Does anyone out there NOT hear a difference in CD

Players? I am tossing around the idea of replacing my Pioneer Elite PD-65 with a Cambridge Audio 840c, but only if their is a CLEAR improvement. In the past I have had a difficult time hearing a noticeable difference in CD players from cheap ones to higher mid-fi ones.
I certainly believe there are difference also it helps if you have a nice stereo - you can hear the differences more easily.
A few years back I had a NAD C320BEE amp paired with a Pioneer PD65 CD player. I swapped out the Pioneer with a Music Hall CD25. The difference was very noticeable and I liked the difference very much. It's all about synergy. At the time this is what I wrote:

System edited: Replaced cd players. The Pioneer PD-65 requires servicing and so the Music Hall MMF CD-25, which was being used in my bedroom system, has been swapped in. Talk about the importance of system matching ... the Music Hall and the NAD 320BEE absolutely sing together.

So what amp are you using?

Regards, Rich
There is a diff but a $200 Oppo is at least half as good as the almost $7000 Naim CDX 2. a TT, any TT!
I'm using a classe ca 300 power-amp and a Rogue Metis tube pre-amp. I also have Usher 6371 floorstanding speakers.
I'm guessing the Cambridge would only be marginally better than my old PD-65. Probably not worth spending the $1600 on it.
There is a clear difference in how CD players sound! I've just been going down the road of replacing my Shanling CD3000. I've listened to...Cyrus CD8x, Niam CD5i, CEC 15XT?, Musiacal Fidelity A5, Tri CD4SE, Marantz SA11. All were very different and some were horrible in my system and some were mind blowing. All were in the NZ$2500 range. The best in my system was the Tri CD4SE. It had the most X factor for musiacl enjoyment and the best for long listens without fatigue. When you consider the design of all these players ie tube buffer output stages vs Solid State vs crystal vs chip vs no upsample vs upsampling, they must sound different, the same as a BMW drives different from a Toyota Corolla.
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Maybe the Benchmark DAC I've been seeing some write-ups on would be a better decision.
I hear slight differences, however, compared to the distortion and different presentation from speakers these differences are extremely small. I find speakers vary from absolutely terrible to almost "you are there". I find nowhere near this kind of large difference in CD players so I just don't lose much sleep over it. A small bit of coloration here or there but nothing earth shaking.
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If you don't hear difference, you are the "lucky" one. You don't need to buy expensive gear, players amps or cables.
I agree with Shadorne, and feel if you really want to hear a substantial difference you will but in reality it is very subtle to not even detectable far too often. Phono carts, Speakers and Pre and Power amps are a whole other animal but digital is within certain price points just digital, but again if you want to hear a major difference then you will.
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Where does all this misinformation come from? Let's use an old player as a transport, when one can get an OPPO or Toshiba, then potentially mod it by the right technician, and have great sound for a lot less monies. The digital era is just beginning to give birth to itself. If one limits their investment it will not sting as much when the next best generation hits the line. It still bends my mind to see these responses, for the sake of watching there name come up on line. Please stop misleading the younger generation with unwise advise. It will help to build up the integrity of this site, not tear it down.
Answers will vary:

$10k rig "There's no difference"
$20k rig "Sometimes I think I hear a difference"
$30k rig "There are subtle differences"
$40k rig "Some Players are definitely better than others"
$50k+ rig "The cdp is a make or break proposition"

Shift the numbers around a bit for more fun.
who's mis-information Joe?

I hear changes in and employ after market cords, isolation feet and play with signal cables and have been in several truely jaw dropping demo's of varied products and devices that I wasnt prepared for and skeptical at best to what I figured would be the result. When I hear it I tell the world but if I dont I tell that also, for example my Lexicon player (laugh now) is notably better than a Sony or basic big box store offering but my fathers Esoteric model 60 player doesnt trump it by much if any at all, I have used a couple DACS with several wires and varied players as transports along with power cords but I just cant justify them for the price, rack space and added wire expense. Maybe its about this magical synergy that I cant find or my system or ears is crap, my system isnt great but my hearing isnt bad and neither is sub-par but if this digital synergy is so hit and miss then it needs to be stated that more than likely the chances are many items simply cant be detected as better or worse...and that saves money and this hobbies troubled cred with the new folks entering.
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Interesting discussion. I can only offer my own experience. I love music but I also love playing with audio equipment. For the latter reason, I have swapped a few CD player or Transport/Dac combo in the past. Every piece of my system costs between $500-1000 (nothing much by Audiogon standard). I moved from good old NAD to Acurus ACD-11 to adding an external Aragon DAC (D2A2), and multiple moderate tweaks (Upsamplers, anti-jitter device, power cords, etc). None of the "upgrade" gave me much satisfaction--I tried hard to convince myself that the "subtle" changes are what upgrade means. Until I got a used EAD T1000/Dsp1000 Series III combo. Immediately, I noticed music coming out of my system. To be honest, I was shocked as I really had no expectation other than the need to buy more equipment (pathetic, I know). So much details, blacker background, etc. All the stereophile lingos began to make sense. Currently, the rest of my system consists of Aragon 18K preamp, Mcintosh MC122 amp, and Magnepan SMGc (the maggies have been in my system since day 1; the preamp and amp have been swapped in and out a few times). May be I am lucky but I think I have found my synergism (for now). I guess this is a long version of saying Yes, CD player makes a difference but it does depend on system matching. When it really works, it will not be subtle (kinda of like having found your soul mate after all these years of dating).
Mostly good responses.

I agree on the system's resolution part which suggests that a system with higher resolution will yield a bigger difference in sound with respect to better CDPs. When I had a fairly low-end system, I couldn't seem to hear audible differences between entry-level sources. To my ears, the Arcam Alpha 8 and Marantz CD-63kISig that I had at that time all sounded the same. Just when my system progressed further to some mid-end stuff, I replaced the Arcam with a Sony XA7ES and heard an audible improvement, a sound that was much focused and refined. I could hear more details in the recording, and the bass was of higher quality. That was the point when I believed that a better CDP would give a better sound. After a few years later I picked up the Krell KPS-30i. Again, I heard a difference but this time it was not as significant compared to the jump in sonics between the lowly Arcam and the Sony. This just proves that difference in sound between players can sometimes be fairly unpredictable as it varies from noticeable to almost negligible.

The poster of this thread has some great gears, and I think he'll benefit with a better CDP. I'm not too familiar with the Pioneer Elite PD-65, but I think it's a fairly low-budget player -I may be wrong. I think the real question that should be asked is how much improvement he can expect if he were to upgrade his Pioneer to the Cambridge Audio 840C, or something else for that matter. Unfortunately, no one can answer that for him except the listener himself.

Good luck.
"The digital era is just beginning to give birth to itself." There's a mental image fer ya.
replacing my Pioneer Elite PD-65 with a Cambridge Audio 840c
These players use different chipsets (generation & technology wise) so the sonic rendition will be different. How perceptible the differences depends on the rest of the system AND the kind of music you listen to.
"The digital era is just beginning to give birth to itself." I'll bet that really hurts.
I was very please with the smoother and warmer sound of my stock EAD CD-1000 mkIII compared to my previous Parts Connextion modded Music Hall CD-25. The MH CD-25 was very, very bright but excelled in details.

Then I modded my EAD CD-1000 mkIII with new RubyCon ZA/ZL caps, Stealth soft-recovery HEXFRED diodes, replaced all internal wiring with teflon coated silver wire, and the Auricap cap mod on the IEC. I have no desire to replace this fantastic sounding player, as everything was much better.

Two points IMHO:
1. There are sonic differences in CDPs and,
2. The "stable platter" is a nice transport and foundation for a front end
CD players, DAC's, etc… Are not really always going to give you immdiate impression of hearing a big difference.. The only way to judge digital is more or less to listen for a more extended period of time to music you are fairly familure with, and really give them a go like a concert type playback, use several albums you are very expecting of certain things, and see how it emotionally engages you more than if you are just listening to another stereo or boom box with the same old sound.. Its hard to explain but like Vinyl you will hear a difference in impact, overall space, air, presence, naturalness… Many times its simply about Consitency, if a certain digital source can constantly please you with many recordings making a less flawed or better dynamic range, like how deep and impactful does the bass go, how smooth is the midrange and vocals, how good does the highs sound without getting harsh even at hi levels with raspier music, this will point you toward less distortion..

Many people make the mistake of testing digital sources at Low volumes, or ones that are just comfortable, you really need to drive the volume up even if it’s a little scary(not saying blow up your system) but rather let it play a little higher volume for a period of time to let things flow, see how much more control, and less distortion the digital source is making, and if you realize shes glued down really well, and you play your old source and it sounds more raw, muffled, or just sounds like your woofers are "Popping" making you think its not right than the digital is less engaging to you and you found a bit of a better digital source.. Its not an overnight experience sometimes, I believe in fact it can take a bit of a seasoned "Audiophile" to develop the taste of their own and pick out when something sounds right…

Also fact is you really have to kinda accidentally experience it to realize it, or believe it sometimes, nobody here can put words on paper and make you hear the difference you seek.

Oh and don't forget first of all some people like a different digital sound than you, which is not right or wrong, so many suggestions will be made, however also your system, cables, and even the power from your walls can effect how good one player or the other will sound in the end.
Considering the equipment that you currently own, you should be able to hear differences between the Cambridge and the Pioneer. You mentioned that a clear improvement is needed if the switch is to be warranted. Whether that happens depends on your tastes and system synergy. Keep your expectations reasonable; to a certain degree you are taking a step sideways.
I have no issues with the PD-65, in fact I am the happiest I've ever been with my system. I was just considering replacement due to the age of the Pioneer and also, I've been told digital technology has advanced so much since that player has come out that it a new cd player would sound much better. I have to say, the Pioneer is built like a tank and the transport is dead quiet while playing. I've heard some new machines in excess of $1000 that aren't as quiet as the PD-65. Also, when I first bought the PD-65 back in the early 90's I also purchased a Theta external D/A converter. I returned it because I could hear absolutely no difference in the sound. I have been a little skeptical of external D/A converters ever since.
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Jeff, obviously you mean humans (since information/technology by definition cannot create itself; it takes an intelligent source for specified complex information) are giving birth to a new digital era. But, your poetic description is enjoyable.
Keep the PD-65 and add a DAC. The Pioneer has a better transport than anything you can buy new near the price.
I must agree with Tvad. As a long time owner of a PD-65 (I sold it a year ago after 14+ years of great performance), I can say this is an unbeatable player standalone. But you will get magnitudes of sonic improvement with your money invested in a top-tier DAC from 5-10 years ago than any new player for the same price.

I tried a bunch of DACs over 12 years from the best value ever Counterpoint DAC10 (I am kicking myself for selling it) to the ARC DAC3 (rather fatiguing and sterile) to the awesome Manley and VTL Reference tube units, and later Electrocompaniet ECD1 and Classe DAC1 which are both now under $1k. The Classe particularly is a great great sounding component and has a hint of the Manley and VTL sound as it uses the same UltraAnalog chipset.

Along with the Genesis Lens, the PD-65 was a great transport to these many DACs. But it really was the Manley Ref DAC that was so superb especially after having the audio and power supply sections significantly updated by GNSC. Nobody would have ever known I had a $400 "transport" in the chain. Having the Aesthetix/CAT/SoundLab at the end of the chain surely helped a bit. 8-)

Only when I wanted to scale down the number of components did I change to a single player. But I have kept the Manley as it has a classic rich and bloomy sound that is nothing like any other have I heard.

I would not pay as much attention to the sampling rates or number of bits but rather the analog output stage and power supply. These far more affect the resulting dimensionality than any of the games being played in the digital domain. But don't expect to hear major differences here if the rest of the system is not at the same caliber as the DAC under consideration.

I see two Classe DAC1's now on here...both sold. They sell in the $800-1100 range and go fast. You could jump on one when it comes up, play for a week or two and sell it for the same price if it is not to your liking. But I think you will be presently surprised. The digital cable makes a huge difference here in the portrayal of space and body of instruments. And the solid-state-based Classe can pull this off quite well.....again due to the UA chipset. But the rest of the system must have this resolving power to appreciate this.....and far too few digital playback systems have this.


To your initial question:

"Is there a significant difference...?"

A local dealer should help. Try to find 2 players that represent different
approaches and price points and audition them in the same system. One
other test may prove useful:

See if you can audition a Cary CD 303 or similar model with DACs that are
adjustable for O/S rate and N/O/S operation. (The Cambridge may qualify,
I'm not sure). The Cary also has tube and ss outputs, all switchable from the
remote. A local dealer will allow you to toggle through the options as you
audition. If you find these differences meaningful you can proceed with
confidence that you'll hear differences between players. If these differences
seem less significant, you can proceed with caution - or not at all.

Good Luck,


PS - I own a 303 and have found the differences meaningful, but be aware
that the output level between the tube and ss out is different and must be
matched for comparative purposes..
What does it cost to mod a PD-65? What does it cost to get a D/A that sounds as good as a OPPO stock after break-in ? This is just one example. This particular advise I take umbrage with . What will be the resale of the modded PD-65/,d/a ? Apparently there are Goner's that have the time and money today to waste on these type of expensive experiments, as they repeat themselves one after the next. Once again, in today's ever diminishing value of our spending dollars, I believe advise should be well thought out, and prudent.
Jerrym303's idea might be the way to go,would you hear a difference for the better with the Cam. probably yes,just depends if you want to spend the money,But the thing is with dig,once you even have a decent player the differences dont stand out nearly as much as compared to when you get a different amp or preamp.
Fruff: If you can't hear any difference, don't change anything. Save your money. But I will tell you this.
I had the Pioneer feeding an Adcom 600DAC for about 10yrs.
And yes, the combo was fantastic back in '96 or '97.
But I have upgraded the transport twice since then.
Now, I just have a $400 oppo with no external DAC.
That's right, I tried the oppo with the ADCOM DAC
and didn't like it, which really threw me.
So there you have it. I hope this helps
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Through my headphones I heard a big difference between my 5-disc Panasonic and my Rotel rcd 965le. At first the Rotel confused me and then I figured out that it just was way more resolving. Dan
It's all about your system and your hearing. You'll find dozens of skeptics over there on avsforum who firmly believe all CD players sound the same, and I don't doubt them when they say *they* can't hear difference. I don't really care, as long as *I* can hear the difference.
Fruff, I have mentioned this a few times before in other posts, the differences in digital under $1500 are subtle at best. To give you an idea, moving the speakers 6 inches in any direction changes the sound to a much much larger extent than switching from say a Marantz 8001 to the 840C. You will hear a difference by using a different player but I am not sure if it will be a *clear* improvement. For an obvious difference in sound, try a tube player like the jolida instead.
From what I read, a new player, especially one that costs $1600 (Cambridge 840c) and is an "upsampling" machine should sound considerably better than one from 1992 that cost $800. That is the year my pioneer elite was manufactured and it retailed for $800. If it doesnt' sound better, what is all the talk of advancements in digital technology? It makes me wonder if there really has been any significant improvements in digital sound? Maybe I should just keep the Elite until it stops working and forget about it.
if you're going to spend $1600, spend it on a used DAC. use your Elite as a transport. Or even buy a cheap DVD player and use that as a transport. Bel Canto DAC3 is awesome and can be had for around that much used. Besides, you also get multiple digital inputs on the DAC3, so you can use a transport into it, a laptop or Squeezebox or whatever you have/will have. Flexibility of a DAC like DAC3 is hard to beat. Most likely it will be better than that Cambridge player you're considering.
should sound considerably better than one from 1992 that cost $800.

You can't be that sure, however, CD players did indeed improve in general around the early 90's with delta sigma DAC's and oversampling becoming widespread. (Principally Higher speed circuits with higher sample rates are what you get with a modern player - you can approach 120 db+ dynamic range on the most recent delta sigma chips but remember your speakers are unlikely to have more than 60 db dynamic range above the noise floor - so do you need it?)

IMHO, the quality of ordinary players was very good by 1995. Your Pioneer uses an early Delta Sigma 1 bit DAC. These DAC designs are very linear as well as low cost because they are easy to make - the higher speed designs push the out of band noise way way high and allow for less brick wall filtering.

Any player before 1990 and I would be worried about Jitter - it was less understood in those days.

Now only a few Resistor ladder multi-bit DAC's have survived - this is because Delta Sigma's specifications have largely caught up with them in terms of the highest specs.
you can approach 120 db+ dynamic range on the most recent delta sigma chips but remember your speakers are unlikely to have more than 60 db dynamic range above the noise floor - so do you need it?
What a heartless remark:)! For a dB junkie like myself, you succinctly epitomised the futility of this race...:(
Oh, and if only the s/ware really had 100dB wouldn't that be fun (and largely inaudible)!

BTW, at 60dB thems spkrs is doin good. Most won't do 25 before kicking a few buckets...
As mentioned above...system resolution is the key here .
It can be wonderful and a PITA !
BTW, at 60dB thems spkrs is doin good. Most won't do 25 before kicking a few buckets...


Indeed, yet it is all too common to see extremely expensive CD players hooked up to the kind of speakers you mention. My ATC mid domes are respected for being around 0.1% THD (around 60 db) across most of the all important midrange with wide even dispersion and at loud live concert/realistic music levels (this is the very hard part - as any old headphone can achieve these low distortion figures at tiny output levels and so can many speakers at modest levels).

However, I have no illusions - almost any modest CD player should be able to perform better than these distortion levels.

I am not sure that many people fully grasp the implications of these performance specifications when building systems. At what point does a CD player become so good that it is enough and other things matter much more (like room acoustics and speakers).
Borrow a Cambridge to listen to in your system. I suspect you'll hear an improvement; however, if you do, then why settle on a Cambridge? It's not exactly top of the heap and your other equipment is superior.

Also, consider getting a universal player, so you can try SACD and DVD-A. For $1500 or less, you can buy a new Pioneer DV-58AV or an Oppo and have Ric Schultz mod it to resolution well beyond the Cambridge.

<05-28-08: Jylee
It's all about your system and your hearing. You'll find dozens of skeptics over there on avsforum who firmly believe all CD players sound the same, and I don't doubt them when they say *they* can't hear difference. I don't really care, as long as *I* can hear the difference.>

I totally agree with Jylee. I hear the differences between most CD players in my system which consists of a Shanling A-3000 amp and Dynaudio s1.4's with 10year old MIT MH750 cables. When auditioning CD players, everyone sounded different. I trust my ears and the difference were significant and each had its own charactor. I find it incredible that some here can't hear the difference and weard comments about the total cost of your system will dictate the amount of difference you will hear between them??
Omegaspeedy, you commented, "I find it incredible that some here can't hear the difference and weard [sic]comments about the total cost of your system will dictate the amount of difference you will hear between them??"

It's not so incredible that some cannot hear the differences. Between tired old ears subjected to too much Harley riding, concerts, playing in bands, etc. and age, there's a LOT of audiophiles who have no clue how adversely effected their hearing is. Through the years they lose a touch of it and still think they hear "just fine". If people were to get hearing tests as they do vision tests, there would be millions of hearing impaired (to one degree or another) individuals discovered. Likely, many would inhabit the realm of audio, and make their appearance here. I have several times had audiophiles over to my home who, as the conversation lengthened and I discovered they were not hearing nuances properly, admitted they had hearing loss (and or) tinitus.

Maybe everyone chipping in on this thread hears well, maybe not. It cannot be dismissed out of hand. You, like me, seem to be able to mentally parse what is being heard.

As to "...weird comments" about the cost of systems. Does this really have to be explained? This is so fundamental that it should be self-evident, but we continuously are barraged by hopefuls who insist that cheapo gear will compete sonically with higher end stuff. Sure, there's an anomaly occasionally where a budget component outstrips some higher end piece, but on average one gets much higher performance with higher end gear.

My point was that mid-fi (one can easily spend today $10k and end up with a solidly Mid-Fi rig) gear simply won't allow a listener to discern the music as well as truly high end gear. Anyone who's worked their way up the ladder from Mid-Fi to higher end gear will understand that.

i.e. If let's say, Cary Audio has an introductory amp as well as one that's multiples more costly, their top of the line model, which one will allow for better perception/experience with any cdp? (That is, which will reveal the nature of the cdp better?) Well, it had best be the high bucks model, or else Cary is going to be out of business pretty quickly - and the same with any other manufacturer.

So, a guy cobbles together some lower end gear (I'm not dismissing budget audiophiles; I was one for more than a decade). Do you really think that it's going to be as good at presenting the cdp's nature as higher end gear? Is it "weird" to suggest that a system comprised of high end gear will produce better results?

One of my systems consists of Naim Nait 5i, Cambridge Audio Azur 840C player (w. digital input), Audioquest cabling, Eminent Technology LFT-VI speakers with a pair of HSU ST-1 subs - about a $5k system. Nice, fun, but in no way compares to my reference rig. I can pretty much swap out any speaker I want in the reference rig and still have better sound than the $5k rig. I can upgrade pretty much any piece in the $5k rig and still not get near the quality of the reference system.

The point is, there is a sonically cumulative/accretive effect from higher end gear which cannot be achieved at lower cost. Not typically.

The argument that system "synergy" can make up for expending money on higher end components is fallacious. One can achieve stunning results (system synergy) with the proper mix of high end gear.

{BTW, my pics of my rig are way outdated; I'm on about my third system succeeding those pics. I have been so busy reviewing that I've let that aspect of the hobby lapse, as it's not critical.}
Take it from someone who owns more esoteric/rare high-end and expensive gear than you and perhaps anyone else on this site does: Don't ever underestimate the value of "Synergy" between components! At the very core of the matter are such things as the output versus input impedance/capacitance/inductance that governs the electrical interface between components. Higher end gear does not guarantee better sound! In the 80's the higher the price of the component meant a higher degree of refinement, better part selection and a design with more substance but for the last decade and a half the price versus performance does not correlate most of the time. Now a days it is more about audio jewelry and it seems that some of the prices are derived arbitrarily and have no correlation to part costs or design sophistications. On the contrary, some of the highest cost components now a days are based on simple circuits from the 40's and 50's. I would love to continue this discussion but it is irrelevant as most do not understand the laws of acoustics, psychoacoustics and the science behind the engineered circuits.