New CDP or standalone DAC...?

Current source is the Oppo 103, bought three years ago. Would greatly appreciate any and all comments on buying a better-sounding CDP, or buying a better-sounding DAC and using the 103 as a transport.
Thanks in advance!

Not sure what your budget is, but when I was in your situation I was advised to get a DAC. For the money you will spend on a CDP, you can use it to get a better DAC than what you could get onboard.

So get a decent  DAC and use the Oppo as a transport. 
By all accounts your Oppo is very good. So what are you looking for and can you describe the rest if your gear?
The Oppo makes for a fine transport.  Get a good DAC.

Thanks guys. System is: dedicated room, dedicated line, acoustic treatment, Krell s300i, Anticables, Vandersteen 2Cs.

What I'm looking for is...a little more air, bloom, texture, delicacy, realistic timbre and tone, imaging, soundstage dimensions, etc. Typical audiophile wish-list, LOL!


Then I would recommend to use the transport for movies and move to computer-based audio and get a good DAC for this.  Ethernet is the preferred interface now, not USB.  With Ethernet, you can use any old computer or laptop.  The Ethernet interface will deliver lower jitter than 99% of transports.  You will have to spend big bux on a transport to compete with it.

Ideally, you want Ethernet -> I2S bus -> D/A chip on the input of the DAC.

If you like another DAC that does not do this, then you can get an outboard Ethernet network renderer and drive the S/PDIF input on the DAC with it.  The Interchange that I offer does this.  It outputs several digital interfaces, including S/PDIF coax.  Similar to my older Off-Ramp, but with Ethernet instead of USB.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

Phasure ?
Benchmark DAC3 ?
Dave ?
Yggy ?
If you have a HDD and a computer with a disc drive you could rip your CDs to a lossless format file. Get a Bluesound Node 2 and with that device you can access all your ripped files and stream hi-rez files like a MQA. You would have a very large library of music to pick from. Another option is to buy a Bluesound Vault and rip your CDs to that internal HDD and still enjoy all the streaming. Each of these options can be done for less than $1000. The DACs in both units are very good and can be upgraded later by buying a better DAC in the future. That being said, I was very impressed by the Bluesound DAC, since I think it is trickled down technology from NAD.
Also all your music could be controlled by your smartphone or tablet.
New CDP or standalone DAC...?

Given same d/a converter in both and implemented the same way, then it’s best to go CDP, rather than separates.
As when you have separates both dac a transport have their own clocks and are not sync’ed to each other. Unless you have like a very expensive DCS system that runs the clock of the dac to the transport via a separate lead and the clock in the transport is not used. TentLabs used to have expensive kits’ to do this, but were complex to implement.

In a CDP there is usually one clock that dac and the transport both section run off, so they are always sync’ed to each other via the same clock, always a better option.

Cheers George
I have the 103 and while I love it for home theater,  I agree it is not a very good CD Player.  I would try it with an outboard DAC.  Also the Cambridge CXC is an excellent transport, and Cambridge has lowered the list price, and used ones go for about $250. If in your budget,  I would try the new Nuprime CDP-9.  
Thanks guys very much for all the suggestions so far. I apologize in advance, let me give a little more info for clarification. This is not a home theater room, it is a dedicated 2-Ch listening room. It is never been used for background music, only for serious listening 1-2 hours per week on average. I have never been interested in having a traditional computer in the listening room, I have never had an interest in streaming, I only use a single source for simplicity/cost/space constraints. I have a fairly large collection of silver discs, and enjoy listening to SACD, HDCDs, and of course, good old "Red Book" discs. I might consider something for ripping and storage. Basically just yearning for a little more life, a little more musicality, and I am guessing my source is the weakest link in the system. I hope this thread continues with more responses, I truly am grateful for all the input.

If you like changing to different DAC's I would get the CXC. I wouldn't keep the Oppo. If you don't like changing things, then a CD player. Many here, it seems, love the Oppo's as CD players though many do not...
Yggy is redbook only so drop that one

you need to post a price range...

Oppo 205 is their best currently but I think the one you have can be used to rip SACDs with some work...
the Oppo 105 used prices are down now that the 205 is out, many love it for SACD and Redbook...
the 105 is much better than the 103 as a music only player...

As when you have separates both dac a transport have their own clocks and are not sync’ed to each other. Unless you have like a very expensive DCS system that runs the clock of the dac to the transport via a separate lead and the clock in the transport is not used. TentLabs used to have expensive kits’ to do this, but were complex to implement.

You are correct.  Most transports don't have a word-clock input, so the data comes to the DAC out of sync with any internal reconstruction clock in the DAC.  However, most DACs don't have such a clock anymore.  They recover the clock from the datastream in the S/PDIF receiver, so there is no Master Clock in many DACs.

Quite a few DACs have a resampler input, so these will have a Master Clock.  The resampler frequency is usually not the same as the recovered clock in the DAC, since it is upsampling.  So making the transport clock synchronous to this clock mayl not help.  Besides, there is always sonic degradation caused by hardware upsamplers, even the best of them I have heard.  Even the one I use in my own reclocker has a small impact on the SQ.

IF one wants to get the most from a transport, I would recommend getting a CDROM drive type transport that buffers the data and then spools it from memory.  It's essentially a dedicated purpose computer with S/PDIF output disguised as a CD player.  The Master Clock will be in the Transport, but the buffering will result usually in lower jitter.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

Thanks guys, budget would be $2k. Have no preference between new DAC or new CDP, but I do want to play SACDs and HDCDs. MQA seems interesting too. 
Appreciate all the responses.

If you can push your budget schiit yggdrasil and Cambridge Audio CXC will be a sustainable positive upgrade to your system.
Yggy won't do SACDs.

Get an Oppo-205 (their best) and put the other $700 towards room treatments.

You can always use it as a standalone transport later if you want to add a $5,000 DAC...
but I do want to play SACDs and HDCDs. MQA seems interesting too.
Don't think you find something that has proper hdcd PMD100 or PMD200 chips and do sacd as well, let alone mqa also.

Cheers George

I found only one SACD/CD player that has also a proper PMD200 HDCD chip in it as well for HDCD Cd's, and that is the  CLASSE AUDIO OMEGA SACD

Cheers George

@randy-11, Already done treatments. 105 now 205 has been under consideration for some time. Nice to hear from someone who has heard it.
@georgehifi , interesting! I am looking forward to learning about the Classe.
Thanks for all the responses.

Ouch! Checked out the Classe player. $12k, in 2001! That won't be showing up in my listening room, unless a friend (and I don't have any audiophile friends who spend that kind of money. In fact, I don't have any audiophile friends), brings it over. Sigh...

The 205 is looking better and better...

I may be late here, however  for playback of redbook CDs I would consider an outboard DAC. Use the Oppo's analog output for other digital formats. Choose a DAC that can handle other digital formats via streaming that you might consider using in the future.
@mesch, that would probably be the best option for most people, but I have never had any interest in streaming and I don't use this system for background music (there are two other systems in the house for that purpose). Thanks for responding.
Just read another glowing report about the 205 in the current Absolute Sound last night.
I like the "house sound" of my 103...
That 205 is looking better and better...

I understand, I also have other systems for streaming internet files. My main system is for music only and I play primarily redbook CDs via computer (as AIFF files) or transport (will play SACD via analog output). If I was looking for a universal player in I would also be looking hard at the Oppo 205. 

Given all that you have considered and been offered as advise my response was somewhat dated.
Not at all! I thought your post was excellent, and made me pause and think. And I truly believe an outboard DAC makes more sense for most people. I am so old-school (and actually chronologically old), that I am more comfortable with one box that is easy to operate and makes nice noises with (almost) no glitches, drop-outs, etc...

I got the Oppo UDP-205 last month and really like what I am hearing. Is it the ultimate for CD playback? Nope. I am sure an outboard DAC or a stand-alone CDP can do better. But the idea is to get upgraded sound compared to my previous player and get a outboard DAC in a couple of years. I should say though, the SACD playback is phenomenal! Not tried DVD-A, since I don't have any. This player is really flexible and I was able to play some downloaded files using a USB stick. Have yet to try streaming through a computer or a HDD attached to the router.
My reasons for going with the Oppo was price and flexibility. If I was not upgrading my loudspeakers (on order), I would have (probably) looked at the Marantz SA-10 or an Esoteric. If the Marantz SA-10 would have been priced like the SA-11S3, I would not have considered the Oppo or the Esoteric, even if I upgraded the loudspeakers.
You should love the DVD-A through the 205. I have Roger Waters Amused to Death on DVD-A and it is phenomenal through my 103.
Thank you for your response. Enjoy your 205!

Yes, SACDs can be quite good, as can HDCDs. Worth searching for. In my experience, SQ of SACDs has been more variable than HDCDs. YMMV.

@milpai , Queen's A Night at The Opera is available on DVD-A. I don't have it yet, but have read that it sounds fantastic.

Tom, I appreciate. At age 68, I also am 'old school'.  
Somebody mentioned TAS. Actually, that is the last place I would look for unbiased objective info about any audio brand. You get better info here or even other audio websites that are not heavy with manufacturer specific forums. With some research one can find it’s mainly about advertising and pushing the brand you make, carry or have ties with. The never ending glowing reports of brand XYZ in TAS or Stereophile is just hilarious. It becomes nearly impossible to read any criticism from these guys. 
Tom, not knocking the 205 and try it if you like, but I would look for a dedicated and specifically designed CD player or transport and/or a much improved DAC.

Just to add a tidbit...I have two CD players in two audio systems. Both have an external DAC connected. One is a Rega Apollo with a Schiit Bifrost Uber and the other is an older Sony ES player with a Benchmark DAC1. Neither of these sound better than my Bluesound Node 2 playing MQA. MQA streamed albums sound better. The Node 2 can access all my ripped CDs and play them as good or better in many instances than my CD setup. The kicker is that the Node 2 costs $500. Just some 2 cents info before you make your final decision.
@mesch, 57 here. With age comes wisdom!
@2psyop, very good point. I subscribe to both TAS and 'phile and agree there is definite bias within those pages. I try to remind myself to remember they are written by humans, just like all of us on this forum, with all our baggage, opinions and biases. Interesting about Oppo products, people either love em or not. Not much middle ground, it seems. Since I like the sound of my 103, I'm thinking I'll probably like the 205. I know their "house sound" isn't everyone's cup of tea. Thank you for your response, and your suggestions.
Wow, just read your second post. Like what I'm reading. Very interested in MQA. Will definitely look into that further...
Thank you for that info about the Node2!
Tomcarr, as far as I saw, nobody wrote anything about your amp. I had that Krell S 300 few days at my home, friend brought it just for comparasion, to see how it sounds hooked with my gear. Please dont get me wrong, but it is very poor integrated amp, not by its power, but because of its sound. It has quite 'veiled' sound, like its high frequencies are cut off. At the time I had Sonus Faber Guarneri,,Burmester 001 player, with top Nordost cables and still the sound was like the speakers were covered with light blanket. My sugestion, if you dont mind me saying  this, is to change that amp first and than look for another source if you still need one.
@alexatpos , very interesting! This is actually my 2nd unit. The first one I returned due to an odd noise at turn-on coming from within the unit itself, not from the speakers. I was sent another new  one I'm currently using. Interestingly, through two different sets of speakers (Monitor Audio Silver 8s and Vandersteen 2Cs) the sound is decidedly tipped-up! Lots of treble energy, air, detail, spatial cues, soundstaging. I'm using Anticables, true bi-wired. Nothing veiled at all about the sound. Sorry to hear it didn't sound good in your system, just proves again you never know how a piece of gear will sound in your system until it's in your system.

Again, please forgive me, I have no hidden intention neither to speak bad about that amp, or to be persistant about convincing you,or to pretend to have more experience. But, when you are speaking about all that 'qualites' of that amp, that conclusion should be based on direct comparation with simmilar priced units and with better ones, of course. In that class, I have had Krell kav 400, which I thought to be better but 'gray' in sound presentation (not the one that I would recommend either) and some other integrated amps from Pathos, classic mk3 and Inpol 2 which I found much better sounding. If I may add, also had Krell Evo 302 and Burmester complete set up (956mk2, 011, 001). My only intention was to give you advice where you could pehaps save some money and get better sound, because, imho, your amp is the week link, not the player. If you change the source, you may end up in a same place, as I have tried that amp with probably 'better' player than you are about to buy and the results were still not pleasing, to me,of course. 
Opening this thread again. Thank you previous posters for the tremendous amount of information.
My system now consists of Oppo 103 UDP, Vincent SP-331 amp, Schiit Freya preamp, Vandersteen 2Cs bi-wired, Anti-Cables. Room is acoustically treated all four walls, ceiling and floor.
This system is so much more musical than the previous setup, but I
still think the source is the weak link. 
Hate to ask the same question again, but I am still seeking guidance from fellow Goners for a budget of $1000, and of $2000. New or used.
Thank you all, sincerely


Hi Tom, a couple years later and I am still one decade beyond you in 'old school'.  :-)  Your looking at 60, I am turning 70 in June. We must embrace all ages and live them to the fullest.

I see you have replaced your amplification. I had a Vincent integrated. Wish I never sold it. I am sure that Sp-331/Freya combo is great. In the 80s into 90s I owned a original pair of the 2Cs as well. 

I remain a redbook CD kind of guy. Either as AIFF file via apple computer or disc playback. One day likely go to a dedicated server with internal DD to use with an external DAC. Looking into the purchase of a Audio Mirror DAC.  What is your latest thinking regarding digital playback?  

Hello mesch, nice to hear from you! Yes, I am loving the Vincent/Schiit combo. I'm staunchly (stubbornly?) redbook. Our computers are in other rooms, none in the listening room. Since I'm so happy with the Freya, I'm leaning towards getting one of their DACs and using the 103 as a transport. Thank you for responding, and you are definitely more up-to-date on current things digital than I am!

I use an Adcom DVD-137 as a transport for music from CDs, SACDs, and DVDs(movies) my main system. My DAC is a Bryston BDA-1. I bought the Bryston for it had many coax digital inputs and knowing it did not have asychronous USB. I use a USB/SPDIF converter for computer audio. 

I do believe a dedicated cd player or transport into a DAC of preference is the best way to go for redbook. I am now interested in a tube R2R DACs, looking at the Audio Mirror. I sometimes find myself just wanting to spin a CD and not involving the computer. Thus I sometimes think about replacing the Adcom DVD player and purchasing  a dedicated CD transport for music and a more budget universal player for movies and the very few SACDs I own. 

If interest is in spinning CDs in a transport, there are many DACs of recent vintage but dated regarding USB that remain excellent for redbook and can be had for a fraction of their original price. I have searched out these. I own a PS audio digital link III in a second system.

Why didn’t you go for the 205?
For your budget I’d suggest a Tascam 200 as a CD transport with a Schiit Audio Gungnir Multibit DAC. Alternatively, you could go with a Cambridge CXC transport or Audiolab 6000 CDT transport.  I like the Tascam as it uses a Teac 5020 cd transport, a very good drive.

The Oppos don’t have dedicated 44.1 kHz clocks, and Redbook CD suffers as a result, in my opinion. Most modern DACs don’t decode HDCD, but I have read that they still sound very good when the 16 bit layer  is when decoded with a high-end DAC like the Gungnir.  Schiit Audio offers a 15 day trial.

That combo should give very high end Redbook playback. For SACD or others, you could retain the Oppo.  Otherwise, you could look for a CD player in the same price range, but I’m not sure anyone in that range would beat the combo I've suggested.
@ptss - thought about it, never pulled the trigger...
I don't have much interest in SACD or HDCD any more, 99% of my listening is redbook CDs.
To all- thanks for the thoughtful suggestions, 'Goners are such a good source of information!
Will post again after I've made the change.
Happy listening to all!

@mooglie. Do the Oppomod clock upgrades seem good?
I can't say as I have not used them.  However, a better clock probably will improve things. For Redbook-CD I believe a transport/player with a dedicated 44.1 kHz clock is the way to go.