Has CD player technology progressed so much in 30 years?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by CMT, Aug 3, 2019.

  1. CMT

    CMT Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Santa Rosa, CA
    Bear with me: I'm ignorant about so much. I've only recently discovered this forum and like it very much, as there seems to be a nice combination here of deep knowledge about audio equipment and people who are friendly and not condescending to people like me who are interested but still learning. So, I venture to ask a question that I suspect will show off my ignorance.

    Some quick background: I started a thread here a couple of weeks ago (my first; I happened across the Steve Hoffman forums by chance). At that time, I wanted to get a better turntable. I had about $1,000 to spend so I asked for recommendations in that price range. If I knew how, I'd add a link here to that thread. It was entitled "Best turntable under $1,000". Long story short--that discussion ended up leading me in an entirely different direction. I ended up spending my $1,000 on a pair of KEF LS50 speakers instead of getting a turntable. I'm very happy with this decision. I wanted a better turntable, though, because I had finally become fed up after years of fighting with an aging Technics amplifier that would drop a channel all the time if you breathed on it and had knobs that made horrible scratchy sounds when you touched any of them. It sounded fine if you could fiddle it so that it was turned to a decent volume level and both channels were there. I did some research and settled on the Outlaw Audio RR2160 integrated amplifier as a replacement. Having upgraded the amplifier, the TT suddenly felt old and the biggest impediment to better sound in my system, hence my initial question and thread here.

    So, the system as it stands now: when I listen to vinyl (mostly classical) I'm still using my old TT, which I did NOT replace, having bought the speakers instead. It's a Technics SL-J2, a direct-drive TT with a p-mount cartridge purchased going on 30 years ago when I lived in Japan. I know this isn't the greatest, but I bought the speakers rather than a better TT because forum people here convinced me the TT wasn't necessarily as bad as I thought it was if I replaced the cartridge with something better and that getting better speakers was a more cost-effective way to improve my sound on my limited budget. Yesterday, I auditioned a Grado Green cartridge at my local audio shop on the existing turntable, which I took down there. I decided I liked the sound and it is clearly much better than what was on the machine. This goes through the new Outlaw RR2160 and the KEF LS50s.

    Still with me? OK. So, that's vinyl. When I play CDs, I’m using an old Pioneer CD player (a Pioneer PD HS-7, which I believe was a Japan-only model; I was still in Japan at the time of purchase). My question now is this: given the age of this CD player, is it likely that a more modern player at even a fairly modest price is likely to be significantly better in sound quality? In other words, what I’m wondering is, is the CD player now the weak link in my chain? Actually, it sounds pretty good to me through the new amplifier and speakers. This was not an especially cheap machine. It was about $1,000 when I bought it 25 to 30 years ago. But people tell me technology has changed so much in the last 30 years that almost ANY modern CD player is likely to sound better. Is that really true? I'm skeptical.

    The new Outlaw amp is connected with an optical cable—bypassing the DAC in my CD player when I’m using that and using the DAC in the amplifier, or so I'm told, which means that I'm using my old CD player as a transport only? If that's the case, is it worth spending another $1,000–$1,500 or so (which again is about what I can muster) to buy a better CD player? Some people suggest that I should be considering a stand-alone external DAC instead, given my situation? I actually really like the sound of the set-up now. It's already so much better than it was. I'm really only interested in investing further at the moment if chances are good that there would be a significantly better sound to be gained. I've seen good reviews of CD players from Marantz and Oppo about in the price range I have in mind, but, again, am I likely to hear a big difference? I AM interested in improving the experience further, but money is a restraint.

    Finally, I have had the privilege of subscribing to the San Francisco Symphony for the past nine years. I know what a great live performance is supposed to sound like. I want that in my living room. I'm now much closer to that than I was a few weeks ago. Can I approach it further given the above scenario? Thanks for any thoughts. :)
     
    tmtomh and xennial like this.
  2. Helom

    Helom I'll take the monkey coffins

    Location:
    U.S.
    No, if anything, buy a better outboard DAC or upgrade your analog system.

    As for matching the SF Symphony at home, even six-figure systems can't manage it. Those who claim their systems can perform such feats (some "pro" reviewers come to mind) are delusional.
     
  3. The Pinhead

    The Pinhead SLEAZY SOUTHAMERICAN CAVEMAN

    Yes a modern player will sound better, even a budget one, due to the evolution DACs have undergone. BUT, big BUT, is that budget CDPs are ridden with reliability issues, and most might skip or don't recognize certain discs. LOTS of report about ¨lemon¨ units. So if I were you, I'd keep my unit till it gave up the ghost, esp considering you are mostly listening through the good DAC your Outlaw has, instead of the older one built in in your Pioneer (which was state-of-the-art 30 years ago). When your Pioneer dies on you, any reliable transport (like a DVD player) can be hooked to your Outlaw with great results.

    My late 80s Technics is failing so I bought a discontinued, NOS Oppo BDP-103D, which I'll be getting on August 10th, to replace both my CDP and my obsolete Pioneer DVDP with a reliable, high quality product, wit a good built-in DAC (one-box solution)
     
  4. CMT

    CMT Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Santa Rosa, CA
    Can you explain what you mean by “my analog system”? You mean going back to the TT and Cartridge?
     
  5. CMT

    CMT Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Santa Rosa, CA
    As for the Symphony, I understand that we’re talking about ideals here not an attainable reality. We’re talking about getting as close as possible to reality with whatever money is available to invest in a sound reproduction system. I assume that’s what we’re all after.
     
  6. TarnishedEars

    TarnishedEars Forum Resident

    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    I agree that getting a good DAC to use with your existing player would probably represent a worthwhile upgrade to your system. Although to be pretty frank, I have never really cared for the sound of any of the Technics receivers I have heard, and so I would want to replace that with something better as well.
     
    displayname likes this.
  7. The Pinhead

    The Pinhead SLEAZY SOUTHAMERICAN CAVEMAN

    The OP has a Technics TT, not receiver. He owns an Outlaw.
     
    SandAndGlass, Manimal, Adam9 and 2 others like this.
  8. xennial

    xennial Active Member

    Location:
    kildare
    we have some of the same problems, but you're much further along the sound system route than me. For what it's worth, even I've been hearing that Marantz is great for decades
     
  9. CMT

    CMT Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Santa Rosa, CA
    As somebody else noted, it’s an old Technics turntable I’m still using, not a receiver. I replaced the receiver with the Outlaw Audio RR2160 amplifier, which is what started all this…
     
    TarnishedEars likes this.
  10. xennial

    xennial Active Member

    Location:
    kildare
    with hifi stuff you can replace some all or none of everything. Im new but I know this much :righton:
     
  11. Helom

    Helom I'll take the monkey coffins

    Location:
    U.S.
    Yes, the turntable, cartridge and phono preamp.
     
  12. marcel

    marcel Alea Iacta Est

    Location:
    Italy
    My 0.02 cents: good to great DACs, crap transports deliberately made not to last.
     
    Tullman likes this.
  13. CMT

    CMT Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Santa Rosa, CA
    Well, having just bought a new amplifier, which I assume is now the preamp for the turntable, and having just yesterday upgraded the cartridge considerably, I’m thinking more about the CD end of things.
     
  14. CMT

    CMT Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Santa Rosa, CA
    You are referring to what exactly?
     
  15. TarnishedEars

    TarnishedEars Forum Resident

    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    Thanks. The OP's post was so long I think that my eyes must have skimmed-over that detail.
     
    The Pinhead likes this.
  16. TheVinylAddict

    TheVinylAddict ___The Enforcer___

    I believe he was referring to an external phono preamp in the example, which I will go on a limb and say any external phono pre $150 and up will probably trump the phono pre/port on your Outlaw. (a fairly sturdy limb) Maybe even less......
     
  17. MGW

    MGW Active Member

    Location:
    Scotland, UK
    Not sure if this applies in the US, but in the UK the bottom has dropped out of the second-hand CD player market.

    I recently picked up a fully-serviced and warrantied Moon 360D CD player from a very well-respected and established dealer (in fact the dealer that I have been going to for over 20 years). This appears to have sold originally for around £3.5k to £4k. It blew my old Arcam FMJ23 out of the proverbial water. Cost for the Moon? £750…!

    There are bargains to be had.

    I know that this does not answer your question but, my view is that the answer is very much 'yes' but that developments and improvements probably stalled, at least at the transport end, a few years ago.
     
    Manimal and ClassicalCD like this.
  18. Guildx500

    Guildx500 Forum Resident

    Location:
    California
    I think you can get at the digital front end question a bit by connecting the analog outs on your old CDP with a decent set of cables into an analog in on the Outlaw. The Outlaw will certainly have a newer more state of the art DAC than your old CDP and this way you can compare easily between the two just by switching back and forth from the optical in to the analog. If you really prefer the Outlaw I’d look into DACs because an outboard one in that price range should better it easily. Just don’t expect anything like Davies at home no matter how much money you spend on audio gear.
     
  19. marcel

    marcel Alea Iacta Est

    Location:
    Italy
    Most consumer CD players available today
     
    Vinny123 likes this.
  20. CMT

    CMT Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Santa Rosa, CA
    Thanks for this. I like the idea of comparing the two DACs that I already have. I hadn’t thought of switching between the two like that, although it seems obvious now that you point it out. Although, I wonder if it’s really a fair comparison because the DAC in the amplifier will be connected with an optical cable while the DAC in the CD player will necessarily be connected with conventional cables.

    As for Davies, I was speaking in ideal terms, naturally. I understand that no sound system will ever match the experience of listening live. I just meant that I want to get as close to that as I can with what money I have to invest in equipment. Thanks again.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2019
  21. c-eling

    c-eling Somehow I See There Are Ships In Her Eyes...

    Man that Pioneer's beautiful.
    If you have quite a few old Japan classical cd's most likely a few will have pre-emphasis.
    Plus your player has indexing, something that's not available anymore.
    I'd use your Pioneer's DAC (analog out)
    If you go the separate DAC route you may loose some pre-emphasis ability.
     
    patient_ot likes this.
  22. Mike-48

    Mike-48 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Portland, Oregon
    Does the CDP have a digital coaxial (RCA) output? If so, you can try replacing the optical connection with a coax cable designed for digital audio. Blue Jeans Cable sells them at a reasonable price. In some cases, the optical interface may be inferior. That is highly dependent on the implementations in the source (your gorgeous old player) and DAC (your gorgeous new receiver).
     
  23. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Is that Pioneer from the late 90s? I did a quick google search on it. If it is from then I would probably keep using it so long as it works. If you were using an early 80s CDP with a 14bit DAC in it and sub-90dB S/N ratio that's a different story.

    DACs have come a long way but crossed the limits of average human hearing (and especially aged human hearing) a long time ago.

    If you want to try a newer CD player or DAC, go ahead. Just make sure you get a return policy on it so you can get most or all of your money back if you don't like them or decide you just don't need them.

    The other thing is: if you want a symphony in your living room, that's not going to suddenly happen with a CDP upgrade. Think massive speakers with possibly multiple subs and room treatments instead. Even then it won't be the same.
     
  24. CMT

    CMT Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Santa Rosa, CA
    The CD player is probably from around 1990. I don't remember exactly when I bought it. But it wasn't early 80s. My first CD player was actually the first little Sony "Walkman" style CD player (which also had a dock so you could use it on a desktop). Still have it. It still works. That was from 1983 or 1984. But I digress. If It's really important, I can probably find out the year of release of my Pioneer player.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2019
  25. CMT

    CMT Well-Known Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    Santa Rosa, CA
    I'm afraid you've lost me. What is Pre-emphasis?
     

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