Have you ever heard a CD player or DAC that just blew away all others?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Warren Jarrett, Feb 13, 2018.

  1. Warren Jarrett

    Warren Jarrett Audio Note (UK) dealer in SoCal/LA-OC Thread Starter

    Fullerton, CA
    I recently acquired an Aesthetix Romulus CD player, and I just cannot believe how much better it sounds than any other CD player I have ever heard. It retails for $15,000, so it better be good, but I have heard other VERY expensive CD players (for example AMR) that didn't sound anywhere near this good to my ears. This is the first time ever that I can play CDs and not immediately want to change over to LPs. What is going on here?

    Has anyone else had this experience, of not really liking digital, thinking digital sucks, but then finally hearing a CD player or DAC that actually changed your mind?
  2. Dave

    Dave Esoteric Audio Research Specialist™

    Greater Vancouver
    :agree: Sony SCD-1 although I've not heard any player over the $5000. mark yet.
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  3. BigGame

    BigGame Forum Resident

    Years ago my first good CD player Sony XA50ES
  4. Linto

    Linto Mayor of Simpleton

    Yes, when the Linn C12 first came out, miles ahead of anything at the time, not sure the build has been bettered since
    No, I couldn't afford one! so got the Ikemi, which I still have,use, and rate very highly indeed.
    I have an Audiolab MDAC and Chord Mojo and the Ikemi still plays redbook the best, and I really can't work out why.
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  5. beowulf

    beowulf Forum Resident

    Chula Vista, CA
    They make excellent preamps as well.
  6. Larry I

    Larry I Forum Resident

    Washington, D.C.
    This past weekend, I heard an Audio Note transport No. 6 at a local dealer coupled to a tube-based DAC (not an Audio Note DAC). The combination was terrific sounding--very smooth, yet not muddled, and the soundfield was very large and enveloping. I got to hear a computer-based server playing a ripped CD and the transport playing the same CD through the common DAC. The transport/DAC combination sounded substantially better than the server/DAC combination--larger soundfield, fuller and less tinny sounding. The transport is headed to a truly cost-is-no-object system.

    As for players, I've liked the top MBL player, the Linn CD12 and the Naim CDP555 (I still own that one). Currently, I run a Naim NBS/Uniti server system with NAS, but, I still like the sound of the CDP555.
  7. Claus

    Claus Restaurant Critic

    At the beginning of digital... the first Krell CD drive and DAC with 64x oversampling was much better than everything else.

    Today the best digital stuff from dCS, emmLabs etc sound so close. I haven‘t heard a brand, which sounds much (!) better today.

    The Aesthetix Romulus is a tube design... no wonder it sounds different ,-) reminds me to the era of Wadia. They had a beautiful sound, but colored!

    Part of a review!!!
    There’s an element of rounding off the edges, though, which makes recordings seem a little easier on the ear than they should be.
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2018
  8. Khorn

    Khorn Forum Resident

    I really liked the SQ of my SCD-1 despite it’s slow loading time but ran into the non available laser problem so now it’s sitting in its box waiting to be tossed. I guess most equipment becomes obsolete sooner or later.
  9. Shiver

    Shiver Forum Resident

    Warren, what was so good about it? What struck you about what it did differently/better?

    For me it was an AN DAC. Even the lowlier ones had a naturalness to the presentation, and lacked the sense of processed-ness, I'd not heard before.
  10. Higlander

    Higlander Well-Known Member

    Florida, Central
    So is it adding colorations, or is it accurate?
    To me that is all that matters. If it is accurately taking the data stored on the disc or if it is being altered either in a positive or negative way.
    I can not relate to the wanting to change over to LPs comment myself, as I can easily enjoy both formats, and even Needledrops sound good.

    "Sounds good" can mean anything.
    Does it output what was put on the disc?
  11. Larry I

    Larry I Forum Resident

    Washington, D.C.
    It is not like there is only one dimension, and the polar ends are "accurate" or "colored." Nor is there a singular example or standard for what is "accurate" from which one may measure everything against. There are so many ways the sound of components differ, and everyone has different priorities, so that it is pretty much pointless to argue that this is more accurate than that. I enjoy music, so the components that are better at making me enjoy the reproduction are more "accurate," and that is a more meaningful measure than anything else, to me anyway.

    If DCS and emmLabs represent "accurate," they should sound pretty close, but to me, they do not sound that similar. It is just a personal thing, but, I like the DCS stuff more. As for Audio Note and other tube-based digital, I have heard really nice sound from such digital rigs, and don't care how one would characterize it on an "accurate" to "colored" spectrum.
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  12. Ron Stone

    Ron Stone Offending Member

    Deep Maryland
    The Sony CDP XA7-ES, an unusual unit with a fixed laser and moving tray. This sounded significantly better than anything I had heard. Of course, at $3000, it probably cost six times anything I had heard.

    Secondhand units still command good money on eBay, so I guess it still sounds competitive . . .
    Wally Swift likes this.
  13. Dave

    Dave Esoteric Audio Research Specialist™

    Greater Vancouver
    Mine did die back in 2011 and I bought the laser off of canuckaudiomart and had a local tech install it. It's still working 6 years later. It is most likely a made in China replacement but it may just be better than the original.
  14. Rolltide

    Rolltide Forum Resident

    Vallejo, CA
    People who want exactly the bits on the disc without "coloration" are in luck, accurate DACs are cheap and plentiful. They're also not the sort of DAC that makes one forget about vinyl. Those tend to have tubes in them. I love my 6x4/12AU7 Line Magnetic 502CA, to date it is my favorite DAC that is head and shoulders above the rest.
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  15. John Moschella

    John Moschella Forum Resident

    Christiansburg, VA
    ModWright modified CD player
    oregonalex likes this.
  16. Higlander

    Higlander Well-Known Member

    Florida, Central
    If what comes out of the player is wildly different than what was put on the disc, that is called inaccurate.
    Yes there is a measure of inaccuracy.

    I was not arguing anything. If he likes the sound, and it sounds drastically different than every other player, either they are all inaccurate or not.
    Either this new one is colored or every other player is.

    I am making no judgement, just trying to clarify, as he asked "Why"....
    Maybe he likes coloration, maybe it does something no other player can do.
    Strat-Mangler likes this.
  17. Rolltide

    Rolltide Forum Resident

    Vallejo, CA
    Art Dudley's review of the Audio Note DAC 2.1 sums this up well. Midway through his review he predicts it will measure terrible. Atkinson confirms his suspicions. People in the comments unfamiliar with this design school are abhorred. Those like myself who have come to determine that such coloration and distortion makes music sounds more like actual music nod in approval.

    Those who disagree and want accurate are in luck. Just pick a nice solid state PCM DAC from the Audio Advisor catalog and you're done! Most will sound more or less exactly like all the others.
    IanL, F1nut, TarnishedEars and 4 others like this.
  18. Larry I

    Larry I Forum Resident

    Washington, D.C.
    How do we know what was put on the disc? It has to be played back with something. Absent a standard, I would say every player, including the Romulus has a particular coloration and it doesn't make sense to say one is more colored than the other and to treat "more" as a negative. If I had to hazard a guess as to why Warren found the Romulus so good compared to anything else he has heard, I would guess that it fits his particular taste and it is particularly compatible with the rest of his components.

    I think Warren is looking for some kind of insight into why this is the first CD player he likes and finds similar to analogue playback--a technical difference or approach or some kind of design breakthrough. I have no idea myself. It cannot be the use of a tube analogue output because I am sure he has heard that (particularly as an Audio Note fan). I am someone who listens mostly to digital sources so I have no idea about why some people find digital so objectionable; but, I do accept that there are differences that I either don't hear or don't find to be such a high priority.
  19. Shiver

    Shiver Forum Resident

    Yeah, I'm slowly re-building my system around things that apparently don't measure too well...
  20. Rolltide

    Rolltide Forum Resident

    Vallejo, CA
    I think its the wisest decision most audiophiles make!
  21. Time_

    Time_ Active Member

  22. Ski Bum

    Ski Bum Happy Audiophile

    Long Island, NY
    The dCS Vivaldi stack was the first digital source that sounded close to analog to me, so I bought it..
    DrZhivago and F1nut like this.
  23. Mike from NYC

    Mike from NYC Forum Resident

    Surprise, AZ
    I'm NOT a reviewer nor have I critically listened to many CD players or DACs but I know what I think music and instruments should sound like due to numerous concerts of all types. As I have gotten older my perceptions have changed as have my taste in music. I prefer lush sound as opposed to super detail and cooler sound.

    Having said that, my Cary 100TS DAC blew me out of the water in regards to how good a CD can sound. Last night I was listening to Ronstadt/Savoy, Famous Blue Raincoat, and Alison Krauss and it made me weak in the knees. The ability to switch back and forth between tubes and solid state is extraordinary - some records sound better with tubes and others with SS. The soundstage is broader with tubes and the sound more laid back and in SS there is more detail and a bit more precision in instrument placement - it offers a great choice. Plus I can and have tube rolled.

    Last night while listening I was thinking about the whole CD v. LP wars and how one sounded better than the other - maybe. I couldn't detect any digital glare just lush sound and it reminded me of just how good an LP can sound without the noise (no matter how well pressed). The sound stage was as wide and deep as my LPs and all the ambience retrieval that makes recordings sound as good (or bad) as they do.

    Let me also state that I am Media Agnostic and I still have more LPs than CDs but I like both mediums equally.
  24. Wally Swift

    Wally Swift Forum Resident

    Brooklyn New York
    Yes. Sony XA20ES. Prior I listened to CDs on a $90 DVD player. Got me collecting CDs again.
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