Anyone use a DVD player as a front end?

I was at a friends home today and listened to his system which is fronted by a Pioneer DVD player. My friend plays CD's on the DVD player and in his very nice system,the sound was extraordinary. Far superior to many transport/DAC combos that I have heard. What's going on?
Transport quality doesn't make any difference with upsampling DACs like Benchmark DAC1. I use Benchmark DAC1 with $70 Sony DVD player with great results.

DVD players alone have history of being bad CD players since their main purpose is different (less attention paid to sound). Some are better some are worse. Oppo is one of the better ones while my Sony is not and Toshiba, I had once, was horrible. Pioneer might be decent but I suspect that other components in his system are much better than average making up for CD player.

Definition of "superior" is not clear. Many people like a little of distortion because it makes sound "lively" and not "analytical". One person liked "all together" and was bothered by hearing individual instruments in very good system. It's all very subjective (read no right or wrong). My first impression with Benchmark DAC1 driving directly power amp Rowland 102 was that some instruments on recordings, I know well, are missing. Now I realize I was missing lack of clarity. For many warm sound, no matter how bad, is heaven.
You have a very nice system, congrats. I hope you're not saying the dvd was superior to what you have !

It maybe the source material. Were you familiar with the recordings?
for some reason dvd players, and multi channel amps get the brush off by many audiophiles. in reality though, there are many dvd players(theta, meridian,mac just to name a few) that compete. same with amps that have more than 2 channels. its just the culture of stereo-types.
I've used two DVD players since 2000 in my system, replacing and selling an Arcam Alpha 8SE at that time because, in my system the DVD players either equalled or outperformed it. And, of course, at a substantially lower price.

The first player was an RCA 5223P and the player I use currently is a Panasonic S47. The prime weaknesses in mass market DVD players are a) cheap power supplies and b) flimsy build quality. My experience is that if you find the right DVD player and address these issues inexpensive DVD players are capable of decent performance.

I may not have gone the DVD player route if my system did not already have good power/line conditioning; I use an Inouye line conditioner. I found that the DVD players, with their lower quality power supplies, benefited greatly from line conditioning and, for example, a good power cord. I use cryoed DH Labs DIY cords terminated with Marinco ends. The Arcam, for example, while it benefited from line conditioning and power cord upgrades, did not benefit nearly as much as the DVD players.

With respect to build quality/flimsiness, there are a number of very cost effective ways to tweak lower priced players to enhanace their performance: 3M damping sheets or dynamat, rope caulk used internally on the transport, decent quality support feet, etc. all of which I've done.

The problem with mass market players is that they (and quite possibly their parts) are constantly changing every 6 months or so, so what might be great today (or even tomorrow on the line depending on parts availablity) may not be particularly great in 6 months with the replacement model. But find the right inexpensive DVD player (I'm certainly not saying they all sound alike or are capable of good or great sound), take care of resonance issues and power issues and mass market players are capable of decent performance. Nowhere is the law of diminishing returns higher than in digital playback.
Since a DVD player uses the same D/A and analog output circuitry for CDs and DVDs, it's a bit strange to say that a player does one better than the other.
I had a modded out Denon 5910ci for a while and I liked it very much for red book CD. That said, it really didn't sound any better than the Oppo I now have which goes through a Bel Canto DAC3. So I agree that the DAC makes the biggest difference. Well in my system it has.

Since you have a great turntable, don't bother with the digital files anymore, I don't.
Kijanki, I'll have to disagree with you. Upsampling DACs like the Benchmark and Bel Canto reduce the difference between the quality of transport, but the quality of the transport definitely still makes a difference.

As a long time Bel Canto dealer I've had great sound from numerous transports into the DAC3, including DVD players, but the best transport I've heard into the DAC3 is the Bel Canto CD-2. There is a difference.
I've just started using as a transport for CD playback a recently acquired Technics DVD-A10 that I purchased from a fellow A'goN'r. The results have been extraordinary, rivaling my Denon DVD5910 as well as my iMac / iTunes feed. I am however using only the digital output fed to my DAC. I have been very pleased so far with the very fine resolution I'm getting.
I think the original poster was referring to using a DVD player through its analog outs for CD playback, not as a transport with a DAC, but perhaps I misundersood.
Jane -- Jitter that can be introduced at the interface between a separate transport and dac will be a sensitive function of cable length. See the comment by Tobias in the following thread, and the subsequent comments by me and others:

Obviously this effect is not relevant to a stand-alone dvd or cd player, but perhaps it was a factor in your listening sessions with transport/dac combinations.

-- Al
Corrrection to the link in my previous post:

-- Al
Thanks for all the replies so far...My friend does indeed have a very high quality system. He was however, using the analog outputs of the DVD player direct into his pre-amp.
He also has a stand alone DAC which he hooked up to the
digital output of the DVD player for me to compare. The sound was very similar to the DVD player by itself! Although with the DAC in play there was a slight increase in bottom end response.(Very slight).
I found out today that the Pioneer he uses is the model 414,if that is of any help. He does use the player on an isolation stand with custom isolation feet on the player itself, apparently all else is stock! While the overall sound wasn't quite as resolving as my system, it was amazingly good considering. Not close to my analog rig OTOH.
It's even more interesting that they're using a 9 year-old player via the analog outputs. Pioneer actually used to produce some excellent players with great transports (I think it was their Elite PD65), but the player you mention is definitely not one of them. When you qualify your original statement with the fact that your system does sound better (sigh of relief), it does put it in a different perspective as well. I guess it brings up the point of diminishing returns on investment in various aspects of our system. I wonder what you would have thought of their player had you swapped out something better in direct comparison within the same system. I would guess you'd hear greater resolution, superior extension, and a more engaging presentation overall (greater PRAT). I use an Oppo 983H strictly as a transport (digital out to Modwright Transporter DAC), but then I listen to PC Audio 90% of the time so the only disc that's spinning is my computer's hard drive. The OPPO works great as a transport, but is pretty much the equal of the PC audio tracks in direct comparison. Given your last post to qualify the original, and that your friend had an otherwise very good system, it does not surprise me that they could get decent sound from a DVD player. What is surprising is your statement that it sounded better than many transport/DAC combinations you've heard, but then again, you are stating that from aural memory (not that great in humans), and from having heard those other front ends in entirely different systems and different rooms, likely with different music. Again, I'd suggest if you compare directly in the same room and system to a better option you'd probably realize the differences. That, or the Pioneer DV414 is the greatest sleeper unit ever built and you've just started a run on eBay for bargain hunters to replace their Play Stations they've been using.

Yep, a Denon 3910 either alone or driving a Benchmark Dac1. They replaced an Arcam FMJ CD23T. The Denon is very good by itself; Denon's AL24 digital processing sounds quite nice to me.

I can only speak about Benchmark. Its jitter bandwidth is 3Hz and at frequencies of interest (kHz) has way over 100dB of suppression. Benchmark tested it with 1000' of digital cable and couldn't hear any difference. People that have Benchmark cannot even hear difference between coax and cheap plastic Toslink. Most of people (Benchmark forum) said that transport did not make any audible difference. I value experiment - If you find that it makes difference then get good transport. I'm just saying that some upsampling/jitter rejecting DACs might sound exactly the same wit different transports and one might feel stupid with no sonic improvements from expensive transport vs cheap DVD player. Don't buy transport first as some advise - cheap DVD player might do it (and they have great tracking).

Al - the best digital cable supposed to be 1.5m to avoid reflections from impedance boundaries coming back straight at the edge. There are Bergeron diagrams showing what happens to edge with different propagation times and slew rates.
Al - the best digital cable supposed to be 1.5m to avoid reflections from impedance boundaries coming back straight at the edge. There are Bergeron diagrams showing what happens to edge with different propagation times and slew rates.

Yes, exactly! That's what was said in the link I provided.

Interesting comments about the Benchmark -- thanks.

-- Al
Kijanki, with async sample rate converters like in the DAC1 are the additional samples supplied by the ASRC deterministic? By this I mean given the same input bit stream will it always produce the same output bit stream?

I had always assumed that it would be, but I don't see why it would have to be. In fact, some pseudo randomness might be a good thing. Just thinking out loud.


Someone could take the time and use Audio DiffMaker with various transports driving a DAC1 and report the results. It would be interesting.
Bob - that's great idea but I don't have any good quality transport. The other player I have (Cambridge CD4SE) uses standard Phillips CDM12 mechanism.

Idea is great because audio is very mental/suggestive and if you have very expensive transport and strongly believe that it should sound better - it will. There is nothing wrong with it but money could be used better.
"The grass is always greener" syndrome?
Bob -- Thanks for calling AudioDiffMaker to our attention. I hadn't heard of it previously.

I looked through his 20 page slide presentation, though, and I'm a bit mystified as to how it is supposed to be able to reveal (or reveal the absence of) very subtle tweak-related differences, considering the time-varying inaccuracies that figure to be introduced in capturing the material into a computer.

For instance, on page 14 he lists, among what he calls "uninteresting differences," "small sample rate variations." On page 17, he indicates quantitatively how that can severely degrade the results, and indicates that "the best fix is to lock sample clocks." That would, I think, imply two sound cards doing simultaneous captures of the two sets of material, with their clocks locked together. Most computers are not set up that way, and depending on what is being tested both audio streams might not be available simultaneously.

Also, more generally, it seems to me that the zillion or so asynchronous things that continually happen in a computer, resulting in constantly changing noise conditions, are likely to result in some of that noise coupling into the sound card and its a/d converter, swamping the subtle differences being tested for, via sample rate jitter, signal-to-noise degradation, and other effects.

He does refer on page 18 to the desirability of running a dummy test comparing a sound file to another capture of itself. It would be interesting to know what kinds of results people have gotten doing that.

Thanks again for calling this to our attention.

-- Al
Janeb: You'll have to forgive me, but after looking at your system and your date of registration, I really have to ask if you really own all this stuff or are just having fun with everyone here (ie. trolling)? By my calculations, not including a few components and a bunch of cabling, your system has a suggested retail price of approximately $675,000.

I would hope that the DV 414 would not sound great compared to your analog front end. Mine doesn't either but the ratios (more like $200 vs. $5-6K inc. phono preamp, although extreme by many peoples' standards are not quite in the same league as yours.
my Muse model 9 rev3 sig is amazing on CD at least as good as Meridian 508-24 but plays DVD to boot and for less money

terrific picture too
Using a DVP S3000 first generation sony. When I compared it to my California Audio Labs CL 15 I couldn't believe it. Sold the CAL right away.
I do, an Arcam DV88.
Bob - I forgot to answer your question about deterministic outcome of asynchronous sample rate converter. I think that for practical purposes it is, but anytime you deal with asynchronous stuff strange things might happen. One of them is metastability. Designers fix it by making shift register that clocks signal twice to reduce chances of unknown outcome. It is a little like getting tossed coin on its edge - any flip-flop can produce delay or unknown state (in between logic levels) when clock and data change at the same time. It sound far fetched but many computer motherboards had problems because of that.