Originally Posted by commsysman
A great CD player is essential for a great system. What most of the inexperienced people posting here don't seem to comprehend is that only if the sound comes out of the SOURCE component with low distortion and high accuracy can it be that way at the end.
I have been an audiophile for 30 years and have built up an awesome system; I know what makes a difference. I have spent thousands of hours listening critically to various components and how they sound with different kinds of music, and my ears tell me which components make the cut. My system would make most people's jaw drop; the low overall distortion actually gets you very very close to the sound of a live performance (even at concert sound levels). MOst people simply do not appreciate what IS possible with the right stuff.
Another thing that people do not understand is the importance of a quality amplifier. Most amplifiers priced under $1000 have GROSS amounts of distortion when playing actual MUSIC (despite the silly published specs using a test tone). NAD and Cambridge DO make some amps that have fairly good sound for under $1000; they are the only exceptions to the rule that I know of.
It is pretty obvious from some of the ignorant garbage posted above that many of these people have never heard a system with a really good amplifier. Without a good amplifier that truly has low distortion it is impossible to tell what sort of sound a CD player is putting out. Trying to tell which CD player is better with the average crappy amplifier is like trying to tell if a blu-ray player is better than an el cheapo $39 DVD player when watching both on a 15" TV set that cost $69 in 1990 (duhhhh...they are all the same....duhhhhh).
I made the mistake 30 years ago of spending some fairly big bucks for speakers, and then feeding them with a mediocre CD player and amplifier; it basically sounded pretty bad.
The fact is that a pair of well-selected $300 speakers can sound very very good with a quality CD player and amplifier, but $3000 speakers will sound like **** if the CD player is a cheap unit.
Anyone who thinks that you should spend a lot of money on speakers first is ignoring the fact that they will give garbage out when you put garbage in! It is a stupid mistake that lots of people make when they don't know better. A quality amplifier is the essential first step to building a good system.
I just improved my $30,000 system by replacing my $6000 Ayre C5 SACD player (rated A+ by Streophile) with a $1500 Sony SCD-XA5400ES SACD player. I think the Sony is the best unit you can buy for under $10,000; it really is THAT good.
I know most people are not going to invest the time or money that I have in my system, but a budget of $2000, if used INTELLIGENTLY, can get you a system so much better-sounding than the average that it is very nice to listen to. If you spend about $600 each for a NAD amp (C355BEE), a Cambridge CD player (550C), and some EPOS speakers (ELS8), for example, you will have something very nice to listen to. That NAD amp has low enough distortion that you will be able to accurately evaluate whatever you hook up to it.
See my detailed comments on the sound quality under "Sony vs Marantz" below.