My ARC CD2 just died...I think the laser finally gave up the ghost. Any how I've got thousands of red book CDs in my library and need a replacement player. I'm thinking an ARC CD 3MKII or the Mark Levinson 390S. Am I crazy to be thinking this? Got a budget of around $2000.00. My system, though dated, is made up of higher end stuff: ARC 25 pre amp, ARC VT 150 mono amps, VPI TNT IV, Wilson Witts, all running through Transparent Reference (Balanced).
I would buy a current CD transport, like a Rega Apollo, McCormack DAC-1. Both are good CD Players by themselves, but you can add an external DAC like an Ayre Codex or Schiit Gungnir or Yggy and get really high fidelity. I think your (excellent) components would benefit from it. Bob
An old but maybe good at the time DS DAC can be hammered nowadays. You are in for a treat! I would look for a used Audio Note 3.1 balanced. Great tubed R-2R DAC with no up sampling or filter, dead smooth and analogue sounding. Just real and IMO a classic.
The Audio Research CD players starting with the CD3 use variations of the Philips CDM Pro2 drive mechanism. This is the same
drive mechanism in CD jukeboxes so complete drives as well as parts are readily available.
So I wouldn't worry that much about buying a CD3 mk2. If you can push it you might consider a Ref CD7. The price of these has really dropped. And they are a truly amazing analog sounding CD player.
If you don't want to bother dealing with a CD player but you don't want to give up your discs or sacrifice quality, you could always try Murfie. They digitize your collection in wav and can convert it to whatever format you like, from ALAC downloads to lossless streaming. They even offer to store your CDs if you don't want them taking up space in your house.
I had an ARC CD-2 for several years and enjoyed it the entire time. I have auditioned the subsequent ARC models and have observed the improvement in performance at each level. The ARC CD-2 unit, however, is still relevant in as much as it has a very balanced and non-fatiguing character. If you like it and can find a way to get it fixed, I would stay with something you know you will enjoy.
What is your budget ? Mike at Audio Archon turned me on to the Lumin steaming player .you can stream or has plugged directly in The Lumin D-1 is exceptionally well balanced, if you buy the outboard LINEAR tube Audio PS it takes it to a Very high level. It will please over 90% of Audiophiles even many of the doubters That never heard it.for under $2400,with Super PS.it does most of Everything pretty well. At least give it a read, then a listen.
Quick Google search reveals this is the one used in the CD2 - do your homework though ! but for $ 22 you might be able to get it going again - these are not difficult to replace if your handy - if not have a skilled tech do it for you.
No, definitely not, not if you want the best from a RedBook (pcm) collection. But you need one of the players that use R2R Multibit conversion to get the best from RedBook (pcm). Your choice of the ML 390s is OK, but it's a Delta Sigma dac converter based unit, you'll be far better off getting the earlier ML No.39 as it's R2R Multibit PCM1702 and it has the HDCD PMD100 HDCD filter chip, a far better choice.
Buying an older unit is fine if you get a rally good deal. I would see if the parts are still available or the mfg still supports the unit. Georgehifi is right about the R2R they do sound better IMO but a good DAC design can make things sound special also. Happy Listening.
Thank you all for your time to respond. I'm hearing from most that its best to move on...kind of thought so myself, just out of the loop for so long and not really sure what is up to the quality I'm used to .
Am open to suggestions on used equipment @ 5yrs old. Again, max budget is @ $2000 - $2500. As you can probably infer, I'm very old school with a preference toward analog. That said I've got so many CDs it makes no sense to walk away from my very nice library.
What really separates the older, high-end CDPs from the newer ones is the improvement in DAC technology.
In order to future-proof any investment you make, I would suggest that you buy a decent older CDP (i.e. Primare, Rega, Hegel, Yamaha, etc.) and mate it with a newer external DAC (i.e. Denafrips. Lampizator, Ayre, Soekris, etc.). But if you are only interested in CD playback (i.e. non-DSD), focus on R2R DACs (Denafrips, Soekris, Holo, etc.).
What is the advantage of R2R-based DACs for CD playback, you ask? An R2R DAC converts 16bit/44kHz Redbook PCM bit perfectly (i.e. without any conversion or processing). When a PCM file is played on a single-bit Delta Sigma DAC (used in most DACs that support DSD), it has to convert the PCM to DSD in real time.
I recently compared the DAC in my Esoteric DV-50Ss against my Gustard x20Pro DAC (new, $800), which is considerably newer technology. After level matching, I was unable to detect any difference in sound quality between the two.
Now, the DAC in the DV-50S would probably be easily beaten by a $3,500 external DAC, but I only paid $1,000 for the DV-50S in the first place, so I am more than happy with it.
What is the advantage of R2R-based DACs for CD playback, you ask?
Nodicnorm is correct, this is from MoJo Music which gives you the reason why a R2R Multibit coverters are better to do RedBook (pcm) with, than a dsd (delta sigma converter.
"When a PCM file is played on a DSD or Bit Stream (Delta Sigma) converter, the DAC chip has to convert the PCM to DSD in real time. This is one of the major reasons people claim DSD sounds better than PCM, when in fact, it is just that the chip in most modern single-bit (Delta Sigma) DACs do a poor job of decoding PCM."
The reason why I said to the OP to get the earlier ML no.39 than the later ML 390s. Also the Linn CD12 and Naim CD555 are great older units for RedBook replay. All these are still very pricey on the used market for a good un-molested one..
Ok, I'm not yet ready for computer based audio. My silver disks are now the new vinyl to me and I do enjoy popping them into a player. I would agree with many here that DAC technology has improved vastly in the last few years. Personally, I wouldn't hesitate to buy a newer player and forget the "vintage" cd players. You would be very surprised at how far digital has come....
Last time I looked, you can get a real nice new transport plus a real nice new R2R DAC for the price of a high end old CDP like Levinson, etc. The combination that piqued my interest the most was a Cambridge Audio CXC paired with a Denafrips Ares. If I remember correctly the combo came under $1500.
The Rega Saturn-R is a find sounding current model CD player. It is also a very useful multi-input DAC, so you could use it, as-is, for years and also have the flexibility of adding other digital sources if you ever decide to transition to a music server, etc. The Rega is $3K MSRP and a bit over half of that on the used market. It is also built like a tank.
Go back to 1983. "Would it be crazy to buy another high end turntable my Garrard just died? CDs will be taking over anyway". Well album spinning is still going on and turntables are as popular as ever to the young and the old alike. I don't think CD players will go away. I would get another High quality CDC player or transport like a Rega apollo or even Oppo with a digital out for upgrading DACs as you choose. My other choice is to rip all my cds into a Bluesound Vault 2, which also has a digital out for upgrading your DAC. With the BS choice you can get into streaming, even try HQA, but still enjoy your CDs on flac or HQ file format.
For a solid cd player look for an A.D.S CD3 or CD4, in the 80's a CD3 was 2k, they are bullet proof having been developed by BRAUN. For info call Cosmophonic Sound in NYC they provide service and have a great rep.
To the OP question, Yes it would be crazy to buy a 17 year old cdp. chances are the laser or transport won't last and be difficult to replace as many have noted. More importantly the DAC probably won't be as good as many that are obtainable on your budget and you won't have flexibility going forward if you wish to branch into other digital sources. The Oppo 205 makes a lot of sense. It is 60% of your budget. it has a really good DAC. It will play DVDs and Blu Rays. it will add a bunch of options that you may never wish to use, but if you do, you're covered, namely: multichannel, computer audio, and streaming. It has good customer service, which you probably won't get on a 17 year old CDP
I'll second the POV of the respondent who recommended OPPO. Both the 105 and the 205 have state of the art DACs, and upsample everything to 192/24 and play DSD in native format, including (if you wish) multi-channel analog output.
I love ARC gear (use some myself) but the OPPO makes virtually ALL high-end CD players obsolete, from a pricing standpoint as well as from a sound standpoint. Don't be misled by those who claim it has to be wired into a home-theatre system. It requires a simple TV connection for set-up. Once that is done and you have it in "pure audio" mode, it is simply a disk player.
Question. Why would you burn your entire budget on just a CD player alone when you can get a good unit and then spend the remaining budget on a nice DAC? Especially when you could possibly get a PSA unit that allows firmware upgrades? I suppose it makes sense if you are absolutely sure the unit is going to produce a sound you are satisfied with and you don't want to mess with other hardware for some reason.
I am also in the market for a new transport but I did a quick compare with my current cheapo sony blue ray/cd player vs the new CA CXC transport and there was absolutely no compelling reason to switch. I would really like to get my hands on a used PSA DSMP and see what that sounds like.
Thanks again to all who chimed in. I decided to purchase a used Ayre C-5xeMP Universal Disc Player. Will also explore finding a new laser to get the ARC CD2 up and going again. It would do nicely in the bedroom, or perhaps recoup some of my expense on the Ayre.
After reading the replies I had to give you my experience. I was going through the same struggle trying to figure which way to go. I was still using my Cal-Labs Delta Transport to an upgraded Wadia 12 DAC (which is an R2R dac). Both very old (mid 90's), so I went on a quest to find better. Every one was saying how much better new DAC's were. All the reading I did pointed me to the Oppo 105 without spending a ton of money. I bought the 105 and was very disappointed. I had read they need to break in so I left it on repeat 24/7 and before the end of the return period I did more A/B testing. It did sound a bit better after breaking in but my wife and I both still much preferred the Cal Transport/Wadia. So then I used the 105 just as a transport with the spdif digital coaxial out to my Wadia. My Cal-Labs Delta transport that I bought new in the '90's sounded much better. How could this be I thought? Both as a transport and DAC I liked my old equipment better. Now, before someone says I'm crazy, consider the fact that the old transports used better mechanical clamping mechanisms where now everything uses a cheap computer drive. Why? Because there is not enough demand for high end CD playback like there used to be. Audio manufactures need to chose from what parts are available on the market. Just like DAC chips, the cost involved in good R2R dac's was too high so the 'Technology' was to make them smaller and cheaper...not better sounding. Now saying that, what you read so much about new players being so much better is very relative. The real issue that is not being said is the preference of format. The Oppo 105 sounds great if you are playing an SACD, but all my music was on CD. So when reading reviews consider the context of how it is being used. I was very glad I had tried the 105 however because I found that the best sound was actually playing back the digital files (Ripped from CD with EAC) from my NAS going from the 105 to my Wadia. I had tried computer audio before and it was too harsh. The Oppo 105 makes a great digital transport. I ended up buying an NAD M50 to rip and play back the digital files and a Schiit Yggdrasil to play Hi-Res 24bit files as it is an R2R dac and still sounds good on 16bit 44.1 files.
I suggest one major piece of advise...You need to hear it in your system! Go to a high-end audio store that will let you have a home demo. If it's a long drive, watch their site for
used gear that comes in so you can compare more than one item.
I have 3 vintage transports. I bought these based on what transport mechanism was used back when they were made. Being that in some quarters it is said that the last best mechanism made by Philips was the CDM9 (standard or pro) And essentially the best of earlier production is the CDM 1 mk ii. I have a Musatex CD-D /C-lok that has been gone through by S. Sank who is adamant re/the high quality of this transport . The Musatex uses the Philips CDM1 mkii. The other 2 --- PSAudio Lambda which uses the Philips CDM9 pro and a Rotel RDD980 which uses the CDM9. Of course I can use any DAC I want and suggest you look for a pristine transport. Ive seen sellers ask as much as $1k for the Lambda.. I got mine for $400 here on Agon. My Musatex also was bought here for less than $400--- incredible scores. My Rotel I also got on here for $150 and picked it up locally. All that being said.. I was told by Theta one time some years back that lasers age just sitting on the shelf. So far I've never experienced a laser failure and most all of my transports have been vintage. My current ones are from the 90's. This site will tell just what mechanism is used on most all transports and players as well. http://www.dutchaudioclassics.nl/the_complete_d_a_dac_converter_list/
I just looked up your ARC CD2- It uses the Philips CDM12.4 which is production post CDM9.. Whether this is relevant is a good question esp if the laser quit. Often a vintage good vintage deck can be found because so many are going to music files only.
Technics is as good is it gets. Pioneer never knew how to market them. Maybe they didn't know what they had. Second choice, get any box that will take an Oppo drive and hook it up to a decent DAC. I suggest the http://www.aquahifi.com/la_scala.html Spendy, but worth twice the price.