Loss of inner detail

I've owned a Sony SCD-XA5400ES for 2 years now and really do love it. In my system it has out performed these CDPs:
Electrocompanient EMC-1UP
Linn Ikemi
Meridian 508.24
Accuphase DP-57
Resolution Audio Opus 21
Ayre CX-7e
Bel Canto CD-1

I got the OK from my wife to buy a "final" Transport - DAC (ie: spend a larger dollar amount, ha) that will give me the flexibility of having digital input for the possibility of adding a server at one point.

As I live in Minneapolis I thought I'd try the Bel Canto CD-2 and DAC 3 combo (used). Well, I got a good deal on a used DAC 3 and ran my Sony into the DAC using RCA spdif from the Sony into the DAC3. (I'm waiting to buy a used CD2, but they don't come up often)
ALL inner detail of songs has disappeared (I'm exaggerating a bit, but the difference is quite stark!). Music sounds FAR superior just using the Sony. Why is this?

I'm using a Black Cat Veloce digital cable.

Rest of my system:

Gamut CD-2r preamp
TAD-60 amp
Spendor S9 speakers
Analysis Plus interconnects and speaker cables

Please offer your thoughts as this is my first foray into a separate Transport & DAC

Good question... usually you get more detail when you go to separates. Maybe the new pieces don't like your old cables or you're not using any AC power conditioning.

And I don't know how good your digital cable is. I do know that DH Lab's Toslink optical digital cable gives a wealth of inner detail and is very musical. I believe a 1-meter length is only $45. I'd try one of those first if your gear provides a Toslink output and input. Good luck.
I wouldn't be too surprised to find out that Sony is using better DA converters than Bel Canto -- As Plato says, separates can be an improvement over integrated units, but that's because they frequently reflect better design and the use of higher quality parts. Based on my own limited, and unsatisfactory, experience with a Bel Canto amplifier -- which left me wondering about their design and production values for their entire product line -- I wouldn't be too surprised to find out that Sony's XA5400es has a better DAC built in than Bel Canto is offering separately. Sony, after all, has produced some of the best CD and SACD players ever made.

I have to say, personally, that while I have found separate preamps and power amps an improvement over most integrated amps, I have always been skeptical of the "separate transport and DAC" as an improvement over a top-quality integrated CD player like your Sony, but I recognize that YMMV.
No way to really tell, but I'll take an uneducated guess, as long as you're asking. I've owned the Sony and while I think it's nice for the money, it's not what I would call "full" or "harmonically rich". In a system that is somewhat bass-heavy, this could be a blessing, as it thins out the midbass, giving the appearance of more clarity in the vocal range. I would do two things - first, give yourself at least a month to get used to things - you may find the DAC3 does things you much prefer to the Sony. The other thing is to try to lessen the midbass response by moving the speakers out a bit and perhaps putting some hard footers under the various components. Try the Yamamoto wooden cones. Nice and cheap from Venus Hifi. (No affiliation). Anyway - That's my guess and nothing more.
Thanks to everyone for their responses so far. I may be using the phrase "inner detail" incorrectly. Here's what I mean .....
Artist: Marisa Monte
Album: Rose and Charcoal
Song: Maria de Verdade

As with a lot of Latin songs, there is a lot of percussion going on in this song. The primary percussive sounds I'm hearing up front are bass drum and maybe some deep floor toms. Deeper in the mix (lying more in the background) are some metallic "clanking" and bell like sounds. While playing this song on my Sony (NOT into the DAC3) , the background clanking and bell percussion is 15% of the audio "sonic picture" coming at me. (Please forgive me if I'm using novice descriptions for audio, but I hope you're following this). When I play this same song on the Sony as a transport into the Bel Canto DAC 3, that background percussion is now 5% of the audio "sonic picture" coming at me.
To me, that is not an improvement.
Its probably jitter from the transport. If the transport had low jitter, it might even be better than the Sony. Also, your digital cable could be contributing.

IMO, you can replace the cable with a Ridge Street Audio Poiema in 1.5m length and use a different transport or reclock the transport and get good results. Never use less than 1.5m for a digital cable:


Have you tried the Sony driving the DAC3 with S/PDIF coax?

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
I'm using a 1.23m RCA Black Cat Veloce cable S/PDIF
The Sony upsamples CD's and then uses a simpler filtration system that affects the audio band a lot less than traditional filtering on 44/16 CD's. Read robert harley's bok to understand this better.
If I were to hazard a guess it would either be the transport or the cable. I know what you mean by loss of detail having experienced it firsthand. What was there is now diminished or simply gone. That would have me scratching my head as well.
Time to experiment.
I would be questioning the amount of jitter the Sony is putting out, or a mismatch in performance between the clocks in transport vs dac. If anything, the Veloce's performance (very high) would accentuate any problems elsewhere. I can assure you the issue is not the Black Cat Veloce.
Since your using two matching components I would suspect the interconnect. No matter what others here assure you of, unless they have hear that cable in your system there only guessing. Digital cables can be very finicky from one system to the next. See if you can borrow other digital cables from friends or a dealer. Have you considered the possibility that one of your components is faulty?
@ Tmsorosk: Perhaps you misread my original post. The transport & DAC are not matching components.
I suppose it's possible one of the components is faulty, but I find that less of a possibility then just the fact that the Sony (as a transport)and the Bel Canto DAC are probably not suited to work well together.

To all others: Thanks for the advise offered, no need to continue this thread IMO.
Tgyeti - there is no such thing as "synergy" with digital interfaces and cables. Either they are designed well or they are not. Mixing and matching is fine, and usually beneficial because the designer of a DAC is not necessarily good at doing transport.

This concept of synergy is taken way overboard. It usually only applies to amps and speakers, and there are technical reasons for this.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio

High slew rate transport will work fine with poorly shielded digital cable but it will create a lot of jitter with poor characteristic impedance matching.

Slow slew rate transport will create more noise susceptibility (needs good shielding) but much less problems with reflections (characteristic impedance less critical).

Isn't that example of synergy?
@ Audioengr: Ok, terrific. You have the last word. Oh, wait .....
As an aside .... after rereading some of these responses, is everyone here an electrical engineer? I just love music (really, I couldn't begin to debate schematics with some of you ....lol). But again, thank you for the info!

I will still listen to "Love Me Do" if I happen to hear it through an AM radio cause, well, it's a good song.
Kijanki - This is not synergy. Any number of things wrong with the cable or digital interfaces can add jitter. Everything adds jitter.

If you have a slow risetime transport, it will add jitter at the receiver regardless of the cable or length of cable. If you have a fast risetime transport, there will be less jitter at the receiver, but the cable must be better quality in order not to have a lot of reflections. Most reflection effects can be avoided if one uses a 1.5m cable length. Then the only factors are the transport risetime and cable bandwidth, not the cable reflections.

You cannot polish cow dung.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Hi Steve,
If running I2s via HDMI, must the HDMI cable be at least 1.5 meters?
Thanks in advance!
Jb0194 - 1.5m is what I use with HDMI. I have some of the last PSAudio silver cables.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Steve, the fact is that poorly impedance matched cable will work better with slow slew rate transport while poorly shielded cable will work better with high slew rate transport. It is synergy unless you can find perfect cable ($$$$). For that reason Transport-cable-DAC and environment should be always treated as a system.
Thank you, Steve.
"the fact is that poorly impedance matched cable will work better with slow slew rate transport while poorly shielded cable will work better with high slew rate transport."

A good 1.5m cable will work better with both low and high slew-rate interfaces. Shielding is important for either case. I dont agree. When things are out of spec or sub-optimal, all bets are off. This is not synergy. Always use a 75 ohm low-loss cable, period. A good choice is the Ridge Street Audio Poiema.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
"I don't agree"

There is no error in my previous statement. If you can afford cable that has perfect impedance matching and perfect shielding then nothing matters - I agree, but unfortunately cables that we can afford have some deficiencies and some work better in certain scenarios than others (documented many time here). One of two digital cables might work better in one system and worse in another. 1.5m length only reduces problem by delaying first reflection by about 15ns just to miss threshold point in the middle of typical 25ns swing, but there are next reflections hitting following edges. Also shielding is extremely complicated matter.