Confused About Relative Sonic Impact of DAC VS. Transport

I've borrowed a Heed DT Transport to use in place of my Jollida JD100 CDP and am confused by what I'm hearing. 
My DAC is R2R ladder/non-oversampling Aqua La Voce. With Jolida in system, the sound is on the warm side of neutral without verging into tube-like, euphonics. With the Heed transport, all I seem to notice are the liabilities of every CD I play. 

If the Heed is more efficient at reading data from the CD than the Jolida, does this mean I am hearing the effect of the DAC more clearly, or am I hearing the effect of more information from the disc?

At first, I enjoyed the increased resolution, but with further listening, the sound, overall, strikes me as "thin" (as though lacking lower mids) and the highs verge on fatiguing. 

Switching out footers has some effect, as does tweaking my Schitt Loki EQ, but I'm still not very happy.

Excuse my French, but WTF is going on, here ?

BTW, John Darko, when reviewing the Aqua, recommended it as a particularly good choice for harsh-sounding CDs. 

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. . . not that I favor harsh-sounding CDs. The point is, as many undoubtedly know, R2R ladder DACs are not renowned for being overly "clinical/analytical". 
elizabeth: thanks for your suggestions. 

1) Heed transport is used and very well broken-in
2) AC power happens to be very clean
3) You could, however, be onto something with the cable-- I'm using a cheap Blue Jeans coax. I will try another cable.

Trying to figure out "why" or "what" is going on will only drive you crazy. Ultimately, does it even matter? Really? How? How does it matter? Right. Only thing that matters is how it sounds. Why and how and what is going on, these are questions for designers. Are you gonna buy something that sounds bad because you like how it works? Really? So forget all that, go with what engages and satisfies you musically. All else is noise.
millercarbon; I think perhaps you misunderstand me. I'm not pursuing an existential question, here; I'm trying to ascertain which component(s)  is/are responsible for the change in my system's sound, so I can make adjustments. 

If I don't know how each component is affecting the overall sound, the process of making adjustments is very difficult. . . akin to tossing (insert food item of your choice) against a wall to see which one will stick. 

Is the increased resolution of the Heed transport uncovering unappealing aspects of CDs that the Jolida did not reveal?

Did the Jolida disguise to some degree the inherent character of the DAC in a way that the Heed is not?

My goal is to replace the aging Jolida with a transport and maintain the sound I've been enjoying; I belive this is consistent with going with "what engages and satisfies (me) musically", to borrow your terminology! 

The best transport is no transport.  Rip your disks and let your DAC play at its best.
Your Jolida has not been revealing the true recording. It may be introducing noise or jitter, the result may sound like colourations.
Each S/PDIF cable will present the sonics differently by their design, build quality and materials used in the cable,  even cable length. The goal is to control jitter being passed from transport to DAC.

Footers and vibration control on both components also contribute to optimal SQ.

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lowrider: re: jitter, I have an Empirical Audio Synchromesh re-clocker in the system.

I've tried various footers under the Heed transport and haven't had much luck because each CD I play sounds so different. One type of footer may improve the presentation with one CD only to make a different CD sound worse. Maybe this equates to fun for some-- not so much for me. 

I do agree that the Jolida was affecting the sound, as there was much greater consistency from one CD to the next. 

I've borrowed a Cardas coax to try instead of the inexpensive Blue Jeans coax I've been using and will see how that affects the system.

Elizabeth-- to be honest, I have no idea how long it's been since the Heed was regularly used but I'd guess at least several months. . 
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Don’t forget that the preamp and amp play a role. If they’re both solid state, they might contribute to the ’thinness’ - along with ’bright’ cabling. The EA synchro-mesh is an excellent product. With it hooked up, the problem definitely lies elsewhere in your system.

When you say that the AC power is very clean, don’t forget that both the transport & DAC are spewing digital noise backwash into the household circuitry. Is there any type of power conditioning on those components?
Once you reach a certain level of transparency in the system, all of the cables become very important. It seems to me there is always a bit of trade off between getting a high level of detail, yet retaining warmth and liquidity so many of us enjoy.

In general, and I mean very general, I have found the following to be true. Power cords can be very important, particularly the cord to the DAC. Try to avoid nickel plated connectors anywhere in the signal path. Silver, silver plated, and rhodium cables/connectors can add detail and air, but can “thin out” the sound, and lose some warmth (mids and bass). Copper and gold can be your friends. Gold plated connectors will add warmth. A power cord with a connector like an Oyaide P-079 might suit the DAC.

I have not listened to a Blue Jeans digital cable, so I can’t comment on it. But, I listened to a number of digital cables and they all sounded different. I ended up with not so cheap Jorma digital cable as it was the first cable in my system that rendered high details, was not grainy, and had some warmth.

Audio Bacon has a nice writeup on some digital cables. The article includes the Audio Art cable you mentioned previously (looks very similar to the DH labs cable I suggested with better connectors).

With the newer Heed transport it’s more than likely you won’t need to use the reclocker. The reclocker can’t necessarily fix the sonic characteristics of various cables. Different digital cables will sound different, and not just due to jitter. Also some CDs just sound better then others. Depends on the recording and mastering.

The Cardas digital cable may help. Cardas has a reputation for having warmer sounding cables.

steakster: I have a Wells Audio majestic integrated-- definitely on the warm side and runs in class A for the first (?) watts (don't recall). It definitely doesn't sound "thin". I was using a Jolida tube integrated and I tried a few SS state units that all sounded thin and sterile (including Parasound Halo, which is supposed to be great). The Wells is excellent.

I'm very sensitive to bright cables. I'm using Audio Art SC-5 SE speaker and what was, a couple years ago, Audio Art's top of the line Power cables. IC's are Audioquest Cheetahs. The cable from Synchromest to DAC is Steve's own bnc. 

No-- I'm not using power cond. A friend who was a PS Audio dealer brought over one of their big regeneration units and it made no audible improvement. He said I said "really clean" power.

This doesn't mean that "backwash" isn't occurring. How does one deal with this issue?
steakster: oops-- typo-- should read: he said I HAD "really clean power". 


The challenge of retaining detail without fatigue and warmth without congestion is a familiar one, but my approach has always been to sacrifice detail for liquidity. Because my ears are really sensitive to highs,  I suspect I'm probably more content with a less articulate top end than many others. 

Having said that, when I first put the Heed into the system, the first thing I noticed was increased detail. And I really liked it! It wasn't until I'd done a lot of listening that I gradually became aware that the sound was, in fact, fatiguing. Funny how the brain can be so fixated on X that it doesn't even register the presence of Y.  

I will have to pull out the paperwork on my power cords (Audio Art's top of the line at the time of purchase), as I don't recall their metallurgical composition. I remember that they were available in two different configurations and the first one I tried resulted in what I can only describe as "smearing", so I went with the other and have been happy with them. 

The Audioquest Cheetah IC's are silver and worked very well when the Jolida was acting as transport. Maybe I ought to try switching THEM out. 

As it happens, I'm familiar with the Audio Bacon coax shoot-out. The adjectives the reviewer employed for the cable I've ordered: "liquid, dense and weighty, bloom-y, almost tube like, warmth that's more gold than silver", etc. all suggest a potential for compensating for what I'm currently not liking about the system.To what degree it will compensate remains to be heard. A buddy loaned me a Cardas coax which sounds only somewhat better to me than the Blue Jeans. I'm hoping the A.Art will have much greater impact.

If it does not, I'll consider trying a different power cable for the DAC. 

I may also try another transport. The Simaudio Neo 260T is in my price range and Sim has agreed to let me return it with no penalty if I don't like it. 

Finally, I am painfully aware that some CDs sound better than others. I  weed out the worst offenders as well as research which masterings are thought to be best.  

jbmack75: the thought of simplifying the equation and going back to a CDP has certainly crossed my mind ,lately. . . and more than once ! 

However, it seems likely that I will end up with a server once whatever I'm using to spin discs bites the dust, so hanging on to the DAC seems fiscally prudent, rather than selling it at a loss. 

OP: You have a very nice system. It definitely should be sweet sounding. Any items provided by Steve Nugent should be top-notch.

It’s the nature of all digital components to backwash noise into the circuitry. Whenever you hear glare on a vocalist’s high notes - or an acoustic guitar that sounds excessively reverberant - it’s most likely caused by dirty power. A room with hard walls, hard floors, minimal furniture can make it sound worse. And as @mooglie mentioned, certain metals in cabling can greatly exacerbate any harshness. I got rid of all cabling and connectors that have the metals that he pointed out.

Re: power conditioners. Visit the AudiogoN discussion archives for ideas. Conditioners come in all different types of designs and price points. It takes patience to understand what is affecting what. Never mixing analog and digital components on the same circuit was a huge learning moment.

It took me several years of tweaking and cable swapping to get the sound that I was looking for. Curiously, when my system started sounding really nice, the bad CD’s didn’t sound that bad anymore. Actually, many were quite listenable.
steakster: my system does indeed sound sweet with the Jolida CDP functioning as transport. 

My aim in replacing the Jolida, which is about 10 years old, with a dedicated transport was to prolong my ability to spin CDs.  I have no desire to burn all my discs and interface with my system via a tablet. I guess I'm old-fashioned-- I like physical media.

However, replacing the Jolida with the Heed has taken me far far away from the enjoyment I was accustomed to with the Jolida.

I'm beginning to feel like I'm tying myself up in knots in an effort to make the Heed work. Maybe it's just not the right component and I should try a different transport-- the simaudio 260T, for example. 

"do agree that the Jolida was affecting the sound, as there was much greater consistency from one CD to the next. "
"At first, I enjoyed the increased resolution"

good high end transport designed to be more revealing and detailed
That’s meaning that there is no consistency between one cd to another and you should hear more details because good transport extract more details and resulition , bad recording cd will sound terrible and good recording will sound spectacular this is what good hi end designed to do. I think your Jolida wasn’t good enough so all your cds sounded consistent with low relatively resolution but
the ’thin’ and fatiguing sound of the Heed I suspect is because maybe this transport is not in a good synergy with your system and / or upgrading your coax and rca cables is a must and/or the Heed is not good enough transport.
I have the Simaudio 260T it’s a remarkable transport first I bought it there was nothing special after a long break-in its sound is so natural and analog I am not missing my vinyl collection anymore,.You should consider also the CEC TL5, Jay CD transport and Cyrus CD T all remarkable transport options.

@stuartk , a nice system. I agree that since you’re using the Synchromesh and Steve’s cable there shouldn't be any jitter issues. I mentioned it earlier, vibration control is important to the dac and the transport, either with footers or cones in combination with a platform. Some components respond well to mass loading. 
Power cords for digital devices have a tremendous influence on sonics. You should be auditioning different PC’s since they will impart their own sonic signature to the component. Shielded cables are preferred according to many designers.
My big question to you is, are you using a linear PS on the Synchromesh or the stock wall-wart?

And as stated by others, separate power to analogue and digital is recommended. It will help reduce the noise generated by digital devices that can contaminate the mains. I’m not sure if you’ve installed dedicated lines, but the digital sources should be on an isolated power strip or conditioner with filtering.

In my digital setup every time I swapped a PC or SPDIF cable there was a change to the SQ and timbre of the music.

It seems like you are swapping the S/PDIF coax from transport to Synchromesh. Just for kicks, try replacing the Empirical coax with a quality cable and see how this affects sonics. 

lowrider; I can certainly try that but I won't have another quality digital cable until the middle of next week. Thanks for the suggestion.
lowrider: sorry-- didn't see your question. . . I'm using the stock wall-wart.

You might try a Belden 8402 interconnect.  They can be picked up pretty cheaply on e-bay.
itzhak-- I have one more coax to try next week, then I will order the sim transport. I've wanted to try the 260T for quite some time but until yesterday, was unable to locate a dealer willing to offer a return policy on it. BTW; how long was the "long" break-in ? ? ? 

lowrider57-- No dedicated lines. I have two outlets and an audiophile power strip at my disposal. To be honest, I never paid attention to what was plugged in, where. It could very well be that analogue and digital are "currently" mixed up. Components are sitting on a fairly massive, built-in book shelf unit, not a rack, which means I have certain limitations regarding cable arrangement but I will definitely see what I can do about this. 

In terms of footers, I've tried old-style Stillpoints, Cardas blocks, EdenSound brass and nothing under the Heed and none of these have yielded consistent improvement, as CD SQ with the Heed is all over the place. I haven't tried mass-loading. 

I'm using the same Audio Art power cord on DAC, Integrated and Transport. I can ask my dealer friend what I might be able to borrow. 
Good power cables are not exactly cheap and as the Heed is the only transport I've tried, so far, I'm reluctant to invest a lot of money into the system to accommodate it, without trying another transport first. 
mooglie-- what is it about the Belden that you believe might be helpful ? 
Have you tried a good optical cable instead of the coax cables you've been using with the Heed transport? I'm currently using a Sony CD player as a transport, but it does not have a SPDIF output so I'm using a Lifatec glass Toslink. The sound is very good and not harsh at all. Just another possible option to help narrow down the cause of the fatiguing sound you're experiencing.
sdl42-- No but I can see if I can borrow one. 
The Simaudio 260T needs about 200 hours break in period but my impression is that you'll hear immediately that it's better than the Heed.
SPDIF cable is inferior to coax I don't recommend to change it but quality coax and rca cables are a must to allow your system to perform at its best.
There are actually more transports out there than you might think--they don't receive an enormous amount of promotion, because of the trend toward streaming, but they are available.  A number at different price points have been discussed in a couple of fairly recent threads.  See what a search for CD transport brings up.  In theory, each and every one will sound at least a little different from the others.  I'd be kinda inclined to try the Bel Canto.
Well, you have a lot of silver and silver plated cabling in the system which can tend to highlight the upper end.  The Belden is supposed to be "musical" and "tonally rich".  I have not tried it, but many have.  I think you may need some more copper in the system.  Gold, too. 

 Look at your power cord and see if it's a rhodium (silver) or gold connector(s).  Rhodium can tend to sound a bit hard and thin out the mids - at least in my experience.
twoleftears: the limiting factor, other than my budget, is the fact that I'm only willing to buy what I can return. RE: Bel Canto transports, reviews I've read have characterized them as being on the bright side, which is definitely not the direction I'd want to go. I briefly considered buying the old Bel Canto transport with the top-loading pro2 drive,built like a tank,  but the seller offered no returns and I wasn't willing to gamble, especially given what I'd read in reviews about the sound. 

mooglie: they are rhodium. I'd originally purchased the gold version but the sound was smeared with the Jolida in the system and Rob Fritz let me exchange them for rhodium. My system was really nice sounding until I replaced the Jolida with the Heed. An audiophile buddy with a very expensive vinyl system said mine was the only digital system he'd heard that he actually enjoyed. If Jolida was still making the JD100, I's just buy another as a back-up. Too late for that, now and Jolida no longer has any drives in stock.

itzhak1969-- per your advice, I was able to re-arrange cables. 

Now the integrated has its own own audiophile outlet to itself

The other outlet is supplying the DAC and the Cullen Power Box.

I've got the Transport and the 2 wall warts (for the Synchro-mesh re-clocker and Schitt Loki EQ) plugged into the Cullen. 

My first impression, having listened to several good-sounding CDs I habitually  use for evaluation purposes, is that the SQ is now smoother than it was before the cable re-arrangement. In fact, the sound of these CDs is now very close to what it was with the Jolida.  

I will have to do more listening to verify this impression, but it seems promising. ;o)

. . . or was it lowrider57 who first suggested separating digital and analogue cables? I'm starting to lose track of who's said what. Whomever it was, I appreciate the suggestion. 
mooglie: in response to your suggestion that I might need "more copper in the system" I've ordered a set of Audio Art Statement IC's.

Although some CDs responded well to running analogue and digital cables to separate outlets, I'm still hearing fatiguing highs with other CDs that were not evident with the Jolida. 

Perhaps swapping out the silver Audioquest IC's will address this.   

@stuartk , yes, there is a benefit to isolating digital from analogue. Well done.

You probably know that wall-warts are an inferior power supply. They introduce noise into the signal path and have a greater chance of contaminating the power line and other components.
I asked about how you were powering the Synchromesh for two reasons. The first is due to the noise factor of the wall-wart. The main reason is performance. A linear PS will provide clean regulated power, thus improving performance. It may also improve the leanness coming from the transport. 
 Every time I have upgraded a wall-wart to an LPS, the result was increased SQ; eg, better dynamics, imaging, soundstaging. When you’re ready to upgrade, may I suggest a Swagman Labs LPS as a high quality affordable PS. I’m using an upgraded unit on my reclocker.

Changing to copper conductors in your cables is worth trying.
You’re making progress trying to improve the sound of your digital, but after all is said and done, your best move may be to try a different transport. For the CD format which is supposed to be dying, there are many new transports coming to market.

Good morning, lowrider57:

Thanks for recommending Swagman. Their units are certainly more affordable than others I've looked at. Still, I'll have to see how things shake out. I hadn't anticipated having to buy new IC's and my budget for audio is relatively modest. 

I'm not going to bend over backwards in order to accommodate the Heed, especially knowing that I can order the Sim 260T and return it if I'm not happy. Yes; I realize there are a variety of  transports out there, but I'll only consider purchases that include a return policy. Demoing gear in showrooms is a form of gambling I can't afford.  

Thanks again for your input. 

"I’m still hearing fatiguing highs with other CDs that were not evident with the Jolida. "

The Heed is much better than the Jolida I suspect it is more revealing on bad recordings
, One of the characters of bad recording is bright highs which causing the fatiguing sound I am not sure that it’s because something is wrong with your current system this is the price you have to pay when you are improving your system ! after I upgraded my system unfortunately many CDs can not be heard anymore because they were recorded badly. However @mooglie is right with his response Silver might add more brightness to the sound and for most systems copper cables are better. Silver cables are better for systems that suffer of too worm sound and not enough resolution.
itzhak: for most of the Jolida's lifetime, I used it as a CDP, which meant its tubed preamp influenced the system's sound. Furthermore, I used it for many years in conjunction with a tubed Jolida integrated, so you'll  understand how brighter cabling was appropriate. 

Replacing the Jolida integrated with the Wells SS only improved the system. Likewise, when I added the Aqua Dac and began using the Jolida CDP solely as a transport, everything was still very well balanced. In fact, it was the best sound I'd ever achieved. 

It wasn't until I introduced the Heed transport into this system that problems arose. I'm willing to try some different cables, but if that doesn't 
work, I'll abandon the Heed and try the Sim 260T. 

Resolution is not and has never been, my top priority. More than any-thing, at this point, my aim is to extend my capacity to spin CDs.
Given the age of the Jolida and since I already have a nice DAC, it made sense to me to look for a transport, rather than a CDP.  Although I enjoy the added detail presented by the Heed, I'm rapidly losing patience with trying to compensate for its rather analytical character. if new cabling doesn't do the trick, I'll move on to the Sim. I can only hope the latter is less extreme in terms of resolution!

Ordered a pair of copper Audio Art Statement IC's today.

Will report back once I've listened to the A.Arts' in the system. 

  If they don't tame the Heed's penchant for uncovering sonic nasties,
I'll order the Sim.
Have decided to order the Sim 260DT to try out.
Just started running in Sim. Right away, the thin, overly bright sound I heard with the Heed is gone. I've since found out the previous owner was using it in a tube-powered system, which makes more sense.

The presentation is much more robust. PRaT is very good. Needless to say, this is just an initial impression. We'll see how it develops. Monday, the copper IC's are due to arrive and they'll be compared to the silver Audioquests.  
Have decided to keep Moon transport. Thanks to all who offered suggestions on this thread ! 

All components, cables, have a sound.  You cannot get around that fact.  Copper versus silver, tube versus SS, etc.  Different tubes have a sound.

The transports you listened to have an impact on the sound.  The one is more musical and the other is more transparent.  Different reasons why but I will not go into this here.  The DAC is just reproducing what is being feed to it and then impacts its own sound characteristics.  That is why you try different things in your own system to hear what changes they offer.

My friend had a Nano transport, Rega, NuPrime, Metronome, Cambridge CXC, Sim (not the same model here) and then preferred the Electrocompaniet one up CDP.  So you have to try out things for yourself and then decide.

Just use Tidal or Qobuz. No transport and cable. Just need a decent DAC
bigkidz1: I agree. Trying things out is the only way. Anyone who says transports don't affect tone is sorely mistaken, in my opinion. The SQ difference between the Moon and the Heed in this regard was huge-- nearly as stark as the difference between COS and Metrum DACs I demo'd a while back. 

I decided to go with The Cable Company to demo IC's and it's turned out to be a very positive experience-- so much so that I'd heartily recommend them to anyone shopping for cables.  I've ordered Acoustic Zen Silver Reference. Plenty of resolution without fatiguing highs, terrific PRaT and most important of all (to me) -- compelling emotional engagement of the sort that makes me not want to leave the listening chair. I've heard folks  enthuse about "rediscovering their music collection" and now I can relate to that. Thanks to the Silver Reference and the Moon, my system's made a big jump in terms of getting out of the way of the music. 

junzhang10: thanks but I'm old fashioned-- I grew up with and prefer physical media. I use my PC for researching and buying CDs and audio gear; I have no interest in bringing the computer experience into my listening environment. 

Since I have at my disposal someone with a degree in computers, maybe I shouldn't get in this conversation because since he's optimized my computer for CD playback I no longer think in ancient terms of transport and DAC, only experiment with DAC's.

As Melm stated,  
melm332 posts
05-03-2019 3:57pm
The best transport is no transport. Rip your disks and let your DAC play at its best.

Ages ago I had a "Theta" transport which was big as a tank, expensive, and functioned quite well, but I think Melms solution is just as good and a lot cheaper. Anyway, that's the way I'm going with an external hard drive that for all practical purposes will not run out of space.

While I admit I'm one of those fossil audiophiles who don't know squat about computers, it sure is a blessing to have someone close who does, and it might behoove you to do likewise.

Advice is a funny thing; "Wise men don't need it, and most people won't heed it".

Although the question is ancient, I forgot to answer it to the best of my ability. When I purchased the Theta transport, the difference was massive; they make a huge difference, but the increased resolution seems to be a bad thing in your case.
orpheus10: I've considered acquiring one of the Inous servers but even though, at 600 CDs, my music collection is a modest one, the prospect of having to burn them isn't appealing. I may reach a point where placing and removing a physical disc into/from an optical drive is beyond my physical capacities, but I hope that won't be for a very long time. Before that happens, my brain may very well lose the ability to operate a tablet or whatever other interface could be used to control a server-based system!  For my tastes, increased resolution can quickly become "too much of a good thing", but I recognize that for others, it's the holy grail.  
Each to his/her own. There's no shortage of gear out there !