There are a number of very high quality cd players on the market with digital inputs so that they will function as a dac too which eliminates having to choose. I find and recommend to my clients not to eliminate any medium but to embrace them all and move forward with the medium which you enjoy most, for some that is CD, some vinyl and some computer audio - it is nice to be able to enjoy them all though.
Some examples are the Esoteric SA-50 which has USB, toslink and coax inputs, an extremely high quality transport and plays CD and SACD.
Another example is the new Marantz UD7006 blu ray player which although it does not have a digital input will act as a streaming device with netflix and other mediums and sound very nice for it's price level on cd/sacd.
I have in my collection over 7500 hundred redbook CDs, which I'm not going to download into a hard drive, therefore, my investment in a reference transport made perfact sense to me.
If you don't have a large CD collection and down load your music into your hard drive or music server, then a very expensive transport might be a silly way of using your resources. I also ran the experiement just to hear which still offered better sonic performance a great transport or a hard drive and still believe that my reference transport sounds better in my system with my DAC.
Logical? Maybe, or maybe not, and I agree with Larryken. It depends upon the level of your system. IME, a transport is even more important than a DAC, and a computer is a transport FWIW. At 15k you are at the end of the line where computers meet high end transports in performance. I'd opt for the computer, because it will be much(5-10x) cheaper. I wouldn't be surprised if the right transport could best the best computer set up though.
It might not be long before computers catch up though...
I definitly desagree with 4est. numbers are numbers, it is the conversion of those numbers that matters. Only since the improvement of conversion(dac) has the digital domain began to show it's potential. What is possable. Besides, if you download there is no need for a transport. I have down loaded several 96/24 recordings. They sound great. Are they better then every cd I have ripped, NO! But most. If you have a lot of sacd's I understand your intrest in a player. But if you have redbook, move on. You will not beat it. And, in the end, you will be much happier with your system. MY OPINION!
Teajay makes a good point, if you have a large collection of CDs that you prize and have no plans to download, a high quality transport is mandatory for optimal redbook performance. It`s amazing just how good redbook can sound in a well thought out system, old fashioned? but still excellent sound without question.
Yes, a good transport will make a considerable difference. $15K!!! Where were you when I was actively selling audio and was being told that $ 2000 for an amp was way too high. Seriously, $15K is more than I would spend, I have never spent a third that much for any component and I have some very good equipment.
I haven't tried a lot of the higher end transports but people I trust who are in the know, state that good transports are miles ahead of computer audio. Logical is a word I try to avoid in this hobby. But it would seem "logical" if one of the better transport manufacturers would attach a usb and/or fire wire input to accommodate a computer.
All they would need to do is bake in a nice usb/spdif converter. For the audiophile that wants to use both sources (me) this input would eliminate a digital cable ($$$) and streamline connections.
Explain "in the know"? If you download music from HDtracks.com you take the transport out of the equation. So would people "in the know" still claim their transport is better then a computer based system?
OK. I guess I started this with the "in the know" comment.
First let me state that I'm all aboard the computer based source train. It's a blast and fits my listening lifestyle perfectly. I used to own a pretty good SACD player and curretnly own about 75 SACD's. At first I thought it was really superior to redbook but after some time I kept finding myself listening to "sounds" instead of music, so, I decided to go a different direction (non-upsampeling Audio Note DAC)... Just so you know where I'm coming from. This direction isn't for everyone and I will be the last to say my religion is superior to your religion.
Now, from a practical perspective. Most people I know own 1000's of CD"S. Replacing those at $30 a pop seems absurd. Especially with the first high rez download format that comes down the road. You have blueray looming large and then there's the argument about: are these high rez files really high rez or are they just upsampled? Let's just say I'm skeptical and probably the subject of another thread.
I don't know about you, but I have limited resources. I think Warren Buffet gets it right when he advises investors to get in when everyone is getting out and get out when everyone is getting in. Right now seems like a perfect time to pick up cheap CD collections. I see collections hit Craigslist at rate of about once a month for for a few bucks a piece. Therefore, a good transport which optimizes redbook for when I want to listen to that special recording from front to back, with a usb input for when I want to listen to play list, back ground music and internet radio is the perfect scenario for me.
Lokie, I have similar sentiments. Recent improvements in computer audio and availability of hi-res internet files are getting me interested. However after years of accumulating CDs and making refinements to a traditional RBCD front end, the question is when and how to assimilate these changes. I recently had a taste of the transport dilemma after installing a current-production ESS 32-bit 9018 Sabre chip in my SCD-1. The implementation allows toggling between the Sony DAC & digital filtering chips and the replacement ESS DAC combined chip, feeding into the same analog stage. Moreover I can swap between several transport sections that are in various states of modification affecting jitter. The ESS chip is supposed to be impervious to input jitter. However, the transport swaps suggest otherwise. So at least in this instance of a SOTA RBCD DAC, the quality of the transport still matters. Since the ESS chip supports universal data rates to 200kHz, it will be possible to gate its digital input to hi-res external files via USB, I2S, etc. However for silver discs this purportedly SOTA chip will continue to demand a high-quality transport.
If you are going to play music from CD's the transport matters and definately affects the sound/performance. Saying differently is being dishonest or blind/deaf.
That being said, one's opinion that a good transport is irrelavent due to computer audio is an opinion based on the belief that one will not play music from CDs.
If I did not own a plethora of CDs and was just getting into the hobby, the computer based approach makes a lot of sense - certainly from a convencience perspective. However, if you already own many CD's and plan to continue to enjoy them by playing them (vs. ripping them to computer), the transport is an important aspect to achieve the best performance - without a doubt.
Absolutely, if you are interested in the best sound and want to avoid wrestling with computer hardware and software which is not yet ready for prime time and may never be. Transport very complicated: put a shiny silver disc on, and press Play.