Does the Transport make a significant difference?


Had been running a squeezebox with my Audio Note 2.1 Dac. Tried my basic Oppo dvd player as a transport and yikes what an improvement - even over my $3,000 invested Modwright Sony player (a little rough round the edges but dynamic and live-ly sounding). So wondering if the mantra of having a great source is the best place to start ... ie matching the Dac to a quality transport say CEC TL 51 or open the vaults and spring for a quality Audio Note, Esoteric, or even dcs transport will be worth the investment. How does this compare with say upgrading your amp or speakers or even cables? I know I should listen for myself but any good experience out there to draw on before I start getting crazy about checking out the used adverts?
ladavid
Intuitively you would think it would. I am in no position to judge as I have been using Meridian 200 and 600 transports for years. Every time I change my decoder the transports sound better so I can't really say if they are a limitation or not. Some think it makes little difference; Anthony Michaelson of Musical Fidelity , whose TriVista 21 I am currently using , says it makes no difference. This was in one of Sam Tellig's corner in Stereophile. The interconnect does makes a difference. I would try to borrow a top transport and see if you could hear a large difference. I would try the cable first as it the cheapest. Since you don't say what the rest of your system is I can't advise there. But one thing to remember is to take your time. For everyone who regrets missing a good deal there are 10 who would like to undo a purchase.
YMMV and there will be others here who may not agree, but...

In my case, I have a quality transport, a CEC TL2. In My Experience, does a transport make a significant difference...Absolutely. It is still one of the most significant upgrades I have made. Note that I did not say biggest, or most dramatic. I said most significant.

I say this because it affected everything, and because it revealed so much from the digital disc.

Last week I received an email from an AG member, who had run across one of my old posts on the TL2, shortly after he had hooked up his new Transport. Want to chime in Kolledog?
I agree with Stanwal above. As you have already proven to yourself, the transport does make a difference. How much of a difference will depend upon the rest of your system.

In conjunction with trying to borrow/demo a top transport, I would also give the Cable Company a call, explain your situation and borrow some cables according to their advice. That would probably be the best place to start, give you the biggest bang for minimal dollars and the broadest exposure to many brands and types of cables. They are easy to work with when they're not too busy. Your most important cables in this case will probably be the interconnects from the transport, but you may hear other opinions as well - its really pretty system-dependent. Most importantly, trust your own ears. Hope this helps.
Hi there
The SB3 in stock form is a fairly average transport and improves a great deal with a simple pulse transformer mod to clean up the RF. I prefer my modded SB3 as a transport to my Transporter (although AES out is very close).
Equally important is a good cable - not necc expensive but good in terms of a match. I use a $5 cable which sounds better than some $300 IC's I tried.
No question that Transports designed to work with a purpose built Dac eg Esoteric, dCS etc will give you significant improvements in resolution - the issue is whether the rest of your system will let you hear it.
Cheers
Andrew
For the price of a good quality transport,you can get into a complete CD player with digital outs.This might also allow for comparison of its' analog outs, to the trans/dacs' output when auditioning a digital cable.
If the DAC is excellent at jitter rejection then it won't make a difference (one jitter immune input versus another should sound the same as it is all just bits). If the DAC is less than perfect at jitter rejection then it could matter. So your results will vary depending on how well the downstream DAC can handle whatever jitter is being thrown at it.
I have two cd players - one the Oppo that sounds pretty bad in my system on its own (its my dvd player for movies) unless played through the Audio Note Dac and one the Modwright Sony which is a quality stand alone player (tube rectified and seperate box tube power supply) unfortunately due to the mods I can't use it as a source for my dac and is getting its butt kicked by the oppo / dac combo. As for cables I am pretty good there too with audio note interconnects and a well regarded Atlas digital cable. Two things actually surprise me - how much better the oppo combo is than the Modwright Sony and how much better it is again than the computer / squeezebox / dac setup. Need to get my hands on a decent transport.
Ladavid, Assuming the Modwright is a Sony SCD-1/777ES, I know from developing that unit that the stock transport is only fair. However extraordinary performance can be coaxed from that unit as a standalone transport through mods to Main PCB and DC regulation. I don't know what all Dan Wright did to that model, but it's likely he focused on the replacement tube analog section and outboard supply for the analog section. It's probable that what Dan did can be preserved, while significantly improving other aspects of performance in the digitial domain with aftermarket clock & other mods.
My exp with CDPs and DACs has shown me the better build of the transport, the better the sound. Also, as was said above, IF the DAC in use does perform jitter rejection then all the better.

I have the Bel DAC 3. it espouses jitter rejection to near non existant levels.... super. It does a fine job in that regard I'd say too.

BUT, it's not perfect in it I suspect, as I've used 5 disc players with it, ranging from my $100 DVD/VHS combo, a Mitsubishi DVD player, an Oppo 980H, a Sony carosel mega changer, and my SCD XA 777es, (currently up for sale), and with each unit, in conjunction with the BC D3, I attain a difference in the sonic presentation.

At first I used a couple different digi links... then went
with the one I percieved as being the better of the two, I used a Stereovox xv2 digi cable into the DAC 3 as the IC, save for the 400CD Sony that only has an optical out.

Still there are diffs from one drive/player to the next.

My unmodded but w/new drive & lasers Sony SCD xa 777 does the best overall of the lot. IMHO

Each player by brand brought a little something different to the table. I say 'brand' as that seemed to be the sticking point for the diffs. From Sony, (3 diff players), to Oppo (1), and the Mitsubishi (1). the Diffs from one Sony to another varied a bit less so in terms of dyhnamics yet were more dyunamic than the rest overall.

The Oppo came closer in terms of a coherent sound stage depictiohn, the Mitsu and cheapies still less so.

it may well be nothing more than the circuitry being used with the laser or just the laser types. Dunno.

One last thought here .... if one discounts great depth as a viable portion of fine audio reproduction, my PC is comparable even to the XA 777.... albeit, the lack of rear of stage info.... and it's a touch dryer with poor recordings.

So even with a DAC JA says measures the best of any he's tested at that time, different drives/transports still provide differences in the timber, stage, bass, and dynamic range. Some marginal, some unmistakable.... yet diffs none the less.

Good luck.
You may try an teac vrds 10, 20, 25 cd player. They are relatively inexpensive ones, but with probably one of the best transport. It is hard to find better transport, especially one which still has replacement laser.
May be my own hearing limitations or the limitations in my downstream components, but I've used several CDPs and a dedicated server hard drive as transports into my Benchmark DAC (it reclocks) and heard very little (if any) difference. So, IME I'd tend to agree with Shadorne - if you reclock at the DAC, the differences in transport performance (if any exist) will be hard to detect.
I bought a Playback Designs MPS-5 a few months back, a one-box CD/SACD solution with an Esoteric transport and a proprietery upsampling to DSD DAC and claimed "unmeasureable" jitter. When I use my Oppo or Pioneer Elite DV-58AV as a transport it's almost as good as using the MPS-5's internal transport. There IS a difference, but the removal of glare and digital uglyness seems to all happen in the DAC/clock. So, IMHO, transports matter, but the DAC/clock combination is the most important, by far.

Dave
Watch out for the new PS Audio CD transport that's coming out in a few months. I'm saving for one now. It should be under $2k.
i have a cec tl-2 along with a audio aero prima dac.

the older cec tl-1 and tl-2 is a really sweet transport. they are one of the few ones that can be repaired if needed
Shadorne, you are wrong in regards to your Jitter reduction theory, If the DAC is excellent at jitter rejection then it won't make a difference (one jitter immune input versus another should sound the same as it is all just bits). "

I addressed this very question in my review of the Benchmark DAC1, where I ran the Oppo 970 versus the Rega Saturn, both as transport to the Benchmark.

http://www.dagogo.com/BenchmarkDAC1-1of2.htm

martyk1, your honesty in being willing to admit your hearing might be compromised is refreshing.
Doug,

It's a bitch blasting through that 35-49 demographic.

Marty
Depends on the relationship between the transport and DAC. One thing I learned is the ability to slave the transport to the DAC so the DAC clock is the master reduces jitter more effectively than if the DAC is slaved to the transport where clocks have to be synchronized. This does assume that the DAC has a quality clock installed in it. In the latter scenario the cable is more of a factor because you have the clock signal and bits going through a single cable. My CEC/Lessloss combination separates these functions and uses the clock in the DAC as the master. This is similar to how some pro audio applications that I've heard in my system work as well with word clock inputs and outputs. Take a look at the Lessloss site to read more about this concept. They even give instructions on how you can slave a transport to a DAC.

Otherwise it's somewhat of a crap shoot as to whether a transport makes a difference. Some will, some won't, and in other scenarios a cable could have a bigger impact.
Shadorne, you are wrong in regards to your Jitter reduction theory, If the DAC is excellent at jitter rejection then it won't make a difference (one jitter immune input versus another should sound the same as it is all just bits). "

Doug,

If you re-read my statement then you will realize that I cannot be wrong. If a device rejects all incoming jitter entirely then there is no incoming jitter left (just the jitter from the clock in the device itself). Therefore a device which is said or demonstrated to be immune to jitter cannot possibly sound different with different amounts of jitter on the inputs - something else would need to cause the difference. A nasty ground loop on the Coax input creating circuit noise somewhere that is eliminated when using Toslink, for example. I am sure that many explanations can be imagined but it won't be interface jitter if said device is jitter immune and demonstrated to be so. It is simple logic really.
Douglas - I don't understand what Shadorne is wrong about -he says exactly same thing as you. Am I missing something?
Kijanki, he said, "If the DAC is excellent at jitter rejection then it won't make a difference (one jitter immune input versus another should sound the same as it is all just bits)." Seems to me the conclusion he reached is: the transport doesn't matter since jitter elimination will nullify any advantage of a higher end transport.

I don't agree with that. In my article I point out that a jitter eliminating DAC (the Benchmark) can help raise the performance of the poor transport, but it will not make it the sonic equivalent of the finer transport. There are still fundamental sonic differences. The distinction between them becomes even more profound in higher end rigs, even if the same jitter nullifying DAC is used.

I'm not trying to get into an argument over it; I just shared that I tested the premise and found it not to be true, at least not universally.
Douglas - I asked since I have DAC1 with cheap DVD player and no way to compare. From what I found on the Benchmark forum DAC1's jitter bandwidth is in order of few Hz and rejection is reaching 100dB at frequencies of interest (kHz). I know that sidebands, in spite of being at about -80dB with 3nsp-p jitter (taken from Stereophile article), are very audible since not harmonically related to root frequency but 100dB rejection on the top of it should be enough. Some Benchmark users reported audible changes between common transports while the others could not detect any change at all. In addition they could not find the difference between toslink and coax (other than ground loops that Shadorne mentioned) where toslink should be much worse jitter wise. Benchmark claims that there is absolutely no difference as long as player is "bit transparent" and not all of them are. Some, for instance, have digital volume control or another form of processing. Benchmark also tried thousands of feet of cat5 cable to prove that cable induced jitter is rejected and confirmed that difference is not audible. I wonder how much of the claim is Benchmark's marketing and how much of the user observed difference with expensive transports is a placebo effect. Using DVD player is convenient since they are cheap, play other formats and have good tracking, but I'm always interested in improvement.

At the level of transparency of the Benchmark many people complain that it is too clean up to point of being sterile. My first impression after switching from Cambridge gear (not much experience with high end) was that instruments must be missing on recordings I know well. It takes a while to get used to it (in positive sense).

Also - John Siau mentioned on the Benchmark forum that DAC1 was designed to avoid being warm because warm sound (even harmonics) does nasty job on the piano sound with its complex harmonic structure (but great for voice or guitar) making it sound almost out of tune. He claims that the only way to get real piano sound is to use headphones because crossover does similar thing. I don't think I would be able to hear it anyway.
I agree with you doug cd transports do make a difference in the quality of sound that you can get out of a dac. Even if your dac does a good job at eliminating jitter. I have an ensemble transport and hi dac i hooked up mid-fi my pioneer elite blue ray digital out to hi-dac and their was a night and day difference in quality of sound. Doug i have bought the paradigm active 40v2 and nht xd system based on your reviews and love both just wanted to say thanks and keep writing reviews for us audiophiles. Jerry
He claims that the only way to get real piano sound is to use headphones because crossover does similar thing.

You can use active speakers to eliminate that issue, which John Siau should be aware of. One of his customers bought 7 Benchmark DAC1's for his studio and uses them with active type speakers.

FWIW: I agree with Doug that the sound of a given transport with built in DAC may be preferred to a jitter immune DAC (and vice versa) - but that is not what I meant. Sorry but I may not have ben clear enough.
Usarmyvet91, thank you very much for the vote of confidence in my reviewing. However...you may want to thank Doug SCHNEIDER, because he was the one who helped you, not me. I really would have if I had known. Now, if you read my reviews of the Eminent Technology LFT-8B's or Legacy Focus HD's and buy them, then I'll be happy to accept an accolade! I hope you don't mind if I keep writing reviews as well. :)

So, everyone's happy now! Good!
Shadorne - I was under impression that we discuss sonic differences of different transports with the same DAC and not comparing DAC with stand alone CDP. At least that was the purpose of the thread and my reply to Douglas statement below:

"In my article I point out that a jitter eliminating DAC (the Benchmark) can help raise the performance of the poor transport, but it will not make it the sonic equivalent of the finer transport. There are still fundamental sonic differences. The distinction between them becomes even more profound in higher end rigs, even if the same jitter nullifying DAC is used. "
My bad doug you review for dagogo. I get you to mixed up and yes i do enjoy your review also.
Shadorne - I was under impression that we discuss sonic differences of different transports with the same DAC and not comparing DAC with stand alone CDP.

That was the way I understood it too. It doesn't matter anyway as I am quite happy if we all understand each other in the end - and I think ultimately we do. My english/spelling is not great and I rarely double check my quickly written posts. I think in equations/math more easily which is why I am quite comfortable with listening to digital and more interested in the technical rather than aesthetic side of this hobby ;-)
same here - bad spelling and technical.