CD Player/Transport Reviews

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Herb Reichert Posted: Apr 25, 2017 8 comments
Someone on Audio Asylum wrote, "When it comes to hi-res audio, Herb is a babe in the woods." This is true, though probably not in the way this person imagined. High-resolution master David Chesky has been my friend forever, and I used to write for his website Todd Garfinkle, founder of and producer for M•A Recordings, and Kavichandran Alexander, of Water Lily Acoustics, are not only valued friends, but I own most of their stunning recordings. In short, I'm no stranger to SACD or 24-bit/192kHz playback. But compared to most audiophiles, I've been a bit slow in appreciating the intricacies and virtues of hi-rez computer audio.
Art Dudley Posted: Feb 02, 2017 13 comments
In Stereophile's January 2016 issue, I began a series of reviews of $10,000 CD players and transport-DAC combinations: an informal and serial survey, the goal of which was to gather, over time, the likeliest candidates for one's Last CD Player Ever. My choice of $10,000 as the target price was more or less arbitrary, although, in retrospect, that's about what I've invested in my go-to combination of turntable, tonearm, and pickup head—so, who knows? Maybe my subconscious was acting out.
John Atkinson Posted: Nov 18, 2016 3 comments
It has been 20 years since I first became aware of the British company Data Conversion Systems, which manufactures audio products under the dCS brand. Rather than use off-the-shelf conversion chips, the groundbreaking dCS Elgar D/A converter, which I reviewed in our July 1997 issue, featured a then-unique D/A design that they called a Ring DAC. This featured a five-bit, unitary-weighted, discrete DAC running at 64 times the incoming data's sample rate—2.822MHz for 44.1kHz-based data, 3.07MHz for 48kHz-sampled data and its multiples—with upsampling and digital filtering and processing implemented in Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs). Oversampling to a very high sample rate allows the word length to be reduced without losing resolution, and use of a low-bit multi-bit DAC makes for very high accuracy in the analog voltage levels that describe the signal. (If this seems like voodoo, for a given signal bandwidth, bit depth and sample rate are related. To oversimplify, double the rate, and you can reduce the bit depth by one bit while preserving the overall resolution.)
Art Dudley Posted: Mar 24, 2016 10 comments
Described by manufacturer April Music as an "all-in-one music center," the Aura Note Version 2 ($2500) is a 125Wpc integrated amplifier with a built-in CD player, USB DAC, and FM tuner. The Aura Note is further enhanced by a Bluetooth receiver, a pair of line-level output jacks, and a headphone jack.

The hackneyed but not inappropriate comparison to a Swiss Army knife comes to mind—but where that well-loved tool does a great many things with less than perfection, I've now heard the Aura Note V2 do at least two different things well enough that no excuses need be made on its behalf.

Art Dudley Posted: Feb 24, 2016 0 comments
I don't listen to music when I write, even when I write about listening to music: When there's music playing, it almost always gets my full attention—and I'm no good at multitasking. (And if I'm around music that's awful and I'm powerless to stop it, I have to leave the premises.) A rare exception is when I listen to CDs while proofreading, because proofreading is fairly brainless stuff—and as playback formats go, the Compact Disc isn't the most musically compelling.
Art Dudley Posted: Dec 29, 2015 6 comments
I don't know much about horses, but I've been given to understand that dead ones don't respond to even the severest beating. In light of that, I'll make only this brief statement—Even with the best playback gear of my experience, I don't derive as much pleasure from CDs as I do from LPs.—and move on to a simpler truth: Regardless of what I think, CD players are still a necessity for most music-loving audiophiles.
Michael Fremer Posted: Nov 13, 2014 5 comments
Can a power-supply upgrade produce audible sonic benefits? If you've upgraded the power supply of a phono preamplifier, you probably don't need to be convinced that it does, and those usually cost only a small percentage of the price of the model they power. But to add Simaudio's Moon Evolution 820S power supply ($8000) to the Moon Evolution 650D DAC–CD transport ($9000), which I reviewed in the November 2011 issue, almost doubles the latter's cost—though the 820S can be used to simultaneously power two Moon Evolution components, like the 750D DAC ($14,000), 740P preamplifier ($9500), and 610LP ($7500) and 810LP phono preamplifier ($13,000).
John Marks Posted: Jul 30, 2014 5 comments
The CD-200 is the new CD-only player from TASCAM, the professional-audio division of TEAC (footnote 1). It has unbalanced analog outputs, and RCA and optical digital outputs. The CD-200 also has a new transport, the CD-5020A, designed by TEAC for audio use.

Unlike many affordable disc-spinning devices with slot-loading transports (eg, inexpensive DVD players starting at $29.99), the CD-200 has a traditional drawer mechanism that has been upgraded to minimize the noise of loading and clamping a disc. TASCAM also claims improvements in the internal clock function, for smoother sound and lower jitter.

Brian Damkroger Posted: Jun 02, 2014 2 comments
Audiophiles spend a lot of time thinking about the law of diminishing returns. We'd all agree that spending $1000 to replace an iPhone and generic earbuds with one of Stephen Mejias's "Entry Level" systems is in the early, steep part of the curve: a huge jump in performance for relatively small investment. We'd also agree, or at least suspect, that after you've spent that $1000, the curve gets a lot flatter. What we don't agree on is the shape of the curve between these points. The ideal situation is to find the knee: the point at which the curve's slope changes dramatically. At the knee, we've gotten most of what we want, and the next increment of performance improvement is disproportionally expensive.
John Atkinson Posted: May 02, 2014 8 comments
"Physical discs are so 20th century," I wrote back in 2006, when I began experimenting with using, in my high-end rig, a computer as a legitimate source of music. These days I rarely pop a disc into my Ayre Acoustics C-5xeMP disc player, unless it's an SACD I want to hear, or a CD I haven't yet ripped into my library. But many audiophiles, even if attracted to the idea of using a file-based system as a primary music source, do not want a computer in their listening rooms. Nor do they want to be bothered by the fact that a computer demands too intimate a relationship with its user.
Jon Iverson Posted: Mar 28, 2014 0 comments
My primary focus this month was MSB's Analog DAC, but since it needed some software updates, MSB suggested that the easiest way to install them was with their Universal Media Transport plus ($5995). Turned out the updates were easier via my regular Meridian Sooloos system, but since they'd sent me a sample of the UMT+, I hooked it up.
Fred Kaplan Posted: Oct 07, 2013 7 comments
Now entering its fourth decade, the Compact Disc player seems to have reached a stage of maturity where the best models within a given price range will sound pretty much alike. The technology of the Compact Disc itself is set, its possibilities and limitations are well understood; and the designers of CD players who figure out how to stretch the former and finesse the latter wind up at about the same sonic place (again, for the same price), even if they've taken different routes to get there.
Jon Iverson Posted: Oct 07, 2013 3 comments

In a CD player?

Century-old technology embedded in a modern digital design?

I realize that Aesthetix's Saturn Romulus is not the first disc player or D/A processor with tubes, nor will it be the last—but does combining these technologies even make sense? Are audiophiles working at cross purposes to themselves, looking for modern perfection but preferring a little old-school sweetening here and there?

John Marks Sam Tellig Posted: Dec 03, 2013 Published: Jun 01, 2013 4 comments
For the high-performance audio market, it makes a lot of sense to process digital audio data via sophisticated software running on a dedicated personal computer. Which brings us to Parasound's Halo CD 1 CD player ($4500). Some might find it questionable to release today, as one's first digital-disc player, a machine that plays only "Red Book" CDs, rather than a universal or near-universal (non–Blu-ray) player.
Art Dudley Posted: Feb 06, 2013 1 comments
In a perfect world, all a serious record lover would need to enjoy music at home would be a single source component, one or two loudspeakers, and one good integrated amplifier. Speaker wire would be given by the dealer, free of charge, to any shopper who spent x number of dollars on new gear. Cable risers would come in cereal boxes.