Without buying a DAC (I assume from your previous thread that your CD player is up for grabs), the easiest way might be to get a decent 'interconnect' which converts the output to dual RCAs. I think Monster makes one and for some reason 'Stefan AudioArt' rings a bell. You might check the website.
I don't know what mods/accessories are available from RedWineAudio without getting a serious iPod-changing mod, but you could check there.
And IF your new CD player has a digital input (coax or BNC), you could get a HagUSB from hagtech (no affiliation, etc etc) and that would convert your PC's USB output to something your DAC could read. There are a few similar products out there.
Otherwise, as you say you are sick of your CD player and want to buy a new one for less than $1k, you might consider whether you actually need a CD player at all, or whether you could use your laptop into a HagUSB into a DAC of your choice for your future CD-playing (first you rip it, then 'play' it off the hard disk when you need to). And if you went down that route, there are plenty of USB DACs out there for around that dollar mark, which should be able to do your CDs ample justice (in which case you would not need the HagUSB (sorry Jim)).
All the iPod solutions but one still rely upon the less than stellar iPod DAC to convert the digits. Even the RedWine line-output option (which I believe renders the headphone jack useless (converts it to line-out), still uses the internal DAC. The one company out there taking the digital signal out of the iPod charges over 2K to do so, which is ridiculous IMO for a device that has a limited MTBF. I'm with T_Bone; get a USB DAC. There are plenty out there that will give your transport/player a run for its money. I like the Paraisea at around $600. Other options exist at the same pricepoint (Lavry, April Music, and others).
Are you running a line level output from multiplug at the bottom of the ipod or taking your signal out from the minijack at the top?
Things sound a lot better from the line level. If you are coming from the headphone minijack you are getting signal from the ipod's amp which is not too hi-fi to begin with and you add a layer of noise on top of things that way.
I go line level from my ipod into my hi-end system and it's not too bad for casual listening. Not a $1200 CD player for sure but then again you would be suprised how close the sound comes to one.
I use a monster RCA plug set-up that also includes the video out should I ever want to run to my TV.
I put all of my CDs into my 160gig ipod and leave it on shuffle. Like I said, for causual non-critical listening its the bomb.
After reading your post, I don't see an iPod listed at all? You do however mention that your laptop is connected to your system via the headphone output.
So, are you using an iPod or are you using iTunes output from your laptop? There's potentially a big difference in how to execute a good sounding solution.
If you don't want to buy a dac and have a 4th or 5th generation ipod, I would get it modded by red wine audio. I had a 4 gen ipod which I was listening through the line out. The sound was ok (rolled off top end, bass a little light and the sound was veiled). I bought a red wine modded 5 gen ipod and everything was better. It had tighter and deeper bass, airyer highs, more transparent and with more detail. You should check out the comments on head-fi.org for more info.
A simple step up in sound quality from your computer involves using a better connection cable from the headphone output. (This goes for the iPod too.) T_bone mentioned a couple, and I have had fun with the Zu Pivot.
Next step up (or skip right to it if you like) is an outboard processor (a DAC). You can get one with a USB input built-in, like the Apogee Mini-DAC, the Benchmark DAC-1, and lots more. You can alternatively use any DAC at all with a S/PDIF input, but in this case you have to buy another cable and another box--a USB converter--to link your DAC to your computer. The Hagerman HagUSB T_bone mentions is one such box, and there are more at different price points. The most upscale one I know of is the Empirical Audio OffRamp.
Personally I use an Apogee Mini-DAC without USB as my main converter. In the office I use an M-Audio Audiophile USB, because it also does analog-to-digital conversion. It is smooth-sounding but a bit short on detail. However it is still a good deal better-sounding than the computer's headphone jack, even with a Zu Pivot.
If you are talking about the sound of the ipod itself, then the easiest upgrade assuming you don't already have it is the newest generation ipods. I borrowed my friends new 160gb and compared it to my generation before that 80gb that I own and I was delighted at how much better the newer one sounds. My wife has a generation earlier than mine (hers is a 60gb) and my 80gb sounds much better. So if you are using an ipod that is older than 2 generations you may be in for a real treat by simply getting the newest one. They seem to be making them sound better each time.
For digital out from a IPOD to external DAC, the one company is MSB Technologies. The modify the IPOD so that this is possible and provide a specially designed cradle that has digital outputs and charges the IPOD. The IPOD can also used as an intractive remote control, sending its signal wireless to the cradle. Expensive but the best there is by far in terms of sound quality and convenience for IPODs.
I have an Onkyo docking station which seems to work well. Henryhk are you talking about a docking station? So from this thread I am getting that the next step up from the docking station is to plug your computer into your preamp? Excuse my ignorance (newbie) what is DAC?
DAC = digital-to-analog converter.
The iPod has one of these inside it already. The iPod's DAC takes the digital signal from the iPod's storage (hard disc or RAM) and converts it into an analog signal which can be sent to headphones.
A good DAC is hard to find in the mass market.
One way to improve an iPod's sound is to take the digital signal and send it to a different and better DAC, an external one. That avoids the so-so DAC inside the iPod. Then this higher-quality analog signal can be sent to a preamp.
Unfortunately, it is hard to get that digital signal out of the iPod. Both the signal from the headphone jack and the signal from the dock connector have already gone through internal processing and degraded somewhat. So a technician has to go into the case and install a new connection at a point in front of the processors (the DAC). That obviously costs money, but if it is properly done you can use an external DAC with your iPod.
WOW... Thanks... Lots to learn but good stuff!!! Anybody want to know about the human body, that I know!!! :-)
Following Tobias' explanation what MSB does is to modify an IPOD so digital out is possible via their dock, Note however with the modification, you lose Apple warranties.
Does MSB have a web sight or phone # . Where are they located and how much does this cost? Thanks
Here they are:http://www.msbtech.com/
A cheaper possibility: Red Wine Audio IMOD Ipod mod (http://www.redwineaudio.com/) and an Audio Line Out dock (http://aloaudio.com/index.html).
Are you specifically looking for a solution to connect an iPod to your system, or are you looking to improve the sound quality of the music collection you play from your laptop? Reading your original post it's difficult to determine which you need. You don't specificially mention connecting your iPod to your system, but you do mention the fact that your laptop is connected to your system.
So, do you want to improve the sound quality of digital music stored on your laptop, perhaps in iTunes, or do you really want to connect your iPod to your system?
To correct above post: Audio Line Out:Audio Line Out
Sammie, that is one of the weird things on the 'Gon... Multiple website links often get the same label even though they have different links.
Oh, OK....thanks. Nice system BTW.
Try this one......
With a decent DAC of course.