Current Inexpensive CD Vs High Priced 90's

Looking for advice as there are few dealers in my area to make comparisons with my own ears.

I'm having a bad stereo year & a bad financial year. Latest piece of gear to go is my PS Audio SL3 D/A. Repair MAY be an option, but there are no highly regarded shops anywhere near me.

The PS Audio is HDCD, but tops out at 20/96. I've been running the PS Audio with a 90's Teac/Esoteric P10 & Illuminati Digital Cable. The combined list on the 2 pieces + cable in the 90's when purchased was around $3200. I like the sound of the combination quite a bit.

With that said, how much of a downgrade sonically would the Oppo DV-980H be compared to my current rig?

Any other suggestions for an inexpensive solution (either 1 piece or outboard d/a)? My Esoteric Transport still plays perfectly, but on cdr's sometimes thinks about it for awhile before playing.

The rest of the system is a Mod Squad Line Drive deluxe pre, a mediocre Adcom 555 Mk 2 that I also hope to replace, NHT 2.5I speakers & various 90's Tara cables.
Buy a refurb Sony 595 cd/sacd changer from Sonystyle for $60 and let your ears be the judge. If you don't like it, Sony will pick it up and refund all your money. Scary, you may never look back.
Thanks for the tip! One other thing I should mention, I do already have a budget Pioneer DV-578a universal player which I use for DVD & SACD, & would be looking to improve on it's sound.
Get a Musical Fidelity V-DAC for $299. Better than most $2000 ones.
Stanwal, I used to own both a Meridian 203 & a 263. I see you're a Meridian guy. Could you compare the MF V-DAC to the Meridians for a point of reference? The NF looks interesting.
The good news is that many low-priced DACs are available through the internet with generous return options. You can try the MF V-DAC, and other DACs from PS Audio, Cambridge Audio, Music Hall and others. If they don't work for you, you're only out a bit of shipping expenses.
Totally unimpressed with the Oppo unit .... note the reviews on it are using the HDMI output ONLY, analogue outs are terrible, and using it as a transport, I found, was marginal. You'd be better off with an old Denon from the early 90's as a transport that might cost $100 and an inexpensive DAC like the Scott Nixon Chibi which I have found to be a nice unit.

i agree with the get-an-inexpensive dac responses--use it with your pioneer dv-578a. i had a pioneer elite clone of the pioneer dv-578a and thought it was a very good transport--quick-reading, smooth and reliable.
I'm glad I asked! I was leaning towards the Oppo, but I will look into the Musical Fidelity with some seriousness.
I am not familiar with the Pioneer DV-578a. I am currently using a Pioneer Elite DV-58AV, with modified XLR Digital/ XLR Analog-SACD-DVD-Audio. CD sounds excellent through a STL DA-64XT Super. I have never been that impressed with 2-Channel SACD/DVD-Audio, especially the dual layer hybrid SACD Disks. Multi-Channel SACD/DVD-Audio Downmixed to 2-Channels by the Pioneer DV-58AV, takes Digital to a whole new level. Sounds three times as better than any 2-Channel SACD, Hybrid, DVD-Audio Disk. This player was on sale for only $275.00. Hi-resolution Multi-Channel Downmixes sets a whole new Standard, and it doesn't cost thousands. You can even go extra Amps and Speakers if you want, I still prefer the 2-Channel Downmix, but you would still have that option.
I was extrapolating from the equipment I use and their placement on the HIFICRITIC rating system. I have a Musical Fidelity TriVista 21 which is discontinued and a Audio Synthesis DAX. Their test of the V-DAC gave it a rating of 42, which is close to a $10000 DAC they recently tested and is one of the higher ratings they have given. They said it was one the biggest bargains in audio. Here is their archive ratings from their web site. Their current tests aren't available on line as they take no ads and selling the mag is the only way they keep going.

Colloms Archive: CD Player Sound Reference

Accuphase DP70v cd/pre 33
Arcam CD192 15
Arcam Solo (CD sect.) 16
Audiolab 8000 CDP 15
Audio Note DAC 5 53
Audio Synthesis DAX 46
Audio Synthesis DAX Decade 50
Boulder 2020 Dac 32
Cambridge Audio CD1 ('87) 14.5
Cary 300 CD 26
Chord DSC 1500 DAC 35
Classe DAC 1 26
Creek Classic 22
DCS Elgar 48 hd, 38 (cd input)
Krell MD10 - 64 43
Krell KPS 20 i 48
Krell KPS25cx 50
Krell KPS28 cd 35
Krell 300i CD 28
Linn Sondek CD12 42
Linn Karik/Numerik CD/T 17
Marantz CD 65 SE 12.5
Marantz CD-7 CDP 50
Marantz CD 17 KI 22
Marantz CD60 SE 15
Marantz CD 85 14
Mark Levinson ML30dac /T 45
Meridian 602 CDT 23
Meridian 203 DAC 25
Meridian MCD mk1 8
Muse Model 9 CD 30
Naim CD 5i 14
Naim cds2 50
Naim cds3 78
Naim CD 555 89
Resolution Audio OPUS 21 cdp 40
Revox B226S CDP 9.4
Sony 337 SE CDP 12.5
Sony SCD1 CD38 / SACD 55
Sony 557es 11.5
Wadia 16 43
Wadia 860 45
Wadia 7/8 dacT 47
Zanden 3 box CDP 105

Please see our ratings explained page to find out more about Colloms sound quality ratings.

LondonPop web design, Hampstead NW3
© HIFICRITIC Ltd. 2006, all rights reserved
Stanwal, thank you for your help! If Martin Colloms is saying it's almost twice as good as the Meridians, it's likely also better then my PS Audio, which I'd say was about 30% better then the Meridians.

Do you know if he gave it the 42 with or without the add on $199 power supply?
Pettyofficer, the 578 is much better with SACD then with CD.
I just s/w a new local dealer I wasn't previously aware of who carries the MF, with a 30 money back & 60 day 100% exchange, so I'll likely be checking it out.
It was without any added power supply, just as it comes over here for $299.
Wow, i can't wait to hear it wilth the upgraded power supply! I hope to hear it tomorrow. From reading, my only concern is I THINK it doesn't have HDCD.

This dealer also does repair. If I'm not happy with the MF, I'll seriously consider having them repair my PS Audio. I am going to have them repair mt NAD 2600 so I can get rid of the Adcom 555 I've been using.
Stanwal, "Get a Musical Fidelity V-DAC for $299. Better than most $2000 ones." and "I was extrapolating from the equipment I use and their placement on the HIFICRITIC rating system."

Just to clarify, your assertion is that a $299 DAC you have never heard outshines most at the $2000 pricepoint, correct?
Moomoo, can the 578 play Multi-Channel SACD/DVD-Audio, or 2-Channel Downmixes of both? The results put straight 2-Channel SACD/DVD-Audio Disks to shame, no matter what the Sampling Rate!


DAC1 Jitter < 9 ps
MF V-DAC <170 ps
DAC1 Output XLR Balanced: Max Output 21.8 Volts
MF V-DAC Output RCA: Max Output 2.2 Volts
DAC1 costs $1000
MF Sounds better than anything around $2000 and as good as some $10,000 gear

Ignoring specs and focusing on subjective ratings, MF V-DAC must be better than DAC1
Petty Officer, the answer is yes, but my entire system is 2 channel only.
I heard the MF today. I did not buy it. My initial impression is that for $300 it is a giant killer, BUT it's major weakness (in the system I heard it in) is brightness & sibilance in the vocals & cymbals. Unfortunately, I am really sensitive to upper midrange issues. I can not speak to the low end as despite this system having big floor standers, with this system, none of the 3 dac's had much of a low end. Based on what I heard, I would recommend it to anyone who has an older 1 box cd with an spdif out who wants an inexpensive upgrade. IF the USB sound equal (I didn't hear it), it could also be great tp upgrade a pc sound card.

I know I asked for inexpensive, but the upper mid issues were too much for me. It seems interesting that Martin Colloms rates it twice as good as the Meridian 203 & quite a bit better then the 263. That does not jibe at all with my memory, but it's been a long time since i owned the Meridians.

The system is was partnered with for the demo included VTL Amps, A Bel Canto Transport & this is embarrassing, but I don;'t know what the speakers were. They were large, expensive floor standers. Digital cable was MIT, i don't know what the Analog cable was. The shop appeared to know how to demo the gear appropriately. I was told the MF had been powered p constantly for around 2 months, & had 25-30 hours playing music so it should have been pretty burned in. It very well may also improve with the power supply, & I heard it in a system I honestly didn't like much. The dealer actually wanted to demo it on a much cheaper system, but with KEF bookshelves & a Marantz 1 box I was afraid it was too far from my system.

I also listened to the Bel Canto seperates, & to the unit I unexpectedly bought, a Xindac DAC-5. I'd never heard of Xindac before, & wasn't planning on spending $700, but.......

It basically sounded at least as good if not better then the much more expensive Bel Canto 2 piece & 2 things made p my mind:

1. The Classic Records Gold CD of Cowboy Junkies: I"ve owned this in some form since it was released. I've never heard the background ambiance in the church so clearly.

2. After listening to several cd's from my collection on all 3 set ups, what finally really pushed me to buy it was Duke Ellington C Jam Blues on the MFSL hybrid SACD of Blues In Orbit. The very loud cymbal was unlistenable on the MF. On the Bel Canto, the cymbal was much better, but Ray Nance's Violin was screechy. On the Xindac, I didn't want the track to end!

I had not intended to judge the unit at all in my system until i got my NAD-2600 repaired. As I've stated elsewhere I'm using an Adcom 555 Mk2 & everything now sounds the same on my system - brittle. I was pretty surprised when immediately after plugging in the DAC-5 with no time to warm up (I am told the demo I bought is burned in), the system became much more musical. I don't know if it's that much better then the PS Audio SL-3, or if it has a better synergy with the Adcom, or........... I know I'm looking forward to hearing it with the NAD.

Of course all of the above is based on initial impressions.

The good news is the store Resolution Audio which i had never heard of until this week is giving me at least 30 days to return for a cash refund & 60 for a 100% exchange.
They're also giving me a huge trade in on the Adcom (exactly what I'd hoped to sell it for on Craig's list), & since i only paid $150 for the Adcom, I expect to break even on the NAD repair AND the $150 for the Adcom for what he's giving me.

Thanks again to Stanwal. I found this dealer from researching the MF he suggested.
Have you tried calling Rick Cullen at Cullen Circuits in reference to your Ps Audio SL-3. There is a good chance that he not only built but designed the Dac.
He may be able to repair and upgrade the unit.
The store where I bought the Xindak is doing a diagnosis at no charge on the PS Audio. I will likely trade it in to them after they find out what's wrong & make me an offer.

After spending more time with the Xindak, I am stunned at how good it is for the price. It's biggest strength (partnered with the Adcom that I'm not fond of) is midrange in general, & the especially vocals. I have NEVER heard vocals on cd sound this analog like. I THINK the weaknesses I'm hearing are more the Adcom then the Xindak, I'm not going to mention them at all until i get my NAD Amp back.

At least partnered with the Adcom, the Xindak is WAY better then the PS Audio. I can't remember the last time I listened to digital without feeling the need to read a book or fidget. With the Xindak, I just sit with my eyes closed & listen, especially to rock with well recorded vocals. It's also reminding me why I used to care so much about high end audio.
Turned out that once repaired the PS Audio is a much better sounding DAC then the Xindak........
I'm using an Oppo DV-980h connected to a vintage CAL Sigma DAC, which I retubed with a NOS 1960 British made Mullard 12ax7 tube. The results are simply stunning, and in fact better than than the sound of my $1800 Doge 6 Tube CDP. In fact I just sold my Doge 6, it sounded laid back & truncated by comparison to the Oppo/Sigma combo. Infact even listening to the Oppo via it's analogue outputs isn't bad in my reference system.