Is it worth spending $10k on CD-only player today?


I have been waiting for the new Spectral CD player...now scheduled to be released early next year. It's supposed to be great...rest of system is Spectral. But now I'm wondering - should I look at a multi-player (SACD, etc) unit? I dont want to spend all this money on an obsolete product, and I'm unlikely to buy anything new after this for quite a few years. Thanks for feedback.
kocsis
I say no. No matter what the voodoo inside the player, the bottom line is that redbook CD just can't reflect all the advances in recording technology in the last 20 years. Surely anything worth listening to will eventually be released on SACD. I was playing with the idea of a mid- to upper-end CD only player to suppliment my SACD player, but I'm going to give it a rest for awhile. I'll bet expensive CD-only players with today's esoteric innards will come way down in price in the next few years.
I asked the same question, and my answer was "yes". My rationale is that there is an enormous amount much redbook product out there, and the fact all the new releases support that format means obsolesence just isn't an issue. I remain unconvinced about SACD's long-term success as a format.

Anyone who feels redbook is comparatively unlistenable hasn't heard some of the really good players/DACs out there.
This really begs the question "how many redbook CD's do you have?" If your collection is large (i.e. in excess of $20-30k) and growing, then a good redbook player may be in order. (I do think $10k is excessive however...)
If not, wait and see -- if nothing else, mod your existing player.
Spending 10k on a redbook cd player only would be very very hard for me. Unless it just sounds killer and can beat something like a Esoteric UX-1 which does all.

I just bought a Esoteric DV 50 ($5500 new) SACD-DVD-DVD-a and I have to say I'm pretty amazed. I'm not sure there is a significantly better redbook only player at this same price.

So, I got it all in one.

PS, my vinyl I still like better, but I now have access to some great music. SACD/redbook is pretty darn good though...
I'm not sure that it ever was.

In digital media sonic quality is ultimately limited by the finite amount of information on the disc. Playback equipment, no matter how good (or expensive) can only approach a limit imposed by the media. The information on a CD, 16 bits and 44.1 KHz sampling, is barely acceptable for audiophile recordings. The much greater information available on a DVD or SACD permits any decent DVD/SACD player to compete with the best CD players.
Presumably the answer to this question depends on the individual and their priorities. In my case the answer is yes, it is worth it to me. I want outstanding sound, in digital format, right now.
Not to me.
Yes. I would if I had the scratch, a larger income, or if I was more established in life. SACD isn't going anywhere unless you listen to classical music. I do, so I would likely consider the Meitner stack. I would not consider something with compromised redbook playback. I'd rather have a dedicated rebook player in that scenario. And I feel that is the crux of your question. Redbook is too ubiquitous. And as such would not fit morepeople's definition of 'obsolete.' Though there are many slight meanings of the word.

Although SACD and DSD is superior to redbook, redbook will likely be obsoleted by mp3 or something similar. And by something similar I mean something distributed as a computer file - either hi-rez (not likely) low-rez (more likely).
Like many others I was also in the same place. I have a large cd collection(6K) so I purchased the best cd player I could afford. I was also interested in SACD and purchased a mid price(3K) SACD player. While I love the sound of SACD( I have a little over a 100) I play my cd player most of the time. I beleive Redbook will be around for quite awhile and SACD may become a niche market if they don't pick up the pace with more releases and lower the price. So in other works YES it is worth spending 10K(if you have it) on a CD only player.
Not to me. Then again, i wouldn't pay that much for any type of source component. Sean
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Not me either. I truly wonder whether the majority of folks posting here in a blind A/B test could tell the difference between a $3K player and a $10K player given a wide range of music and all the time and listening you'd like to have (given that both are well chosen players with good synergy within the same system). I'd include myself in that group as well, but perhaps that's cause I'd rather spend the extra $7K on something that matters more to me, like music (CD's), motorcycle travels, vacation, etc. Regardless of what price range I purchased in, I'd look for something used here on Audiogon...or, in the case that, at a moment of weakness, or momentary loss of perspective or sanity, I chose to drop $10k, I'd look for a "certified, pre-owned luxury CD player".

Marco
I would love to be in position to ask such a question. I have nearly 5K invested in my transport & DAC and it was the best money I've ever spent. An important thing to keep in mind is the fact that CD showed up in 1982, and now in 2004 it has become a hi-rez format. Only took twenty years. Don't think the same thing won't be true of SACD (if it hangs on). If I had 10K to spend I'd spend $8500 of it on a CD player and $1500 on an SACD player.
marco, drop one of the zeros and you'll sound like the unwashed, non-audiophiles. (what $1k for a cd player? R U nuts??!?). same argument (diabribe?), different values no?

I agree right now I'd maybe do a ca.$3k player and have some mods done do it, and spend the other $7k on music or something else like a transmission for the car, or a stereo for the jeep. Heck, I'm having a hard time upgrading from my $300 DAC. But I can see where $10k players have their place for the select few (those with means and those for whom that level of quality matters. which again is a pool of very few). I wish I was one of them. Though I am not.

The one thing for me that helps put mega-buck digital in perspective was reading about the listen tests at Albert Porter place with megabuck digital, his Lloyd Walker table, and his lowly Sony 9000ES. But I think that's mainly due to the fact I can't afford the megabuck rigs so I appreciate justification that one may not be worth it for someone also into analog.

Maybe you are right though. For most studio and electronic music we'd likely have a hard time distinguishing a $3k from a $10k player. But maybe the original poster mainly listens to unamplified acoustic music recorded in a live space (read classical, jazz, or folk/ethnic)?
Hopefully they meet their latest promised by date.
Not that much for source equipment. However, first thing is to analyse what do you listen most, and for hi-rez - how many of the available titles you'd like to purchase right away. It's not about technology. It about ability to use it. I like idea of hi-rez, but would not invest 5-10K into it, unless I have truly unlimited choise of hi-rez music, which is not true at this moment. Taking into account that virtually any hi-rez player compromises redbook playback quality, which still prevails, my 2 cents - go with redbook. And ask your question again in 2-3 years. ;)
Until someone has heard the latest generation of bleeding edge CD players, the question cannot be answered accurately. After they've been carefully auditioned, then all the discussion about how much to spend, how much is too much, etc. can take place- not before. Putting the cart before the horse didn't work 100 years ago and still doesn't work today.
Well I asked that same question about 4 years ago and decided with some advice from my dealer to go with CD only.

Here it is 4 years later and SACD is still struggling to get shelf space. There is still no certainty about it. There are still few titles outside of classical ones that I'd even be interested in listening to and most of those are on LP.

Where is the marketing for SACD. I hear nothing about it. I don't see any push by Sony to market or hype it up. Most of my non-audiophile friends have never heard of it. All this doesn't give me confidence in its future. Not to mention that a newer, better format may be in the works before SACD ever gains ground on redbook.

I personaly would put the money into a good TT. But I would feel confident that CD will be around for a long time as well.

IMHO

Rob
Not to me, but maybe you have more disposable income. I would not buy any CDP that did not also allow for SACD playback anymore.

If audiophiles do not support higher resolution playback formats, they will not succeed. I got SACD as a whim and have be plesantly surprised by how much better it sounds than redbook.

You could spend a lot less money and get better sound by venturing into hi-rez. It doesn't make a lot of sense to limit yourself when it comes to sound quality. Redbook deserves to go the way of the dinosaur. There are many better formats. Some preceeded CD some hopefully will succeed it!
If you would go to $14k, many would say the Reimyo cd player is worth it.
I don't think so. If and when the price of SACD's come down regular CDs may be replaced rapidly. Of course no one knows when this will happen or even if the regular CD will be replaced.

Personally I would look at the Linn Unidisk 1.1 reviewed in the last issue or UHF. Plays CD/SACD/DVD-A and DVD.

Apparantly it is close to state of the art in all areas of reproduction and runs near your 10k budget.
This above would be correct if you can just stop listening CDs at all, and concentrate on SACD and DVD-A. But it isn't likely the case. Most of us have CD collections and substantially less hi-rez music. How are you going to enjoy all those all good CDs without nearly-perfect-to-your-taste CD player? Take Linn Unidisk for example. Nice, well built universal player. Now, just as among CDPs, its sound may be not exactly as what you are looking for. Unlike CDPs, where on healthy $3K level there are plenty, plenty of wonderful CDPs, how many alternatives to that Linn you have among Universals? I mean - real alternatives, too many modern Universals around $5K don't play Redbook CDs as $2K CDPs do. There is no enough choice - not for players, nor music. Well, one could keep good CDP AND good hi-rez separately, which would solve anything mentioned above. But to trade good CDP to the same price range SACD/CD player - not now. I listen to music, not technology.
This above would be correct if you can just stop listening CDs at all, and concentrate on SACD and DVD-A. But it isn't likely the case. Most of us have CD collections and substantionally less hi-rez music. How are you going to enjoy all those all good CDs without nearly-perfect-to-your-taste CD player? Take Linn Unidisk for example. Nice, well built universal player. Now, just as among CDPs, its sound may be not exactly as what you are looking for. Unlike CDPs, where on healthy $3K level there are plenty, plenty of wonderful CDPs, how many alternatives to that Linn you have among Universals? I mean - real alternatives, too many modern Universals around $5K don't play redbook CDs as $2K CDPs do. There is no enough choice - not for players, nor music. Well, one could keep good CDP AND good hi-rez separately, which would solve anything mentioned above. But to trade good CDP to the same price range SACD/CD player - not now. I listen to music, not technology.
IME Fbhifi hits the nail directly on the head regarding one element of this debate with his assessment that

"Until someone has heard the latest generation of bleeding edge CD players, the question cannot be answered accurately. After they've been carefully auditioned, then all the discussion about how much to spend, how much is too much, etc. can take place- not before. Putting the cart before the horse didn't work 100 years ago and still doesn't work today."

I'll say it again, it is worth it to me. That said, I wouldn't want to impose my own priorities or sensibilities upon someone else.
I would agree with some of the respondents, get a moderately priced CD player and get it moded in due course. If you're interested in sound not appearence then this is the better route, the more any unit costs, the more seems to be spent on cosmetics. I bought a Shanling CDT 100, because it was the only unit I had heard to make classical music bearable on CD. I spent half the origonal purchase price on a Trichord clock 4, never connected power supply and numerous upgraded components. To me the result more than doubled the value of the unit. No aspect of reproduction was'nt enhanced, particularly the Shanling's weak base and soundstage depth. Colin the upgrader, recently put his heavily modded universal Pioneer player, a $300 unit against a Naim CDS, the owner thought the pioneer was his unit. He immediately had his Naim upgraded of course
I guess you haven't read the Linn Unidisk review? And what you are saying would be true for the vast majority of high end universal players. Redbook CD play taking a secondary role.

UHF magazines reviewers seem to feel it gets very close if not match Linns $14000 Redbook only player. And if you remember right Sony on hearing the original Linn in comparison to their own $8000 flagship player stated they were incapable of making a player of this quality and formed a partnership with Linn.
If your CD collection consists of discs that are almost certainly never to be reissued on SACD or DVD-A and if your musical taste steers you toward older music also "doomed" to not be reissued in higher res format, it is absolutely sensible to spend whatever you can afford to obtain a CD player that has the sound you're looking for.
NO, NO, NO, NO, No, NO!!!!

All you have to do is look back over the years and feel sorry for all the audiophiles who baought a DCS, Mark Levisnon or similar "state of the art" over $10k processer. All of these offerings can now be handily trounced by recent digital alternatives that cost less than a THIRD of their price!

IMHO digital performance has been just like computers. Every year you get twice (or more) the performnance at half the price. (Then again, some people are so wealthy that it doesn't bother them one bit to buy something that is considered antiquated in just a couple years. Wouldn't it be nice to have that kind of "throw away" money though?)
A voice of dissent. A vote for the $10K CD player.

A high end RedBook player is still worth the money. The digital sections of CD players have improved quite a bit over the last five years. Today, digital horsepower is fairly cheap. The mid priced players ($1K-$3K) have come a LONG way.

The improvement in mid-priced players has significantly raised the bar for all products in all price ranges. The devil is still in the details, and the finer points of design and implementation. To achieve that last bit of awesome sound requires more than just a good and well implemented digital filter. The product engineering, chassis, transport, power supplies, parts selection and analog sections must all be top notch. One DAC in particular (quite expensive) has paid specific attention to these (mostly analog) details. Despite the fact that this DAC is 5 or 6 years old, it is still better than the latest dCS stack, or any current standalone player (including my new and "current" big budget Wadia 861se). But this DAC also costs several multiples of the 861se retail price.

As an example, look at the DAC offerings from Audio Note. Very simple digital sections. Very well designed and highly thought out analog sections.

I agree with most of the posts, you can keep buying a $3K CD player every two years, and continually improve your "sound". But none of those players really can touch the $10K players of today. So why not get out of the upgrade game, same your money, buy a single CD player, and enjoy better sound from the get go.

I think this is especially true today while we wait for the music industry to get over their hangups with physical media and finally say goodbye to optical disks. Just make sure that fancy player has a digital input capable of handling 24/96.