You might keep the Music Hall and try out one of Audio Note's DACs. The 1.1 signature DAC is very nice.
12 responses Add your response
I completely agree with Mattybumkin. Start with the power cords before spending big $$ on a new player. I tell people the same thing about the Cambridge Audio D500(and SE) CD player. Those stock Cambridge and Music Hall cords put a metallic glare to the sound and restrict dynamics.
Both players have good parts inside. They just need a better power cord to take them to another level sonically.
I also agree with a Blue Circle BC61 ($83). I use one on my DAC in my main system, and on the CD player in my office system. Get one for your amplifier also; or better yet, get the BC62 power cord for the amplifier ($165).
You have absolutely nothing to lose getting new power cords first. If you still decide to get a better CD player later, you will already have a good power cord to use with the new player.
I would not waste time with using just any old cd player as a transport, a dedicated transport is the only way to go if you ever want to hear what your dac, and system as a whole, is capable of. Sure, an external dac can help a wee bit if added to a lesser or dated cd player, but if you can't afford to do both right, a one box setup will get you pretty close and possibly even more for your money if on a tight budget. The transports' impact is huge, at least as important as the dac itself. I would suggest selling your current player and either buying the best one box unit you can afford or split your funds pretty evenly and buy a dedicated transport and dac with good cables (don't forget the extra expense and clutter of addional cables!).
The Musical Fidelity A3 24 dac is one of the best I've ever heard, among many, and is very competetive with a couple of $10-30K digital setups I've recently played with, but ONLY when fed by a top notch transport. A couple of folks have posted less then enthusiastic results with this dac, but their transport where, to not hold anything back, crap. If crap goes in, only more crap can come out. In my experience, if you feed the MF dac through your cd player, changer or dvd player it can sound plain bad and you'll wonder what all the fuss is about, but give it a solid transport and it's simply magical, you'll leave any thoughts of going to SACD or vinyl far as possible from your mind. IMNSHO, for the price you'll find none better then the MF dac, period, very highly recommended.
I disagree with the statement that an external dac won't do much to improve upon the sound of a lesser cd player. I have a Rotel RCD 971 and was auditioning integrated amps with it as a source. For fun the dealer connected it to an MSB Nelson dac III. Let me tell you , the difference was night and day. I also tried a Rega pLanet 2000 without a dac (which is supposedly quite a good player), but there was simply no comparison. The dealer also had a cheap universal player from Pioneer which was connected to the nelson dac... this setup also blew away the Planet 2000 in every way...depth, dynamics, soundstaging, blackness, detail retreival...
I took the Nelson home. Simple as that.
upgrade the power cord is a great idear..music hall uses a phillips transport .its a great transport .so many other people use it in there cd players to so keep the player.as to a dac get the msb link dac 3...i did and like it a lot i listen to the same kind of music you do ...there are alot of them for sale now on here.get 24/96 upgrade...you already have hdcd with that player .....i did upgrade my power supply for this unit...and get some good cables digiflux are doing great for me ....your looking at about a 400.00 to 600.00 dollars to do this if it dont work sale it on here again every body else does.......i think you will like it ........but thats my thoughts on this .......save the other money to bye something else
I just wanted to add my two cents worth; as I also use the Music Hall MMF CD-25 in my system. My set-up pairs McIntosh electronics with Thiel 3.5 speakers.
I'm really glad that the power cord upgrade was mentioned above; as I will give it a try soon and see if it makes an improvement.
Mainly what I wanted to say, was that I got a "loaner" of a friend's Theta Miles while he was out of town - and the overall improvement over the Music Hall was subtle but very real. So your desire to get a better source may be well founded.
As I'm also looking to eventually upgrade my two of my sources - tuner and CD - I would start with the power cord upgrade; and see how it goes. And if there was not enough of an improvement - I would start looking at my CD options again. Good luck and happy listening.
the dac in the music hall is a 24/96.when you use it as a transport its not 24/96.any time you can upgrade the dac, its going to be fun to hear the differ..remember this is a hobby. get a msb its low priced and upgradable,and if it blows you away,get a better one. any time you can get sep componants to do there on job,its going to be better.start with the power cord upgrade first .it doesnt cost much and it may help player out alot.build one yourself its fun and easy ..then look for dac.a sep transport is better but chances are it will have same phillips or sony drive in it any way.what interconnects are you using?