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What difference does using a good transport make when paired with a quality dac?

Discussion in 'audio' started by JezmondTutu, Jan 9, 2018.

  1. JezmondTutu

    JezmondTutu pfm Member

    Although I primarily stream and playback via my Mac, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the sound quality from cd’s via my Blu-ray player fed into my dac. I also rather enjoy spinning the odd cd.

    Now I’ve heard a difference in the past between transports but that was years ago (I had a two box Micromega) and am assuming things have come on a long way since then in terms of dac development.

    Any experiences?
  2. Whaleblue

    Whaleblue The Mighty Deoxitiser

    Hang on...

    Right, I’m ready.

  3. mercalia

    mercalia pfm Member

    well the audiolab 8200cdq dont use a specially expensive transport inside and sounds fine, so its up to the connection between deck and dac? I suspect a much overated issue for any decent well made dac
  4. Hipper

    Hipper pfm Member

    Well, some argue that any well built transport will do - they all sound the same according to them - and it is the DAC that makes the difference.

    For the transport a lot seems to depend on the CD disc clamping mechanism. I have an expensive TEAC (Esoteric) which claims to have a mechanism that reduces vibration of the disc and so reads better. Others will tell you a Transport's error correction mechanism will sort out such issues.

    On DACs some say the DAC chip is the key. Mine has Burr-Brown PCM1704 which was highly thought of in its day (twelve years ago) and still lusted after by some. Some say Delta-sigma DACs are better. I've no idea nor really care enough to find out what that is all about!

    I think the original concept for having separate Transports and DACs was to keep the moving parts away from the electronics. However, having a separate Transport and DAC gives you flexibility. If the transport fails you replace it and keep your DAC.

    DACs these days have lots of flexibility and you should look to see if all your requirements will be met - Red Book CD, SACD, High Res formats etc., computer (USB) connection, etc..

    For just playing Red Book CD, I would think a one box solution from the likes of Marantz would suffice. Even high end stuff like Esoteric make expensive one box solutions.
  5. saab9000

    saab9000 Active Member

    I have been using the Audio Note 2.1x balanced dac with the Lyngdorth CD1 used as the transport for a couple of years which i thought was quiet a good combo,until i tried a home dem of the CES TL5 transport in september.It never went back! The difference this transport has made is huge in every aspect.Fantastic natural sounding,if the dac is good the transport can make a massive difference.
  6. Strictly Stereo

    Strictly Stereo Trade: Strictly Stereo

    I think it depends on the how the DAC works. As a rule, DACs which buffer and re-clock the input are more tolerant of a less than stellar source, at least up to a point. Simpler designs are likely to be more sensitive to the quality of the transport. In pretty much every case though, a good quality transport with minimal jitter is going to give the DAC an easier time, with the payoff being better sound quality.
  7. Jodet

    Jodet pfm Member

    I'd spoken with the Cambridge Audio importer a few times about some service issues with my gear, so I knew them. I asked about their transport and what would be the difference (sound wise) between it as a transport and one of their basic CD players as a transport. They said they doubted you could hear a difference.
  8. hifinutt

    hifinutt hifinutt

    "I think it depends on the how the DAC works. As a rule, DACs which buffer and re-clock the input are more tolerant of a less than stellar source, at least up to a point. Simpler designs are likely to be more sensitive to the quality of the transport. In pretty much every case though, a good quality transport with minimal jitter is going to give the DAC an easier time, with the payoff being better sound quality"

    nicely put . I certainly noticed a hugh difference in a high end transport I used to have compared to a blu ray player . the first was much more natural and full sounding but then it cost at least 30 times as much as the blu ray
  9. JensenHealey

    JensenHealey pfm Member

    Even if you reckon that a transport can 'sound' different - likely it is not the mechanicals that are making that difference. If you look at how Red Book CDs work - the data that is read from the disc is NOT the same data that is output to the DAC - it has to be put into the right order, error corrected if necessary and then clocked out at the right rate. So I can see that this buffer/clocked output could have a jitter related sound quality - but I cannot see how the physical transport itself can have an influence.

    I had the lovely VRDS TEAC mechanism for years. Now switched to a universal Marantz player and can choose to run through an external DAC (CAmbridge Audio DAC100). I did not hear a difference between the TEAC and Marantz.
    orangeart likes this.
  10. notevenclose

    notevenclose pfm Member

    Micromega made some very decent sounding CD players, albeit not always the ultimate in build quality nor reliability.

    I'd suggest that a really good transport should outperform your Mac as a digital source. CEC has been mentioned and the alternative which I also like, having heard it twice now, is the top-loading Project transport. I don't care for the on-screen graphics but can't argue with the performance for the price and it seems very well built.

    Contrary to some opinions, I can't say I've ever heard a 'universal' player that's really impressed on CD playback.
  11. Purité Audio

    Purité Audio Trade: Purite Audio

    Why not borrow a top flight ‘transport’ and compare it and your Mac unsighted through the same dac?
  12. JezmondTutu

    JezmondTutu pfm Member

    Very interesting - thanks all.

    In theory, my Mac replay should be better, due to asynchronous data transfer, better error correction and Pure Music. But we all know how subjective audio is and technology superiority doesn’t always translate into better perceived sound quality!

    I may try a dedicated transport at some point then to see what difference it makes.

    Saab9000 - assume you are a Saab fan? I had a modified 9000 Aero a few years ago, loved it!
  13. Peter Stockwell

    Peter Stockwell Fried Man in Paris

    But, he stammered, is that really truly possible ? 'coz, one Dac might have the worlds bestest usb implementation, and another not quite so brilliant, so, as I see it, there can't be an absolute ?
  14. notevenclose

    notevenclose pfm Member

    FWIW, I've 'flipped' twice. I went back to playing CDs as my primary source a couple of years ago after several years using Macs and/or a dedicated music server, the former including fannying about at various stages with a modified OS, external PSU, Pure Music or Audirvana etc.

    The reason I went back to playing CDs is because to my ears, somewhat inconveniently, in my system, they sound better than any Mac I'd heard, as did a Melco music server. These days I still listen to music on a 2012 Mac mini with Audirvana, and even occasionally stream from the office via an Airport Express (all through the same DAC), but virtually all 'serious' listening involves spinning a silver disc, the only exception being albums which I can't get on CD, or at least not a price I'd consider sane.

    Interestingly enough, over the 2 years I've been playing CDs again, the Mac has been used progressively less, not a conscious decision, just a pattern I recognised quite recently. I also prefer RedBook CDs to the 100 or so hi-res tracks I possess, the latter can sound 'better' in some respects in hifi terms, but I still find the CD player more 'involving' than file players.
  15. notevenclose

    notevenclose pfm Member

    Alternatively, why not borrow a good transport, listen to it exclusively for a couple of weeks then revert to the Mac and see if you miss CD.
  16. Purité Audio

    Purité Audio Trade: Purite Audio

    I haven’t played a ‘CD’ for ten years or so, I don’t miss them.
  17. davidsrsb

    davidsrsb pfm Member

    The Audio Note has to be one of the simplest and most transport sensitive DACs around. A modern asynchronous usb DAC just should not care one the transport gets good enough to read reliably without using the more serious error correction options. CDDA reading is not lossless if it gets to the interpolation stage of error concealment.
    The original Cambridge CD player used to flash a LED when it was struggling and I have read reports that it was common to see it flashing away.
  18. uncl_nigel

    uncl_nigel pfm Member

    In my experience (using my Chord DAC64 mkII with maximum buffering i.e. in the state in which it is less susceptible to Transport quality) there is a noticeable difference between a Cambridge DVD player and a CEC 51 CDt and between a Cambridge CXC and A Moon 260 transport. In both cases the specialized CD transport sounded better. Whether you think the difference is worth the outlay is a matter of priorities - I thought so (I would have preferred the expense of the CXC but bought the Moon...).

    It is a bit like comparing a Music First Audio Classic pre to an Aesthetix Calypso pre - both are musical for their price but if you can afford either you take the Aesthetix :)
  19. JezmondTutu

    JezmondTutu pfm Member

    Thanks All!

    Well I think I might well try to test one in that case although my wallet is relatively restricted at the moment.
  20. saab9000

    saab9000 Active Member

    I'v had a 1990 9000 2lt turbo modified by abbott racing for coming up to 24 years fantastic cars still going strong.

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