Absurd.

3. Notice SACD now claimed always to have been intended for multi-channel surround sound. Have recent, unplayable disc which proves this untrue. Feel taken for a mug.

4. Notice SACDs now hybrids with stereo CD. Conclude Sony failed to take the World by storm, and is trying to keep its options open, and its hold on the market.

5. Read audiophile reviews about SACD players where the reviewers conclude no honest comparison with other formats is possible: the discs are all re-mixes. Look into SACD technology, see it is about copy protection, really.

Decide not to go that route.

LP progression

1. Renewed interest in recorded music leads to re-evaluating old LPs, played through stereo part of new AV receiver. Wonderful.

2. Note new vinyl pressings. Change stylus. Conclude CD was a retrograde step in the first place. Except for convenience. Always suspicious about this.

Resolve to buy new vinyl pressing of single SACD, and look out for new LPs.

MP3 progression

1. Son likes to download stuff.

2. Give son iPod. He loves it.

3. Check out iPod. Beats the lot for convenience, style, design. Worst of the lot for sound. Sub-CD quality, but better than AM radio. Probably beats other MP3 players.

Decide to act my age, and never wear headphones on public transport.
 

New member
Username: Timn8ter

Seattle, WA USA

Post Number: 9
Registered: Dec-03
MP3 is doing to digital sound what cassette tapes did to vinyl. The sound is clearly inferior yet the market share is huge. I'll probably get flamed but I agree that CDs did not match the level of FR and dynamics that vinyl has. The redeeming feature is that CDs don't pop and crackle, however, I've heard vinyl played that was so clean you wouldn't have known it was an LP. For now I'm using SACD but the writing is on the wall to my eyes, I'll have to switch some day.
 

Bronze Member
Username: Two_cents

Post Number: 36
Registered: Feb-04
Yes, the above DVD-A progressions make much more sense as described in the previous posts, but going the SACD route can also be relatively simple as in my progression:

1. New HDTV to replace analog TV
2. New cheap progressive scan DVD player to replace VCR. Wowed by improved picture quality.
3. New AV receiver and 5.1 surround system speakers totally transform movie-viewing experience. Also find it convenient to listen to CD's in living room, but sound from cheap DVD player is, er, cheap. Have stereo system for critical music listening of LPs and CDs in another room.
4. Decide to upgrade DVD player to one that plays DVD-A, SACD or both. At this point, it's just as easy to go the SACD or DVD-A route. Leaning towards a universal player to try both formats, but with a sneaking suspicion SACD = betamax.
 

Silver Member
Username: John_a

Post Number: 375
Registered: Dec-03
Timn8ter; Agree. So much to say about the demise of LP. But it's coming back, I do believe, with heavier discs, and better made ones. The complacent mass LP market allowed quality to drop, and the "perfect" CD came in and took over. MP3, like audio cassette, allows people to record, and share, their own mixes of things. It is a pleasure to see the value people get out of it with pocket money and group of friends. It is manufacturers' fear of inexpensive and convenient digital copying that drives half the developments we see. There must be enough SACDs now to justify continued production of players. Sony led the field with audio cassette, but they made very few Walkman-type devices that would record. My Sony Walkman Pro sounds pretty good and will last, I think. But I see hardly any pre-recorded cassettes on sale these days, and it is such a lot of trouble to make recordings of your own. I think it was the CD that displaced audio cassettes, when it became the standard in cars.

For digital recording, whether onto a hard drive or to burn discs, you can choose to record in aiff format and the quality is then the same as CD, but the files are a thousand times larger. I guess you can get about 15 CDs-worth on a 10 GB iPod, and it is then truly "CD-quality". It is the compression that really degrades the sound, of course. An iPod is an amazing little machine.

Two Cents; I am with you, too. Here in Europe, no-one can start with HDTV, even now, so no-one will follow quite that path. There is a Pioneer 545 "universal" player which looks good, and I agree it might be sensible to keep options open, especially if you already have a collection of SACDs. However, I am inclining towards an NAD 533 DVD-A player, as posted in another thread. The DVD-V player that so changed everything for us was the NAD T532. If the T533 is the same but with DVD-A, I shall be quite happy.

Thanks to both for comments.
 

Unregistered guest
Chad.....simple way to look at an audio system:
Source HAS to be most important. Why? Lets say you have a low end amp, decent cd player and ok speakers. You want better sound, so you improve the speakers. Sounds better? Nope. Worse. Why? Because speakers cannot improve upon the signal they are being sent. They can only more clearly reveal each and every fault of components upstream of them. So.....ALWAYS optimize your source first, then pre-amp, then amp, and lastly speakers. Make sense?
 

Silver Member
Username: John_a

Post Number: 461
Registered: Dec-03
mauimusicman,

As regards getting the best source - Yes, complete sense. As Timn8er pointed out: "garbage in; garbage out".

Another way of putting it is to say that the best amp and speakers in the world will never improve the sound from a lousy player. They will just give a more accurate report on all its problems.

Where I disagree, mauimusicman, is in saying that improvements will be best if you upgrade by following the path of the signal. My advice in almost all cases is to get the best source you can afford, for the reasons you state, then pay attention to the speakers. Amps can be a factor, but the difference in sound produced by spending x times as much on an amp will be almost nothing compared with the difference you will get from spending just a little more on the speakers. And you need really high-quality speakers in the first place, as well as the best source, in order to hear any difference at all from replacing an amp.

The "limiting factor" is the place where you will get the most benefit from upgrading its specification. I suggest the order of priority is the order of limiting factors. In many cases the first priority should be the source. If you have a good source, then think next about the speakers. The limiting factor can sometimes be the amp/recevier, but it is fairly uncommon, and it has to be real junk, or else just not powerful enough, or else malfunctioning in some way.

As regards sources i.e. players, I have just upgraded to DVD-Audio. Strongly, warmly recommended: it is amazing. Remembering that all DVD-A players also play CDs (and DVD-V discs), I submit that now is not the time to be buying a new CD player at all. The DVD-A format just blows CD away, honestly.

BTW Timn8er, from personal experience, not just theory, I can now vouch for Two Cents's straight answer to your question of March 16: you don't need a TV to play DVD-A. You just put in the DVD-A disc and press "play". You don't even need to select the format: you get the best available, by default. If you need to mess about with speaker setting and channel delays, you'll probably find a TV convenient, even essential, for the On-Screen Display. But that is a once-off for most people, I expect.
 

Unregistered guest
I can agree with what you say. However, upgrading the speakers too much can and will reveal faults in the amp/pre-amp sections that may go diagnosed as speaker problems(after all, you only changed speakers), so one need be careful. Don't shoot the messenger if you don't like the message. We also haven't touched on cables. Another are where you can make immediate improvements often for less than the cost of new components. Finding a bargain audiophile cable is not an easy task.
 

Silver Member
Username: John_a

Post Number: 463
Registered: Dec-03
Agreed. But speakers that reveal faults in other components are better speakers. Yes, "don't shoot the messenger".

Except I generally disagree about cables. They are mostly all the same, as long as they are in good condition, especially the plugs and the way they are attached.

I asked the reputable dealer about his recommendation for connecting my new DVD player to the receiver, with DVD-A in mind. He suggested a single co-axial digital interconnect, costing 30 % of the price of the player. He was selling snake oil, and expensive snake oil: the cable would not have worked with DVD-A, which required 6 analogue interconnects. He seemed not to know that. I then went to an electronics shop and paid about 7 % of the player price for a bundle of six thick "Audiophile" cables, each with massive and reassuring-looking gold-plated RCA plug at each end. Even that was probably overkill. The cheapest way of doing it would have been three stereo cable pairs, which would have cost less than half that, and less than one tenth of the dealer's recommended cable. Which was the wrong one, anyway.

There is a "cables" forum here. It is quite incredible how much money people waste on cables, and what crazy ideas people have got about them, for example, that they need breaking in.
 

Bronze Member
Username: Timn8ter

Seattle, WA USA

Post Number: 32
Registered: Dec-03
I like making my own cables. It's incredibly easy and you can make them the exact length you need. All you need is a crimper and die set, a rotary stripper, RCA connectors and a decent RG6 coax. Breaking in cables huh? I guess the electrons need to "loosen up". You guys better be careful. The "True Believers" can be quite radical.
 

Silver Member
Username: John_a

Post Number: 465
Registered: Dec-03
Timn8ter,

Some of my cables are home made, too. It is very satisfying. Go and dip into the "Cables" forum. It is another world.

Quad (you will have heard of their speakers!) turned up at a UK consumer audio fare last year, having forgotten cables. Someone nipped over the road and bought orange hedge trimmer power cable from a garden centre. Very sensible. The speakers sounded wonderful, so they had endless enquiries about their exotic audiophile cables.

I suggested in the "cables" thread you might "break in" such cables by trimming a few hedges, before using them for speakers. I got flamed. It is just as you say!
 

Bronze Member
Username: Timn8ter

Seattle, WA USA

Post Number: 33
Registered: Dec-03
You may enjoy this article then.
http://www.theabsolutesound.com/newsletter/147/cable_survey2.html
This is an excerpt from his conclusion:
"In my system I got the most musically rewarding and tonally neutral performance with the Kimber, WireWorld, MIT, and Harmonic Technology cables. I didn't listen to the DH Labs enough to form a firm opinion, but I liked what I heard, which was consistent with Neil's description. I also concur that the AudioQuest is a fine value, but the obvious top honors for value go to Home Depot's outdoor extension cords: They won't give you any bragging rights among certain audiophiles, but they'll sure save you a bundle at very little sacrifice in performance."
 

Silver Member
Username: John_a

Post Number: 466
Registered: Dec-03
Timn8ter,

Wonderful link. I really did laugh out loud. Thanks! What pretentious rubbish. I think most of it would dissolve away with a simple application of plain English.

Can I quote you from your own link?

I consistently heard a presentation that could be described, if you like this cable, as nice, soft, warm, dark, and pretty, or, if you don't, as closed down, a smidgeon smeared, a little veiled, with reduced dynamics and detail. In either case, the Cardas was distinctly midrangy, slightly rolled at the extremes, and rhythmically challenged.

Pure joy. "Rhythmically challenged"! It read to me like the guy was just as likely to try to smoke them as use them to connect speakers.

I think the key to it all is in your quote: "...They won't give you any bragging rights among certain audiophiles".

All the best.
 

Silver Member
Username: John_a

Post Number: 467
Registered: Dec-03
Timn8ter,

Do you know what "Gauge" means in units of distance? I have looked everywhere and cannot find this. My guess is that "16-gauge" means diameter one-sixteenth of an inch. It could make sense, but could also be completely wrong.

Everyone,

The topic is "CD players", I know. My honest recommendation is don't get a new CD player. Keep your old one, and get a DVD-Audio player, instead. It will play your CDs, too. But the resolution and detail on DVD-A is a huge step forward. It is breathtaking. Really.

I am absolutely not making this up; I have now heard it for myself.

Even if you only want two-channel stereo, DVD-A is a great improvement. But real music in high-resolution 5.1 surround sound is just beautiful. Don't get it confused with Home Theater, just because it happens that DVD-Audio players also play DVD-Videos.

I, too, have hundreds of CDs. But we were all taken for a ride in 1982. The CD, like the audio tape cassette, was a convenience format, compromising sound quality in order to get an hour of stereo on a 5" disc with the digital technology of the 1970s.

DVD-Audio is the best thing since stereo. Sliced bread is not in the race.
 

Bronze Member
Username: Timn8ter

Seattle, WA USA

Post Number: 36
Registered: Dec-03
The universal players from Pioneer look like a good value for the money. At this point, were I to replace my current DVD player I would probably go that route.

John A. The American Wire Gauge is also known as BS for Brown & Sharp. The measurement is a geometrical progression related to the drawing (manufacturing) process. I wish it was as straight-forward as you've described but it is far from that. How they chose the numbers is as elusive to me as other measuring sytems and probably started arbitrarily. 16 awg wire is .0509 inches or 1.29 mm in diameter. Here's a link to a conversion table.
http://www.coilcraft.com/awg.cfm
 

Silver Member
Username: John_a

Post Number: 483
Registered: Dec-03
Timn8ter,

Many, many thanks. I have asked that question before here, but never got a straight answer.

I see AWG 50 is one "thou"; AWG 30 is 10 thou. That can't be coincidence, and it does not look arbitrary. I cannot make any sense out of the rest. When I have some time I'll try to figure our what AWG 1 is, that must help.

"Units of measurement" is one of those topics like speaker wire. People will go to war about words.

I bought a small car in US once and was amazed at the poor fuel consumption until I realised that a US gallon is smaller than an Imperial gallon. There was a transition time in the UK when you could only buy timber by the "metric foot", which was one-third of a meter.

AWG is great, long may it live. The EU would make it illegal to sell wire in AWG. That is no exaggeration. The objective would be "Harmonisation". Scary.
 

Silver Member
Username: John_a

Post Number: 484
Registered: Dec-03
Timn8ter,

Now I think of it, a CD/DVD is probably 12 cm, not 5 inches!
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