How Much Has CD Technology Improved in 14 Years?

As a "born again audiophile" I recently purchased an ARC VSi55, a pair of JM Labs Micro Utopia Be's and am awaiting the arrival of a new JA Michell Orbe SE and Tecnoarm.

Years ago, I purchased an inexpensive CD player to utilize with my previously existing system (Quad 57's with presently blown bass panal--no room in present home hence Utopia Micro's, Oracle Delphi, Audio Innovations integrated amp). At that time, I was listening almost exclusively to vinyl and had no interest in investing in a mid/high end CD player. The only reason my CD collection has grown over the past decade is because my previous system has been inoperable and the only medium available to me has been CD.

My question is what improvements have been made over time in the various parts of the CD player (DAC, optical reader, transport etc.) when comparing a moderately priced modern player of around $500.00 with my old clunker a JVC XL-V182? I would like to get the most out of my CD's and would like to get an idea of how much an improvement I can expect by replacing my old player. Also do I use digital cables for the interconnects?

Welcome back to the fold, a born again audiophile is a blessed thing! If a system is revealing and transparent enough, I think digital today is can be capable of much more musically satisfying playback at lower price points than was common in the past. If I understand your question correctly, I don't think that you are going to hear anywhere near what digital is capable of at the $500 (new?) pricepoint. In some respects, I think the golden age of cd player technology is past. 10 years ago greater numbers of manufacturers were devoting more resources to R&D in designing players. The music market has moved away from selling hardcopies of music and downloads rule the music buying habits of the average younger buyer. There's less incentive to make cd players. Heck, dedicated cd drives from major electronic giants are basically dead, multiformat drives rule. So there's been an actual retrograde in the availability of dedicated cd drives. If you step up to the $1000 (more or less) price point, players like the Rega Apollo, Cambridge 640v2, Marantz SA8001 offer really fine performance than eclipses what was possible at that price years ago. You've got really good stuff for the rest of your system and you would really hear a difference stepping up from the $500 to the $1000 price point I think.
Hi Lashman,
That's an interesting question indeed, and not just because of the considerable hype that every new kid on the block is getting by the specialized press. Are modern players really that much better than older ones, in that price segment?
I recently compared two very different CD players I had in my home: an old Technics SL-P320 (bought in the late 80s) amd a recent Musical Fidelity (A5), costing about 20 times more than the Technics. I had them both in different systems, so was curious to see what would happen if I put the Technics in my main system. To my surprise, the old Technics held its own very well: perhaps a bit more "round" sound, but not by a large margin.
I can't comment on the many cheap units out there, and I don't know your JVC, but I was quite surprised by how well the old cheap machine performed; maybe that particular Technics was an incredible bargain back then... There is, however, a much more decisive improvement between these two and my curent Spectral/Audio Note combo.
So, although I don't have a whole lot of experience (other units I heard in my system include Esoteric SA60, Bel Canto Player PL1-A, Shigaraki and Flatfish transports, Altmann Attraction and Audio Note 3.1x balanced DACs; all of which are higher priced than what you refer to) it's quite possible that, unless you get a real loser in the affordable category, you might not find very significant differences in modern units.
its mostly the software thats changed dramatically..
I am quite sure that you will get a wide variety of responses to this thread. I will offer mine.

My learning has occurred over the last decade or so and my system has grown and changed in that time. I have used a number of players and for my tastes I have settled on separates.

In my view, I would argue that a far greater amount of product improvement has been made in the 'marketing and sales department' than has changed in comparison to what was available in top quality gear made in the mid 90's.

My front end:
CEC TL2 Transport: circa 1995: they seldom appear on AG, and when they do, they seldom last long. Interpret of that what you will.
Audio Logic M34DSB DAC: circa 1998: Jerry Ozment's first DAC, a four-tube design. Occasionally seen on AG, and reasonbly priced. Highly sensitive to tube selection. A product you can truly voice to your own tastes.
Yes, good digital cables are necessary and they really make a difference: I use a Kimber Orchid.

I am quite sure that there is better gear that is available in current production, by my point is that there IS gear that was made more than ten years ago that is VERY VERY good, if not as good as Current Generation Redbook Product. The ONLY thing I miss is HDCD decoding in my DAC.

I personally am quite satisfied with my digital gear, and am focusing on rekindling my Analog Gear.
It's true that software is the area that has seen most changes, however not always for the better (the Altmann DAC, for example uses the old Philips 1543 chip -16 bit- but sounds better than some newer 24-bit unit I've heard...).
By the way, there seems to be a recent CD player that's not too expensive, but highly regarded: the MHZS CD 66.
Yes, there are improvements, however you too have not mentioned power conditioning. It can do "wonders" for the sound of an older machine as well as being a serious upgrade for newer systems. Try some. At least to isolate the inevitable digital noise from contaminating your other excellent components. I'm sure you'll get lots of suggestions if you ask just Don't let anyone tell you it won't be a benefit. Try.
CD technology has definitely improved since '93. However, the change may not be significant to you. Does your old player cause listener fatigue? Many newer players are a lot easier on the ears.

You will have to borrow or buy a newer player to see how it sounds in your system. Some people would go on at length about the differences between 2 different players in a given system, while someone else would say they pretty much sound the same.

I would suggest trying a Marantz SA 8001. You can find one for somewhere between $500 to $800. IMHO you would probably hear an improvement over your old player.
You’ll only need a digital cable if you have a DAC and a transport as your source. The DAC’s outputs, like a CD player’s, will use standard analog RCA cables. The single cable between a transport and DAC would be a 75-ohm digital cable.

Although there are expensive digital cables that deliver great sound, even quite inexpensive ones can work fine as long as you make them the right length. You can find posts that deal with this in the archives but briefly, a 1.5-meter length ensures that the almost unavoidable reflections within the cable do not arrive at the DAC at the wrong time.