effect of tubes in cd players

some cd players have tubes inside. Does it change the sound a lot like using a tube preamp?
I can't say it changes the sound of CD players generally--players are all different, and anyway you can't put tubes into a solid-state one to see if it changes the sound. (OK I lied, there was once an AMC unit you could do that with, and it was said to be an upgrade.)

Rolling tubes in a CD player does change the sound, though. I've owned two tubed players and they both sounded better (to me) with the right tubes. If that's what happens with a tube preamp (and many say it does) then I guess your answer is yes.
"Does it change the sound a lot?"

Obviously it depends on how you define 'lot'. I think tube CDP's do sound different from SS CDP's generically speaking, but there are some fine SS CDP's.

What makes the difference for me is the ability to fine tune the sound of a tubed CDP to match your system simply by changing tubes. Apart from vinyl, the best sound in my house involves a SS CDP direct to a tubed amp, its 'audiophile approved' so to speak.

However the sweetest sound in the house is a tubed CDP/Pre-amp/Amp in which I've paid careful attention to tube matching to make it all come together.
Its fun to tune your own system. To hell with 'audiophiledom! :-)
I agree, i have an Arcam dv29, and a Consonance sacd, which i have upgraded the tube in,2 totally different sounds, both are very pleasing,also use a tube headphone amp and the one in my benchmark dac, different sound both great with different music

tube cd players will have much more air and less congestion in the highs. To me this is a bid deal.
I have a solid-state CDP and a tube CDP. They are both very different and if you go by classical definitions, the SS one sounds more like tubes and the tubed one sounds like SS. So you can't go by that. There is a lot of overlap - you just have to experiement with many different ones to see which you like.

There are some players that can be switched between solid state out and Tube stage out.. I know Cary makes a couple and there are some other ones as well, but I can't think of them. I have found solid state digital running thru a tube preamp the best overall balance..
Id you send out say Denon or Sony to get modded you can have some fun tube rolling but when it comes down to it having tubes as a buffer which introduces lower order harmonic distortion (the kind we like as opposed top upper harmonic distortion which is,well, distortion) in my mind is best left to a tube pre or amp.If one combos is most poular it is tube pre's with SS amps because you get warm euphonics ,bloom, etc of tubes but still your output has control of SS i.e.no rolled off highs or weak bass which CAN be base with some tube designs be they pre or amp but don't have to be.Recently solid state sounds more like tubes and tubes sound like SS.In a hybrid amp tubes are used to change voltage where they add chromatics and some designers say this what they do best but output is handled by SS usually Mosfet designs.

All this said you get IMHO better qualities of tubes in pre or if you really dig tubes,find the right amp or integrated go with tubes entirely as opposed to just adding a filter.Muical Fidelity sold more of it's little XV3(?)tube buffer boxes than any other item it ever made so there's lot's of folks out there who have solid state and want a touch of sweetnes.But generally speaking you'll get more and btter sound out of a glass pre and the most from a glass(tube) amp then you will than just having it as a ad on filter which is waht essentially you get strapping tubes onto a CD players output stage.Big in the aftermarket mod world but if you look at companies that produce both tubes and solid state their CD's are usually sans tube output which must sayt something.The very best CD players do not have tuber oputputs.On other hand you might like it and haved fun.I'd just rather it be part of circut design of my pre,amp,or intergrated.
rtapping some tubes
10-24-06: Undertow
There are some players that can be switched between solid state out and Tube stage out.
Shanling SCD-T200 is another.
Some of the Consonance also let you switch between tube and SS.
I have a Granite CDP with both a SS output and a tubed output played through the same DAC . I have also auditioned a Cary player set up the same way . Both can do an A/B on the fly , very easy to hear the differences . This type of dual output CDP is really the only way to discern the differences between the two types .
First , you need to have a fairly resolving system to be able to hear the difference .
Second , the difference is not night and day . The SS side is a little more extended and dynamic .
Of course that means that the tubed side will be a little rolled off and be just a tad warmer .
While I have the option of either way , I prefer the SS side .
Again the difference is not significant .
I hope that this helps .
I had the opamps changed in the Cayin 15 to wonderful effects. , the 15 which offers ss and tube outs. The bass is a tiny bit more pronouned through the ss, but the mids and highs are superior in the tube out. So thats how I listen.
My Cayin 17 offers only tube and am in the process of making my final tweak, changing the caps. I'll post a note on the results.
Makes sense to me that cahnging the cheap stock caps with mundork M series (not their best , not the cheapest) would affect the sound, as the caps is the very last stage that the sound passes before it exits the cdp.
My Vincent CD-S6 MK is a tube hybrid.
In comparison with a Denon 2900 and Sony 900v, the Vincent is more transparent, open, accurate, pace without being harsh. So not all tube cdp are warmer.

Age 0-49 : Tube audiophile CD player
Age 50- : Non-tube audiophile CD player

Not a hard and fast rule, but something to consider.
Your Mileage (a/k/a hearing) May Vary
This type of dual output CDP is really the only way to discern the differences between the two types.

The differences you are hearing are more to the particular implementation of the tube or ss output stage. Both tube and ss CDPs are all over the place sonically. Difficult to generalize, and the same applies to results obtained with a dual output CDPs.

In a dual output player, it is highly likely, neither output type is fully optimized. I would rather have a designer stick with his opinion what sound good and accomplish his goals good as possible, doesn't matter which design.

When I owned the Shanling T200, I listened to both outputs and heard a difference, but I never could decide which I preferred. Too many choices leads to heightened Audiophilia Nervosa. Now, I just prefer to have only one option and adhere to the KISS principle.
I also have a Granite player with tube and solid state output. The differences are readily apparent, and come down to what I (and I readily admit that I take the contrarian opinion) normally hear regarding the difference between tube and solid state.

Tube is more open, spacious, with greater clarity and detail. The sound also seems faster to my ears. On the negative side, if things are leaning towards brightness, you'll hear it even more with the tube output

Solid state is more relaxed and lush, with a heftier and richer bottom end. Its negative is that sometimes I find myself missing a bit of the excitement and jump of the music.

Which do I prefer? Having the option of using either, I do. Sometimes, I use the tube out, and sometime I go the solid state route. I most appreciate the sonic differences and flexibility.
I feel that I must change my earlier statement .
I stated that one needs a fairly resolving system to hear the difference . Well I have acquired a new amp and now I can easily 'hear' the difference !
I will comply with what Trelja has stated , the difference is now easier to discern and I am really enjoying the tube side with some music !

Boa2 ; Age 50- : Non-tube audiophile CD player , what are you trying to say , you young wipper snapper ? LOL

Samuellaudio ; I hope that you can swing a dual output CDP and experience both worlds . Have you made a descision yet ?
Boa2 ; Age 50- : Non-tube audiophile CD player , what are you trying to say , you young wipper snapper ? LOL
Just bored, too much coffee, what can I say???

Hope all is well with you, David!
my experience with tube rolling and components produced in 2005 and 2006 is that, with the possible exception of very low powered amps, the changes in sound are small.

it is my belief that manufacturers design circuits which are insensitive to tubes.

i have experience with a cary, bat, minimax, jolida and audionote cd player. the audionote cd2 showed the most variation with changes in tubes. the other players were hardly affected at all.
I agree, some designs will be more sensitive. My Cayin 17 showed enough improvement over the stock tubes to justify the 175.
I have plans for upgradeing caps next
Mr T,

How do you define small?

Perhaps in another persons experience and with their expectations they would feel that the same sound difference should be described as large.

Can you give us a point of reference so we can understand your subjective conclusions better. I wouldn't normally expect this of a person, but your recent thread on how one should describe musical performances and your views of the value of subjective comments suggests to me that you did not intend to leave such an ambiguious post, leaving the reader to understand your meaning of the use of the word small.

Look forward to reading your clarification of your observation.
i wish i could quantify the word small. i will try to explain it in two ways.

consider qualitative terms such as small, large, salty, sweet, as thresholds.

basically subjective in perception, a difference which is mall has to exceed some expectation in one's mind, whence hearing it any difference exceeding it is gretaer than small.

that is, one must first perceive a differnce between two instances of sonic reproduction but consider it below some expected difference which in a personal sense constitutes your idea of small.

this may be very vague. i will try another approach.

if iam listening to two 12ax7 tubes and hear a slight difference but am indifferent as to preference, that difference is surely small.

newbee, you are right in your observation that one person's large can be another's small, but it certainly defies logic how that could happen.

i hope i have shed some light on the subject rather than be confusing.

i can sum up my philosophy: a difference (is perceived) which makes no difference (it doesn't matter to the perceiver) is no difference ( will not motivate one to take an action)
>>i wish i could quantify the word small<<

Piece of cake. Take a person who allegedly writes magazine reviews. For argument's sake let's, for grins and giggles, use somebody posting in these threads. Now add up all of his/her meaningful posts. That is a stellar example and definition of small.
I enjoy cheesecake.

I'll assume this makes no difference since all readers will be indifferent.
I prefer german style cheesecake rather than new york style. Let me assure you the differences are NOT small.
Generalizations cannot be made on this topic IMO, any more than generalizations about SS outputs. It is very dependent on the design. Most tube designs have poorly designed power supplies and distribution, not to mention poor parts selection, so they appear to have "bloom" or HF roll-off or flabby bass. There is no reason why a tube design cannot sound a LOT like a decent SS design, and can be even better due to better dynamic linearity. It is also very dependent on the AC-coupling capacitors. Many times, it is the capacitors that you hear, not the tubes.

There are a few tubes that just dont perform well in ANY design, but there are the same analogies with op-amps and even transistors....these are the exception, not the rule.
>There is no reason why a tube design cannot sound a LOT like a decent SS design,<

That is if you want your system to sound as though it has a "decent" amplifier. No thanks, not for me. I want my system to sound like it has a "good" tube amplifier doing the duty. And that doesn't mean >HF roll-off or flabby bass<. Because that's NOT what a good tube amp sounds like. Nor does it sound like a SS device, which in most cases is definitely mediocre.

I agree with OZ, there's A-Z qulaity tube amps. A well designed/high quality parts tube amp will exceeed most every ss amp. We are talking musicality and also fatigue factor. I could never go back to ss amps.
back to "small differences in tube rolling". There is a point to be made that in some tube amps, the design (or is it also parts quality) is poor, and so has this 'signature sound". So no matter what pre tubes you use tthe difference will be over rided by the 'sig sound' of the amp. Now driver tube replacement will obviously be a greater cahnge, but the cost factor is high.
I wouldn't roll expensive tubes in a poor design tube amp.

back to the original question. "Does tubes inside a cdp make a differencea as say in a tube preamp?"

Yes the tube out on my Cayin 15 sounds to my ears more airy/musical vs the ss outs.
"small" but still noticable.
Ozzy62 - you have obviously never heard what good transistor design can do. Definitely not mediocre, also not stock. I takes a lot of mods to get transistors to sing IMO. The only tube amp that I have heard that delivers the bass tightness is the Wavac, and you know what that costs...I've heard them all.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Bartokfan - I believe you and I would probably come to the same conclusion, but this is only one data point. The tube outputs on the Shanling sound better than the SS outputs as well, that is until I mod it. Then the SS outputs leave the tubes in the dust...very dependent on the design. Again, I feel that generalizations cannot be made.

I have heard good SS and good tube designs. Many more SS designs though. If you are looking for rolled-off and undynamic, then even poor tube designs can deliver this. This is why there are so many tube designers out there. It is easier to come-up with a tube design that sounds decent. It is just simpler design. It is also very difficult to design one that outperforms the best SS, particularly when it comes to HF extension, dynamics and bass tightness. The technical reason why this is the case is as follows:

Tubes require high-voltage, therefore the currents are quite small to the plate. Delivering these currents is therefore easier than the equivalent power delivery to bipolar transistors or mosfets. As a result, even "broken" power supply and power delivery designs for tubes can sound decent. I know because I have fixed a number of them. But, making them world-class requires the same care as design for SS. I have found that most tube designers do not have the experience required to achieve this. The Wavac is an exception, but I suspect that even the Wavac could be improved a bit. The other issue with high-voltage is coupling. There must be isolation, either by transformer or by capacitors. These ultimately add coloration. I have tried and measured all types of coupling caps and only within the last year or so have I found capacitors so transparent that they sound close to DC-coupled. Most designers select capacitors that I reject as too colored due to high dielectric absorption, losses or other factors. I have a DAC product myself that has tubed output, so I'm not against tubes. It is my best DAC.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
>I takes a lot of mods to get transistors to sing IMO<

Thanks for helping to make my point.

On the other hand it ALWAYS takes a few mods to get HF extension, bass tightness and dynamics out of tubes IMO, and some tubes just aren't capable.....

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
I use a Metronome C1A DAC and have just replaced the stock (Sovtek) tubes with 'better' ones from Mullard. The changes are huge in a positive way. The combination of 'modern' digital upsampling and 'old' analog tubes seems to be a very good one which leads to the holy grail of 'detail + warmth' (in my system). Hope this helps in this discussion.
I personally can't stand "warmth". I want it live and fast, and tubes can deliver this in spades if the circuits around them are designed right. There is no reason why tube designs cannot be fast, extended and with tight bass.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
11-11-06: Audioengr
I personally can't stand "warmth". I want it live and fast...

That statement speaks volumes, and I mean no disrespect. I wish more designers stated their personal preferences. It'd eliminate some guesswork when deciding what product to purchase.
Anything that colors the sound or rolls it off is what I'm trying to eliminate, of course without adding sibilance or harshness.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Steve have you ever heard Wytechs? These tube amps (all SET) have the most bass I've heard of any tube amp. Very fast, tight, in a word, perfect for my tastes. No bloat. A real treat to listen to them.

When you mention you modding the Shanling and the SS turns out sounding better, is this with modding the tube stage as well? Have you thought about disconnecting the headphone stage and coupling these transformers to those of the tube output stage?

I prefer the tube stage of my cd player to the ss stage, but if the tubes aren't right, the ss stage will best it (and I've gone through 3 series of mods so both sections are modded out the wazoo).
Never heard the Wytechs. I have heard the $250K Wavacs. Now these can do bass for real, and tight.

"When you mention you modding the Shanling and the SS turns out sounding better, is this with modding the tube stage as well?"


"Have you thought about disconnecting the headphone stage and coupling these transformers to those of the tube output stage?

No. I try to avoid both transformers and capacitors if possible, particularly transformers. This is because there are so many good choices for coupling caps available now. I try to DC-couple whenever possible, such as my mod for the Benchmark DAC-1.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
I have had three solid state players, Sony, Rotel, and Marantz. I went with a used Cary Audio player this time and I will not go back to a solid state player. One of my audio friends has a Ah Toeb player, this is also a good sounding player.
It all depends on the CD player involved AND (naturally) what tubes are being used. I have found a HUGE difference in tubes in my stock JOLIDA tube CD player. The best sound came from rare 12AX7 versions and it was immensely different than even the next vintage tube version tested.

Sadly unlike preamp applications, most modern day tubes did not sound good in the CD-100 (to me). I REALLY like the JJ ECC803S tubes in many preamp and amp applications but they sounded just blah in the Jolida. The closest to modern tubes was the recommended Phillips JAN versions. These at least got the player to be interesting.

Further sonic improvement after that required vintage tubes to extract more juice out of the CD listening experience. Of course at some point the tubes start costing a significant amount compared to the cost of the player so that needs to be factored in as well.

I guess it all depends on what type of sound you want to achieve from any CD player. I find non-tube CD players to be clinical at best and I like my CDs to sound as close to my LP sound as possible. Why? Because a lot of modern day music is simply not available on LP - even imported.

Also, for test purposes try some of the Mapleshade CDs. Although rather "dry" sounding when the CD playback experience is "right" they really do convey the "in studio" performance very, very well. After calibrating to something like the "Mojo" CD I can usually then pick out all the processing and the like done in other CDs. Not all of it is bad mind you, just different from a "purist" perspective.
Audioengr,Not all tube stages are created equal so are definitely better than others probably one of the best if not the best one out there now is the Modwright which uses the Alan Kimmel MU stage.
>>I will not go back to a solid state player.<<

It's not about tubes or solid state. Design, parts, and build quality are what matter.

Don't forget that Meitner, Wadia, and Esoteric are all solid state.
The tech guy here in baton rouge said of the layout in the Cayin 17, dual power supply, true dual balance stages, 4 6922 "I'm very impressed what Cayin has done in this player".
For the price its the most impressive looking, and finest built player for under 2K.
You can write to him and get his opinion.
Baton Rouge
breginato@sanbrunocable.com - I've modded Modwright tube stages for customers in the past. They can be improved as well. Like audiofeil says "its the design".
11-17-06: Audioengr
breginato@sanbrunocable.com - I've modded Modwright tube stages for customers in the past. They can be improved as well.
The sonic character will be altered, and therefore it will no longer be a Modwright component possessing the Modwright "house sound". Whether one considers the change an improvement will be a judgment based on personal taste.
Improvements are in HF extension and dynamics mostly. The customers were happy if that is any indication.
I would be curious to know which of our products were 'modified' by Empirical Audio? The design of our tube circuits and topologies have evolved over time. I will admit that early ModWright tube mods that relied on a SRPP circuit had some HF limitations. I am speaking of mods that were performed 3-5 years ago. We have also improved and refined our power supply designs over time.

Dynamics can be a subjective term. I have heard designs that others considered to be very dynamic and detailed that to my ears were cold and sterile. I agree that bandwidth should be as good as possible and signal path purity maintained. I also believe lowering noise and distortion levels are also keys to improved performance and overall musicality. Power supply design IS key to any SS or tube circuit and a poor power supply design will compromise the circuit's performance.

As far as tubes vs. SS, I agree that both can exhibit similarly neutral sonic characteristics, if designed properly. I actually prefer system combinations of tubes for front end components and preamp, with SS amplification. This is my general preference, but does not mean that I haven't heard tube amps that I found to be extremely musical, engaging and accurate. The bottom line, IMHO, is that tubes amplify voltage best, while SS components 'amplify' current best. Front end components are largely responsible for amplifying voltage signal, as is the input stage of an amplifier. The 'power' portion of an amplifier is responsible for 'amplifying' current.

Ultimately, it is up to each individual to determine what sound they like best. It is true that different designers have their own house sound. Beyond objective measurements, there is a certain amount of subjective perception and appreciation. There is also the fact that the ear is a far more complex and sophisticated 'instrument' than any test gear that we as engineers have access to.

To sum up, if it sounds good (to you)...it is good ;).


Dan W.
President, ModWright Instruments.
I have not modded anything recently, including your preamp. In fact, I'm going more the route that you are taking, designing my own gear and doing less mods. Perhaps someday you will mod one of mine.

Are you saying that it is not possible to improve the sound of these?

Steve N.
Empirical Audio