Wouldnt it be easier to get a storage medium where you can keep the discs without their jewel cases? 301 discs can be easy to store without them and then you open up the possibilities for many many more CD players.
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Would be a shame to use all that high end gear on a format like MP3.
Marantz makes/made? a high capacity changer, and I feel would make a good transport. Sony as mentioned previously, or Denon. I can't say if any of these would really be an improvement on the Pioneer, as the Elite line is pretty solid, but if you got the time and money, try them out.
I'm interested in nearly the samething. I'm setting up a system for the kids playroom so they grow up hearing real music. Since the eldest is 3 yrs. old. Although she quite capable with the DVD player, I don't want them handling cds or have a bunch of jewel boxes floating around.
I'm going mid-fi; a used NAD C740($150), Ascend CMB 170s($300), and then I'm wondering who has the better transport in a sub $300 mega-changer to mate with a used DAC(around $100) from agon. In my case a 100+1 changer should be sufficent.
Murphthelab- Do you have connections for another component? If so maybe the solution is a nice single disc transport for yourself and still use the Pioneer for the disc storage and your wife.
Newbie13, you're right, I could connect a separate transport in addition to the Pioneer. The obvious downside is that many of the CDs I'll listen to are loaded and coded in the mega changer. So unloading and reloading will be a pain. Also, getting another box and component real estate is a sticky issue (DVD, big Krell, Tice power center, HT Receiver, BAT pre, Mega Changer, DAC). Running out of room...
We've got the lower end Pioneer mega-changer and did a spread sheet by both type(jazz,blues,roll-n-roll, etc) and alphabetical with the corresponding slot number. I can grab any CD I want out of it in seconds. And guests can scan our collection and pick something out. Best thing is no jewel boxes scattered around or shelving to store CDs just a file box with all the liner notes in alphbetical order. I did just get a burner so I can copy stuff for the cars and travel since that seems to be where/when CDs disappear.
Of course we did the "library" sheet when orginally loading the changer and setting up our sets.
If I ever build a system of your caliber I really think the mega-changer stays and I'll add a single transport.
Not to be pushing the idea of going the computer/hard drive route, but there are many lossless compression formats (or uncompressed wav's, for that matter) that allow you to output bit-accurate copies of whatever's on your cd to your dac. Can definitely fit into any audiophile system. Considering the costs of storage these days, I think it's definitely something Murphthelab may want to look into. He's already got the dac, and there tonnes of options out there, including some kind of distributed audio setup that would allow for playback on any of his three (?) systems without having to run back and forth with CD's. Also makes boucing from one cd or track to another pretty seamless, not that I've heard any mega changers...
It seems in high end audio, especially with the level of gear Murph is using great care is taken to keep the signal path as clean as possible to minimize distortion and any external noise from entering the line and being processed along with the audio. I also have read and am trying to learn more about the importance of a quality transport feeding an external DAC (an area I am trying to better within my own stereo).
As good as some of the sound cards are for PCs (I am very happy with my Extigy) I don't see how a computer feeding a DAC could sound as good as a quality transport. Not just from the conversion of the data to a format a PC can read (as you stated there are some very acceptable ways of storing audio on a hard drive) but the quality of circuits used by sound card manufacturers, the noise emitted by the processor, hard drive etc, the jitter control from sound card to DAC and the probable length of cable needed from PC to DAC would offer a significant hump to over come (also relating to length of cable, the sound card would have to put out a signal powerful enough to effectively transverse that much copper (dont know if fiber would provide a solution here)). I won't start the Microsoft bashing, but don't get me started on Media Player. Version 9 is cool, but still has issues (although it does decode HDCD).
With that in mind, I made my comment about the level of gear being used, roughly $10K, being too good for a computer as a transport. I plan on hooking up my PC to my DAC some day over fiber, but I highly doubt it will get much use.
Changers are great when coupled with a good DAC and de-jitter unit. I use a Sony ES 300 disc changer into a Perpetual P1/P3 combo and on into my SF Line 3. It all works quite well and gives me rapid access to loads of music.
The Sony changer has a 2-way remote so that all the disc information is available at my finger tips. I can spend hours randomly scanning and selecting music with the remote. For single play my DVP-S7700 serves as an additional input to the P1/P3. Also, with the Sony you can get the Nirvis S-link-e to drive several changers from a computer for mega-automation.
I guess the fun in all this is overcoming the obstacles, and the soundcard-dac route certainly has many. But I think it's getting to the point where many would be pleasantly surprised that computer audio is no longer strictly within the computer camp, but is making inroads in the audiophile community as well. Exact Audio Copies (eac) of cd data on quiet or remote hard drives, bit-accurate sound cards, liquid-cooled cpu's... And if the claim by the folk at Benchmark is true, that they have found a way of eliminating jitter (even over looong cable runs), it just opens up a whole bunch of new possibilities.
Of course, I'm saying all this with that certain brand of optimism that comes right before that anvil drops from the sky.
And as Perose says, the changers are pretty darned good at what they do. I don't know how good an alternative a diy hdd setup would be, but it's definitely an alternative. (There are commercial versions from Marantz and others, but the prices are out to lunch and you don't get the flexibility of your own computer.)
I am looking at the Benchmark DAC. Have you heard it by chance? If its all the reviews say it is, it will be a good buy at $850.
Have you seen the tubed motherboards being made now? There is a new version out that has top of the line components all the way. Someday when I have the money, I'll most likely set up a workstation on my home network dedicated for audio. maybe by then they'll integrate good audio with high performance (in terms of speed) and I can have a very nice audio system within my high performing desktop. Until then, I am pretty happy with my Extigy sound card, and like I said, I'm hoping to integrate the PC and stereo. I just need a long fiber cable (30+ feet)that won't break the bank. If you have any suggestions, I'd appreciate hearing them.
I don't know anyone who has the Benchmark DAC, and it's sold mostly through "professional" channels, so it's not all that easy to get an audition with home equipment (working on it though). I understand that they offer a 30-day if-you-don't-like-it-send-it-back kind of guarantee if you buy direct from Benchmark.
As for the tubed motherboard, I had read a review of the initial effort, and it got ok reviews. Mostly points for novelty and cool factor. Is it safe to say they've made improvements? (Honestly, I did think that it would be really difficult to make it sound good, 'cause as you said before, it's not the most sound-friendly environment in there!)
Cable-wise, I was looking into coax. If the Extigy has it, you might want to look into this guy's claims. At the prices, it seems like a good stop-gap until you find the right one, at the very least:
But again, the Benchmark hype seems to downplay the importance of cables used. (Could you imagine if they put out a separate box/card capable of totally eliminating jitter that you could use with the dac of your choice? That would make many, many people very, very happy.)