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What's the right ratio of CD player cost / TT cost to get similar sound quality?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Adagio, Nov 14, 2021.

  1. Adagio

    Adagio Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I was once under the misguided perception that I needed to spend a more on my analog set-up than my digital set-up to get equivalent sound.
    • Current digital set-up: Rega Saturn = approx. $2,500 (new)
    • Current analog set-up: Ortofon 2M Black + VPI Scout + Graham Slee ERA GOLD V phono stage = approx $3,800 (new)
    • Ratio is CD/TT = 68%
    Both Digital and Analog use the same level of interconnects. Digital is missing the micro dynamics and detail of the analog. I'm sure I can improve the digital set-up. But at what cost ?

    Looking for those of you who have achieved an equivalent level of sound quality between your Digital and Analog set-ups and what is the ratio of your Digital Cost / your Analog Cost.

    (Please, Please, Please - I'm not looking for another digital vs analog debate or statements like "this format will never equal the other format". I do realize there are inherent differences)
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2021
  2. Rich-n-Roll

    Rich-n-Roll Forum Resident

    Washington State
    I get the same sound of vinyl from my CD's by buffering my player through a my "tube Preamp" sans the pop and scratch it's the best of both worlds
    audiomixer and Tim 2 like this.
  3. Harris11235

    Harris11235 Forum Resident

    Minneapolis, MN
    I get similar sound quality from digital and vinyl, but I stream instead of play CDs. Depending on the media, one can sound better than the other.

    Analog: Dynavector 20x2H, Nottingham Ace Spacedeck, Herron VTPH-2A = ~$7400

    Digital: Roon, HQ Player, Tidal or Qobuz, Bluesound Node 2i, Denafrips Terminator II = ~$5600 + $40/mo for the subscriptions

    Power cords, interconnects, isoacoustics feet and isolation platforms not included
    TimB, Tim 2 and DancingSea like this.
  4. SteveFord

    SteveFord Forum Resident

    Shnecksville PA
    Do you have a way to burn a CD-R from an album and then play it on the Saturn?
    I'd be interested in that comparison as I know the sound of the 2M Black and have an older Saturn, I'm curious how the new one performs.
    jonwoody and Tim 2 like this.
  5. The only thing I’m missing is a CD/SACD player and I’m looking for the same answer. Unfortunately to this point I can’t find it.
    Bingo Bongo likes this.
  6. Pkcpga

    Pkcpga Audio Enthusiast

    A lot at play besides just the playing vehicle, my turntable also depends on my phono preamp, cartridge and mat while my CD player depends on my DAC. Together my CD with separate DAC definitely costs more but sounds much better then using the internal DAC on the CD player. Although the DAC has multiple uses and cartridges need at least stylus replacing regularly. If I upgrade my turntable might get them back to equal price points, use the turntable a lot more then CDs but DAC equally as much as the turntable. My base table cost more then my base CD player, almost double, not including DAC, Stylus, Phono Preamp, Mat.
  7. Pkcpga

    Pkcpga Audio Enthusiast

    Rega Saturn is a great CD player, easy upgrade would be to add an external DAC.
    jonwoody, sotosound, bever70 and 2 others like this.
  8. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident

    Brooklyn, NY
    That's why I don't buy expensive players anymore: if it needs an external DAC then it just becomes a transport. That being said - buy a good transport to begin with, instead of wasting money on player's entrails you're not going to use.
    mreeter, Bingo Bongo, bever70 and 3 others like this.
  9. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Hong Kong
    Play or Play not - there is no ratio (if Yoda were here). It's about whether you enjoy listening to whatever player you have. At the lower price ranges, I tend to think CD is the better way to go because cheaper CD players have fewer issues than cheaper turntable set-ups. Vinyl replay IMO costs a bomb to do right. Then when done right, CD replay costs a bigger bomb to catch up. The best single-box CD player I have heard was the other day with the Audio Note CD 5.1x and it was astonishingly organic sounding. But it's more than I or most people can afford and the problem now is that because I heard it - other CD players sound, charitably, mediocre. One of the reasons I have not upgraded my CD rig is that the price-performance ratio is such that I feel like it's probably better to just upgrade the vinyl replay.

    I have several CDs that sound better on CD than vinyl so I understand why folks want to get the most out of CD. But it's harder if you have champagne tastes on a beer budget. I wish a $3k CD player did it for me. Sounds like you are in a similar situation - Our ears want X but the bank account says WTF!
    Lenny99, jonwoody, bever70 and 6 others like this.
  10. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident

    Brooklyn, NY
    I don't think the dollar-to-dollar ratio alone can determine if you can match sound qualities produced by your components. For instance, the price you paid for your Saturn here is easily 150 to 200% of what it would cost you in Britain - or even more so, as you are in Canada. Dealer markup, customs duties, transit costs, marketing budgets - none of these directly contribute to sound quality, so you'd be able to compare.
  11. Oelewapper

    Oelewapper Plays vinyl instead of installing it on the floor.

    Equal, but (obviously) not the same here.
    Both have their merits.
    But far from equal in price.

    Turntable + cartridge (one closest to “CD sound”) + mods + phono preamp + phono cables:
    Technics SL-1200G + KAB TD-1000 + Ortofon 2M Black + Ortofon LH-6000 + SPL Phonos + Mogami low capacitance cables + some tweaks:
    ~6K euros

    CD transport + coaxial cable + DAC:
    Marantz DV3002 + Canare 75ohms + Cambridge Audio DACmagic Plus:
    ~450 euros

    So yes, I agree, analogue reproduction requires more of an investment - in the case of records.
    I don’t know about reel to reel though, but the format is definitely more expensive than anything else, so I suspect that it also applies to the equipment required.

    However I do think that the definition of “equal sound quality” is highly subjective.
    saturdayboy and Benzion like this.
  12. TheVinylAddict

    TheVinylAddict ___The Enforcer___

    Let's face it, with the (low) price of a good DAC these days, and the fact that many disc spinners (including dvd / bluray units) have sufficient transports - pound for pound, all other things being equal (speakers, line stage, amp) the cost of a "good" CD set up is *much* less than a TT setup. Assuming a TT setup includes the deck, and the phono pre too. And "cost" also has more dimensions than just dollars... there's your time, the cost of ownership (cleaners, consumables), and other indirect costs.

    Plus, when the CD player arrives, you don't have to align the laser, make sure it has the right VTA, etc :) Just plug it in and go. On the flipside, the uninitiated TT newb, well, their work is just getting started when it arrives... they can plug it in and go :), which I'm sure some do, but it just plain takes work to get the optimal sound out of a cartridge --> phono stage --> line stage, especially if you aren't well versed at it. The more capable / talented have a shorter learning curve, it's not the same for everyone. And frankly, some never get there....

    Just sayin'. I own both, enjoy both, but vinyl is just more expensive pound for pound (potentially a LOT) - dollar-wise, skill-wise, emotionally-invested-wise, patience-wise, labor-wise to get it operating consistently and optimally. I've been doing it a while, and still learn something new all the time on setup tricks, etc.

    But it's sure rewarding (TT) when you finally get it right, gain the experience, and actually get excited about setting up a new cartridge!
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2021
  13. Oelewapper

    Oelewapper Plays vinyl instead of installing it on the floor.

    That’s exactly what the underlying question is all about...
    When does someone qualify it as equal sounding?

    Two examples that oppose each other:
    To me, the tactile interaction of records make me much more aware of what I’m listening to.
    Records “demand” attention, making me listen more actively and maybe that makes me a bit more aware of all the good and bad things of its sound quality.
    Makes me a bit more picky, it sets expectations.

    While for others it might be the other way around, they like their records, objects with emotional value.
    So they become more forgiving towards the format, compared to some random file or one of the copies they burned on CD.
    Adam9, PATB, Richard Austen and 2 others like this.
  14. Adagio

    Adagio Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I've been of a similar mindset. Unfortunately I have a lot of CD's that are just not available on LP (and never will be).
  15. Adagio

    Adagio Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Totally agree.

    I guess what I'm looking for is "close enough" in sound quality that you are satisfied and you don't spend more time listening to one format than the other because the sound is that much better
    addicted2 and Oelewapper like this.
  16. Adagio

    Adagio Forum Resident Thread Starter

    You got it

    My vinyl experience has revealed just how good my system can sound. ("Champagne Taste")

    Just wondering how much it will cost to get my CD's closer to that sound.
  17. Adagio

    Adagio Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I guess I was looking for the total cost of each format all the way up to the connection to the pre-amp/integrated amp.

    One item I forgot to include in the vinyl set-up was the cost of the interconnects between the TT and the phono-stage

    • Current digital set-up: Rega Saturn = approx. $2,500 (new)

    • Current analog set-up: Ortofon 2M Black + VPI Scout + Graham Slee ERA GOLD V phono stage = approx $3,800 (new) + Cardas Golden Ref IC's ($700) = $4,500
    • Ratio is CD/TT would be = 55%
  18. Adagio

    Adagio Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Love this idea. I really like the player and would love to avoid trading/selling to get a whole new player

    Any recommendations for a DAC upgrade ?
    Pkcpga likes this.
  19. rodentdog

    rodentdog Forum Resident

    An external DAC...R2R or multibit would improve your digital front end. PontusII, Gumby, AGD R7 are all great candidates and would even up the ratio, less the interconnects.
    bever70 and mr.datsun like this.
  20. patient_ot

    patient_ot Senior Member

    There is no such thing as "equal" sound quality between LP and CD. LP has a lot of playback artifacts that CD will never have. Before anyone starts a stupid argument we've had on here many times, I'll say I enjoy both formats but try to not to compare them too much.

    At any rate, there is no magic $ ratio. I have far more money invested in vinyl playback, because good quality CD playback is cheap nowadays. $200 or sometimes buys a DAC that is beyond the sound quality limitations of CDs these days and CDPs and transports are relatively inexpensive if you know where to look. Of course there is a lot of snake oil crap out there in the digital audio world designed to sell you supposed euphonic distortion that will not improve actual CD playback and sound quality.

    Before you spend an additional cent on improving CD sound quality, look at the CDs you are feeding the CDP and/or DAC. If it's a favorite album, you may want to consider whether it is worth upgrading your CD copy to a better one, assuming there is a better one available.
    Robert C and Fishoutofwater like this.
  21. PATB

    PATB Forum Resident

    SF Bay Area
    Depending on the music you like to listen, I am beginning to think that digital and vinyl systems will never be equal. I have SACD, XRCD, hi-res downloads of Blue Note jazz albums and they cannot compare to the same albums released on vinyl by Music Matters, AP, Tone Poet, etc. at least in my system ($800 DAC versus $$$$ vinyl source).

    Which brings up a question: can an uber-DAC (say dCS or MSB) bring an excellent SACD/digital file (e.g., MoFi Mingus Ah Um) to a higher level than its vinyl counterpart (e.g., MoFi One Step of Mingus Ah Um)? I am really curious as I have no experience with really high-end digital sources.
    Tim 2 likes this.
  22. harby

    harby Forum Resident

    Portland, OR, USA
    You would have a hard time finding a CD player for even $20 that has the 50dB signal-to-noise ratio, 1% distortion, uneven frequency response with non-existent 25Hz of any vinyl setup you could fathom.
    HIRES_FAN, Robert C and SonicCzar like this.
  23. Tim 2


    Alberta Canada
    My past SME 30/12 and Ayre DX-5 were very close sounding, I often had to look over to see which one was turning.
    Of coarse the SME, phono stage and cartridge was 4 times as expensive.
    Harris11235 and PATB like this.
  24. Adagio

    Adagio Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I've been through plenty of budget CD players, when they first came out, that made my ears bleed. But boy oh boy they sure measured great.

    To be fair back then I had similar experience with high powered Class A Amplifiers with super low measured THD and great S/N ratios and other amazing measurements but still sounded lousy.

    Call me cynical, but I've come to put very little faith in measurements.
  25. Oelewapper

    Oelewapper Plays vinyl instead of installing it on the floor.

    Yes, this type of equal it is in my case.
    I do spend more time listening to digital for various reasons, but sound quality isn’t one of them anymore.

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