I am currently using my Pioneer DV-525 as a CD player for my system what comprises of Musical Fidelity MA65 monoblocks, Carver preamp, Celestion SL6si with Target Stands. My system currently sounds so pathetic and dull, unlike when I had my Sony ES CD player (sounded so lifelike). I recently visited the most high end shop audio shop in Manila (they sell Krell, Jadis, Classe and other high end audio products) and asked for their opinion. The part owner told me that going for a new CD player would be a better option, but with my budget I could go only with a Pioneer w/ stable platter mechanism (widely used in Hi-End CD player mechanism as Wadia) or get a Musical Fidelity 24K DAC. He said "DVD players really suck when playing regular CDs, but when you play a music DVDs its a totally different story! Your Pioneer DVD might blow off our other expensive CD players, DVD players can never outperform regular CD players when playing regular CDs, you might be wasting your money to purchase a DAC!" Funny because the shop had many different DACs on their shelf, but he recommends it to more expensive transports. He said simplier is better and would sound. I am so confused if I should go for the Musical Fidelity 24K with my Pioneer DV-525 or just buy the Pioneer stable platter mechanism CD player?
Without a doubt, I'd go with the DAC option. There are a lot of DVD players that apparently don't sound good on their analog outputs for music, but there's no reason you shouldn't get identical performance using a DVD player as a transport as any other transport, and put any new money you're putting into the system into the best DAC you can afford.
Transports make a HUGE difference. Recently went through this.... I borrowed a Audio Research CD2 & DAC3 MKII, and a Wadia 270 and 27ix and tried all possible combinations with my California Audio Labs Delta / Sigma DAC. The CD2 sounded better by itself than the CAL Delta with either the Wadia or the DAC3 connected. I am going with the Audio Research CD2 & DAC3MKII -- I like it better than the Wadia... For 2x the price, I can upgrade my system to a more musical level (as evidenced by some other experiments with other components this weekend). Bottom line, if music is your main interest, buy a CD player. I do not agree with the post that states there is no difference from experiences with other gear. I have auditioned scores of gear, and I have not found a DVD with or without a DAC that can reproduce music as well as the same priced CD Player. If this was the case, why aren't all of the high end CD player manufacturers including the ability to read DVDs with a digital out that you could convieniently plug in your HT processor??
Upgrade your DAC!!! A great transport is just that! One of the problems i've encountered is trying to buy a great CD player and save the $$$ that separates demand. The built in DAC's seem to always be the weak point in these players. If you have it...spend the money for the new DAC. One thing that pisses me off though is the actual cost for the DAC's. The chips...no matter whose you choose...are only about $5.00-$8.00 each on a wholesale level. Kind of makes you wonder about where they come up with the outrageous price for the DAC box. By my calculations the mark up is more than on any other peice of audio-gear!!!! Later! Steve
I haven't tried a bunch of different transports, so for all I know they do sound different. But if they do sound different, I still wouldn't pay a bunch of money for a "high-quality" one - the ability to get bits from a CD off to another physical point (literally anywhere in the world) in bit-perfect form at CD-playback rates is a completely solved problem. If audio CD transports don't perform this function today then our response as consumers shouldn't be to buy very expensive versions of a transport. You can use your computer with it's $69 CD player to perform this, albeit somewhat clumsily at this point in time. But the manufacturers will come up with convergent products that provide this functionality cheaply. So, unless you have a transport that does some sort of filtering algorithm (ie bit-twiddling), a high-end transport has no technical reason for existing any longer, and if it does have some sort of filtering algorithm, buying an expensive transport is akin to buying the most expensive piece of software you've ever purchased.
The technical reason is the mechanics (stability, rigidity)of the transport and the ability to clock the data bits out without jitter. Circuit topology, parts stability & quality, power supplies and many other details make the difference between a 10K transport and a DVD player from best buy. Yes, some of it is the case and sexy CD tray... I used to think the same way, until I heard the difference -- and the CD format is not yet completely refined. If there was no difference in sound, companies like Linn and a few others could not get away with peddling 20K CD only players with with waiting lists.
J_k: I understand that there are reasons given for why one transport sounds different than others, and that additional cost / engineering can widen the gap. I've never experimented with different transports, so I won't state with any authority that "they all sound the same". However, if it is true that it costs a fair amount of money to accomplish bit-perfect transmission in an audio product, I'd argue that we, as music lovers / audiophiles, should be demanding a better interface, since the same feat is easily accomplished with a computer using cheap (throwaway) parts. I can get bit-perfect copies of data across my house at much higher data rates than a CD requires using extremely cheap pieces over a home LAN. It just seems like a complete throw-away of money to pay top dollar today for anyone's audio version of handling bits.