Better CD Sound: The Search

Went Big into Vinyl last 2 years, then re-discovered my many CD’s, mixing it up plenty now.

I continue to try and find a CD Player with better sound than my existing cheapo Sony Changer that surprisingly keeps on keeping on.

I am hoping recent upgrades to the system will more readily reveal differences:

99.9999 copper speaker wires and interconnects, locking rca connectors, mx110z tube tuner/preamp overhaul by Audio Classics; cayin a88t bias by VAS; 16 ohm L-Pads replacing 8 ohm pots; and finally a I bought a sound meter to balance/refine the speaker’s L-Pads (it ain’t easy) for the best sound ever.

CD Quest So Far:

I want dual processors, go used to keep cost down, even consider older vintage.

1. my Onkyo Grand Integra (DX-7500 I think), fixed the damn drawer opening problem several times.

2. This cheapo Sony Changer given to me, eh, use if for parties, why not.
surprisingly sounded as good as the Onkyo to me and friends, gave the annoying Onkyo away.

3. tried used Oppo 83 Video Player for it’s audio

Laser was weak, ’no disc’, found it is a common problem with heavily used lasers. Back it went

4. lightly used Oppo 105. Everything worked, but didn’t sound better than the Sony. Oppo is big, single, expensive, not sellers fault, so I sold it myself rather than return it, lost $205. on that attempt.

5. ’new original stock’ KLH (made by?). played a few discs, then the discs started mis-tracking on discs I know are ok.

found small black bits clinging to the surface in the area of the problems (cds play from the inside out, just guess how far out). Turned out, the belt(s) were dried out, thus when put into motion after years of storage (where?), they shed bits of rubber. Back it went, full refund including return shipping. never compared it to the Sony’s sound

6. Resolved: if vintage, make sure belts are available, get a low price, open it up when it arrives, watch it move ... use, replace belts, return as last choice.

7. Just Bought Two, in transit, One Single; One 6 Disc Changer. (both with oem remotes and power cords, most for sale are missing).

a. Denon DVD-2910 Single Player (big dent on the top. $52. del’d, eBay) (crutchfield keeps old info on their site)

b. Onkyo Integra CDC-3.4 six disc changer (open box/demo) ($51. delivered) (

c. a bag of belts. because I will be keeping something, and I have other old stuff with belts

d. spare rare OEM remote for Integra 3.4, eBay

Keeping My Ears Crossed!

Why not buy a DAC and use one of your CDP's as a transport?

+1 on the DAC.  CD players are transports and DACs under the same bonnet.  Transports matter but the DAC is the more important determinant of the sound.  If your current cheapo Sony has a digital out that would give you more $ to use on the DAC.  Upgrade the transport later as funds allow
Project Audio new transport using a completely new drive designed by the original Phillips designer is really something exceptional sound wise , if sound quality is what you are looking for.
At under 3K I can say with confidence it will put to shame a train load of streamers and servers ,…My reference server was the Evo Aeon at 3 times the price however though I returned the Project Audio RS2 back to the distributor I had it long enough for a good long listen .
Agree what you really need is a good DAC.  As you’re obviously a vinyl fan I’d heavily point you to R2R DACs as they tend to have more of that organic, natural sound to them.  I’m about to pull the trigger on a Musician Pegasus that’s $1100 new, and I’d encourage you to explore that option as well.  Best of luck. 
Soix this past weekend we listened to the Musician Aquarius dac with various sources a couple streamers / servers including the Project transport.
 The combination of the Aquarius and transport was the biggest surprise from the others that gave up using CD transports years ago 
I’m one in the strong belief it’s what your dac is fed that lights up the experience..
While I have purchased preowned audio gear, I am more hesitant on preowned CD players.   I too went through tray issue with an original purchase Integra Research CD/SACD player that had pretty light usage.  It was out of warranty and no longer sold when it went down.  I found local repair, but tray open/close issues came up again relatively soon, but still usable.
Parts availability such as lasers and trays, especially now, can be difficult on older units. I too have an older Oppo 83 SE, but primarily used it for Blu-Ray rentals.   I have currently moved to streaming music from ripped CDs to hard drives on my server and Qobuz, and also streaming video rather than discs.  I still have both the players, though currently not in use.  

I like the recommendations for using existing workable unit as transport to a nice DAC.  I do not have the same reticence on purchasing preowned DACs.  I have changed DACs and may explore putting the IR player back in rack and trying it as a transport as well.   Admittedly though, I am pretty hooked on the ease of use of streaming music and playlists rather than individual disc.
I tend not to buy used stuff that has a mechanical component. But it can really help leverage your buying power. You are fishing in the real low end of pond. Better sounding and more reliable is going to come from an old high end deck. Go to Stereophile and look at old recommended component brands.

My first jaw drop came from frustration from a highly rated (as if it were a high end product) Onkyo tape deck. I auditioned an ancient first generation Nakamichi tape deck… it completely blew the Onkyo away… as if the Onkyo was a plastic transistor radio. After that I realized the value of high end gear.

BTW, a CD player is a physical transport, Streamer, and DAC. The folks recommending using one of your current CD players for it’s physical transport and streamer and buying a better DAC can get you a sizable increase in performance. It can also be a stepping stone to improving all the pieces… eventually just going to streaming… a good streamer / DAC can sounds as good or better than a CD player. Your choice in paths.


"returned the Project Audio RS2 back to the distributor I had it long enough for a good long listen"

Your seem very impressed with it, what caused you to return it?
A good dac streamer combo like a Bricasti M3,M1, , Aqua , 
land others are great combo eliminating expensive servers and 2 less cables great design
Onkyo Integra CDC-3.4 six disc changer
I have an Onkyo DX-390 six disc changer, which is virtually identical to the Integra. I seem to recall the Integra is an up market version with better components. With considerable internal shielding around the mains and power supply it outputs a decent digital signal from the coax socket.

Mine's connected to the Denon AVC-X8500H coaxial input. The Denon is used as a Pre Amp only and I've also shielded the sensitive processing from the power supply. 
Charles I was very impressed with the RS2 with its carbon fibre floating mechanism and it’s playback sound quality, and the retail price for what you get is a absolute steel. 
However I got spoiled and lazy managing my music library using a server over the years . 
The distributors home i can see from my back balcony I asked if I can use the RS2 once again , playback as sensational as it is a transport is a tough sell .

Buy a smsl dac and a good optical.
If you already have a modern suitable dac buy a CD Transport.  I bought a Audiolab 6000 CDT and the Cambridge Audio CXC is also good. Tested both in store and in my system against CD players at least twice as expensive. Both were better IMO.
Denon has made some really great CD players over the years. You have to get their higher end lines though for them to really be high quality. A great CD/said player with 24 bit processing and amazon build quality is the Denon 3910. It’s maybe 15 years old, but was 1500 new then, and it can be found sometimes from $150-200 now. That player would destroy anything under $800 new today. Keep it simple buy a high end used CD player and rely on your preamp or the processing from the CD player for DA conversions. Don’t forget the high quality interconnects not came with my DVD player spares, yes it all makes a difference, some more than others but interconnects make a massive difference, if your downstream gear can reveal it.
I am using an Audiolab CDT6000 transport connected to a Denafrips Pontus II DAC and the sound is amazing! The Pontus which is an R2R ladder DAC has been a game changer for my system. The Pontus increased the soundstage, brought more airiness to the music and smoothed out much of the digital harshness associated with CDs. I have over 2.5k CDs so the Pontus was a great investment. I also run my Bluesound Node 2i streamer into the Pontus. I agree that having a great standalone DAC is an essential component for a digital system. The CDT6000 is also one of the more affordable CD transports currently available.
Yes to Denon. I’ve sold many over my audio sales days. And yes, definitely upper range for better, more natural sound. 
Currently auditioning an open-box Denon DCD-1600 - a pure CD/SACD player, no ins and outs, just a straight player with no frills. Retail of $1500. I found an open-box for $680, and it’s spotless. 
Anyone try out better SD Card Reader sound?

Over at 6moons, Srajan claims it's the best sound he's heard from any source. No more PCs and their noise, no spinning parts like a CD uses, and no added storage, streamers and what have you. 

The one he now uses is the S.M.S.L. SD-9 and he says it betters his previous Soundaware piece for less.

The only downside is the not so sexy UI that SD readers use but it's a great way to store entire groups, genres, etc. The collections made can be easily stored taking up little space. I may try this somewhere down the road after I get the Technics S-G700M2 instead of committing another $3K for a CDT.

All the best,
+1 on a good DAC and streamer

I've found equal to or superior sound quality without the need to invest in physical media and much more convenient to select songs from a playlist than getting up and loading CDs
+2 on the Audiolab 6000CDT plus a DAC.
Purchasing a used Luxman D-06u helped me to realize what I'd been missing with my Sony S9000ES, Audio Research CD-1, Pioneer Elite BDP-05, Cayin and even Oppo UDP-205 players.  A different class altogether.
I miss Integra Research.
Happy Listening!
Nice score on the Luxman D-06u.
Happy Listening!
Thank You for sharing your CDP history. The good news, is that, there is a plethora of Demo/Used upper tier spinners in the secondary marketplace.
Keep me posted on your purchase decision. Another +vote for purchasing CD players in 2021.
Happy Listening!

So bits ain't bits after all?
But surely they are; the biggest problem in digital is dither and clock corruption.

I have always wondered why someone doesn't build a player that reads the disc without using any clock, buffers the bits for half a second or so and spoonfeeds them to the DAC at nice even intervals using a separate clock?

Anyone technical know if this has been tried or why it won't work?

"Word" clocks. Time defines everything and the better the clock the better the sound from a given system. With out "clocks" there is no digital anywhere.
Okay, the convenience factor, I understand.  It was your comments (And those of other there)  on another thread that got my attention regarding the Pro-Ject RS2 transport.   When you wrote it sounds better than your 432 EVO Reference music server playing files or streaming. That is quite a compliment. 

I'm looking forward to hearing the highly praised RS2 transport in my audio system very soon. I believe many people underestimate the importance and contribution a quality CD transport (With over emphasis on the DAC). 
Did you find the difference between the wall wart and the optional linear power supply subtle (Yet noticeable) or significant?
If your are willing to use your existing player as a transport, I would urge you to consider external DAC like the Denafrips Ares2 (sub $800) or better models.  I love mine. If you are willing to replace your Sony player,  the Marantz SACD30n (~ $3K in USA) that sounds superb and is also an excellent network streamer and a very good DAC for other devices to connect to it !  It also plays SACD's flawlessly.  I am sure there are even better players / DACs out there but for the money, I believe these units I listed are hard to beat.  GOOD LUCK !
@clearthinker  " I have always wondered why someone doesn't build a player that reads the disc without using any clock, buffers the bits for half a second or so and spoonfeeds them to the DAC at nice even intervals using a separate clock?"

PS Audio has been doing something like that for quite some time, with their original CD transport, the current SACD/CD transport and the one it replaced.  It reads the bits off the disk, places them in a memory buffer then delivers them in a more "timing sensitive" mode to the DAC.  From what I've read, conventional CD players do some re-reads and corrections as part of the process of getting the bits off the physical disk, which apparently effects the timing of the bits arriving at the DAC.

Yes, "bits are bits", but what people who are digital audio experts say, the timing of those bits is crucial to the sound quality.

On a related note, yesterday I "pulled the trigger" and ordered the new PS Audio PST PerfectWave SACD Transport, taking advantage of their sale price, which is good through the end of October.  I currently own their previous model, the DMP and their DirectStream DAC.  From what I read, the PST provides a noticeable improvement over the DMP, especially for conventional CDs.
If you want to do something budget-friendly, I use my Sony Blu-ray player for a CD player.  The sound quality is a significant improvement over the Yamaha CD changer I had been using.  The issue is finding one that has RCA outputs, as most of the new ones only have an HDMI output.  I was lucky enough to find mine at Goodwill for $10, but I'm sure you could find a gently used one for just a little more than that.  And if it isn't to you're liking, you're not out much.
thanks everyone,

I will research the suggestions when I return home from this trip.

Let me clarify my goals,

I am never going to stream, not against it, just prefer hands on content. Thus all I need is L & R RCA out. Option: thru McIntosh mx110z tube tuner/preamp; or direct to Cayin A88T. I prefer the existing Sony thru the mx110z now. 

It seems to me these are the essential issues (combined unit drive/dac; or two units)

1. solid transport/prevent/eliminate jitter (some OEM’s have unique ’extra’ processing)
2. enough bits/oversampling for SACD (no need by me for ’extra’ for streaming bit rates)
both ordered units have 24 bit/192khz
3. dual processors, separate L/R for synchronized clocking, perfectly timed output
4. what dual processors?
the Denon 2910 I chose has Dual Burr Brown 1791s (not 1791A)
the Onkyo Integra CDC-3.4 I chose has Dual Wolfsons
5. single unit transport/dac(s) simplifies needed space, one remote, one set of interconnects.

I didn’t mention, but the existing Sony mechanism is getting noisy, I think either fix or discard.

IF neither of these beat the existing Sony, I have 3 systems, so the changer stays in main system replacing the Sony, or to the Garage/Basement and the Single Player stays main or to the Office.

IF either of these vintage units improve CD sound, Oh Happy Day, I stop searching

OR, same/equal to the existing Sony: I stop searching (after all they both will probably sound damn good);

OR, I go for ’super solid’ transport (Onkyo DX-7500 and the mentioned Luxman’s claim) and Separate DAC as most suggest.

What DAC? The Original Integra DX-7500; Oppo 83 and 105, and both of these choices have ’superior Dual DAC’s inside.

Reminder: no streaming.

thanks again everyone,

Charles the RS2 came with the upgraded power supply , I understand from Terry London’s review he used the LTS power supply that made a even bigger difference with playback . Side by side comparisons with the Evo Aeon and RS2 were remarkably similar in performance, I sold the Evo Aeon and returned the RS2 , my eye is on a Innuos Statement , ,.a previously enjoyed one that is . 

You are right in regard to how the P.S. Audio PWT functions. I've had mine for 9 years and it has been reliable and has excellent sound quality. I saw the special OCT pricing for the current SACD/CD model. Tempting, but I have no interest in SACD just Redbook CD.

I really like the idea/concept of the Pro-Ject CD BOX RS2 transport. single minded focus and dedicated to CD only function at a very high level. Reports and positive owner feedback certainly seem to confirmed this is successfully achieved. An  upper tier no nonsense CD transport. I'm sure the new P.S.Audio transport is terrific as well.
Sorry you sold the 105. Yes with the oem power supply it is merely ok, but aftermarket linear power modules are readily available on ebay @ ~ $250 (also recommend the replacement IEC and jumper to bypass the 110/220 switch), both are fairly simple DIY PNP. It took my 105 to a much higher level of enjoyment, though I only use it for SACDs and DVD-As. I left the cover off and use a el cheapo air con filter on the top

I have an Audiolab 8200CD and I like it.
But not sure this model level is available anymore.

It is best described as a dedicated DAC with a transport attached to it. It has 32-bit dual differential DACS and a pure class A analogue stage. You can choose different playback contours as well. You can also play back with the display lighting off. If the transport goes down, I can use it as a dedicated DAC.

It takes a little longer to spool up as it takes a few seconds to commit some of the music to a buffer. So it will play some CDs that my old Sony wouldn’t.

I can connect a laptop or thumb drive to it.
And it’s been reliable for some time now...I think I bought it in 2011.
Charles I agree the R2s- Transport with a newly developed mechanism by the original developer of the Philips CD drives and mechanisms will not turn your transport or player into a door stop anytime soon .
Jays Audio a heavy weight contender of today’s CD transports have bought up scores of remaining obsolete Phillips CD drives and lasers for their own production .
Chatting with CD transport die hards that settled with the Jays Audio CDT 3 tell me it lays waste performance wise to pretty much any yesterday player and transports.
PS Audios new PerfectWave at 6K that would be interesting to compare ,
The Jays Audio CDT3 CD transport at $2,700.00 with recommendations of purchasing a replacement drive and laser for possible failure down the road and then the Project Audio RS2 T transport with after market LTS power supply at $3,700.00 including transport with sound quality performance and the reliability of a completely newly designed CD mechanism from an industry leader in developing drives and mechanisms found in most players and transports that were ever built .
I think most anyone would be genuinely surprised at the sound quality one can achieve with this transport with a starter high performing dac at $ 2600.00 such as the one I listened to over the weekend, the Musician Aquarius R2R dac .

I have read PS Audio's price reduction/sale at $3,999 on the PST (PerfectWave SACD Transport) has been extended past the end of this month to the end of the year.
I am never going to stream, not against it, just prefer hands on content
@elliottbnewcombjr — Hey Elliott, I think I’m the one who clued you into the whole wonderful HT Bypass thing and I think you found that to be a bit of an epiphany, so I’m gonna throw you another one here if you trust me. If you think the HT Bypass trick was beneficial, then streaming music is that on steroids. Why??? Not so much for the convenience, but more for the WHOLE WORLD of music you now can play at your fingertips. You’re no longer limited to what discs you have, you literally have access to most of the music IN THE WORLD, and a LOT of it is in hi-res, which will likely surpass your enjoyment over getting up off your arse to change the silver disc. I spend about 17 bucks a month on my Qobuz subscription and it’s the happiest money I spend every month. PLEASE, don’t close yourself off to streaming. Honestly, it’s the biggest upgrade I’ve ever made because I’m enjoying listening to new music now more than I ever enjoyed listening to my own stuff. I fact, I never spin discs anymore because I can find 90%of them on Qobuz, and many of them are available on hi-res,which I don’t have on disc. Fact: I’m having more fun listening to and discovering new music more now than I ever have before. Hey my friend, don’t close yourself out to streaming — could be the best upgrade you ever make.

+1. Absolutely. Whole worlds of music… for the same price as a CD per month. A complete revelation. Now instead of bouncing around my collection, I can explore the entire world of music.
I love my streaming digital front end and have gone to great lengths and expense to have it sound as good as possible. However, I have several audio friends with ears and opinions I trust that say a great transport still sounds significantly better. So I decided to buy a used PS Audio PWT to compare for myself in my current system. It will feed a Mojo Audio Evo dac.

I will compare this to my tricked out Innuos Zenith 3 server fed by Network Acoustics ENO ethernet cables and ENO ethernet filter. I also use an English Electric Switch 8 powered by a nice LPS. My modem/router is also powered by an LPS.

If the transport sounds significantly better to my ears, then I will use it for critical listening sessions. The other 80% of the time I will continue to stream and listen to all kinds of wonderful new artists and music. If the transport sounds about the same or worse, then I will sell it. I just have to try for myself again.  Too darn curious!
Bill (@grannyring)

"If the transport sounds significantly better to my ears, then I will use it for critical listening sessions. The other 80% of the time I will continue to stream and listen to all kinds of wonderful new artists and music. If the transport sounds about the same or worse, then I will sell it. I just have to try for myself again.  Too darn curious"

Common sense idea/plan from you (As usual).  I see absolutely no reason why the two digital approaches can't easily coexist if one desires that option.  On many audio  interest threads if inevitably seems to devolve to 'my way is better than yours'. I have zero doubt that splendid sound quality is available with either format. 

I utterly enjoy having a substantial CD collection and listening to them often and with immense pleasure. Thus the Pro-Ject RS2 Transport  holds much appeal. Yet I can thoroughly understand another listener's attraction and preference to stream their music. No need to be a "Hatfield versus McCoy" scenario . Bill glad you were able to find a used PWT.  Very fine transport in my opinion. 
With today’s audio products one can easily find CD Players that sound better than a Streamer / DAC combination, the reverse as well. It is a question of the component(s) choice and the system you are plugging them in to. My streamer sounds as good as my CD player, often better because of the higher resolution of the files available through streaming. This can be true at different price levels.

But the important point is that CD Players do not inherently sound better (no fundamentally different principles involved)… it is essentially the same technology packaged differently. The cost of achieving this is highly varied due to the number products out there.

What you choose should be based on what you enjoy (if you like handling discs, how much music you want access to… etc), your time horizon, and how good you are at choosing system components (a CD player is one box) a Streaming solution is typically two. The future is streaming… if that is important to you, then you weigh these things and choose we’re to put your money.
Another owner of the PSA PWT here. I haven't played a CD in a while because with streaming it's so easy to find new music and also play back from the library I've created. Having said that, I still love physical media such as my 1000+ CDs. Both technologies can coexist.

The only negative I've found with streaming is with remastered versions of albums. Some have been remastered countless times and in the case of Tidal and Qobuz, you rarely have a choice between an original recording or a remaster. I can always play a CD if it's a well mastered version vs. the one offered by the streaming service. Plus, there are rarities on CD I like to collect such as Japanese pressings.

But, that's me, I like to have both options and with the high quality of Qobuz and their ever growing library, plus the recent price reduction please keep an open mind about streaming in the future.
I must add that the SQ of Redbook is extremely high when pairing a good dedicated transport with a DAC.

What’s important to me is really two things.

1) Sound quality is paramount. I want to have as much realism as possible in my home system.

2) Finding new artists I enjoy on an ongoing basis. 
I may need both streaming and CD spinning 😊.  We will see based on my system.  

As you may remember, I did own the PWT before. I thought it had a very easeful sound that was supremely enjoyable. I bet the new transports, getting the rave reviews, offer improved resolution and such. However, I wonder if they offer that same natural fluidity? Perhaps. I don’t know.

I wanted to buy a Jay’s, but for my comparison purposes I wanted to stay under a certain budget used.
Better CD Sound: The Search

For starters get a good transport and good Discrete R2R dac, for the best CD (pcm) redbook conversion replay 16/44 or 24/96, as it’s "bit perfect". Delta Sigma based dac’s can only give a facsimile of PCM.

Then purchase CD’s that have not been compressed (usually 1st issue), search here for those.
Most later re-issues have been compressed.
Except some, but they command big prices $80 ebay used as this 2019 uncompressed Japanese one at the bottom.

Cheers George

"However, I wonder if they offer that same natural fluidity? Perhaps. I don’t know."  

Bill that's exactly why I've held on to my early generation PWT so contently the past 9 years,  natural and realistic music presentation. I've been led to believe that the new  Pro-Ject takes this coveted quality a step or two further.  We shall see.
Thanks erj1953.

If this PS player is well implemented I would guess it's going to sound really good.
When it is delivered, I'd love to hear how you find it.
Pleeeezzze do post!

And thanks for the nudge @azwill.   I wonder what the price is over here in Blighty.  It's usually £ for $ on US equipment.

It's just a pity that SACD has never really caught on.  There are less and less new releases.  The catalogue has been way too small,
But I had to buy a player when Dylan's 60s 70s and early 80s output was re-released on SACD after Sony bought the Columbia back catalogue. A must buy.
I find many of those discs are as good as my pristine original edition LPs.  Or better.  And waaayyy better than the badly transferred CDs.  The Sony Gold Blonde on Blonde CD nobly excepted.  Hard to get now.l

I don’t know what happens to the Bryston BCD-3 now that its chip manufacturer has burned down, but I can vouch that the player is superlative and at a slip under four grand a worthy value. I LOVE it. What no one on here has mentioned is a little piece of magic that will turn all those cheap CD players mentioned into a lovely performer, and that’s the addition of the LC Audio ZAPfilter MKII ( and the LC Clock XO3 ( In the grand scheme of things, these products are not expensive, but I defy anyone to say the results using them were not shockingly good.
Some may have missed the fact that I had bought two used players, one a Single, other a Changer

a. Denon DVD-2910 Single Player (big dent on the top. $52. del’d, eBay) (crutchfield keeps old info on their site)

b. Onkyo Integra CDC-3.4 six disc changer (open box/demo) ($51. delivered) (

that’s a total of $103. incl tax and delivery and both come with OEM remotes.

Denon arrived last evening, plugged it in, it recognized a SACD and CD on it's own. I will be listening this afternoon or tomorrow. Top dent out of sight, otherwise new looking.