CD player, audio out, discrete vs. op-amps..?


I am looking to buy a good used single cd player. Either redbook only or redbook and SACD.

I have not liked the sound of players using op-amps for the audio output stage. Am I wrong that discrete components in the output stage are better than op-amps, or are there exceptions to that thought?

Thanks
whatjd
"I have not liked the sound of players using op-amps for the audio output stage. Am I wrong that discrete components in the output stage are better than op-amps, or are there exceptions to that thought?"

I would prefer no op-amps, but there are so many different players out there, you may find an exception. Personally, I usually just listen to a component and make a decision based on that.
I prefer tubes in the output stage
Alan
Am I wrong that discrete components in the output stage are better than op-amps
I'd say yes, in general. How you are able to assign blame to a single component part in a device consisting of 100s seems problematic to me. Some op amps measure better than others and some are designed specifically for audio applications.
It's "possible" that the op -amp could play a role in what you hear. I've read that they rely on generous amounts of NFB. A discrete circuit can be designed with little or no NFB used. Just a generalization(other varibles as well at play). The best test is to listen and judge the individual players of interest.
I agree with all of the comments by ZD, Bob, and Charles, and Alan's suggestion of tubes is of course also well worth considering.

I would add another reason for the likelihood that a player having a well designed discrete output stage stands a good chance of outperforming one which utilizes an op amp-based output stage. Since a good discrete circuit stage will typically represent a more expensive design approach than an op amp-based circuit stage performing a similar function, it can be expected that the use of an op amp-based output stage signifies a likelihood that cost minimization was a higher priority in the choices of the design approaches and parts used in the rest of that design.

Regarding NFB, I agree with Charles' comment, and conceivably that may be a factor as well, but I'll mention that the feedback used in an op amp stage is typically "local" (i.e., confined to that stage), rather than "global" as it often is, for example, in power amps. Local feedback being less likely to have adverse sonic effects than global feedback, everything else being equal.

Regards,
-- Al
Al, I agree that your argument of choosing an op amp based on cost (and it's an indication of other choices made in the product design) is possible, but I'd say that other factors are just as likely.

The choice could depend on the market. In the audiophile market op amps have a bad rep, so marketing is going to push discrete regardless of other considerations (they can always recover the cost in this market). In the pro market, it doesn't seem to matter -- the specs are the specs.

Form factor could also come into play. I assume that a discrete design would occupy more board real estate than an op amp.

I recently read an article about the Pono player and that Charles Hansen did the electronic design.
The audio circuitry is fully discrete, meaning there are no integrated circuit chips of the sort used in every other portable music player. It's a bona fide high-end component.
And, of course, it has no feedback (global I assume). But, what if after all of this his circuit can't pass a hi-rez music signal? That's the goal of the Pono player and yet, it was never mentioned.
"I recently read an article about the Pono player and that Charles Hansen did the electronic design.

The audio circuitry is fully discrete, meaning there are no integrated circuit chips of the sort used in every other portable music player. It's a bona fide high-end component.

And, of course, it has no feedback (global I assume). But, what if after all of this his circuit can't pass a hi-rez music signal? That's the goal of the Pono player and yet, it was never mentioned."

"The PonoMusic Store uses FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) audio format as its standard, for compatibility, although the PonoPlayer can play most popular high-resolution music formats from other sources. PonoMusic has a quality spectrum, ranging from really good to really great, depending on the quality of the available master recordings:

• CD lossless quality recordings: 1411 kbps (44.1 kHz/16 bit) FLAC files
• High-resolution recordings: 2304 kbps (48 kHz/24 bit) FLAC files
• Higher-resolution recordings: 4608 kbps (96 kHz/24 bit) FLAC files
• Ultra-high resolution recordings: 9216 kbps (192 kHz/24 bit) FLAC files "

I got that off the Pono website. It looks like it will play high rez music.
Thanks to all for your input. My thoughts came to mind in remembering former CD players that I have owned that did not use op-amps and sounded better than op-amp based players.
This is like trying to judge how tasty a dish is based on if it uses domestic or Hungarian paprika in it.
ZD, of course it will play hi-rez files. That's not the same thing as the electronics being able to pass a hi-res signal cleanly. You'll note that JA has made somewhat subtle comments about such in his amplifier measurements over the last couple of years. And Benchmark is releasing an amp design to tackle just this issue. We'll see how it does on JA's test bench and whether the rest of the industry takes notice.
Op amps can sound great. There is really nothing wrong with them. If you want good sounding and relative affordable audio gear. Then op-amps work great.

As example the RCM Sensor Prelude phono stage. According to a well respected audio design engineer I spoke whom shall remain anonymous it does not matter what you use. As long as the implementation is done correctly. This mean that not all option can be used anywhere but it also means that you can never say: Op-amps/tube/etc is always the bad option.
Mordante,
I'd agree that there must be good sounding CD players/DACs that use Op amps and implementation is vital as always. It does seem that many designers attempting to aim for higher echelon quality sound do avoid Op amps and prefer discrete analog circuits in their place. We all can acknowledge that other design factors are important. I can't help but notice that as you climb higher into price/quality levels discrete circuit use is the dominant route chosen. Is this a coincidence or is there some correlation? I have to assume that this is done for a reason, designers must believe that it contributes to better sound.

I can't begin to make the claim that I've heard every digital player. I can only relate that the best sounding have all utilized discrete circuits. Mordante could you kindly list the Op amp based players that you've heard with very good sound quality?
Thanks Much,
Charles,
Charles,

You missed my point, sorry if I wasn't clear enough. I agree with you that the very top end audio equipment is mostly utilizes discrete circuits.

What I am trying to say is that op-amps have their place in audio. You have no idea what budget the OP has. So by just plainly discarding audio equipment that has op-amps. The OP might miss so good CD-players.

As far as I know the CEC TL51xr is not discrete and is a very good CD player, same goes for most Naim CD players.
I think we may have both missed the other's point.Whatjd made an observation about the better sound he's heard from discrete curcuit players. I can understand why he feels that way based on my own experience. You are correct, there's no stated budget. Depending on his budget some good sounding Op amp players could be serious contenders for him to consider. I hope that is more clear.When all is said and done, listening will determine his final choice rather than specific aspects of a player's design.
Charles,