Was a $1000 CD Player Better than a $150 one? My view. - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 413 Old 10-09-2008, 07:47 PM - Thread Starter
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This topic has been covered on these forums almost ad nauseam (including at least 1-2 threads within the last 2 weeks). But nevertheless, it thought I'd add my experience.

[And yes I debated strongly whether to put this in an existing thread or make it a new thread. But I decided to make it a new thread. My apologies to those who are sick of this kind of thread]

I own an Oppo 980H. I've been very satisified with it, but nevertheless I got a chance to get a Marantz SA 8001 CD player for a good price about 6 months ago and so I decided to test it. Immediately I thought there was a notable difference. Placement of the orchestra was immediately much sharper, the instruments sounded much closer to their real natures (but by no means perfect). Subtle bits of instrumentation could be heard in what from the Oppo would just be a mass of sound. This made recordings overall much more enjoyable for me to listen to almost from the get-go, and this feeling stayed with me Over several months. I did some comparisons with some recordings I know very well, and enjoyed them much better on the Marantz than on the Oppo. It just sounded much closer to the "real thing" in the Marantz. And to my ears it was not subtle at all, but quite noticable.

Anyway, I recalled all this again today. I just finished listening to a favorite CD of mine (Mario Pollini, Beethoven's Late Piano Sonatas) and was struck again by it. Pollini's piano sounded more like a piano on the Marantz than on the Oppo, and while again no recording is perfect I can hear sublties of the instrument (which frankly would probably only be audible to a pianist or former pianist) with a fidelity lacking in the Oppo. The kicker is in the high notes - this was sometimes a mush on the Oppo, especially when it got loud (e.g. the end of Sonata #31 Op. 110). When I hear this on the Marantz, not only is the mush gone but the notes sound like they actually came from a process closely resembling hitting sevearl keys of a piano. This was not just a comparison of one chord, this was sustained throughout the entire ending of that piece. I noticed and enjoyed it enough to write up this little screed.

All this to me is more than enough. I don't care about double blinds tests, psychology and the like. I hear the difference, and for me it's more than worth it to have the Marantz.

Is my comparison fair? Only partially. I'm using the same equipment, the same (acoustically poor) room. I'm not conducting a double blind test, but the difference is noticable that I believe with high confidence that I would hear it, and that a test is unecessary. The only difference Oppo feeds PCM into my pre/pro via a $150 coax cable, whereas the Marantz feeds into the prepro's analog stereo inputs via a $150 set of interconnects. I recall that the sound from the analog outputs of the Oppo was a bit warmer but I thought more muddled and not as good; some swear that the Oppo is as good as any other player when used as just a thing to send out digital signal. I don't recall the Oppo performing better from its analog outs, and I'm not interested in the subject enough to test the digital outputs of the Marantz. All I know is that the way I have it set up to Marantz is to my mind much better

So, is the Marantz worth more than the Oppo? That's a judgment call. If you couldn't care less about, or couldn't discern, the subtleties I'm talking about above, then I'd say don't waste your money. I also personally think you have to have a strong love for music, and have played an instrument in the past, in order to hear the difference. But if you can discern problems like what I'm talking about with your "lower end gear", then I'd say buy the higher end gear. Just be sure to get a return policy.

And no I don't work for Marantz and I couldn't care less what label's on the gear.

Equipment: Cary Cinema 6 pre/pro, Cambridge 640A 2 channel integrated amp, 2X Monitor Audio Silver 6 speakers, Harmonic Technology Harmony Link interconnects, Stereovox XV2 digital coax cable. Room with bad-to-poor acoustics. (I'm not going to touch the issue of "whether all this gear is better than Radio Shack gear" and "whether the difference I hear between this gear and Radio Shack gear is a a psychological delusion")
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post #2 of 413 Old 10-09-2008, 08:13 PM
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This made alot of sense to me UNTIL you told me how you had it hooked up....

If your using d-coax from the oppo to the pre/pro then your utilizing the internal dac's of the pre/pro. If your using analog outs from the Marantz your using the Marantz's internal dac's...

Your setup NEEDS to be using both cd players analog out stages in order for this whole thing to have even been worth writing up. Use analog outs on both then come back to us with feedback...
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post #3 of 413 Old 10-09-2008, 09:08 PM
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How do they compare on multi channel SACD's?
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post #4 of 413 Old 10-10-2008, 12:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bigred7078 View Post

This made alot of sense to me UNTIL you told me how you had it hooked up....

If your using d-coax from the oppo to the pre/pro then your utilizing the internal dac's of the pre/pro. If your using analog outs from the Marantz your using the Marantz's internal dac's...

Your setup NEEDS to be using both cd players analog out stages in order for this whole thing to have even been worth writing up. Use analog outs on both then come back to us with feedback...

I'm with you that it shouldn't be hard to pick the Marantz from the Oppo, but he's right--use the analog outputs on both machines to compare apples to apples.
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post #5 of 413 Old 10-10-2008, 03:01 PM
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Originally Posted by badgerdms View Post

I'm with you that it shouldn't be hard to pick the Marantz from the Oppo, ...

Why would that be the case? Based on what evidence, exactly?
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post #6 of 413 Old 10-10-2008, 03:04 PM
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Originally Posted by MarkosC View Post

... I don't care about double blinds tests, psychology and the like. I hear the difference, and for me it's more than worth it to have the Marantz.


Maybe that is the issue, lack of concern for that truth detector, and the lack of proper setup, of course.
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post #7 of 413 Old 10-10-2008, 08:46 PM
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Why would that be the case? Based on what evidence, exactly?

Based on having heard them both.
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post #8 of 413 Old 10-11-2008, 09:44 PM
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Cleaned up the thread. Don't bother posting if you are doing nothing to contribute to the thread.

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post #9 of 413 Old 10-12-2008, 12:34 AM
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+1 for oppo. imho , equal sound quality. much better value

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Just make sure your toys are over 18.


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post #10 of 413 Old 10-12-2008, 07:51 AM
 
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Originally Posted by badgerdms View Post

Based on having heard them both.

Unless you let it be known how it was set up at least to the detail level shown in post #1, it doesn't explain anything.
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post #11 of 413 Old 12-01-2008, 08:22 PM
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So you're saying you prefer the DAC in the Marantz over the DAC in your pre/pro? I'm curious as to what pre/pro you are using. But as others have said use analog out on both units to see if you can hear DAC differences between the Marantz and your pre/pro.

I would also be curious to hear your results using digital on both units. I'm sure transport makes even less difference than DACs but if you hear a difference using the DAC in your pre/pro for both sources you'll know it's really all in your head.
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post #12 of 413 Old 12-04-2008, 07:04 AM
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yes it would be interesting to switch feeds so as to see which "DAC" gives you the audible sound you desire. It's quite possible the Cary pre/pro that you are using is the issue, not the 'transport mechanisim' of the Oppo.
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post #13 of 413 Old 12-04-2008, 08:04 AM
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Sound quality may be, ultimately, the most important thing, but there's more than simply sound quality in play here. Some people have an audio system that looks like a fleet of battleships -- big, heavy and elegant. Think Marantz Reference series or Sunfire or Bryston or Krell or ... well I dunno them all, exactly, but there are lots of lines of heavyweight, overbuilt hardware that are very appealing if you have those kinds of dollars.

Whether a mammoth CD player with a high-end label actually sounds any better than a $99 plastic lightweight from Best Buy is a legitimate question. I once listened to a Krell SACD Standard, and it was an impressive experience, but I don't know for certain if it was really better than a low-end Panasonic player. Some people would argue that the extra build quality contributes to shock resistance, vibration reduction and long-term reliability, but I don't know if they have objective evidence to prove it. But I do know that this Krell player (like many at the higher end) was a piece of art -- big, heavy, imposing and expensive looking -- and it'd seem much more "at home" in a higher-end system than an inexpensive player would.

My system (based around separates) is somewhere in the middle; I call it "the low end of the high end." I believe that a system should be in "balance" -- no piece clearly too high, no piece clearly too low -- so I don't want a $99 CD player, simply because they're cheap looking to my eye, and I can afford better build quality. On the other hand, I don't want a $6,000 "reference" player either, because that'd make no sense in my system.

All that said, a low-end CD or DVD player is, without question, the best value purely from a performance perspective. Higher-end gear may perform better, but the improvements are marginal and diminishing. (We could apply that statement to almost non-commodity items.) The extent to which people want to invest in diminishing returns in their business. Just keep in mind that they have their reasons; whether those reasons align with your sensibilities (or mine) doesn't really matter.
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post #14 of 413 Old 12-04-2008, 08:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Mr. Brownstone View Post

But I do know that this Krell player (like many at the higher end) was a piece of art -- big, heavy, imposing and expensive looking -- and it'd seem much more "at home" in a higher-end system than an inexpensive player would.

The extent to which people want to invest in diminishing returns in their business. Just keep in mind that they have their reasons; whether those reasons align with your sensibilities (or mine) doesn't really matter.

Great points, and this is often lost whenever transports, cables, or DACs are discussed here.
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post #15 of 413 Old 12-04-2008, 11:22 AM
 
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Great points, and this is often lost whenever transports, cables, or DACs are discussed here.

Do you ever wonder why that may be?
I can think of a few possibilities.
1. Some are just ignorant.
2. Some are hypnotized by the aesthetics and become delusional about all sorts of things.
3. Some like to brag about how much money they spent and don't want to discuss any aspect that may bring it down.
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post #16 of 413 Old 12-04-2008, 01:55 PM
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Originally Posted by geekhd View Post

1. Some are just ignorant.
2. Some are hypnotized by the aesthetics and become delusional about all sorts of things.
3. Some like to brag about how much money they spent and don't want to discuss any aspect that may bring it down.

Not especially convincing (or important) arguments.

Alas, it's their money -- not yours, not mine -- so it's perfectly cool by me when people go deep high-end. I already tried to make the point (which some people will never understand, I suspect) that educated, perfectly intelligent, well-reasoned people will come up with a wide range of definitions for "value." Unless you're a marketer yourself, the fact that they do doesn't seem so important.
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post #17 of 413 Old 12-04-2008, 02:14 PM
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Originally Posted by geekhd View Post

Do you ever wonder why that may be?
I can think of a few possibilities.
1. Some are just ignorant.
2. Some are hypnotized by the aesthetics and become delusional about all sorts of things.
3. Some like to brag about how much money they spent and don't want to discuss any aspect that may bring it down.

No, the real reason is because some people just like criticizing others.
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post #18 of 413 Old 12-04-2008, 03:46 PM
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Originally Posted by geekhd View Post

Do you ever wonder why that may be?
I can think of a few possibilities.
1. Some are just ignorant.
2. Some are hypnotized by the aesthetics and become delusional about all sorts of things.
3. Some like to brag about how much money they spent and don't want to discuss any aspect that may bring it down.

And some just like to enjoy what is supposed to be a "hobby" and like to experiment and share their listening "observations" with others who have similar interests. And some like to suck all the fun out of the hobby in the name of convincing everyone how intelligent they are and how stupid everyone else is.

Hypothetical thread on a cooking forum that would mirror some of the threads on this forum:

A: "I just tried these new bay leaves that I got from the XXX whole foods store in my meat sauce (they were a little more expensive). It was really great. They had a little more spice and zip to them, and it really improved the dish. My dinner party loved it! You guys ought to try them sometime."

B: "A bay leaf is a bay leaf, and I don't think there's any evidence to show one brand is better than another. I suggest that before you spend any extra money, you have all your guests conduct a DBT with the bay leaves alone to see if they can really tell a difference. Otherwise, you and your guests are just ignorant fools."

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post #19 of 413 Old 12-04-2008, 04:10 PM
 
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No, the real reason is because some people just like criticizing others.

Criticizing others on what?
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post #20 of 413 Old 12-04-2008, 04:37 PM
 
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And some just like to enjoy what is supposed to be a "hobby" and like to experiment and share their listening "observations" with others who have similar interests. And some like to suck all the fun out of the hobby in the name of convincing everyone how intelligent they are and how stupid everyone else is.

Hypothetical thread on a cooking forum that would mirror some of the threads on this forum:

A: "I just tried these new bay leaves that I got from the XXX whole foods store in my meat sauce (they were a little more expensive). It was really great. They had a little more spice and zip to them, and it really improved the dish. My dinner party loved it! You guys ought to try them sometime."

B: "A bay leaf is a bay leaf, and I don't think there's any evidence to show one brand is better than another. I suggest that before you spend any extra money, you have all your guests conduct a DBT with the bay leaves alone to see if they can really tell a difference. Otherwise, you and your guests are just ignorant fools."


Looks like you left one out.

C: "A bag of bay leaves comes in from a farm. A portion of it is put into plastic jars with Walgreen's sticker and the other portion is put into fancy looking glass jars with high tech cap that opens easier than conventional caps. Walgreen's brand is priced at $2. The other fancy looking one is priced at $8 per jar and can be bought at Williams-Sonoma. An audiophile who likes to cook with bay leaf decides to apply his personal theory on expensive CD player to bay leaf selection. He spends $8 for a jar of bay leaves. A dinner guest who just finished this audiophile's dish tells him that Walgreen's brand bay leaf tastes identical and wants to bring his sample over to compare. The audiophile cook doesn't believe the guest and won't participate in DBT, calling it a flawed method because it doesn't let him see which one he is tasting"
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post #21 of 413 Old 12-04-2008, 04:38 PM
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i really appreciate the op review--like others would appreciate a revision after comparing both from the analog outs as the d/a converters in the marantz are likely better than in the integrated.

cheers!
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post #22 of 413 Old 12-04-2008, 05:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Denophile View Post

i really appreciate the op review--like others would appreciate a revision after comparing both from the analog outs as the d/a converters in the marantz are likely better than in the integrated.

cheers!

OMG! We're back on topic! Good job Denophile!

Anyway, as suggested in a earlier post, the OP should compare both player's analog outs for a true and credible comparison. Like BigRed7078, I was with him until he uncovered the connection configuration!!!!

Regards.

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post #23 of 413 Old 12-04-2008, 05:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by geekhd View Post

Looks like you left one out.

C: "A bag of bay leaves comes in from a farm. A portion of it is put into plastic jars with Walgreen's sticker and the other portion is put into fancy looking glass jars with high tech cap that opens easier than conventional caps. Walgreen's brand is priced at $2. The other fancy looking one is priced at $8 per jar and can be bought at Williams-Sonoma. An audiophile who likes to cook with bay leaf decides to apply his personal theory on expensive CD player to bay leaf selection. He spends $8 for a jar of bay leaves. A dinner guest who just finished this audiophile's dish tells him that Walgreen's brand bay leaf tastes identical and wants to bring his sample over to compare. The audiophile cook doesn't believe the guest and won't participate in DBT, calling it a flawed method because it doesn't let him see which one he is tasting"

You kind of make my point with this response. And you remind me a little bit of Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory. Ever watch that show? They guy analyzes everything to death, to the point that he sucks the humor and joy out of the world around him. Like him, you can't just appreciate a little joke for what it is; you have to over-analyze it and turn it around to make another substantive point in support of your argument. Dude, you take yourself too seriously, and you take the issue too seriously.
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post #24 of 413 Old 12-04-2008, 06:09 PM
 
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You kind of make my point with this response. And you remind me a little bit of Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory. Ever watch that show? They guy analyzes everything to death, to the point that he sucks the humor and joy out of the world around him. Like him, you can't just appreciate a little joke for what it is; you have to over-analyze it and turn it around to make another substantive point in support of your argument. Dude, you take yourself too seriously, and you take the issue too seriously.

Not really. It was meant as a humor, just like your examples except for the missing part which I tried to help filling in. I hope it worked.
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post #25 of 413 Old 12-04-2008, 06:40 PM
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Not really. It was meant as a humor, just like your examples except for the missing part which I tried to help filling in. I hope it worked.

It's not funny and I think people have had enough of your insults. They are not arguments, they are insults, pure and simple.

I'm suspending your account.

Keep it up and expect an IP ban.

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post #26 of 413 Old 12-04-2008, 06:43 PM
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Everyone else carry on but leave the insults to yourself. If you can't argue a point without getting personal it's time to go.

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post #27 of 413 Old 12-04-2008, 08:58 PM
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Sometimes I really wonder why people are involved in this hobby. A select few simply use AVS as platform to criticize others and pad their ego's displaying their "superior" knowledge.

If the OP likes the Marantz better for whatever reason, great for him and I hope he enjoys it.
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post #28 of 413 Old 12-05-2008, 04:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Brownstone View Post

Sound quality may be, ultimately, the most important thing, but there's more than simply sound quality in play here. Some people have an audio system that looks like a fleet of battleships -- big, heavy and elegant. Think Marantz Reference series or Sunfire or Bryston or Krell or ... well I dunno them all, exactly, but there are lots of lines of heavyweight, overbuilt hardware that are very appealing if you have those kinds of dollars.

Sort of like the edifice complex comes to audio.

A very old-school approach.

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Whether a mammoth CD player with a high-end label actually sounds any better than a $99 plastic lightweight from Best Buy is a legitimate question.

More than just a question, if you try to settle it with the non-audible influences managed, you find out that even the $99 player is overkill, and sonic perfection starts at about half that.

Quote:


I once listened to a Krell SACD Standard, and it was an impressive experience, but I don't know for certain if it was really better than a low-end Panasonic player.

These days, even low end optical players deliver accurate sound.

Quote:


Some people would argue that the extra build quality contributes to shock resistance, vibration reduction

These days, even low end optical players deliver resist vibration and play damaged discs well.

Quote:


and long-term reliability,

Reliability can still be an issue with the cheapest of the cheap. However, how many low buck players with great sound can you buy for the price of a Krell?

Quote:


All that said, a low-end CD or DVD player is, without question, the best value purely from a performance perspective. Higher-end gear may perform better,

Except it doesn't. The high end gear is often lower-end technology on different circuit cards because the basic technology is the same and nobody makes high-end versions of commodity chips.

If you want a optical player that is overbuilt and impressive-looking, you always have the professional products - the Tascams, etc. They sell for a fraction of Krell prices.

Some high end optical players are just low end players, chassis and all, dressed up with fancy externals.

Quote:


but the improvements are marginal and diminishing. (We could apply that statement to almost non-commodity items.)

In the final stage of commoditization, luxury items are just commodity items in fancy packaging, and/or sold in a fancier store.

Quote:


The extent to which people want to invest in diminishing returns in their business.

Agreed. It's their money to spend, at least until they ask me to bail out their mortage. ;-)

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Just keep in mind that they have their reasons; whether those reasons align with your sensibilities (or mine) doesn't really matter.

I'm of the opinion that we should not be held hostage by our possessions. We own them, they don't own us.
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post #29 of 413 Old 12-05-2008, 06:15 AM
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I'm of the opinion that we should not be held hostage by our possessions. We own them, they don't own us.

Strange. You seem awfully preoccupied by what other people own.
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post #30 of 413 Old 12-05-2008, 10:28 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

More than just a question, if you try to settle it with the non-audible influences managed, you find out that even the $99 player is overkill, and sonic perfection starts at about half that.

These days, even low end optical players deliver accurate sound.

I've spend a lot of time listening to different DAC's and CD players with very good headphones and a some very good headphone amps. IMO, this type of setup is more revealing of differences between sources (and even differences between recordings) than when listening through speakers. At least I have found it somewhat difficult to discern differences between certain sources when listening to speakers that were quite apparent when listening via a high-quality headphone that is properly amped. My experience tells me that the statement that a $49.50 CD player sounds "perfect" and no different that a well-built player or DAC/transport combo is the uniformed opinion of someone who hasn't listened under the right circumstances.

Of course, one can make a $1,000 CD player that does not sound as good as a $99 player, and I have preferred cheaper players to more expensive players on occasion, but I think the notion that all digital sources sound exactly the same (or else the difference in the more expensive player is due to imperfect sound) is just absurd.

That's my opinion, and I'm sticking to it (as a converted former died-in-the wool skeptic).
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