Parasound P 5 DAC vs. CD players


How does the Parasound DAC compare to those of mid price CD players (Sony, Integra)?  Is one clearly superior?
ewpon
I have not compared the P5 to CD players per se, but I can tell you that it's an excellent DAC and preamp for the price. I had the P5 before, then I saw a great deal on a Cambridge Audio Azur 851D DAC at Audio Advisor (original price was $1695, marked down to $999), so I foolishly returned the P5 to Audio Advisor and bought the Cambridge 851D instead. Big mistake!

I can tell you that the Parasound P5 was heads and shoulders above the Cambridge for sure, and quite a bit better than the Rotel 1570 preamp that I had before. You get HT bypass, bass/subwoofer management and tone controls (with bypass). The Cambridge with all it's gimmicks doesn't even come close to it. I'm still kicking myself for my mistake.
arafiq:
    Your information is much appreciated.
Not sure how the Cambridge 851D sounds but I have a 851C and it's a great player. I'm curious how much time you have on it and what is the rest of your system? My local hi if shop which carries both Parasound and Cambridge gear has both the P5 and 851C on the same system with a Parasound A23 driving either Magnepan 1.7 or 3.7i. I've done the comparison with the staff there and no one felt the DAC in the P5 is even close to the 851C. Not knowing your system it's likely the 851D is more revealing than the P5 DAC and maybe you're hearing something else in your system you're not liking such as your digital cable. Give the 851D more time to burn in. I will add my 851C shines with a better power cord. I have a kimber PK10 Gold on mine with Clear Days ICs.

The P5 is a nice pre for the money and full of nice features as well. Not sure how the DAC in the P5 compares with lower priced CD players but I suspect it does well. My guess is an older player with digital out will benefit running through the P5 DAC, but a newer player in the $700 and up range will be better with its own DAC.

Again I will add my 851C took a long, long time to settle in and I have not heard the 851D but I would sure think it's equal to the 851C. Give it time.
@adg101  I completely agree with you that my assessment of the 851D was a bit premature. After putting about 50 hours on the Cambridge, the sound is definitely improving, and I hope that it continues to get better. I am told that it takes at least 100 hours for the burn in. So keeping my fingers crossed :)

However, I would say that the P5 is no slouch either. For $1095, you're getting bass management, HT bypass and a phono stage in addition to a decent DAC. Right now, I don't find the Cambridge 851D to be much superior to the P5, but I guess I should reserve my judgment for another 50 hours or so.

By the way, the rest of my system is Bowers and Wilkins CM10 s2 qne Parasound A21. So far, I am using inexpensive AudioQuest cables (I think I paid around $60) and XLR connector. I plan to slowly add better speaker cables, followed by power cord.
Agree the P5 is a great unit in its price range; not sure anything close for the money. 

Give the Cambridge time. I think 100 hours is minimum and felt my 851C took a lot more time than that... more like 300.

When you get ready for cables try out Clear Day Cables. I'm running the double shotgun and both single and balanced cables. I am using Pauls jumpers on the speakers too as the cables are not bi-wire. If you're using the jumper strips that came on you B&Ws, try Pauls jumpers first and do a criss cross configuration with speaker wire + on the  bottom and - on the top so the jumpers will be the opposite. I think Nordost shows this on their site as their preferred jumper connection as well. Pauls a great guy to work with.

I like Kimber and WyWires power cords. You don't see WyWires come up used too often but the Kimber's do. The base WyWires Juice II PC isn't too crazy $; I have the Silver model which I think is a little better than the Kimber's so the base WyWires might be a smart buy and Alex is a good guy. He'll call you personally before building cables to make sure you're not wasting your money.

Both Clear Days and WyWires have 100% satisfaction guarantee. I like AQ cables too but you'll have spend a lot more to surpass the Clear Days. You have very nice equipment which if your total cable purchase was $60 you're not hearing what your gear is capable off. I found the speaker cable was the best place to start, then ICs, then later the PCs. All important if you have the gear for it.

Good Luck


adj101, your post is very timely as I was about to ask for suggestions regarding the next steps to improve my system. I've already settled on speakers, amp and preamp/DAC. 

I wasn't sure if I should first upgrade speaker cables, power cords or interconnect. Based on your suggestion, looks like speaker cable upgrade should be higher on the list.

I was thinking of AQ Rocket 88 that I can get for around $400 used. But Clear Day looks like a viable option and well within my budget. I need to decide which would be a better fit for my system. I really don't want to spend more than $700-800 this year on the system.

Another thing that I'm wondering about is the source. Since I'm streaming music (iMac --> iTunes --> Airplay/streaming --> Apple TV --> TosLink --> Cambridge 851D), I wonder if this is where I should start. I understand the limitations of Apple TV when used as an audio-only appliance (sample rate conversions, etc). I'm looking at Bluesound Node 2 as a possible alternative. 

So the question is which is more important, better streamer or speaker cables, keeping in mind that eventually I'll end up upgrading both.
arafiq. That's a tuff decision as if your source isn't up to the level of your other gear and cables you're not going to know if your purchase was a good one or not and will likely fault a speaker cable upgrade.

I've not heard the AQ Rocket 88 but do know the older and I think more expensive AQ Sterling + which is a fine cable. I have compared the Sterling to the Clear Days Double Shotguns and feel the Clear Days is a cleaner, more open cable that does a better job getting out of the way being less of a tone control. The bass is equal to if not slighter better on the Clear Days as well. I also use Pauls jumpers as he doesn't make bi-wire cables. Great jumpers too.

I also use Clear Days single and balanced ICs and have compared them to, again older but still very nice AQ Lapis III and Diamond III and again felt the differences were the same as the speaker wire comparison. I prefer the Clear Days.

Paul at Clear Days is a great guy and he used to send cables out first without even asking for a credit card. I'm not sure if he still does that but I know he has a 100% satisfaction guarantee that if you don't like them just send them back. I think the Double Shotguns on this site are $450. I'd be surprised the Rocket 88 is in the same league and if you did go with the Rocket 88 and don't like them I suspect you can't return them. 

Try the Clear Days and see how they sound with what you have first. If you don't like them just send them back. They do take sometime to settle in so give them time before making a decision.

Good Luck and tell Paul hi!