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moon
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Likely an age old question - but am I to see any noticeable difference in a Hi-Fi CD player

I have collected a lot of music CDs over the years (after many teenage years of abusing vinyl). I just started putting together a system. Started with loudspeakers (that is where much of the budget went), an AVR, a power amp for the mains, and a universal disc player (a rather inexpensive one, does not support SACD). Everything that I am using is subject to change as I grow the system, except the speakers and subs. They will stay.

Just a tad more info: I listen to all sorts of music with a nod to rock and jazz fusion, huge redbook CD collection, including HDCDs. Lots of concert DVDs and a few scattered DVD-As. Not much on movies and I don't care too much about high end video.

Now my question:
Will I likely see any great improvement by sinking bucks into a hi-fi CD player? And if so, what recommendations might you have. One other note: since my player is low end, I am only currently using a digital connect. That will obviously change with the new player.
Thanks.

bobedaone
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Re: Likely an age old question - but am I to see any noticeable

Short answer: Yes

That being said... RUN! Get out now! Keep buying music.

It's too late for me; Save yourself.

Seriously, though, you will definitely notice a difference if you upgrade to a hi-fi player. The question is, how far down the rabbit hole are you willing to go? You can spend a lot of time and money in this game, and might (gasp) cut back on music purchases to save for gear. If I were you, I'd get an Oppo DV-980H (which I happen to own and thoroughly enjoy) and not even sweat it. It plays everything, sounds great, is silly-affordable ($170), and is not cleanly beaten by anything I've heard south of $1k.

If this sounds like a product endorsement, it kind of is. I'm pretty convinced that you could upgrade your source in a big way without shelling out big money. And think of all the music you will be able to buy with the savings!

Elk
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Re: Likely an age old question - but am I to see any noticeable

You may very well hear a difference. It depends on how well the rest of the system can reveal such differences. That said, it is a great next step in your plan to upgrade your system.

The Oppo would be a great choice. It is inexpensive, plays everything, and sounds quite good. After you have upgraded everything else, you can easily justify a better player at that time as you will have already easily have gotten your money out of the Oppo. Plus, you will have "extra" components around and can use the Oppo in your secondary system.

bifcake
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Re: Likely an age old question - but am I to see any noticeable

I agree with Elk. You will hear a difference in your CD player provided the rest of your system allows you to hear it. The differences tend to be more in nature of greater detail, and refinement such taking the shrill away. The differences are noticeable, but they're not the kinds of differences you would hear when you change speakers.

Having said that, given that the Oppo is less than 200 bucks, it will cost you little to find out for yourself.

Buddha
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Re: Likely an age old question - but am I to see any noticeable

Hey, Merry Christmas, everybody!

Make mine the third vote for considering the Oppo as the first step of your newly undertaken Hi Fi journey!

I also agree they sound different, as I have been re-re-re--re-re-discovering this past month as an audio buddy and I audition players for a project.

Sometimes, they sound amazingly different!

Other times, not so much.

moon
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Re: Likely an age old question - but am I to see any noticeable

Well. Its just seems logical that since I have a large redbook collection and HDCDs that I might try a dedicated CD player. I ordered a Rotel RCD-1072 from an audio store that is about an hour away. If I don't hear any differences after trying it out, I can take it back.

I have some ideas about a DVD player over the universal that I am currently using. Basically, I might be able to find a used Denon 3910 for not much above what the Oppo would cost. And, yes, I have not heard one bad word about the Oppo. How could you, at that price point. I'll stay away from the DVD discussion for now as I concetrating on the CD player.

What I am concerned about as far as telling a difference is this. If I connect the 1072 up, I am only using the AVR as a preamp (I do amp my mains with a separate amp and let the AVR handle the rest of my 5.1 config). Even with analog connects, I have heard the AVR will at some point still do a digital conversion, even if the DACs in the 1072 are used first. I am not keen enough on how all that works just yet. Guess I am just going to have to try it. I have a pioneer VSX-816 AVR, and it does have a 'direct' mode to use. The VSX-816 is $320 unit, and I am not sure that 'direct' is the same in this lower end unit as would be in higher end AVRs. Plus I am not sure in 'direct' what to expect out of bass management. Will my subs still kick in wis the new CD player ? (I have two 650w jobs with 12" speakers).

I have been researching in various audio camps that tell us that under scientific test conditions, in general the audible difference between CD players costing thousands and those costing $70 has proven to be negligble. Supposedly unveiling some of the untruths in audio.

At this point my leaning is toward the notion that other than loudspeakers and room dynamics, so much of the hi-end world of audio is hooey. Also I realize that when it comes to vinyl, that does not all apply. It makes since that I a cheap phono player and cartridge will destroy records and sound. But as we are in the digital format world, not so much so as with players, amps and the like. Some of my own non-scientific testing as affirmed that. I had a chance to test a $2000 AVR against my $320 unit. Build quality and video performance of the $2000 was far superior. When it came down to sound, nothing at all was noticed, except it did have more audio features. Most of which I would never use. Any thoughts?

absolutepitch
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Re: Likely an age old question - but am I to see any noticeable


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I have been researching in various audio camps that tell us that under scientific test conditions, in general the audible difference between CD players costing thousands and those costing $70 has proven to be negligble. Supposedly unveiling some of the untruths in audio.

When I first heard CD players in the early '80s, they sounded distinctly different from each other.

In the years that followed, one of the brands (Magnavox) was highly regarded, and upgradable (mod-able by tweaks) by audiophiles handy with the soldering iron. I got one as a gift, and eventually modified it as I did for my other electronics. It sounds a lot better than new.

I understand what the scientists are saying. I am multiply degreed in science and engineering. I also play two musical instruments and have excellent pitch discrimination. It's true that I did not do a blind test of before and after the mods; I can't without two identical units and mod only one of them. I'd like to do that and follow up with a blind test, and long-term test someday.

But, I can tell you that the "character" of the sound is different, in that the instruments are greatly more independent of each other, and not interfering with each other compared to before. This is the musician in me talking. This has nothing to do with the need to match listening levels because it's audible at all levels, especially the better recovery of low level detail information.

I compared my modded CD player (of the late '80s) to a newer one (a different brand) of early 2000's. I could not hear a difference on music, when the levels were matched as best we could in a home environment using a test CD at 1 KHz tone. If any difference was thought to be heard, it was very subtle. My nephew says he heard a slight difference in the favor of his newer unit. Not a blind test for sure.

Will you hear a difference? You'll have to try and see.

rvance
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Re: Likely an age old question - but am I to see any noticeable


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At this point my leaning is toward the notion that other than loudspeakers and room dynamics, so much of the hi-end world of audio is hooey.

Any thoughts?

1) Welcome to the forum, moon.

2) Merry Christmas!

3) You've really stepped in it now.

moon
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Re: Likely an age old question - but am I to see any noticeable

So I stepped in it? I am new enough to be persuaded otherwise, and I see nothing at all wroing with having really nice, quality built audio equipment. Its just that I am unconvering some evidence that indeed, a lot of the proclamations made by manufacturers and reviewers of hi end stuff is found to be hooey, when subjected to scientific blind testing. I myself, remain open minded about all of it, as I try to seek the truth for myself.

Remember, I am hunting down a good CD-player at the moment. Take this next peice of writing for example. This in quotes is from a review from a certain high end CD player.

"Expectedly, the embedded string quartet benefitted from the added suaveness, that silky sheen that tubes bestow on bowed strings. Equally expectedly, the rapidly plucked guitar strings gained a degree of ferocity going the other route. The cor anglais' alto-oboe timbre sunk lower into the diaphragm with the valves, Juan Reina's typical Cante Jondo (with those pecularily stretched out ah-iiiii embellishments) had less of that bite and metallic overtone glare, which gypsies deliberately cultivate for the hoarse edge that projects songs about pain and loss with unvarnished authenticity."

This is exactly the type of hype I have to question. I know of some folks who actually owned/tried the player that review came from. As far as quality sound not a single person that I know was impressed. Most went back to their moderately priced units.

If there is magic in certain components, I'm open to finding it, but I until I do. I remain skeptical.

bifcake
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Re: Likely an age old question - but am I to see any noticeable

You know, there is most definitely a point of diminishing returns and the higher up the food chain you go, the greater price/performance ratio becomes in terms of geometrically rising prices for marginal quality improvements.

Having said this, once you reach a certain point of fidelity, you want to squeeze the last Nth drop of performance out of your system, so you start upgrading. Sometimes these upgrades are really lateral shifts and sometimes they're real. Very rarely though the amount of money you spend for an upgrade justifies the improvement you get because you're well past the point of diminishing returns. This is why hi-fi can be a bottomless money pit. It starts innocently enough with a question: "I want to get a good or decent CD player or speakers or amp" and it all goes down hill from there.

BillB
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Re: Likely an age old question - but am I to see any noticeable

It's good to be both open-minded and skeptical. If you aren't already a reader or subscriber to Stereophile, it's a good source of exploration and debates on differences in equipment and their relative importance.
In my non-fanatical experience, I hear slight, subtle differences between moderately priced disc players. I have not directly compared expensive to cheap ones though.
I find that I have heard different things than others and I have come to rely more on my own hearing and decision making, but the background from magazines, stores, etc is very helpful and important. Some of the stuff out there is or might be hooey; but a lot of it ISN'T.
I do find that extended listening is illuminating of differences and works better for me than short-term comparisons. Unfortunately!
When in doubt, remember that it's for listening to music and that trumps equipment differences.

rvance
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Re: Likely an age old question - but am I to see any noticeable

Hi moon. Yes, you've stepped in it, but that can be a good thing.

The review you cited seems to be the typical attempt at describing subtle musical attributes that the reviewer can ascribe to a particular piece of equipment based on years of experience auditioning products in and out of his component array. Florid and romantic allusions to sonic values do not impress some readers as much as more scientific test data gleaned from a test lab. That's okay. There's an art to the science of audio and we all know about the many various opinions of what constitutes art.

Elk, WTL, ErikB, Buddha and AlexO have all given you good advice and comments and you can learn a lot from these and other members in this forum (not necessarily me, however).

In my system, every equipment change has yielded fairly distinctive results that I have either instantly noticed (sometimes with alarm!) or gradually perceived through listening sessions with very familiar material. The fun is in the discoveries you make about the music you love.

For digital media, I have leaned towards universal players for a variety of reasons including budget. My current Marantz 7001 definitely plays cds with greater detail and finesse (there's that subjective language again) than my previous unit. I am enjoying some cd's for the first time in a long while. DVD-Audio has greater detail and depth at the expense of being brighter than my former player, which had more midrange/bass grip. I have changed cables and am exploring SACD for the first time. I tend to make changes when equipment has failed and I must negotiate the WAF in my considerations. If I was single, I would have a dedicated room with Quads and I'd upgrade my vinyl rig. Maybe when I retire I can build a room addition to this end. This is my ultimate goal, but making compromises and adhering to a budget can still yield rewards.

Good luck to you, moon!

bifcake
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Re: Likely an age old question - but am I to see any noticeable

Sometimes you plug in a new component and you don't hear much of a difference until you go back to your old one. When I got my Rega Plane 2000, I replaced my old Pioneer DV-414 DVD player that I used to play CD's. The DV-414 was a decent player. I had my brother in law come over and I played him a CD on my old Pioneer player. He said it sounded good. I then switched to the Rega planet and played the same CD. He said he didn't hear much of a difference. I then switched back to the Pioneer. He said: Put the Rega player back on, this sounds like crap!

I think it was the sum of subtle improvements that make a difference. This is especially true when it comes to source components.

moon
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Re: Likely an age old question - but am I to see any noticeable

Using some basic testing instruments, how would one conduct a close to scientific test (levels etc), at home.... with limited knowledge and equipment such as myself. The ears are fine, just wondering how to take it a step further.

Buddha
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Re: Likely an age old question - but am I to see any noticeable


Quote:
Using some basic testing instruments, how would one conduct a close to scientific test (levels etc), at home.... with limited knowledge and equipment such as myself. The ears are fine, just wondering how to take it a step further.

If you don't believe your ears, then I guess you could do blind listening trials with the help of a friend.

I can't think of much in terms of home audio testing equipment that would provide the answer for you.

What if things measured differently, but still sounded the same to you?

Or, if you heard a difference, but things measured the same, then what would you do?

I'd say your best bet is to use the measuring equipment that you will be using every day at home...your ears.

There's no pressure to hear something or nothing, it's all at your own pleasure!

moon
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Re: Likely an age old question - but am I to see any noticeable


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Some of the stuff out there is or might be hooey; but a lot of it ISN'T.

Unless we are extremely weathly or have audio labs and lots of time, its unlikely an average person getting into higher end audio will ever really know what IS and what ISN'T hooey. Yes, there are some obvious dictinctions that can be made. But I don't want to be one of the ones that sink thousands into performance that could be purchased for hundreds. This is a very easy hobby for manufacturers and reviewers to attach magical properties to equipment.

I am always looking for good stuff, and I might be one of those folks who shells out the big bucks for a piece if its proven to be worth it to my ears. But there is very little chance that I get to test a dozen amps against each other. I would love to see some better reviewing techniques that I can firmly rely on.

So, while I'm here on this post, what have you personally found that ISN'T. Not a challenge, just looking for a few products that I can put on my short list is all.

bifcake
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Re: Likely an age old question - but am I to see any noticeable

Are you asking which products are not snake oil or are you asking which products are really worth their price?

The answer to the first questions is that there is a lot of snake oil in the selling of cables and tweaks.

To answer the second question, none of the high end products deliver the performance that's commensurate with their price. Alas, if you want to squeeze that Nth degree of fidelity, you wind up paying through the nose.

Buddha
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Re: Likely an age old question - but am I to see any noticeable


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To answer the second question, none of the high end products deliver the performance that's commensurate with their price.

How depressing!

I would respectfully disagree and say that there are loads of high end products that deliver performance commensurate with their price!

Of course, this price/worth/value question is completely personal, so a piece of gear that I consider to offer good value may be one that makes AlexO stamp his feet in dismay.

We have even had threads about where these 'value points' come and go for different people.

For the next part of the conversation, maybe AlexO could tell us what gear he uses, and we could see if anybody thinks there are pieces of gear at higher price points that offer 'value.'

I think it would be kinda fun. I mean no flaming intent at all. AlexO, I apologize if you've mentioned your gear in the past and I forgot what it was.

bifcake
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Re: Likely an age old question - but am I to see any noticeable

This is what I mean when I say that none of the high end products are worth their price:

If you buy a consumer grade CD player, it'll make a sound. It'll reproduce music and it will cost $50. If you get a high end CD player for $1,000 it will not sound 20x better. If you get a $5,000 Cd player, it will not sound 5x better than a $1,000 player and so on. So, from the perspective of providing that "bang for the buck", none of the high end players are worth the money charged because they don't deliver the X multiple in performance commensurate with the X multiple in price. However, as I've stated previously, if you want to squeeze all that you can out of your CD's, you'll pay a premium.

As far as my equipment is concerned:

CD - Rega Planet 2000
Pre - Cary SLP-88
Amp - PS Audio 200c
Speakers - (soon to be) Magnepan 3.6R
Headphone - Senn HD580

bobedaone
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Re: Likely an age old question - but am I to see any noticeable

Value is certainly a very subjective thing, depending on net worth, listening experience, and sonic taste.

Being a college student, I have to work within a pretty narrow spectrum. Any potential purchase over $100 requires a great deal of careful thought, and anything over $1000 is nearly unobtanium.

I've come across some equipment that I think offers a lot of value, even though I can only dream of some of it.

Here's my shortlist:

Rega
P3, P7, Apheta, Brio3, Apollo

Paradigm
Reference Studio series

Oppo
DV-980H

Linn
Majik system

NAD get an honorable mention for offering gear that is significantly better than mass-market at about the same price.

Here is my system, for reference:

Paradigm 7se Mk.3 loudspeakers (oldies but goodies)

Rega Brio3 integrated amplifier (does most of what the $1-2000 amps do, but cuts costs by axing superfluous features)

Oppo DV-980H disc player (gave my previous $300 player to Mom)

NAD 4020A tuner (no presets, but I have fun spinning the knob)

Audio Alchemy DDE v1.2 D/A converter (use with Airport Express/iTunes for computer audio)

Furman PST-8D power conditioner (AC in my building is garbage, but this guy took out the trash)

Linn K20 loudspeaker cable (pleased so far, still breaking in)

And, as some of you are aware, I am desperately trying to afford a new P3. The end.

rvance
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Re: Likely an age old question - but am I to see any noticeable


Quote:
This is what I mean when I say that none of the high end products are worth their price:

If you buy a consumer grade CD player, it'll make a sound. It'll reproduce music and it will cost $50. If you get a high end CD player for $1,000 it will not sound 20x better. If you get a $5,000 Cd player, it will not sound 5x better than a $1,000 player and so on.

Alex, Not trying to quibble, but I would qualify your remarks with an "IMO," because a lot of people in a lot of varying income brackets wouldn't bat an eye at putting up $25K-$50K to satisfy their music jones. While that may not represent an absolute value based on your formula, it might be their cheap ticket to audio paradise, in their ears anyway.

clarets2
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Re: Likely an age old question - but am I to see any noticeable

"This is what I mean when I say that none of the high end products are worth their price:"

Without taking direct issue with the explanation that follows this statement I would like to offer some insight to my own experience.

For a long time I enjoyed spending endless hours in these forums (fora?) debating the various opinions / reviews expressed. It's actually a lot less intimidating and easier to do this than to actually get out there and listen and trust your own ears. After all the only real "value" is in the ears of the beholder.
I was sceptical of my ability to tell the difference between CD players and when a local retailer went belly up I couldn't resist a heavily discounted universal player in the Yamaha DVD S2500. So there I was with an opportunity to actually do a side by side comparison with my entry level Denon DVD player. I connected both in my system and toggled between the two using 2 mins of music each time.
The difference was noticeable to my ears....how much was this worth?....more excitement, less fatigue, closer to live music ....how much is this worth?.....no $$$ value but it did get me interested enough to ask the question posed in the subject line! I wanted more of this "improvement".

After more net research....back to my comfort zone... I figured out there were certain "high-end" used players out there that could be resold at no loss if you were patient and researched with care.
The only risk was credit card interest....oh and if one fell in love with the purchased item.
Bought the Linn Ikemi, compared it to the Yamaha, and it got me purchasing CD's again!....only the music I can't get on vinyl as my Scout still rules the roost!
My challenge to those of you who doubt....is take the test ...listen in your own home and if you cannot hear a difference that represents value to you, and you alone, then enjoy your current player and buy more music.

Once again the value is only in your ears...and it does require courage and effort to do the listening...but it is worth it....if only if it leads you to buy more vinyl!

The comparison to the "value" of a fine wine is similar....if you love it enough to seek it out and pay the price, it has great value....especially when you are brave enough to open it up and maybe share it with friends.

Happy listening.

bifcake
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Re: Likely an age old question - but am I to see any noticeable

That's very true, Peter.

What I'm getting at is not a subjective value of whether an arithmetic improvement in quality worth a geometric increase in price to you. Rather, what I'm saying is that the quality increase curve is a very gentle slope, whereas the corresponding price increase curve is very steep. Hence, proportionally, you're not getting "value" for your money. However, if we weren't willing to pay through the nose for those relatively minor improvements, we wouldn't be here.

Buddha
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Re: Likely an age old question - but am I to see any noticeable


Quote:
That's very true, Peter.

What I'm getting at is not a subjective value of whether an arithmetic improvement in quality worth a geometric increase in price to you. Rather, what I'm saying is that the quality increase curve is a very gentle slope, whereas the corresponding price increase curve is very steep. Hence, proportionally, you're not getting "value" for your money. However, if we weren't willing to pay through the nose for those relatively minor improvements, we wouldn't be here.

You are spot on, AlexO, nowadays (lucky for us!) the price/performance curve has a steep slope at low prices, and starts to reach the asymptote at relatively affordable prices!

You are right, the vast majority of the hobby seems to take place on that very gradually sloping upper curve.

I think AlexO's system looks like it offers killer value, but there's probably people who would look at the prices of his gear and pronounce him insane.

(I can't wait to hear how you like the Maggies in your room, by the way!)

I have only rarely encountered systems that strike me as "negatively" expensive. Maybe a demo or two here and there whose names shall remain anonymous...(Wavac)......

Elk
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Re: Likely an age old question - but am I to see any noticeable


Quote:
I think AlexO's system looks like it offers killer value, but there's probably people who would look at the prices of his gear and pronounce him insane.


Among the general populace I bet we would find well less than 1% that would declare his system a good value. But I agree that it is indeed an excellent value.

Quality in all specialist pursuits is proportional to price, it just isn't a 1:1 relationship.

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