CD Player Integration into HT Setup

Am looking to upgrade the sound quality of 2 channel playback, however I am uncertain of the path to take in terms of what component of the HT setup to upgrade first. I obviously only want to upgrade if I am going to receieve a SUBSTANTIAL performance boost in the two channel arena. Current gear includes the Cal Audio 2500 DVD which is pulling double duty as the CD player. The DVD player is going through the Cal 2500 Surround Sound processor which in turn is going through the Cal 2500 amplifier. The front speakers are the Aerial 10 T's.

My question is do I go after a dedicated pre-amplifer first, or a dedicated CD player,. I'm looking to budget two to three thousand per purchase, but there will be close to a year gap between transactions as I simply do not have the discretionary income to pull the trigger against a pre-amp and a CD player.

Once again, I'm looking to realize a substantial and noticeable performance boost, but just not certain which path to take relative to the purchase sequence of the additional components. No issues at all with the HT side of the equation. Would be interested in hearing any feedback with any idea's/viewpoints.


You should get a much bigger bang for your buck by getting a 2 channel DAC (Digital to Analog converter), and use your existing DVD player as the CD transport.
I agree with Sugarbrie.

I am not familiar with that DVD player, but, a nice DAC would/could be a great starting point. Most probably the DVD player has at least two digital outs (usually an optical and a digital) so, make sure your Processor and new DAC can handle the required configuartion.

Very high quality DACs can be had for pennies on the dollar in the used market.

After that its somewhat of a tossup. Preamp, Processor, or maybe and a dedicated two channel amplifier. Typically, multichannel amps do not provide outstanding two channel performance. There are a few exceptions of course. I dont recall reading any poor reviews on the Cal Processors 2 channel performance. Frankly, some Processors do darned good 2 channel. Notice I didnt say great though.

I should say that, I have never literally heard any of the Cal gear. No dealers near by I guess. I have heard/read many praises for Cal's performance. Nonetheless, in order to extract maximum 2 channel performance you must have a complete 2 channel chain. i.e. Source + Pre or Pro + Amp. HT only setups usually compromise one or more of the links, so to speak. This is just my opinion of course.
Have not even considered the DAC converter....Getting back to my original premise, would the incorporation of the DAC drive a significant improvement of the CD quality in the existing setup. The Cal DVD unsamples CD's to 88kHz or 96 kHz utilizing the AES 3 PCM digital output. If you feel confident in the DAC delivering a major sound upgrade, any recco's?? Thanks for the feedback.

If you are looking for a large significant change, you might try a non-up/oversampling and/or tubed-output DAC. They may or may not be your cup of tea, but you should have no problem hearing a big difference. Buy at the right used price and resell if that flavor doesn't suit you. There are lots of choices in either/both camps, and at price points as low as $300.
Ken, since I have not compared, or even listened to your DVD players redbook performance, I cannot say that a DAC would "significantly" improve anything. I would post another thread, in this forum, asking opinions on the Cals redbook performance. I did read a few reviews of the CL-2500 DVD, it seems the consensus is that, it is a very capable CD player.

What cabling are you currently using? What about your current 2 channel sound do you want to improve?

You could also visit some local reatil shops and audition some. A lot of times the shop will let you bring one home to try it out. This is by far the best way to qualify potential additions.
Thanks again for the additional are correct in your assessment that bringing a unit home would be the best way to evaluate potential additions, however there simply are not any shops in or near Charlotte NC that carry higher end CD or DAC's. All of the interconnects are Cardas and Better Cable is being utilzied for speaker cables. At the end of the day I'll likely follow inscrutables suggestion of buying a used DAC, trying it and if I don't get the bang for the it.