Is a CD Transport the Best Digital Source?yes yes and yes. Cambridge Audio CXC is a great transport said to have just 5ps of jitter!! for less than $600 in Australia
Just make sure whatever you buy the laser or the complete laser/mech model no. is made clear and it’s available for less than $100 anywhere, not just from the maker of the CD player. Ebay is a great place to see if it’s readily available NEW!
Here is a great place to see what laser is used, http://vasiltech.narod.ru/CD-Player-DAC-Transport.htm
I now have a computer based system that blew away my Gryphon Mikado Signature by a very wide margin and is now my sole means of music listening. My PC is a very bespoke beast that sports every jitter busting device that I could get my hands on. It is not for the faint hearted as there is a lot of pounds sterling in it but very good clean and detailled it is too. The most important things I added were a Linear power supply, a J Cat Femto USB card lots of high quallity wire inside and out and a full compliment of Anti Jitter software from Laufer Technic. I have on a few occasions invited friends over to listen to it and saw them visibly pale when it first played something. Very satisfying that is as in some cases it was a third the price of what my friends had for CD Players.
@garrard I'm way ahead of you there as my Gryphon also was a very high quality top loading device and I even used it as a transport through my PS Audio Direct Stream senior DAC and again no contest and one of my friends supplied his own, Jays Audio CDt 2 Mark 2 and again my friend even admitted mines was better.
I have struggled with this same question. I won't muddy things up by mentioning any specific brands of equipment but here is my take. I like the concept of a good quality CD transport because of the level of control you have over the process. First, you have the ability to select different issues of the same recording. I usually reference the Steve Hoffman forums for feedback on the best source material. I then search for those recordings and try to find new unopened CD's if possible. Then you can control the DAC. Using a transport allows you to switch out various DACs to tailor the sound to your liking. With streaming audio, you have no control over the source material. I think streaming audio is very good but I consider it a secondary source for those recordings I really don't care to own. I also use a DVD player for audio but since the unit costs far less than my CD transport I consider this a good source for music with video but certainly not my reference player. This is my subjective look at it, right or wrong.
@jim204 Interesting that the JCAT USB card made a major improvement for you. I have a JCAT NET Femto ethernet card on order for installation in a QNAP i5 NAS that hosts Roon core in conjunction with SOtM EN-to-USB endpoints. I'll try powering the JCAT externally with either a SOtM or Chinese Zerozone PS. If that goes well, I may try comparing a JCAT USB card in the QNAP to the SOtM pieces-- which in my system are souped up with a Hynes SR7 linear power supply and clock links to a 10mhz master clock that also synchronizes the Esoteric DAC.
So far my computer audio set-up equals or surpasses my Esoteric K-01X transport. The performance of computer audio implementations vary widely-- which is reflected in the wide variation of responses on this topic.
I found that ripped CDs played from a hard disk or NAS through a laptop to a stand alone DAC sounded better than CDs played through an Oppo 105 to the same DAC. But YMMV. It’s always system synergy.
And, of course, there's always the joy of ripped SACDs which sound way better than through the Oppo alone.
As for bass response. IMO, all things being equal, that almost always has to do with better power supply.
@dgarretson Yes the JCat Femto did make a heck of a difference to my enjoyment of files through my PC. That said what I usually do is either rip a CD to my RAM Drive with Exact Audio Copy and sometimes I tweak it with Sony Sound Forge 12 and play it from my Ram and when I am satisfied with it I then save it to SSD drives which are expensive at the moment but they sure do beat the old platter drives for permanent storage. I also download from streams and copy them to my Ram with Sound tap which records anything which is playing on your desktop. That way I am now able to get all the files I want for the price of a subscription to a streaming company. The recordings made are virtualy indistinguishable to the stream itself. If there are any anomolies at all then I can tune it through Sound Forge to sound how I like . All this does seem simple but you have to strip your Windows operating system to the bone to get it to sound the way mines now does. I have lost count of how many times I have wrecked Windows with stopping things which are critical for Windows OS to work properly. I now make a Ghost of my operating system before I think of cutting any Windows services or drivers now.