Is a transport/DAC combo better than a CD player

I have a Denon 2900 with a Musical Fidelity Trivista DAC and was going to buy a new transport for CD playback. However I keep hearing that many people are now saying that one box players are better than 2 box DAC combinations.

What do you prefer, single players or 2 box combos? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each set up? What are your recommendations for purchases in both categories (new and second hand)?

Thanks in Advance
Michael (Aka Dlite)
I prefer the transport and DAC seperates because of a few things. Better isolation, better flexiblity, easier to get a high quality transport mechanism and high quality DAC chips. Cheap - I would recommend a used Aragon D2A2 DAC, they have excellent build quality, sound, and service. Think I saw one recently on gon for about $400, then pair with any good CD player as the transport, or get a seperate transport.
Moderate price I have and like the NorthStar 192 Transport and DAC list $5,000, but can pick up new for $2,800 for both, or used for about $2,000
Thanks. Much appreciated.

Advantages of a one box player is space savings, one less power cord and digital cable. That being said, I have tried six different transports with my Audio Logic DAC, they all added something to the sound, but the biggest difference I have heard comes more from the digital cable then the transport. Go to your local dealer and get a few digital cables to see what works with your set-up and do try a real expensive one to see what the differences are compared to ones within your budget.

Happy Listening.
I think in general a new CD player (current technology) outperforms a trans/DAC combo until you start getting into the higher priced gear, like maybe the $4K-$5K range on up. However, it may be very useful to use an existing older CD player as a transport connected to a DAC as a way to make an incremental improvment and not have to spend quite as much at one time. I guess if I had $1K or $2K to spend, I would probably look for an all in one unit, or buy just a DAC, and use my CD player as a transport, and maybe update the transport later.
I f you run a stock Sony dvd/cd player, can you use a DAC, with it through the digital coaz or do you use the analog outputs, and if you can use dig coax can you still use it for 7.1 DVD audio, and finally if you are limited in funds generally speaking how much should you plan to spend on a DAC from a fair priced vendor and should I expect a noted im provement in sound...thanks so much, chad
The answer to your question is: not necessarily.
The main drawback--and reason why transport/dac combos fell out of favor for a few years--is that reflection back of the digital signal through the digital interconnect between the transport and the DAC introduces additional jitter into the system which would not be present in a one-box solution.

This problem has largely been eliminated in modern DACs, which use either low-jitter input receivers (like Musical Fidelity X-DACv3 and Channel Islands Audio VDA-1) or digital buffers (the Benchmark DAC).

The Musical Fidelity Tri-Vista should be relatively immune from jitter introduced through the interconnect. So, if your transport has sufficiently low jitter (anything under 200 ps peak jitter is GREAT), you will get excellent sound, and a one box player will have no real benefit at least as far as sound quality is concerned.

A DAC is really useful if you want to have a one-box solution for DVD and CD. Buy a cheapo DVD player with respectable jitter specs and a dedicated CD laser (such as the Phillips SACD players), couple it with your Tri-Vista, and you will have a world-class red book front end.
I think the combo is better if done properly. I use a Sony 777ES and run the CD through a Birdland AUdio DAC with reclocking board and I swear the red book sounds every bit as good as the two channel SACD (have A/b'd JAcintha and Patricia BArber redbook vs SACD). You do need to be careful of the digital cable to the DAC--the investment in the cable is well worth the money.
It depends of the units used...

Personnally I used a Hegel CDP2A itself and the sound is very nice. Great improvement over a Cairn FOG2 (24/192)

Now the CDP2A combined with a external dac HD10, the step is very very nice in all the way (soundstage, deep bass, fine details more perceptible, etc)

And with another quality power cable and digital cable to the dac, I got another step.

I am trying to test with another unit than the Hegel CDP2A, low costly cd player to see if it justify the cost of using the CDP2A cd player instead of a 1000-1500 range unit.

All depend of the units matching and cables used in my humble opinion.
it seems that this is a rhetorical question .

of course , it is possible that either separates will be preferred to a one box player or some one box player will be preferred to separates. there are many variables, taste being one of them.

my favorite digital source of all time is the naim cd x of 1994.
With separates, the addition of a digital cable introduces another headache in trying to find the perfect cable that will keep up with the dac.

Ebkesq posted in 2005 that DACs at that time have eliminated with jitter. It's 2011 now, and in my experience, when a DAC has a reclocker and buffer, that's just to not introduce any jitter into the system. The marketing department will claim zero jitter, but in reality if you feed the DAC a high jitter signal it will result in sound degradation/artifacts.
I have used players that beat combos, and combos that beat players. Much depends on the quality of the components and the cables used.

You do not necessarily need a high end transport to get extremely good results. You happen to have a player that I also own. I have used the 2900 with the Opamp enhanced Eastern Electric Minimax DAC (reviewed) and have had good enough results that to my ears it bests a few $1,500-5K players/combos and even beyond that I've compared directly.

Now, if the transport is upgraded, this also can be efficacious. I just this weekend have been listening to a player which I am considering buying. I have tried it last night as a transport to the EE DAC and it's a marked improvement, however it's also quite a bit more money than the 2900. I would not overweight the importance of either the transport or the DAC; both are critical to the sound of the digital media. You short one end of the combo and you'll pay by being shorted on the sound.

The digital cable is also of importance, but I certainly would not suggest it being more or less important than these other elements. The transport, digital cable and DAC are all critical to achieving the ultimate result - I've used multiples of all of them to arrive at that conclusion. It is very helpful to have on hand two or three digital cables/interconnects which can be used to experiment in finding a pleasing sound. I have found typically the AES/EBU link to be the best if available. Barring that the next best link would be the coax. digital (S/PDIF).

If you wish to discuss the use of the 2900 with the Minimax further feel free to email me.