Do Some CD Players Sound Better than Others? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 536 Old 07-16-2007, 09:47 PM - Thread Starter
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The million dollar question: Do some CD players sound better than others?

Lets say you tried an inexpensive Pioneer DVD player on CD in your system?
Or a Theta Compli? Or an even more expensive Meridian CD player? Or a Granite Audio or other tube CD player?

Does it make a difference using the analog output of the CD player, using the DACs in the player, vs using the digital output of the CD player, using an external DA converter?

Do the technical specs of the player tell you what player will sound better, that is, if the tech specs are better the player will sound better?

What CD players have you tried in your system and did the CD player make a difference sonically?

If you use the digital out of the CD player, then are all CD players soundwise necessarily the same, because its digital and it must be the same? Or do build quality, jitter reduction, stability of transport, vibration damping, etc. all affect even when you use the CD player only as a digital transport?

You tell me?

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post #2 of 536 Old 07-17-2007, 05:40 AM
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I see you are still fanning the fire!
Does upgrading from an old Panny RP91 to a Rega Saturn qualify?
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post #3 of 536 Old 07-17-2007, 05:57 AM
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Here's the surprise answer from me.....YES!

I did an a/b test a long time ago, maybe in 1994. A Pioneer cheapie ($300 at the time) player with a digital output feeding an expensive ($1200) (brand name forgotten) audiophile D/A converter, vs the internal Pioneer one.

The imaging was better on the expensive d/a, no question about it. Would I spend $1200 on a D/A converter? No.


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post #4 of 536 Old 07-17-2007, 05:58 AM
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But yeah Steve, is it your mission to turn the front page of the $20L forum into a bashfest on every thread?



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post #5 of 536 Old 07-17-2007, 06:28 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Curt Palme View Post

Bet yeah Steve, is it your mission to turn the front page of the $20L forum into a bashfest on every thread?


You guys need to take more personal responsiblity for your own actions.

I simply asked the questions. I haven't flamed anything. If you guys choose to turn this thread into bashing and a bashfest, that's each of your individual choices.

Too bad the forum doesn't provide free counseling. Yea - I'd be the first to sign up. How about each of you??

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post #6 of 536 Old 07-17-2007, 06:30 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Curt Palme View Post

Here's the surprise answer from me.....YES!

I did an a/b test a long time ago, maybe in 1994. A Pioneer cheapie ($300 at the time) player with a digital output feeding an expensive ($1200) (brand name forgotten) audiophile D/A converter, vs the internal Pioneer one.

The imaging was better on the expensive d/a, no question about it. Would I spend $1200 on a D/A converter? No.

Curt, what about if instead of you using the Pioneer cheapie as a digital transport, you used an "audiophile" much more expensive CD player as a transport. Would you expect the sonics to be the same given the same external DAC?

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post #7 of 536 Old 07-17-2007, 07:15 AM
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I don't know, I haven't tried it. Considering the laser to digital output is supposed to simply be transfer of a digital data stream, you wouldn't think so though. Many high end audiophile players use the same $20 laser as a $99 player, THAT I've seen proof of.


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post #8 of 536 Old 07-17-2007, 08:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Bruzonsky View Post

You guys need to take more personal responsiblity for your own actions.

This is the USA, it's always someone else fault.

Quote:


I simply asked the questions. I haven't flamed anything. If you guys choose to turn this thread into bashing and a bashfest, that's each of your individual choices.

You truly expect us to believe that you don't know how emotional your 'questions' become. Admit it, you're beyond baiting, you're chumming.

Quote:


Too bad the forum doesn't provide free counseling. Yea - I'd be the first to sign up. How about each of you??

I'm beyond help, just ask my wife.

To answer your question: I upgraded from the RP91 to a Saturn and was underwhelmed. I still like the Saturn, as it is extremely well designed and built. Probably not my best bang for the buck purchase though.
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post #9 of 536 Old 07-17-2007, 08:30 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Swampfox View Post

This is the USA, it's always someone else fault.


You truly expect us to believe that you don't know how emotional your 'questions' become. Admit it, you're beyond baiting, you're chumming.

If you tell us your opinion or tell us someone is imaging something, thats ok. If I ask a question, its not?

The First Amendment only goes so far so as to protect what you want to say and anyone else who agrees with you.

Sort of dangerous to read someone else's mind and infer their intent? Thats not very objective.

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post #10 of 536 Old 07-17-2007, 08:31 AM
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I have been testing some of these concepts lately myself.

I have a Denon 3930 Universal player. I tested it against a NAD 542. For both players, I used Analog outs, and the same setup in my Prepro (no EQ). The sound from the two players was very noticable. There was not doubt.

I own a HD-DVD player, and have compared it with the Denon 3930 via digital outs (Coax, same CD, same Prepro settings). There are differences, but they are much smaller than the Denon/NAD test. With the digtial, both use the Halcro DACs.

I also compared Sonos with FLAC, and compared it to the Denon, both using Coax, and I could hear differences. Again, not as different as the NAD/Denon, but definetly different.

One would think that all digital outs sound the same, but it isn't so.
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post #11 of 536 Old 07-17-2007, 11:11 AM
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The million dollar question: Do some CD players sound better than others?

There can be differences, certainly. Some differences are even detectable under level matched, blind comparisons.

Quote:


Lets say you tried an inexpensive Pioneer DVD player on CD in your system?
Or a Theta Compli? Or an even more expensive Meridian CD player? Or a Granite Audio or other tube CD player?

Sure, but how you evaluate them can have a profound impact on your perception. I'm assuming Steve that you're talking primarily about 2 channel here.

Quote:


Does it make a difference using the analog output of the CD player, using the DACs in the player, vs using the digital output of the CD player, using an external DA converter?

This simple question begets a complex answer, however let's look at a few scenarios that lead to differences.

1) You need to make sure the playing field is level here when doing this comparison. For example,
a) Output levels can be different in both scenarios with a given CDP. This not only means that one can be louder than the other, but also that there can be a channel imbalance of a few tenths of a dB. This scenerio also exists between CDP's. I'd recommend that one use something like a test tone at 1 kHz and a multimeter to check the voltages at the speaker inputs and make sure they're the same. In lieu of that, one can use an SPL meter mounted on a stand. The latter is better than nothing, and certainly better than your ears, but does not approach the precision of a multimeter.
b) You need to make sure that any bass management is turned off. Many are careless and cavalier here, so it pays to make sure you understand both the CDP and whatever it's feeding.
c) Some external DAC's are funny in that they play loose with how the whole process was originally envisioned. With modern CDP's, the player is also slaved to the DAC. IOW, the DAC controls the influx of data. When you break that connection, the DAC no longer can act as a brain. Hence, if the buffer is undersized, there'll be problems with translation. Further, some DACs derive their clock from the data stream. Some don't.

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Do the technical specs of the player tell you what player will sound better, that is, if the tech specs are better the player will sound better?

2) No. Manufacturers, whether they be Oppos, Pioneer, Theta, or whomever, publish specs that are largely meaningless and self-serving. Measurements though can be another matter entirely. For example, people can and do get hung up on things like jitter despite the fact that Dolby's work in this area very strongly indicates that the levels in virtually all players are inaudbile. Some specs and even measurements aren't even performed which can be useful for the end-user. Allow me to illustrate with an example. The Rega Planet, when initially introduced, got good reviews. Then, some people were reporting that the unit sounded edgey...grainy...unfocussed, etc. The usual pissing matches occured but then a group in England conducted some blind tests. They found that the preference was system dependent. I know. I know. It's a matter of matching components, right? But no. What they found was that Rega was using a bottom of the barrel BB Dac that happened to generate a large amount of ultarsonic RFI. Now maybe it could've been filtered, or maybe they could've spent an extra $2 on a better DAC! It wasn't enough to fail any tests for governmental compliace, but that was because the RFI was being transmitted through the cables! Now, the pairing that caused problems in this particular case was a Creek integrated amp. Other pairings didn't have this issue. The reason was because the Creek was a wideband unit that also happened to behave non-linearly above 20K. So, what we had was inaudible distortion, going into a non-linear amplification that resulted in audible IM distortion that was present in the audio band. Now maybe some ferrites around the cable would've done the trick. Maybe some other approach. I don't know.

Knowing things like FR, output impedance as a function of frequency are important. The former will contour your sound ike an equalizer. The latter, if very high, can cause problems (audible differences) with lower input impedance preamps or prepros.

Some players and DAC's, play games with the reconstruction filter. Call it spline fitting. Call it 'getting the time domain right'. Call it leaving it out entirely. What happens then is not only do you get what's on the disc, you get things that aren't on it! That's because images, which would normally be filtered out, are now folded back into your audio stream. For example, the Audio Note DAC's (I don't recall the model...an older one) were found to have distortion products (the images) in far greater proportion than the signal itself!

Quote:


What CD players have you tried in your system and did the CD player make a difference sonically?

I buy my CDP predicated on a personal philosophy that I don't want extra information. I want it to adhere to the idea of get me the info off the disc and please do a good job with disc errors. Personal work I've done, stuff that I've read suggests strongly that if I seek out such players, even if I can pick out audible differences, they're just so damned small so I don't worry about it. Kind of like if all you do is deal with small problems, you'll just be wasting your time. Speaker placements and the room swamp all that. Presently I have a middle of the road Onkyo.

Quote:


If you use the digital out of the CD player, then are all CD players soundwise necessarily the same, because its digital and it must be the same?

As mentioned above, not necessarily but quite likely. If you're going with an CDP or pure transport, then you should buy a $25 or less disc to at least test its ability to cope with CD problems. That seems smart to me. Further, you should get from the manufacturer some information as to its speed accuracy. If you're going to pay the money for performance, then make sure you get the performance.

Quote:


Or do build quality, jitter reduction, stability of transport, vibration damping, etc. all affect even when you use the CD player only as a digital transport?

There's a lot of things done that don't do anything such as vibration dampening. Companies claim it, but provide no data to support the benefits. It's done to raise the price disproportionally. Stablity we touched upon when dealing with transport/external DAC. Build quality is subjective. These aren't turntables and the same concerns don't apply with the same rigor. As an example, a belt drive CDP is just a stupid idea. However, you may prefer that your CDP uses a professional transport which are more robustly built. Unfortunately, while the price differential isn't that much, the final costs are.

Quote:


You tell me?

I don't advocate you buying the cheapest nor the most expensive. I also don't advocate letting others blow smoke up your ass or doing it yourself. If your evaluations indicate no difference among say 3 CDP's, you should use your own personal guidance to select one. Could be your idea of their reputation, service, resale, appearance, feature sets (balanced outs), the remote, flexibility. Only you can appropriately weigh that in your own mind Steve and assign a dollar value to that.

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post #12 of 536 Old 07-17-2007, 11:18 AM
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i've been reading a lot lately about original playstations being one of the best cd audio players out there. no idea if it's for real, but it sure is interesting. you need one of the old models with the RCA jack audio out puts, not the multi-av plug.
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post #13 of 536 Old 07-17-2007, 11:45 AM
 
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Of course CD *PLAYERS* are different.

That's hardly controversial at all. What is controversial is if TRANSPORTS are different.
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post #14 of 536 Old 07-17-2007, 02:51 PM
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The next logical step will combine multiple incendiary concepts into one giant solar flare:

Is there any audible difference bewteen high-end & cheap DIGITAL cables (both optical and coaxial). What about HDMI (comparing the same "levels": 1.2, 1.3)

If so...please explain to me how a stream of ones and zeros can be 'colored' during transmission.
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post #15 of 536 Old 07-17-2007, 03:08 PM
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Explanations have no merit here. Belief is what matters. Why compare testing to my hearing.

Sorry, forgot the Smiley

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post #16 of 536 Old 07-17-2007, 03:30 PM
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You also forgot the ERS paper!


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post #17 of 536 Old 07-17-2007, 04:56 PM
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Bits are bits IMO, but they can be handled differently and how they are handled can introduce all kinds of issues and skewing of those bits. The best thing IMO, is a player that buffers the bits as close to the DAC and reclocks the signal as close as possible to its conversion into the analog domain (assuming it doesn't introduce any errors in the process, of course). The other important thing IMO, is balanced circuitry internally (i.e. any errors possibly introduced into the analog signal can be removed later on down the chain), that and universal two channel playback is ultimately what made up my mind on what unit to buy.

I think that I've heard differences in players before, but I admit, it wasn't carefully done, so it is open to criticism. What I think I heard was a timing issue more than an actual change in sound quality. It was the ring dac Arcam FMJ 23 compared to a Rega Apollo, and the Arcam had timing issues to my ear. I was using Steve Vai's song "Sisters" to do the comparison, and I did it over and over again at one point in the song where the music hits a crescendo. On the unit with timing issues it just didn't come together correctly and sort of lost its impact, and this was repeatable. I guess either one could have had the timing issues, but I assumed it was the Arcam since it lacked the punch, momentum and emotional heft of the other unit at that moment in the song (like all the elements were disconnected instead of congruent - it was like the Arcam couldn't hold up under the extended dynamic range in that moment on the CD). I also had issues with the Arcam FMJ 33 as well in a similar regard , the one they quickly recalled and redesigned (I posted about it on Stereophile forum a long time ago, I believe before they recalled it). To me it sounded lifeless....

I didn't have those problems with other units. One of the best I demoed at home, in my experience, was the Meridian G08 (one of the reasons I decided to get the Meridian 861 to do my surround processing, so I could use it for surround and occasionaly for two channel as well ). It's image seemed solid and stable in comparison to other units I had been checking out, and its timing drop dead tight (I've heard people physically compared its timing to a Wadia 861, or other version, and one of them was finishing songs fairly earlier than the other one - I've never had a chance to compare those two, but I would suspect it wasn't the Meridian that was finishing last). Meridian uses FIFO buffers to reclock signals right before conversion, so perhaps that is why it seems so rock solid sounding... Then again, perhaps it is in my head, as I didn't really take any proper actions to prove it, nor would I be likely to do so, as it would require a lot more work than I know how to do, and now I'm settled into a universal player I plan on keeping for some time to come anyway (so it won't be an issue for me likely in the next decade...).

Other than those differences, that are open to criticism. I have experienced differences in players due to HDCD filters (that apparently color everything when they are in a system), with room correction software, and bass management. I had a thread on my Denon DVD-5910 compared to my Ayre C-5xe, and I think what I was experiencing was the built in HDCD filters, and/or a lousy output stage screwing up the analog signal, and/or the transferrence from single ended to balanced signaling between its analog output and the Ayre Preamp. It definitely sounded more grainy than the C-5xe in my experience. Besides the graininess, I found out recently, that I had forgotten to change the speaker distance settings from my previous setup positions, but I don't think that would have effected anything, as the distances were equal, so I would imagine that would only delay the signal, not alter it at all.

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post #18 of 536 Old 07-17-2007, 04:58 PM
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I'm also very interested in this topic and I thank the topic starter. Now I'm no where near in the ballpark as any of you (still a student trying to get through school), but recently I've upgraded from a receiver to my first separates (from an Onkyo to Rotel) and I would definitely like a good answer because the only player I have now is a cyberhome $99 player.

I've historically had bad luck with optical disk players that have always stopped working within months, and I have this until the HD-DVD/blu-ray war ends, and then perhaps I can consider a boutique brand that will play both (I just have no room in my audio rack for two separate players, but i think many of you also use one player for both video and audio, or am i wrong on that?). Anyway, back to the point, I use the coaxial out from the cyberhome into the Rotel Pre-pro (RSP-1068). It works, but i'm always wondering how much better it can get if i get a proper player.

I know that the player matters when it comes to video, so one would figure the same is true for audio, even if you are using digital coax. btw... is the general consensus to use digital coax for signal transfer over optical?
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post #19 of 536 Old 07-17-2007, 05:05 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Ou8thisSN View Post

I'm also very interested in this topic and I thank the topic starter.

See? One person in this forum appreciates me!!! Today is my lucky day!!!@@@

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post #20 of 536 Old 07-17-2007, 05:27 PM
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BTW, I should mention, in that Arcam and Rega comparison, it took me half an hour of comparing that song on both players before I finally found that one portion where things didn't sound quite kosher. I then did an additional ten minutes comparing that part of the CD on both players. The comparison ended when the guy who owned the store came into the room and told the kid letting me demo the gear to stop the demo before we both suffered from "tired ears."

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post #21 of 536 Old 07-18-2007, 05:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisWiggles View Post

Of course CD *PLAYERS* are different.

That's hardly controversial at all. What is controversial is if TRANSPORTS are different.

Hi

CHris I am with you on this. CD players do sound different... In my personal experience Transports are also different.

I also prefer the Coax output to TOSLINK. I find TOSLINK vastly inferior in most, if not all instances.

Frantz
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post #22 of 536 Old 07-18-2007, 07:14 AM
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Do you ever check the output levels of the players when listening Frantz?

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post #23 of 536 Old 07-18-2007, 07:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Chu Gai View Post

Do you ever check the output levels of the players when listening Frantz?

What levels? I have compared transports and have made sure that SPLs are matched as precisely as my (non-calibrated) meter would allow me...

Frantz
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post #24 of 536 Old 07-18-2007, 02:51 PM
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If you have the opportunity to hear a DCS stack, Emm Labs or even an Audio Research CD 7 I think you will understand that all CD players and transports are not the same. CD's and SACD's through these and similar players are another BIG step ahead.
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post #25 of 536 Old 07-18-2007, 02:55 PM
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i think there would be more action in this thread if it was entitled "do all transports" sound the same. steve, care to start another one?

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post #26 of 536 Old 07-18-2007, 03:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Topanga View Post

If you have the opportunity to hear a DCS stack, Emm Labs or even an Audio Research CD 7 I think you will understand that all CD players and transports are not the same. CD's and SACD's through these and similar players are another BIG step ahead.

I had an incredible experience with Steve Vai's song "Sisters" on that dCS stack. I want to go back and hear it again now that my system is finished, and see if there is still such a discrepancy, or if it was mostly my room. I was hearing harmonics in that acoustic guitar song on that stack that I don't remember hearing before, and don't think I have heard since. I do want to go back again now and see if that is still the case, as I only spent a short amount of time at that dealer demoing that setup.

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post #27 of 536 Old 07-18-2007, 10:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Steve Bruzonsky View Post

The million dollar question: Do some CD players sound better than others?
You tell me?

Well, at least one $80 carousel player was not differentiated form ones costing $1000s, by a number of listeners

CD Player Comparison, The Sensible Sound, # 75, Jun/Jul 1999.

CD Player Comparison, The Sensible Sound, # 74, Apr/May 1999.
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post #28 of 536 Old 07-19-2007, 05:05 AM
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CharlesJ

It is quite possible that a number of listeners did not at the time of the test perceive any difference... You keep on harking on the price differential.. Let me ask you some specific question... Have you heard any difference between CD players? Do YOU think they all sound the same, transports included? make it more interesting for us Tell us what YOU did perceive in such tests, if you have ever conducted them or are the papers you cite definitive and conclusive enough not to even care to try it yourself?

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post #29 of 536 Old 07-19-2007, 07:11 AM
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What levels? I have compared transports and have made sure that SPLs are matched as precisely as my (non-calibrated) meter would allow me...

Perhaps, when time permits, you can elaborate a bit on your methodology here Frantz.

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post #30 of 536 Old 07-19-2007, 07:41 AM
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What is your position on differences between CD players? Do they all sound the same to you?
Transports: do they all sound the same to YOU?

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