Differences in CD players? Am I crazy?

Hello, I just recently acquired a TEAC VRDS-25x cd player to replace the 150 dollar DVD player I've been using. This cd player was to be the first step in me upgrading my entire system, from mass market cheapo brands, to entry audiophile. Now Im not sure Im even going to continue.

I cannot, for the life of me, hear the difference between these CD players. I put the same CD into each one, then switch between the sources on my amplifier. My friends have been over, and also can hear no difference.

Admittedly, I have cheaper components. An entry level Kenwood receiver, and cerwin vega speakers, but I was expecting a little more than this, considering this is a two thousand dollar player.

What's the deal here!?
"Admittedly, I have cheaper components. An entry level Kenwood receiver, and cerwin vega speakers,"

I think you have analyzed the situation properly. You need to compare the two in a higher resolution system and then see if you hear a difference.
I have found that the differences between digital devices is in general much less than between such things as speakers or amplifiers. YMMV.
subtle, but important differences. That pretty much sums up high end digital sources in my book. Some will say that you won't be able to hear these differences through your meager system. I disagree. You can hear the differences if you know what to listen for. But you should really count your blessings that you can't distinguish them at the moment. Once you do, then you will start lusting after a world class source. If you stay with this hobby eventually you will start to hear the subtle differences. it takes time and experience for that to happen.

I remember taking an msb link iii, evs dac, and adcom gda600 dac over to my brother's house. we played them through his aiwa receiver and eosone speakers (by first system, which i gave to him). I could still make out the differences, but he could not. So don't blame the system, even though i sure it isn't helping things. YMMV.
Most of the improvements you'll notice when you upgrade your speakers. And then you'll begin to hear the differences in other components.
I thought Teac was a "mass market cheapo brand."
Teac in Japan is not the same as Teac here I think. This is definitely not a cheap cd player, it weighs a solid 17kg and has 4 20 bit dacs and 8x oversampling. I know it retailed for about 2900USD but sadly I'm having trouble hearing any difference. I went to a hi-end shop here in Toronto where they do an upgrade to it on the anaolgue stage and compared the two, once again, hearing almost no difference. Others I know who have performed this upgrade swear by it and say that nothing under 4grand competes with the cd player.

I've been into headphones for a while, and noticed in that 'hobby', that the headphones accounted for 90 percent of the difference, and source and amp were very subtle changes.

Is it the same in speakers? How much of the difference in a system would you say the speakers account for? I bought this cdplayer as the first step in acquiring a system with Martin Logan speakers. At the shop, they salesman swore that it was necessary to put money down for a high end source.

How do feed the signals to the Receiver? Is it digital out from CD player ---> digital input on the receiver?

The salesman may just have been selling, but I it sounds like he was actually following the sound and widely recommended philosophy, "the source must come first". Quite simply, the best speaker in the world - whatever that is - cannot reproduce what isn't fed into it in the first place.

If you start at the back end by upgrading speakers first you risk two problems. First, revealing speakers might highlight the shortcomings of inferior components or wire earlier in the chain. Second, choosing the "best" speakers depends on what amp you'll be using. You can't choose an amp without knowing what preamp will feed it. You can't choose a preamp without knowing what source(s) will feed IT, etc. You get the idea.

Starting at the source and upgrading in the same direction as the signal path makes it easier to match components effectively and avoid expensive errors. As far as what you hear or don't hear between these particular CDP's, I'll defer to those who have more experience with your particular components.
I'd say your observations are similar to mine. Digital sources don't vary greatly, and their differences are perceptible only on quite a resolving system, unless you have a really terrible cheap source.
If I were to greatly upgrade my system I think that speakers do make the most difference, but I would buy the amp first, since expensive speakers on a cheap amp sound terrible, whereas cheap speakers and a great amp can sound quite good. I would upgrade my digital source last.
I think the salesman may have meant well, but I think the source first argument is perhaps less applicable with digital than it was with vinyl.
I agree with Dougdeacon and Seantaylor99.
I would take the two players to some of the better audio stores in your area and have a listen with some gear that you think might be next on your list...Cd players are easy to transport and any good shop worth it's salt will be more than happy to help you out. You will need much more gear if you decide to upgrade your complete system, this is their chance to get a foot in the door for the sale and you can listen through some better gear than you now have at home.

I would stop in and talk to them first so they can have someone set aside the time which will be best for both of you.

I am not so sure there really is all that much differance between most off-the-shelf CD players.

First, you have the transport which is the proverbial 'turntable', or to be more direct, the thing that spins the Cd and the laser that reads the data. Then comes the DAC, or the thing that converts the data to audio form.

My primary Cd player (Audio Aero) can only hold one Cd at a time, but there are occasions where I want to load up five CDs so I don't have to be bothered changing CDs all afternoon. So, I use my Yamaha CD player as a transport and I use my fiber optic digital cable to run the information through my Audio Aero DAC and I I get the best of both worlds.

The point is, until you are ready to shell out mega-bucks for a high end CD player, there is not all that much differance unless you have invested in really high-end components down-the-line.
Consider this analogy. If you put a larger carburetor on an engine without improving the exhaust airflow, the power increase is at best minimal. If you improve the flow of air through the engine and out the exhaust, the power increase in dramatic. A music system is only as good as it's "weakest" link, not it's most expensive component.
One other thing. Be patient. It sometimes takes time for a new component to "burn-in." They sound better as they age.
Happy listening, Joel
The real fun with all of this comes when you CAN hear the differences in various pieces of gear, and are left to decide which one, if any, actually sounds better than another. Be obsessed with the music, not the system.
You ain't crazy and you ears are fine. As you mentioned with your experience as to headphones, speakers rule the roost. I think CVs are only OK for rock n roll and are a mess for anything else. There are plenty of good, and inexpensive, speakers out there from the likes of PSB and Paradigm which would bring out your music much better.

Have fun,

Here's my 2 cents. It is important to remember that what
you hear in terms of sound quality is the sumation of all
components/cables/source etc. Using an extreme example of
perhaps what your experencing; if you take a $20,000 cd
player and compare it to a $200 cd player using an inexpensive receiver as your preamp/amp and inexpenive
speakers I would bet you wouldn't hear a difference.
Here's another example. In an inexpensive system you
try to hear the differences with interconnects. Good luck.
The higher the resolving power of a system the easier
it is to hear differences.
Tomek: the biggest differences with "good" digital gear as compared to "average" digital gear is VERY noticeable. That is, if the rest of the system is capable of revealing such things.

Many of the differences are not "in your face" changes, but mass quantities of subtleties. That is, background noise is reduced. This allows you to pick out more details due to lower volume signals actually being able to be heard rather than being lost in the noise floor. Since there is now a greater variance between the quietest passages that you can now clearly make out and the loudest passages that you could always hear, dynamic range is increased. On top of this, the reduction in noise / "increased blackness" allows you to hear "in-between" notes. This ends up sounding like more space and air around the notes played by each instrument. Music should have a better sense of "flow" since better quality players preserve the "pace" of music in a more accurate manner. This comes across as a cleaner presentation because of less phase related distortions with the proper time and amplitude variations that occur between primary notes and harmonic overtones. I can go on and on, but you get the point.

In plain English, your system is either not up to revealing the differences that a player of this calibre is capable of producing, you lack listening skills or this player was highly over-rated. It could be a combo of all three or just one of the above. My guess is that it is a combo of all three, but to what degree each part of this equation comes into play, i have no idea.

If you haven't already been doing so, leave your gear powered up 24/7 for a couple of days and then give it a listen. Most digital gear takes a couple of hours ( at least ) to fully settle in thermally. If you do this and don't notice a difference and are completely happy with what you already have, you've answered your own question. That is, there is no need to spend any more money when you've already reached the point of diminishing returns. Enjoy what you've got and put some money in the bank and into your collection. No sense in throwing money away on products you can't / don't appreciate. Sean

PS... My comment about lacking listening skills or the gear that you have was not meant as a personal put-down or "slam" against you. As i've stated here before, most people "hear" but they don't know how to "listen". Listening skills are something that develop over time. Most of it occurs once one is exposed to a good quality system that is both musical and resolving. Until one is exposed to a system of this calibre, your point of reference and ability to discern this level of detail has never had a chance to develop.

This type of "growth" takes place primarily because you've never been exposed to such a high level of reproduction, so you've never really heard how much detail and musicality that you were losing all along. Now that you know what you've been missing, you start to notice these things more often and more easily, which is part of developing listening skills. Previous to this point, you never felt the need to develop listening skills as the differences that you can now detect on a high resolution system never existed on the systems that you've been exposed to in the past.

Like anything else, with enough time and exposure, anyone can become a "pro" at listening. In order to do any job well though, you've got to have the desire, experience and proper tools first. One can have the desire, but without experience, the end result might get you by, but it is probably not exactly the best that could be done. One can have both desire and experience, but with crude tools, the end results may still not be what one had in mind. Until one becomes a skilled and experienced craftsman with the proper tools, you should consider all of this a learning experience. Having said that, some people are naturals. Most of the rest of us had to learn the hard and expensive way. As such, welcome to the club and i hope that you'll stick around : )
I had the opposite experience. Was using a two-year-old $3600 transport/DAC combination and, after reading about a potentiial 'giant killer' in The Absolute Sound, I inserted a $300 Pioneer DV-414 CD/DVD player (which we already owned) in place of the $3600 system. Simply blew it away, as confirmed by a number of audiobuddies who couldn't believe it either. I had it modified by John Hillig (Musical Concepts) and used it happily in a multi-kilobuck system for years until replacing it with a Sony XA-777ES.
Instead of listening for how it sounds, try listening for what it does. For example, put on some cut that you know has a melancholy sound, and then compare the players to discover which rendition makes you feel sadder. Or, put on a cut that is so complex it sounds like a meaningless jumble and discover which player puts out a more musically discernable message.
Ok, I went to the shop last night and compared my CD player to the modded one. It blew me away. I was listening to it on a pair of FAB One speakers and an antique sound labs tube amp, also modded. When they switched from the modded player back to mine, I heard the depth of the music shrink down instantly. All the sound was coming from the front of teh speakers, whereas before, it was coming from about 10 feet behind them. As well, with the modded player I could localize the different instruments in space, above me, to the left, farther back etc. I couldn't believe it. He also switched his 500 dollar carbon cable for my 85 dollar copper ones and it was a tremendous difference.

I'm sold! I couldn't believe it!
I feel your pain. I think the problem with this sort of thing are the reviews. They say things like: "the depth of the soundfield is astonishing!" "I rediscovered my record collection all over again" "The difference was day and night" I don't have the systems that others here do, but I have good stuff. Creek 5350se amp, Vandersteen speakers. I've bought three DAC's, and a couple of CD players, and believe me the change is minimal at best. To top it off, my buddy has SACD, and he brought his player over and hooked it up in my system. He some SACD disks that I had the CD of, and we played them at the same time. This was not double blind or anything, but neither of us could tell which was which. Caveat Emptor
OhMyGod: We have created another one of us. And the moon isn't even full.
Uh oh... better get the addiction therapy ready for Tomek! I'm happy for you!
What kind of carbon cable are those, Vandenhuls? Those cables usually has a more mellow midrange which would be a good mix with the Teac player which tends to sound a bit hard and analytic. Also, how old is the Teac player? I know most of the VRDS units were built quite a while ago. So, the DACs are a bit dated compared to recent DVD players as well. Also, high end units respond better when you have better powercords and interconnects as you have experienced.
Oh boy, another victim. Welcome Tomek. Now you're cursed forever. :)

If you really want to be driven crazy, and bankrupt, try to hear a really good LP playback system. That will shock you silly. (Don't shoot me guys, I know this is the D side.)

When you did this last audition, were the levels matched? They must be at the same volume level or you ain't really heard nothin' new or better. One of the most common "mods" is a change/alteration of an op-amp which would change the volume level quite a bit.

Don't forget the power of suggestion as well as the urge to be friendly and communal with the demonstrator. These are very powerful and can lead to false results. We see this in medicine all the time, that is why drug and therapy trials require Double Blind Testing for ultimate validity.

Charlie Daniell, DVM
For what it's worth, I've observed non-audiophiles be able to quickly hear changes among mid-fi CD players auditioned through mid-fi systems - even when they weren't expecting to be able to do so - and also other listeners who professed they couldn't hear any differences under similar circumstances, even if I could (all tests casually level-matched). Even in my own higher-resolution system, there have been times where direct comparisions have left me wondering whether small improvements in CD performance were really worth what they cost, but other times when differences seemed quite obvious and important. This may not be of much help, but I suspect your dilemma results from some combination of there not being an earth-shaking difference between the sounds of your players (which is not to say no differences at all), and your lacking the system and possibly the ear-education to fully discern or appreciate what differences do make it through to the listening position. Aside from your experience at the dealer's, I would counsel you to conduct more extended listening sessions using a wider variety of disks - you may find that a clearer picture of the situation emerges over time.
Elmuncy, if you could not tell the difference from CD to SACD in your setup, I think there is something definitely not right. Perhaps, try to change speaker placement in your room.
Zoya, I know that it's possible that the disks used were not the best example of the new medium. But SACD is touted as the next level of improvement. It should be as obvious as can be. One should not have to strain to attempt to hear the difference. The differences that can always he heard instantly is speakers. This audio hobby can be a huge black hole to drop money into.
Try listening with some reasonable quality headphones. That would allow you to hear differences better without buying a whole new amp/speaker setup.
TOmek...rest assured...you are not crazy...assuming your el cheapo DVD/CD player is relatively new...maybe even one with a 24/96 DAC...these can sound surprisingly good as digital technology has improved immensely and the gap between hi-end and midfi has closed dramatically...remember DVDS were one of the first players to incorporated 24/96 DACS ...contrary to most "hi-enders"...a high end player generally comes with BETTER build quality and better COSMETICS...in general...the higher cost is unjustified in relation to actual sound improvement(unlike analog)...however...most hi end shops carry good equipment across the board...so ofcourse a higher end player is going to sound great with VTL, THiel, etc...that being said...Bel Canto Digital rules!
ALso..one last thing...the only "different" digital sound I have encountered...and some argue more like analog...may I suggest a used Brit player by Rega, Linn, etc...which have a more relaxed, "laid-back" presentation...others include Creek, MusicHall,etc...these are $500 and under...good luck