My search for a digital upgrade led me to the separates route. I tried a number of CDPs, all of them good, but none of them captured my attention enough. Ultimately I bought into the non-over/upsampling filterless design concept which are used in several models of DACs, most notably Audio Note and 47 Labs (go the their websites to review the tech papers). After several home and store auditions I chose the Audio Mirror and mated it with a TRL modified Alesis ML9600. So now I have a CDP with upsampling if I want it, as well as a HD storage and playback system, digital recording and editing system, and transport. When the digital output of the ML9600 is used with the Audio Mirror it provides non-os filterless digital playback. I recently had a spare Audio Mirror modified by TRL and will be writing a review soon. As it stands after 350 hours of burn-in time, the music is the closest to analog (vinyl, 2-track master reels and DAT) that I have heard. Cost for the whole set-up including mods (less cables) is about $2500. If you prefer the one box and upsampling, check out the TRL Marantz SA-14. There is a thread dedicated to it here.
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I'm personally of the opinion that there are so many good one box players out there right now that seperates aren't necessary. The newer Cary players, the Meridian players that you've mentioned, the various Naim players, the ARC players, etc. I love my own player, a Tube Technology Fusion CD64 but it doesn't pop up used very often. Sorry about the remote situation, and good luck!
I use an old sony ES as a transport to an ultrajitterbug to a McCormack dac deluxe only because I like having 5 CDs to choose from with my remote. If you are going the single player route, I would skip all the interconnects and get a single box with very low jitter. Some people report that the eastern sound CD player (version 6) out of China is a steal at a bit over $700 shipped from Cattylink. Perhaps you might find a Proceed CDD transport and add a superb DAC etc but expect to pay 3 times the amount by getting separates and good interconnects. My maggie 1.6s are now nearly as pure in the midrange as the sound I used to get from my modded Dayton Wright XG-8 electrostatics. You have to be just as careful in matching your choices of interconnects and speaker cable in order to get the most out of your source.
I to have never danced with a NON OS Dac until recently.
I figured the comments of rolled off highs and not so exciting music was the norm for this kind of Dac.Especially when compared to oversampling.
I was mistaken on all accounts.Maybe the former versions were lacking. But now I can't see or hear having it any other way than NON OS. It is the closes I've come to vinyl without using vinyl period.
It takes the music and tears it apart . Not in a artificial way like upsampling. The NON OS Dac is more organic and natural to my ears. Everything in the soundstage is more defined and vivid..but without the edginess of the Quad CDP. I've spent time with the Quad 99 CDP, Arcam FMJ DV27 , Modified Toshiba and Pioneer players. Along with the a Meridian Transport and Dac combo. I must admit I could only listen to the Meridian combo for a day or so. I sold it off within a week of buying it.
That Meridian combo put out some of the most sterile, cold lifeless sounding music I've heard in my home.Can you say digititas!LOL I love what they do for movies..but music is a different story.I've listened to several of the Cary players mentioned here in the past. They are great sounding players for sure!
I took a chance on a company not known to average audiophiles. He deals more in the DIY arena .
Although some will recongnize his designs of the Audio Zone gear. His company Audio Sector isn't well known.
His Dac is the best digital play back I've experienced in my home bar none! If I could describe the sound with only one word it would be WET.If you look close at the NON OS Dacs from different companies. You'll notice many use the same D/A converter and recievers.
The only difference being the design of the circuit board and layout. Along with different caps and resistors.
The saying "the simpler the better" it also applies to these little non-assuming Dacs as well.
I say give one a try. Make sure it's with a company that will give you an in home trial. If it doesn't work out ..you can send it back.
Wow...thanks for all the responses! I contacted Cary today and was finally able to get the remote code for my Cary 303/100 cdp. Gregg at Cary was very helpful and prompt. The bad news is that I will have to buy another remote control. Clio99- Thanks for your suggestion. Your set-up sounds really nice, but my budget is around $1500. or less. Jond- I'll have to look into the Tube Technology Fusion CD64. What is the retail and where could I purchase it? 55dok- Your suggestion of the eastern sound cdp looks like a good one. Is it difficult to get one since the company changed hands? I'd like to compare one to the Cary. Gmood1- Your dac looks really nice and is of a simple design that I like. Have you compared your dac to any other NON OS dacs such as the Audio Mirror? What is the cost of the Audio Sector dac? Would I benefit by using the Cary for a transport and using a NON OS dac paired together and what could I expect? Thanks again guys for all the great suggestions and keep them coming if you have any more!
The TRL SA-14 might be in your price range. They come up for sale used on Audiogon for around $1200 or so and with the cost of the mod might be in the neighborhood of $1800.
I too like Gmood1's DAC. I checked out the Audio Sector site but couldn't find anything on it. The Audio Zone site had a nice DAC listed which if I understand Gmood1 corectly is designed by the same person.
Gmood1, can you share some more information?
Sure no problem guys. My Dac is very similar to the Audio Zone Dac 1. There have been some upgrades to the design over the last couple of months. There are two versions ..the standard Dac and the Premium version using better parts. I payed $350 for my Dac. I also bought the Audio Sector integrated at the same time. There's is no on and off switch as the designer says it actually sounds better this way ..always on. He designed this chassis just for me. Basically I got a $1000 retail Dac for $350. If you get the conventional chassis it's $700 due to the labor of building it.He claims it sounds better without the traditional chassis. So why pay for it?Everything this guy builds competes well above the retail price.He uses a Mark Levinson Dac as a reference for it's sound.
Since you don't have a distributor or dealer you save a bundle! I don't want to come across like I have proud papa disease or something.LOL But this Dac is truly special.
It's been a while since I listen to the Cary players. I really can't see it not being an improvement by adding a Dac like the Audio Sector Premium DAC 1. He does have a return policy on all his custom built items. Everything also carries a life time warranty parts and labor. Once you hold his work in your hand and see it in person, you understand why he offers a life time warranty. This gear is built extremely and I mean extremely well. His chassis are built by hand.
The little integrated is like a chunk of lead.
It's the only SS amplifier I've seen Srajan of 6 moons go nuts over!LOL That's why I had to try it myself.My integrated has the same hardware as the Patek SE with a passive volume control. It's cheaper because the Patek's chassis is custom milled and built by hand..which is time consuming.
Here's a few comments on the Dac at the DIY forum.
You really have nothing to lose but shipping. My guess is you won't be returning it!
Oh yeah to add what you will hear with the addition of the Dac. Almost immediately you'll notice how much more defined the soundstage is. There will be more focus..nothing will stand out unless called to do so in the recording.There's no roll off highs or tubby bass. You'll have more of the whole picture instead of what some players do . Which is high light certain areas of the music. No hash or grainy highs. Cymbals and top hats have that metallic shimmer...no white noise for highs.
The bass is so tight and controlled ,you feel it vibrate the chair you sit in softely ...if the other equipment allows.Pianos key strikes are also more distinguishable. Instead of a blurr of notes. You can hear them separately and the over tones of each strike.
btw, i heard the tube technolgy fusion cd player...... it is the most musical digital soutce i have heard to date ( blew away the big esoteric at the local store)...
detailed, musical, flowing, does everything right imo ( it stopped my vinyl vernture into a vpi scoutmaster with upgraded tonearm and xlr)
My thoughts now are possibly doing a shootout with the Cary used in conjunction with the Audio mirror dac and the Audio Sector dac. Another consideration is comparing the Esound cd-e5 to the Cary with and without the listed dacs. Is the Burr Brown 1704 dac in the Cary Still considered good compared to the Cirrus 4390 dac in the Esound cd-5? Should I also consider sending the Cary to be modded from a modding company? The tube technology fusion sounds like a good suggestion, but it is out of my budget, if it is above $1500. and is hard to find used. Please keep the advice coming. Thanks again Agoner's.
Well Bradz, the Fusion is unfortunately not currently available. I checked with Canadian HiFi the North American importer/distributor and they told me that Tube Tech was going to be replacing the Fusion with a new model. However he also told me that this new model was just going to be a cosmetic makeover, the internals would remain exactly the same and thus I wouldn't need to upgrade. I found this to be refreshing honesty on their part. Anyway the final retail price on the player was $4000.00, I've seen it used for around $2100-2500. I got mine by trading a mint Cary 303/200 for it, the deal of the century in my opinion. The Cary was an excellent player but the Fusion is just in a different ballpark sound quality wise. Keep an eye peeled, you never know when a used one might pop up.
Tube Research Labs (TRL) has modified my digital gear, including the Audio Mirror DAC. They have an extensive amount of audio experience (building tube and solid state gear, as well as cables) and have modifed several CDPs (see the TRL Sony595 and TRL Marantz SA-14 threads as examples), DACs, amps, etc. The nice thing about their mod service is the price to quality ratio. Mods are $550 per unit (or box). The quality you get in return is significantly better than what you pay. I am confident they could improve the sound of the Cary and would recommend you contact Paul Weitzel to discuss your needs.
If you can't reach Paul by phone send him an email. He is fairly quick at responding, but bear in mind that TRL is also in the medical field and they are sometimes busy on those projects in addition to audio projects. It is actually to the customers benefit that TRL is in the medical field as some of the intellectual property they have developed in making extremely quiet medical equipment, as well as their use of proprietary wire (which requires a significant burn-in time for audio applications), makes their modified units sound that much better.
Imagine my surprise when I was told that some of the modifications to my transport were the result of work TRL has done with Intel. Another example: my DACs noise floor was lowered 20db. Imagine how much more detail you can hear, especially micro dymanics, with the blacker background.
If you want, email me if I can be of further assistance.