DAC attack ?

Looking for experiences where brand new and less expensive CDPs with state of the art DACs smoked your older expensive players or combos ? Who is on the cutting edge here? Can the fresh off the press Philips or Sony for example, sometimes beat last years hifi darling?

I have been following your recent threads, so I know you are really excited about Audio at this moment. You have purchased an expensive (and well reviewed) DAC and don't think it is a good value vs your old DVD player. Knowing this, here is my response to your questions.

First, I have had a well reviewed Audio Note DAC in my system and have heard AN's top of the line system ($60,000+) at a show and I do not like them. I can say that the AN DAC made bad recordings tolerable by smoothing them out, but it also made GREAT recordings sound only tolerable. This may not be a popular opinion as there are many fans of AN, but I'm not one of them.

Secondly, I had been on the same quest as you. I was searching for a modern digital front end where the newer technology allowed an inexpensive piece to eclipse the performance of an older unit that was built using existing hi-fi perameters such as large power supplies, ridgid structure, etc.

Well, for me, the quest has ended. I have owned several modern DVD based units and NONE were even close to the performance of any of the purpose built CD players I've owned.

For reference, I've owne the RCA mentioned in a previous reply to one of your threads, Technics DVD-A10 (stereophile Class-A), Denon DVD-2800 and Sony DVP-9000ES. For Redbook playback, none of these units even came close to ANY of the CD players I've owned. They all produced unrealistic highs and had narrow and flat soundstages. Yes, the Sony and Technics were better than the $100 RCA, but not that much better.

In comparison, I've owned an early 90's CAL Tercet mkIII, Arcam Alpha 9, Theta Miles (balanced) and my current Cary CD-308. IMS, I easily prefer the CD players vs the DVD based units. They produce more lifelike highs, better, tighter bass and a more realistic soundstage.

In my opinion, I have done my due dilegence and have determined that a quality CD player sounds better than a DVD based player. I have re-affirmed this on several occassions. I'm comfortable with my decision, even though it cost more money (and I'm frugal, to say the least).

Of course, YMMV, etc.

My Room, My System, My ears, my opinion.


I kind of hoped that was the case. My own AN may have thrown me off because I had built up high hopes reading all the reviews/forums about AN's DAC greatness.

Even the early 90s don't apply here Reubent?
Best bang for your buck it to get a used Link DAC and have Dan Wright, Dusty Vawter or Stan Warren modify it.

Otherwise, I agree that a stand alone CD player is a good way to go. I've like some of the DVD players that have been tweeked/modified for redbook CD, but have not liked many out of the box DVD players for CD.
Don't overlook an Audio Research DAC 3 Mk2. They are a steal for what they go for on Audiogon and they can be modified for even further performance. My modified unit bested the Audio Reserch CD-3, in my system, in all areas except the extreme bass ,where the CD-3 had slightly more impact.

I second Gmuffey on the DAC3 II which I had unmodified. It was a very musical product but after hearing the Electrcompaniet ECD1, the ARC was a bit too fatiguing and forward for my taste. However the ECD1 lacked some of the harmonic richness of the DAC3. Now with a Manley DAC, I have a presentation and extension in the bass that neither of these can touch.

And now that I have sold off all my ARC pieces, LS5 III, PH2, VT130, CL150s, DAC3 II, for greener pastures with BAT and Aesthetix, the sound I described for the DAC3 is very much the same for much of the ARC lineup. Your mileage may vary.

Muse makes DVD players, which are very good for playback of redbook CD's. My Muse Model 9 Signature sounds as good as the CD-only players I have heard, plus you get the benefits of DVD video and DVD-Audio playback. Tonal quality and soundstaging are very good, bass and dynamics are strong, mids are textured and realistic, and the highs are grainless. Although the initial price of these units is not cheap, they hold good resale value, and you gain an added benefit that Kevin Halverson of Muse offers an upgrade path to current models for virtually all Muse products. The current Model 10 plays CD, CDR, DVD, DVD-A, and SACD (but unfortunately only the std CD layer). The build quality is excellent and they offer balanced and single-ended operation. I am also very pleased with their preamp. At this point, the only other CD players I would consider (outside of upgrading my 9 sig to a 10) would be the Cary 306-200 or a transport with the new Meitner DAC. I will more likely hang out and see if Meitner comes out with a player, or whether Kevin can upgrade the 10 to play SACD. Sorry, but I cannot make a direct comparison with Audio Note, as I have not heard their dac's or players.