Audiophile Changer: Cool or Hopeless Compromise?

Hello again everyone. It is great to be back to this site. Having owned and sold a Levinson 31 (sounded fine but didn't REALLY do it for me) I am finally going back to analogue and perhaps, a SONY SCD-1.

For general every day listening of my 2-300 CDs, however, it would be wonderfully convenient to have them in a changer. Is anyone taking a digital output from one of these things and running it through an external D/A, for example an ARC DAC-1 or DAC2 with decent results? Which changer transport is the best? CD or DVD/multi? And can someone please explain "upsampling"? In my experience, I have never really been transported by anything digital. I am waiting to be converted but in the mean time, would just love to conveniently enjoy a few hundred CDs without getting a migraine or thinking that reading a magazine or watching cable would be more satisfying. Thanks for you ideas and advice. Happy holidays to everyone.
cw, i am using a retail $500 nad 5-disc cd-changer w/excellent results feeding an art di/o dac that i've done some mods to. i have ~$225 into the dac, & will still be under $300 when i'm finished. the sound is noticeably better than the highly-regarded resolution audio cd-50, fwiw... also, a tube preamp is *essential* for *any* digitsal playback, imo.

doug s.

I use a Sony 333es changer as a transport (with Dan Wright mods) feeding the Perpetual Tech boxes. The Sony as a transport is the equal of any transport I have had in my system including Sonic Frontiers SFT-1, Audio Research CDT-1, Muse Model 5, etc. My experience with transports has been that differences are marked by quality ranges i.e. up to say $2500 msrp they all sound pretty much the same. This is just MY experience. To improve you would need to step way up in quality to the $5,000 to $10,000 msrp range.
I think you can find a perfectly good changer as a transport for not a whole lot of money. Look at the Sony's and you can get SACD thrown in.
I also use the Sony 333ES with the SACD in analog and redbooks in digital through a Kora Hermes. There was a Cal Audio Labs unit the CL10 I think that was a very good transport as a 5 disc changer - I am not sure it is still made - it has various digital out options including XLR. I had one and sold it to go to the SACD unit.
There are now several units (HP, Encient) available that will store a number of cds on hard drives in compressionless formats (i.e., not mp3), link to your audio system and operate via wireless keyboard. They're pricey ($1000+) and won't store a sizeable collection, but I believe that's changing. Provided that the copy-protection issue doesn't render this technology stillborne, I think this is going to be a popular part of audio systems in the near future as multigig storage gets cheaper and cheaper. I even got some tips on making one myself with computer parts that would hold at least 50 cds worth of music for about $600.
CW - I think that you're looking for a really big changer? Pioneer's Elite unit put out a big one (100+?) that I have heard good comments about ... I have always liked the Elite stuff that I've had the oppertunity to use.
You will have to look around for a left-over new one (they not making anymore currently) or a used one; but the best changer of use with a DAC is a $100 Aiwa XC-35M or the latest XC-37M. Stan Warren will modify it for another $125 into a killer transport (optical out). Don't believe me? Go the Chicago Audio Society website; The Aiwa is their reference transport for comparison purposes.
Denon DCM 5000 anybody? 100 disc 35 lb. HDCD that retails for$1800, though can be purchased for around $1300. Can also get a 100 disc slave unit, retail $1200. A friend bought one. Anybody tried one?
I have been very happy with my CAL CL-10 as a one box changer and am now looking at DACs as part of an overall upgrade which is nearing an end. There is reasonable availability on the used market both here an on ebay. Should run you about $6-800. It has ATT, coax and AES/EBU digital out. But I bet the NAD/ART Dio works great too.
Sugarbrie is dead on with his Awia recomendation. I own one, and it is absolutely world class as long as it is used with a 24 bit dac with the optical connection. Obviously Awia DID NOT design this cheapo changer with the high end in mind, it is just a serious engineering anomoly. I have compared the Awia with quite a few $3k+ transports, and it holds its own with all of them.

The best part about owning the Awia is taking it to high end salons and asking: "Hi, I would like to see if you have a transport that is better than my Awai here". After we do some A/B tests, the sales guy tries to figure out why his transport does not sonically crush the Awia. If they start by choosing a "budget transport" in the $1000 range, the Awia always is the clear choice. I've always left the audio salons with these guys scratching their heads (and me smiling ear to ear).
I'll second Kira's recommendation of the Dan Wright modified SCD 333 ES for use as a transport.
I'm using an old Marantz CC-65SE changer. I use the digital out thru a JPS Labs SC+ digital cable and on to my Proceed AVP and it sounds just fine.
aiwa seems like it may be a good mate to my "serious engineering anomaly" art di/o. :>) anyone know if it offers coax digital output, or can be modded by stan warren to do so?

thanks, doug s.

You would have to call Stan about the coax output. I would think he could do it, because part of his mod is to remove the optical output termination on the back of the player and hard wire a differenct digital cable. I see no reason he could not do the same thing but use a Coax output.
Although I presume you are talking about a "jukebox"-type rather than a 5-disc changer like mine, I can recommend using a Monarchy Audio DIP in between, as I do with my Adcom GCD-700 changer and Theta DSPro Basic IIIa DAC. It seems to largely ameliorate the most glaring shortcomings of a low-budget transport when used with a good digital interconnect (mine is Cardas Lightning). I'm able to run a S/PDIF output from the Adcom, but you may have to use a Toslink into the DIP, then take coax or balanced out to the DAC.
Thank you everyone. I am talking about a "jukebox" type set up -- the 5 disc changers don't really help me. More specific advice on 100 + changers would be most helpful, as would any explanations/suggstions on upsampling.
cw, any jukebox cd-player w/digital outputs can *still* be used w/an art di/o dac; i still recommend this. search di/o or dio on a-gon and audio asylum's digital forum for more info about it...

doug s.

I use the Sony CDP-555ES 300-disc (now 400) changers as transports into my DAC (actually the Lexicon MC-12). I'm very satisfied with the performance, though I'm sure I'm not getting the last ounce of performance. I have a single-CD transport for when I'm "serious", but I just love being able to put on the random play with a wide variety of music in the changer - it's like having my own commercial-free radio station. I've got three of the changers so it's a long time before the "playlist" starts repeating itself. I make copies of each CD so I don't lose access to the original for playing when I'm "serious" or in my car changer, as well as to guard against wear of being mechanically handled by the changer. In any case, I think the Sony ES changers are the way to go. -Kirk
To everyone reading this thread: The Aiwa 5 disc changer that Sugarbrie and I are recommending is sonically equivalent to the Wadia transport, if used with the optical out into a dac with 24 bit sigma delta D/A converters.

This Aiwa "engineering anomaly" is in a COMPLETE DIFFERENT CATEGORY as compared to ANYTHING available by other Japanese manufacturers (remember, the Aiwa sounds as good as the Wadia!). Again, I know that this sounds like an exaggeration, but this is the hard cold truth.
what model number Awia are you talking about and what DAC are you pairing with it? I've been thinking of purchasing the Cambridge Audio D500SE.

I'm still new to this, besides the source, where would an external DAC also help me out?
Hmm ... the word must be getting out. Found a number of Aiwa XC-35Ms and 37Ms for sale in the $120-130 range. Must be some mass retailer lurking around here!

Very interesting info Sugarbrie and Ehider, thanks.
I needed a changer for background music and occasional critical listening so I purchased an Aiwa XC37M. Before they were discontinued, they sold for about $90. Now, if you can find one, they are probably selling at their list price, which is probably around $120. If you get one, it needs to be modified by Stan Warren of Supermods to sound its best. In its stock form, the Aiwa is a so-so (not bad, not great) transport. It is about the equal of my aging Marantz CD94 cd player or Radio Shack CD-3400. The modification by Stan Warren, which costs around $150 elevates the performance, by removing midrange glare and grain and improving the dynamics a little. The Aiwa is a great bargain in that there is nothing near its price range that will challenge it, as far as I know. However, I also have a Parasound CBT2000 belt drive transport which is a better transport than the Aiwa. However, the Parasound listed for $1,600 when new. The Parasound has deeper bass and an overall more "relaxed" and natural sound compared to the Aiwa. My comments need to be qualified in that I have not plugged my Aiwa straight in to any 24 bit sigma converters. I also use an Audio Alchemy DTI Pro with the Aiwa as I have found the Audio Alchemy to improve the sound of any transport I have tried.
I have only tried two 24 bit converters and while they both offered more resolution than my aging 1 bit converters, neither one of them sounded more natural.
Some of the Pioneer units especially the 100 disc have a feature with ADLC (auto digital level control) which helps keep songs from different CD's at close to the same output level so you don't get extreme playback volumes when listening - they also have toslink digital outputs to hook to a DAC.
arcam make a disc changer with digi out!
it got an exellent review and you could put a dac on it later on down the road.....
NAD also make one---i;d defo put a dac on them though later on