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mmole
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A Simple Question

At what price does a basic analog set-up (pre-amp, tone arm, cartridge, table) sound better than a similarly priced CD player?

I think that if I had $170 to spend, the latest Oppo multi-format player would sound better than any analog set-up I could put together. Give me $1,000 and I could put together an analog set-up that would easily beat a $1,000 CD player.

So where's the tipping point? And what would that analog system look like?

Elk
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Re: A Simple Question

Great question!

I have no clue however and defer to my much better informed colleagues.

dbowker
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Re: A Simple Question

Well, for conversation sake let's say your amp/receiver has a built in phono section. So then let's say you get a Sumiko Black pearl cartridge $75, now you have $95 left over. Then put it on a Gemini Turntable: TT-01 mkII for $99. I'd put that rig up against the Oppo! Now I'm not saying it'd be better---- but it might be depending on the pressing. But I bet it'd be equal to it in many respects. I'd love to do that comparison myself...considering how cheap it would be I just might and give the TT rig to a friend.

All of the above can be had The Needle Doctor. Great online store BTW- http://www.needledoctor.com/

Jan Vigne
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Re: A Simple Question

At one time I was selling a fifteen or more year old Dual 505 turntable to someone. I mounted an equally old cartridge on the arm and plugged it in to check operation. The Dual was sitting on a chair with no set up and yet it had qualities that my $1k CD player couldn't match. On the other hand, the CD player did things the Dual couldn't.

I think your asking the question without providing sufficient information. It would appear lots of people think asking which anything is "better" is enough to provide insights into their priorities. In this case you might as well be asking which is "better" to own, a house or a pony.

If this is a for real question, then you'll need to give us more information. If this is just something to pass the time and theorize over, then buy the pony.

mmole
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Re: A Simple Question

Thanks! I would have bought the house.

Of course "better" is a subjective term. I simply have always been curious about this point and thought the question was interesting.

Having perhaps inadvertently wasted your time, I will now slink away in shame.

dbowker
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Re: A Simple Question

No shame at all- I think it's a worthy question for general discussion, which is the point of a discussion forum, right JV? Maybe Jan's feeling a bit grumpy tonight, since I usually get some pretty good insights from his direction...

Jan Vigne
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Re: A Simple Question

As they say, "There are no stupid questions ... " But asking us to define "better" is an impossible task when you are asking such a broad question. It seems to be something lots of people feel is an absolute that everyone shares and anyone can simply point to either/or as "better" than the other. Music and audio in particular just aren't items that fit into that mould. Yes, there is a magazine called "The Absolute Sound" but that is not the answer to what is better, merely what is the model or what is the reference. I am not someone who believes all audio is subjective but I am someone who believes you and I can sit side by side listening to the same performance and we might both walk away with drastically different interpretations of what we just heard. Therefore, since you're the one asking the question, I would like to hear your interpretation before I give you mine.

Is this a real question? If so, then we must know more about your preferences and priorities. It would be quite helpful to know if you have recently heard a live performance to use as a reference. If so, what did you take away from that experience that you would like to replicate at home? Without any idea what you want to hear, we really can't tell you what you might hear from either component.

In the end I think you'll find most of us will simply come down on both sources as useful tools and you get to choose which tool suits the task at hand. The case can simply be made for either when there are no restrictions. For every benefit you find in one, the other has an equally compelling virtue.

If this question is meant to resolve a real situation, then I would tend to suggest the budget CD player is the more logical choice simply because of the amount of music available in CD format. Prices are almost as cheap as used LP's and access to the physical disc is generally easier than to LP's.

I would also suggest you read the "Follow Up" section of the February Stereophile. The Oppo budget player is a bargain in hifi. If your goal, however, is to get lost in the music, then there are far better choices.

mmole
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Re: A Simple Question

Jan, I appreciate your responses and have intended no disrespect. I'm not building a system, I'm quite satisfied with what I own. Often on this forum the sentiment is expressed that almost any cheap turntable set-up will be superior to much higher priced CD, or even SACD. I was simply curious as to at what price point this is true.

I understand that this is a wildly subjective question and certainly not the "simple question" implied by the title of this thread. I'm looking for opinion from others based on their own tastes and values.

tom collins
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Re: A Simple Question

Roy: let me take a stab. I have a pretty good system with about 10k of retail value. my cd player is an arcam 78, a good player that was around 699. my first tt was a rega p2 with a rega bias cart. all set up and tested by my dealer (about $600 worth). a very well recorded LP such as mobile fidelity or other 180-200 gram record sounded about as good to me as a comparable cd but did have more depth and soundstage. an average record did not sound quite as good as the cd. on my new tt, about 1500, with 300 cart., average records sound about as good as average cds and very good records sound exceptional. good older records that have not been damaged or overplayed sound to me about as good as the recording was, some very good, some not so good, but the presentation is giving more information from the groove. i heard that tt when i bought the rega and knew at the time that i should have just gone for it and not cheaped out, but hindsight is 20/20.
also, the degree that your system is revealing i think makes a huge difference, my system seems to be very revealing.
hope this helps and doesn't confuse.

tom

Jan Vigne
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Re: A Simple Question

There is no doubt SACD is superior to Redbook CD in absolute values. But SACD has become a lesser candidate and lacks name recognition among the populace. It's having a tough time raising financial support and looks to be a non-player in the overall campaign.

At your theoretical $170, if the competing table must be purchased new, then you've eliminated the competition. A cheap, as you put it, turntable made from plastic is not going to sound "better" than anything. If you're shopping the used market, then the relatively inexpensive Dual or AR belt drive tables can easily out perform a cheap CD player. If you've read the "Follow up" section of the magazine as I suggested, you've seen the opinion that the Oppo is still not a true contender if you're after musical value. Therefore, the cheapest CD player that seems to fit the bill for a music lover is going for about $5-600 (new). At $350-400 you can buy a new turntable that will have all the essential qualities of any decent analog front end. Even through the mediocre Ortofon OM-5 cartridge included in a Rega P1 the music will have a natural warmth without detracting from the music quality that is missing from most every budget oriented CD player's performance. Soundstage depth, width and so forth will be superior on the analog player. Most importantly, IMO, the cohesive quality of the players performing together as a unit will be the strong suit of the Rega allowing you to listen for longer periods of time and with greater pay off musically, intellectually and emotionally. I would certainly guess the $350 turntable to be "better" at this than most CD players up to the $1k range where the Rega table runs into its own brethern, the Apollo. The Apollo, as good as it is, still lacks the overall resolution of "reality" that is present through an equally priced analog rig. It would appear you'll have to up the CD player's price by at least half to gain that level of quality.

The first question that evaluation should raise is simply, are those qualities you value and priorities you must have to enjoy music?

On the other side of the aisle, the Rega turntable will run slightly off speed which would drive some people insane and make it unlistenable despite its talents elsewhere. The Rega will require more effort and ancillary equipment to achieve its performance level. And the Rega will require more accessory equipment around it to minimze noise. For someone who wants to hear a symphony from start to stop, the CD player is the winner without question.

dcstep
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Re: A Simple Question

Great job by Tom at trying to get to the "tipping point". I'm listening on a $3000+ vinyl front end. Bad LPs sound really bad, because it's like you're in the studio watching as the engineer makes bad choices. For instance, old James Taylor original pressings are wonderful, while my old Linda Ronstadt stuff sounds compressed, undynamic and homogenized.

Really great recordings, like 45 rpm, 180 gram reissues by Analogue Productions just blow me away. I'm having my Pioneer universal player modded to see if I match the vinyl resolution with DVD-A. (It's really close now, so I think that the clocking and op-amp mods will bring out the full potential of those digital formats).

Anyway, I think that CD-quality through a decent player is pretty hard to beat. Tom's matrix of quality is accurate, but, no matter your investment, vinyl is VERY software dependent. Junk in will always equal junk out and, believe me, they've been making sorry LPs for far longer than they've been making sorry CDs. You have to be selective and seek the best.

Dave

tom collins
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Re: A Simple Question

dc:
i haven't let the moths out of my wallet yet for any of those 45rpm goodies, are they really that much superior to an excellent 33 1/3?

tom

dbowker
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Re: A Simple Question

I can vouch for those 45RPM goodies! But as you rightly point out they are pretty expensive--- and a pain to have to change the records twice as much as usual. I've bought maybe 4 or 5 of these and each sounds incredible though. I was just playing one last night actually, for a friend and we were both marveling at the dynamics and imaging.

tom collins
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Re: A Simple Question

db:
i have the allison kraus so long/so wrong and it is a double 33 with only 3 cuts per side, you do get your exercise, but she does sound great.

tom

dbowker
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Re: A Simple Question


Quote:
db:
i have the allison kraus so long/so wrong and it is a double 33 with only 3 cuts per side, you do get your exercise, but she does sound great.

tom

Yeah- I have that one too! Sounds great! Her live LP set is fantastic too- maybe the best sounding live album I have in my collection.

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