Just bought a transport... CEC TL1X, probably one of the best ever made...
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you will get a lot of right suggestions but, IMHO, there are 3 CDT to do your DAC really justice:
Metronome Technologie T2A Signature (Two Box)
Metronome Technologie T3A Signature (One Box)
Metronome Technologie T5a Signature (One Box)
"Ever notice how the computer server users talk about how the sound is as good or better than cd transports but you hardly ever see any of the used top cd transports for sale?"
Thats a very good point. To add to it, I do see a lot of server fans think its a better sounding way to go. In almost every case, though, they fail to say why. I'd like to hear a more detailed assessment on their part. Theres nothing wrong with having that opinion, but I wish they would explain in more detail.
For the money, you can't beat the PSAudio PerfectWave transport, IMHO. I've seen them used for as little as $1300. I've owned CEC and Meitner transports and auditioned Esoteric and Consonance transports and the PWT beat them all.
Its jitter and noise measurements are vanishingly low and I've not had a single issue with mine in three years. Both the CEC and Meitner transports developed either belt or lazer problems. The PWT is musical, affordable and reliable. You may find a cheaper transport, but you'll have to spend a great deal more money to best the PWT.
I've got an EAD T1000 (Pioneer stable platter) and have always loved it. It plays every redbook cd I can put in it. ST optical out and coax digital out. I recently put it away since getting a squeezebox touch so...It's for sale. 8/10 shape and remote. Had a parasound top load transport for awhile and loved it as well but it was finiky about certain burned disc's. Not the EAD. Let me know if anyone is interested in buying or trading.
The reason is because properly done computer based audio/transport is more 3D sounding. Every CD player or dac/transport I have owned sounds flat in comparison. The other big area of improvement is less, far less digiital noise. You don't even know its there until it is gone.These are the two big improvements found with properly executed computer based transports. Like turntables however everything matters and to achieve this sound one must read up and be educated.
The improvement was obvious and immediate to me based on my history with traditional digital. I was not a believer in computer based audio and held out mostly out of fear and ignorance to be honest. Well, I decided to stretch myself and the sound on the other sides indeed better, Yes, it takes work and effort and knowledge.
Those who have truly broke through universally experience what I have stated above. It will only continue to get better and better so go,ahead and start learning. A,aging sound and just as amazing convenience.
Transport and CD players still sound wonderful and I love them. I am just saying it as it is.
FYI, yes I have owned or listened to all of the top, most respected players like the top of line Ayre, Cary 306, $8,000 Esoteric, highly modified Sony SACD player etc.....had belt drive transports with very good dacs. Yes, they all sounded wonderful, but they take a back seat to computer based audio done right. I liked the Marantz SA7 and my TRL modified Sony the most for the analog type sound, but not as good as computer audio.
Steve of Empirical Audio can tell you the technical reasons and has done so numerous times in threads here on Agon. Read his stuff and learn. Great stuff and he has put in the hours to become an expert.
Agree with Vhiner, the PS Audio PWT is excellent. I`ve heard a number well set up computer front ends and some did sound quite good.None were any 'better' than the PWT.To be fair though the PWT is a memory based unit rather than a read on the fly laser transport. The sound is natural and right, music not hifi.
Get a 2009 Mac Mini and purchase a Mojo Audio power supply for it. Read up on how to optimize it for music only. Also, the Mini should only play music from the SSD drive. I got a 256 SSD drive for it. I paid $1400 total and the combo is killer. Killer!
I use my iPad as a remote and can find and play any song or album in seconds.
Use the Amarra version that Steve at Empirical suggests as it sounds best. It is not the latest release, but an older one.
With a good dac you are in business.
There is no question that CEC transports are good...I've owned and auditioned several. However, what you have to pay for their top-of-the-line models simply does not result in a decent "bang for the buck" when you compare what you can get with a PWT or a computer based source, IMHO. The CEC units' belts wear out and getting service for them is becoming increasingly difficult. I know because when my TL5100 developed a read out issue, I spent months tracking someone down who'd give a go at it without a schematic. I wouldn't pay more than $1500 for ANY stand-alone transport in 2013.