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hollowman
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Ancient Magnavox CD player in 2015 -- WHY?

I've seen several posts, here in the Stereophile forum, in which ancient (or vintage!) Magnavox CD players are mentioned as a playback source in what I assume are otherwise MODERN (and high-performance) high-fidelity systems.

Classic MULTI-BIT (R2R, etc) digital architecture still seems to draw a crowd, especially in the DIY community (= economy budget).

Unfortunately, the frugal hi-fi community diss Stereophile/TAS "audiophile" gear on unfounded rationale (incl. sour grapes--they don't own or can't afford, so they diss). The technical/"scientific" excuses (against Delta-Sigma), defecated by the budget/DIY community, are largely unfounded. IME: given decent IMPLEMENTATION (clean power supply, well-designed output stage, etc), any digital architecture (Delta-Sigma or classic R2R) can sound decent. (Even Bitstream and MASH are okay turds given enough polishing)!!!

All that said ...

I have some classic Philips/Magnavox CDPs in my collection, all from the late 1980s (before Bitstream). with some being "modded" ... and I must admit that compared to more-modern Delta-Sigma DACs and CDPs (from my experience: Musical Fidelity, Pioneer Elite, late-model high-end Chinese DAPs, etc.), the now-ancient Philips -- esp when modded -- can hold their own (= sound competitive).
Hard to call a "winner", though: the classic multi-bit and Delta-Sigma sound "different" (each with certain virtues and drawbacks).

So what's YOUR experience? E.g., how does that modified Mag stack up against, say, your iPhone+DAC?

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A "better" Delta-Sigma example

Just read the profound statement/blurb on the cover of Stereophile July 2004:

The review is here:
http://www.stereophile.com/cdplayers/704arcam/

"A groundbreaking product for Arcam was 1998's Alpha 9 CD player, which used a dedicated-chip version of the famed dCS 24-bit sigma-delta Ring DAC. The 9 mightily impressed Kal Rubinson in his January 1999 Stereophile review....
Lonnie Brownell reviewed the FMJ CD23 CD player ($2000) in July 2000. This used the Ring DAC chip set from the Alpha 9, but with a revised output stage, a more massive power supply, and a chassis bottom panel made from Acousteel, a sandwich of steel and rubber developed for the automobile industry.
...
The CD33 is an evolutionary development of the CD23, and looks very similar. The chassis still uses the Acousteel base and 8mm-thick aluminum front panel. However, the '23's PMD100 digital filter is gone, along with its HDCD decoding. Gone, too, is the Ring DAC. Arcam faced a difficult decision: whether to finance further development and production of the Ring DAC chip set, or to spend the money instead on one of the higher-performance D/A solutions now available from third-party suppliers.

They chose the latter. Two WM8740 stereo DACs from Scottish chip manufacturer Wolfson Microelectronics are used in differential-mono mode for each channel, with analog averaging of the four DAC outputs minimizing linearity error and distortion. These 24-bit sigma-delta DACs are fed data at a 192kHz rate, the CD data being upsampled with an Analog Devices AD1896 part. The higher sample rate doesn't create new audio data but permits the use of digital and analog reconstruction filters with a gentler, less sonically deleterious rolloff. (The CD33 appears to use the internal digital filter in the Wolfson DAC chips.)

The transport is a CD-Text-capable mechanism sourced from Sony. A high-speed, low-noise Analog Devices AD797 op-amp is used to sum the DACs' differential outputs, while the analog low-pass filter and the output stage are based on Burr-Brown's excellent-sounding SoundPlus OPA2134 dual op-amp. Passive parts quality is high, with Stargate and Oscon electrolytic capacitors used in the power supply and for voltage-rail decoupling, and WIMA polypropylene caps in the output filters. Unusually, small Sorbothane pads are used to damp mechanical vibrations in critical components—the master crystal, some of the caps, and the output relay—and the audio circuitry board is mounted upside-down beneath an aluminum plate that acts a heatsink. Two toroidal transformers are used to provide the juice."

Bottom line: DELTA-SIGMA plus good engineering equals audiophile sound.

On the other hand, Stereophile has reviewed relatively MODERN digital gear (in last 10 years) that clings to the old multi-bit technology:

Zanden DAC (Nov. 2006) $15,470 used Philips TDA1541 DAC chip (ca. 1985)
http://www.stereophile.com/cdplayers/1106zanden/index.html

Wavelength Cosecant DAC (Oct. 2005) ($3500) used Philips TDA1543 DAC chip.
http://www.stereophile.com/artdudleylistening/905listen/

Naim CD player (Feb 2007) $28,150 used Burr-Brown PCM 1704 pair DAC chips
http://www.stereophile.com/cdplayers/207naim/index.html

hollowman
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Two Wolfson DACs in audiophile $119 DAP

The ARCAM FMJ review from 2004 notes:
" Arcam faced a difficult decision: whether to finance further development and production of the Ring DAC chip set, or to spend the money instead on one of the higher-performance D/A solutions now available from third-party suppliers. They chose the latter. Two WM8740 stereo DACs from Scottish chip manufacturer Wolfson Microelectronics."

Interestingly, my $119 T-51 DAP (2010 model) from Chinese manuf Teclast also uses TWO WM8740 Wolfson chips, and OPA2134 dual op-amp:

hollowman
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Full rez image here...

Full rez for above internal image here...
http://www39.atwiki.jp/teclast_t51?cmd=upload&act=open&pageid=30&file=T51_020.jpg

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More thoughts on multi-bit vs Delta-Sigma

One-dimensional geezers, nostalgically reminiscing over their first-loves (third gen CD players from the mid/late 80s), present the most severe criticisms of Delta-Sigma.
True, *if* engineers could trim the ladder resistors (and design in temperature independence), you'd have a very good DAC. And some of the last R2R DACs from the mid-late 90s did this (AD1862 and BB PCM63, the former had manual trimming adj.).
But it's hard to do this COST-EFFECTIVELY. Hence, a solution was Delta-Sigma (DS had been around since the 1970s, but mostly for military/industrial apps).
Also, the folks at TI, Wolfson, Crystal, ESS, et. al. ain't deaf ... *if* DS was as big a sonic compromise as some of the above-noted geezer-holdouts claim, they (chip manufs) would have found another solution -- right?
And wouldn't the publishers of audiophile mags and high-end manufs complained (as they did with first gen digital)? After all, the old (multi-bit) gear is still around, albeit in basements or eBay, and can "easily" be compared to modern (DS) stuff. So far, no exodus to geezerville ;)

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What a ... Magnavox Mess ...

...it was a DIY modding project, based on a 1986 Philips/Magnavox CD-650...

... tired many iterations, but the Naim approach (independent/outboard PS) was a cornerstone ...

... every chip gets is own power regulator; the TDA1541A DAC chip actually gets four independent PS regulators ...

BOTTOM LINE: This is STILL my reference audio source. (Compared against much-modified Ayre-style Pinoeer Elite combi player (yes: this included SACD and DVD-Audio) ... and my VPI Hw-19/Rega RB300/Sumiko Blue Point Special/Van Alsine FET-valve phono system).

I call it the Magnavox Mess .. because that's what it is ... an ugly piece of kit ... but I suppose an audio shelf with very tinted glass doors will keep things civil...

http://www.diyaudio.com/forums/digital-line-level/247646-cs8412-eiaj-i2s-3.html#post3745853

External BALANCED-pwr PSU: Three DIN V_dc out (two on front; one rear). 120VAC (balanced pwr out); Corcom EMI/EMF filter; Inrush current suppression (soft start)

Other tweaks (not shown) are a CD mat, Navcom feet, several VPI bricks placed on top of PS and CDP chassis, lots of AudioQuest ferrite rings (red cylinders around various cables, shown in above photos)

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What a ... Magnavox Mess ...
hollowman wrote:

...it was a DIY modding project, based on a 1986 Philips/Magnavox CD-650...

... tired many iterations, but the Naim approach (independent/outboard PS) was a cornerstone ...

... every chip gets is own power regulator; the TDA1541A DAC chip actually gets four independent PS regulators ...

BOTTOM LINE: This is STILL my reference audio source. (Compared against much-modified Ayre-style Pinoeer Elite combi player (yes: this included SACD and DVD-Audio) ... and my VPI Hw-19/Rega RB300/Sumiko Blue Point Special/Van Alsine FET-valve phono system).

I call it the Magnavox Mess .. because that's what it is ... an ugly piece of kit ... but I suppose an audio shelf with very tinted glass doors will keep things civil...


External BALANCED-pwr PSU: Three DIN V_dc out (two on front; one rear). 120VAC (balanced pwr out); Corcom EMI/EMF filter; Inrush current suppression (soft start)

http://www.diyaudio.com/forums/digital-line-level/247646-cs8412-eiaj-i2s-3.html#post3745853

External BALANCED-pwr PSU: Three DIN V_dc out (two on front; one rear). 120VAC (balanced pwr out); Corcom EMI/EMF filter; Inrush current suppression (soft start)

Other tweaks (not shown) are a CD mat, Navcom feet, several VPI bricks placed on top of PS and CDP chassis, lots of AudioQuest ferrite rings (red cylinders around various cables, shown in above photos)

... more images in post following (this forum's engine does not seem to support more than a few images per post ???)

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...cont...


External BALANCED-pwr PSU: Three DIN V_dc out (two on front; one rear). 120VAC (balanced pwr out); Corcom EMI/EMF filter; Inrush current suppression (soft start)

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Marigo disc

That appears to be a Marigo disc in the transport. Have you never tried wrapping the transformers wih mu metal? Have you ever tried the tiny Marigo VTS Dots on the tops of the capacitors? Essence of Music CD treatment?

Regards - Geoff Kait,

Machina Dynamica

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Very Intriguing

Hollowman:

I am seriously impressed with what you are doing here, and I have an EE and some basic bench experience and am just starting diy projects in the audio world.

Could you briefly again describe in more layman's terms what you have accomplished with the cd player?

Also, how has your perception of the sound it produces changed using the following metrics as a guide, and you can certainly add your own additional metrics or notes:

1. sound stage, in terms of how many feet of perceived sound beyond your speakers both left to right and fore and aft
2. Bass, treble and mid-range
3. separation of instruments
4. sound/air around instruments or voices
5. resolution/clarity of instruments or voices
6. room acoustics if perceived from original recording, like mic setup, dampening, space, etc. (this one is difficult to explain)

Respectfully,

Ron

ps. your answers can be brief, and of course you don't "have to" answer it the way I am asking...just do your best to explain any improvements...I am only providing the list as a rough guide.

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Other tweaks ...
geoffkait wrote:

That appears to be a Marigo disc in the transport. Have you never tried wrapping the transformers wih mu metal? Have you ever tried the tiny Marigo VTS Dots on the tops of the capacitors? Essence of Music CD treatment?

Yes, Marigo CD mat (I prefer the green side up). I also use other tweaks (noted earlier): AudioQuest ferrites, VPI bricks (not shown in above photos), Optrix and MikroSmooth CD treatments.
No to the other tweaks you mentioned. But note the transformers coils (on both the CDP and outboard PS) are wrapped with wide copper tape (which is then grounded to chassis and pwr Ground/Earth). I also use the same Cu grounded-tape strategy on most of the ICs.
The Cu tape is avail. at craft stores. One side has peel-away sticky tape/wax paper; I leave the peel-off- wax paper on as it insulates the Cu from the xformer coils. For the ICs, you can use the sticky side to affix the Cu to the chip. Soldering the ground wire takes a bit of time but it works well and worth the effort.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This is an old project (2009 and 2010). I'm no longer interested in expending THIS much effort into "audiophiling". This project is more of a proof-of-concept (and it does sound good). But it's totally impractical ... even at the traditional manner as a remote-control, single-disc player. This, NOW, gets boring real quick!
For daily use, I rely on a much-modded Asus Xonar ST-based PC system, and modded Chinese DAPs (like that shown earlier in this thread).
Foobar, playlist managers ... music or audiobooks or podcasts while I multi-task ... that's most important ;)

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CD player project
rrstesiak wrote:

Hollowman:

I am seriously impressed with what you are doing here, and I have an EE and some basic bench experience and am just starting diy projects in the audio world.

Could you briefly again describe in more layman's terms what you have accomplished with the cd player?

Also, how has your perception of the sound it produces changed using the following metrics as a guide, and you can certainly add your own additional metrics or notes:

1. sound stage, in terms of how many feet of perceived sound beyond your speakers both left to right and fore and aft
2. Bass, treble and mid-range
3. separation of instruments
4. sound/air around instruments or voices
5. resolution/clarity of instruments or voices
6. room acoustics if perceived from original recording, like mic setup, dampening, space, etc. (this one is difficult to explain)

I can't comment on speakers. My speaker-based system, which is mid-level audiophile-grade, has literally been boxed up for 12 years (move from mid-west to West coast in early 2004 prompted the box-up). This is partially due to time/space constraints; but mostly due to shifting interests (away from speakers and more toward portable and headphone-based audiophilia).
An old image (1999) of one of my systems is here:

But I'm kinda/sorta been here for 11 years ... (note Monsoon panel and Cambridge SoundWorks speaker system; Musical Fidelity A324 DAC; Pioneer Elite DV-59AVi CD/DVD-A/DVD-V/SACD player; Meier Audio CORDA Headamp 2; Sennheiser HD-650, etc., etc....)



Bottom line for sound of the CD player project: If you like Naim sound, that's the project sonic signature you get from this project: Pace n' rhythm, dynamic, huge soundstage, very detailed/resolving. But not a lot of depth. The sonic signature is more analytic, but still very exciting and engaging.
I haven't heard most of the "good stuff" reviewed in Stereophile.
I did modify (attempt to optimize) MF A324 D/A, the Pioneer Elite DV59, VPI HW19/Sumiko BP Special (their stock/unmodded sound became "boring" and I had the DIY bug infection at the time ;)... but I couldn't come close to that Magnavox Mess for ultimate sonics. Not really surprising ... that MAg project was years and many man-hours in designing/building/re-building.

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Wonderful pics! Hollowman.

Wonderful pics! Hollowman.

I like the Naim sound, plus I own the Pioneer 59AVi spinner.

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Another thought;

Another thought;

the 1980's into the 90's was about "bit" wars, do you remember 16bit, 18bit, 20bit, then back to 1bit
spinners?

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...cont....

I'm disappointed with the mainstream hi-fi press (Stereophile, TAS) because it does not cross-compare multi-bit (legacy or otherwise) to Delta-Sigma* (or even, say, 25-year-old digital to modern digital).
Surely, many of these reviewers have closets/basements/attics full of these aging devices.

It seems (perhaps like vinyl), that younger audiophiles are "discovering" multi-bit goodness of yesteryear (Theta, MSB, etc.) and making extraordinary claims ...
http://www.changstar.com/index.php/topic,2278.0.html

I think Stereophile needs to have a REALITY CHECK section ... compare/contrast old gear against new.

Understandably, promotion of new gear is important for getting $$ into industry for R&D. But older milestones must always be visible -- THAT also improves R&D.

So, dig out those Magnavox's, folks.

* I know that, for years after its 1992 debut, JA used to offer some subjective comparisons of the Mark-Levinson No. 30 D/A in his subsequent reviews.

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...cont....

LG's Bryston BCD-1 CD player ($2695; 2009) review ...
http://www.stereophile.com/cdplayers/bryston_bcd-1_cd_player/index.html
...comes to mind as an example of the purported state-of-the-art ... new vs. old (in digital, anyway).
The BCD-1 uses a "Crystal CS4398 chip, described as a hybrid, 128x-oversampling 24-bit delta-sigma DAC."*

Towards the end of the review, LG notes...

"Conclusions:

The only candidate I had on hand for comparison with Bryston's BCD-1 was the nearly-three-times-as-expensive Krell KPS-28c ($7500 when available), which had been connected with Krell's proprietary CAST links to Krell's KCT preamplifier ($8500). That I much preferred the Bryston's sound is probably due to the tremendous improvements in DAC circuitry that have taken place in the past seven years."

[I think that Krell, from 2001-3, also used Delta-Sigma DACs].

* I have a $130 Colorfly Ck-4 DAP that also uses that same single Crystal 4398 DAC
(*Colorfly is mid-fi Chinese manuf that offers DAPs similar to HiFi-Man)

While I'll never suggest that that Crystal DAC alone is the secret sauce**, this DAP sounds VERY nice ... and perhaps a bit better than my Asus Xonar ST PC sound card. Since the DAP does not rely on a jittery CD drive (only the limitations of its internal flash memory and decoder chip), I wonder how it'd compare against that BCD player ?

** The comment about secret sauce is worthy of some further philosophical reflection...

When an audio/gear manuf. selects to incorporate a "premium" DAC chip (like Crystal top-end CS4398), two important things happen:

(1) The gear manuf. (e.g., audiophile company, like Bryston) can use chip manuf's DATASHEET, which has well-researched "suggest circuits" (you can download these free in PDF). In fact, almost all DATASHEETS for DAC chips contain these suggestions, and a surprising # of manuf use the SAME datasheet circuit. (E.g., Asus Xonar ST uses TI's PCM1792 DAC, and the datasheet circuit with only a few minor tweaks). This can be a good thing: the chip manuf (TI, Wolfson, Crystal, ESS) have the corporate R&D budgets, experienced/dedicated on-staff scientists, and lab facilities to produce optimized designs. Bryston, et. al., can then tweak and mod these topologies further ... but audiophile companies are really standing on some very tall shoulders.

(2) Because an audiophile company selects the costliest DAC chip, it may also expend higher design/$$ THROUGHOUT the circuit topology (not just the digital section).
Good luck singling out the premium DAC chip as the most important contributor to superior sonics.
Indeed, this mysterious realm (perhaps qualifying as the logical fallacy: correlation does not equal causation) has been mentioned before. E.g., the top-end Meridian 808.2/808i.2 Signature Reference CD player/preamplifier (April 2009 review) uses a top-grade DAC, DSP reconstr. filter, etc...
JA notes:
"Were these benefits the result of the 808i.2's apodizing reconstruction filter eliminating the time smear from a recording's original A/D converter? I'm tempted to say yes, except that there are many other aspects of digital music playback that also have to be gotten right."
... yup: at it's price level (and EXPECTATION level: as the flagship of MERIDIAN, and a brand name/reputation to live-up-to), so many other sections are getting the royal treatment.
Heck... you can upgrade your power cable ... and I can add a few extra regulators to my crusty Magnavox ... and voila!

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Really sweet pics! All-

Really sweet pics! All-

another thought;
regarding the Arcam spinners I was thinking that the FMJ CD36 was the best?

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My Take;

My Take;

these older spinners are relevant simply because they were very well built and still better all of the cheap
shit coming from china.

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the early maggies

Even though I go in the opposite direction (tuning wise), I remember the early maggie days very well. Seems like everyone was doing a Magnavox Mod back in the day (I bought many of them). There was some root magic there that allowed the mod folks to take off in whatever direction they wanted to go in, with some pretty dramatic results. When stock CDP products started coming out from the highend brands there was an underground riff going around at how much better the Magnavox Mod were over the highend-brands. Noone on the surface really wanted to tackle the brands vs the mods, but those who were serious listeners knew the scoop, and rated the Mod Maggies way higher than the brands.

I talk about the change that happened in the industry in the late 80's through 90's. The CDP conversions was a big part of that change. High End Audio pushed looks and dollars, and sadly left what got the ball rolling behind, even though the sound difference was huge.

High End Audio split itself off from the tweak, and that was not only a big mistake, but I believe part of what led to the decline of high end audio. When high end audio went from the tweak specialist to the building of plug and play HEA Brands, the beginning of the end started. Not that high end audio will ever die, but I believe the tweaking (I call the tuning) part will become bigger and more diverse than what we knew as the plug & play era.

very pertinent thread

michael green
MGA/RoomTune
http://tuneland.techno-zone.net/

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Well stated MG!

Well stated MG!

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"Cheap Chinese ---"...maybe at the time, but no longer...

__At the time__ , Chinese gear was still evolving, so the $$ stuff from elsewhere -- USA, Japan, Europe -- was not only better, but there was nothing like it coming from China/Korea.
What about Russia/CIS ... all that Soviet-era space technology?
Not sure ... maybe audio and gear culture is not so important for them as it is for China/US/Japan. That said, and because of my interest in DIY, I have come across some Russian-language hi-fi forums, dedicated to DIY/modding, that have taken some of the low-cost Chinese DAPs (see photos above), and have INEXPENSIVELY (via mods) achieved some pretty high end sound. [Russian economy and income, for majority, is still fairly modest; hence, they make do with what resources they've got: space-aged education and academia. This reminds me of Philip/Magnavox mod "era" (mid 80s/early 90s) some us have noted.
Speaking of China ... some very high-quality stuff is NOW coming from there, including what may be the best headphone ever produced (HiFiman HE-1000. It's $3K).
And no ... a lot of it ain't *cheap* any more !
Hmmm ... I wonder if India will take a bite ... (like Russia, culture, history and Zeitgeist will be prioritizing/deciding factors).

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which high quality stuff is

which high quality stuff is coming from china???

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