"Analog" = bloated, rolled off, soft and mushy?

I don't have much experience with many CD players, but with the few that I do, it's been my experience that tube output stages that supposedly give an "analog" quality to CDs, really sacrifice transparency and excitement. They sound euphonice, but ulitmately, kind of boring.

The last high end player that I owned and loved was a Wadia 860x. I'd like to find a universal player that gives me the Wadia excitement and neutrality, and have considered one of the APL, Exemplar and Modwright modded units, but the best of them use tube output stages, and this really makes me hesitate. Are they "analog" sounding and excellent, because they give you that tube sound, but sacrifice the detail, clarity and drive that I loved in my Wadia? Don't get me wrong, I love tubes, but I'm not so sure they belong in CD players. Am I wrong?
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If you don't like what you hear from tubed CDP's you don't like it and you have a fair amount of company. As to right or wrong this is nothing more than the continual argument about SS v Tubes. Personally, I think most of the SS digital units I have heard sound thin, overly bright, glassy, etched and unmusical. Am I wrong?
I have a Cary 308T and prefer it to the much more detailed (and pricey) 303/200. Because it softens the "digital edge" some. You have to have decent tubes. I'm using Mallards. And it is smooth yet dynamic - nothing close to boring. The stock tubes aren't really enjoyable.

I think some people like the SS sound and some like tubes.

I like tubed output on my particular CD player. I can't speak for all the rest.

I've only heard one tubed CD player, BAT VK D5SE, (we've had a discussion about it), and it was definitely warm. It's my only experience with tubed cd players, and it has made me questioning if they are generally like the BAT.

I guess more specifically, do the modded units with tube output stages sacrifice detail? are they warmer than neutral? are they transparent?

I have a feeling it depends on the design. I'd like to hear some feedback about the modwright, exemplar and apl sonic signatures, and what exactly is meant when someone says they sound "analog".
IMHO most of the comments made about the "sound" of any component are dependent on the system into which they are incorporated. If you have a system which leans toward warmth, as opposed to neutrality, then it would be expected that having a CDP which was also warmish in tone could be objectionable. Conversly if you have a system which is on the "fast" and "bright" side of neutral as many are, especially when they are all SS systems, the addition of a SS CDP can produce too much "detail" (call it what you will). It all depends on YOUR expectations and YOUR system.

I think your subsequent questions are valid in that they at least allow for a comparison between pre-modded and post modded units. I also think it would be interesting to hear opinions about what most folks percieve to be the "sound of analog". To me, the term always suggested the opposite of "digital", that is thin, glassy, etched, bright, and unmusical.
I don't have any idea how tube is equated to analog and solid state to digital. Apples and orange kind of comparison. I also find it interesting that some people equate tube and analog sound with a loss of excitement and transparency, and equate digital and solid state sound with thinness, edginess and brightness. I find that most solid state equipment and good digital sources to no longer sound that way, but I do find that their weakness is a loss of low level transparency, dynamics and liveliness.

I don't think that hanging a cheaply made tube gain stage on to the converted output of a dac would do anything to improve the sound. I haven't been impressed by most of the players with tubes. But, there are notable exceptions. The best digital sound I've ever heard came from a set-up using an Audionote DAC-5 that is stuffed with tubes. Simply amazing.
Yes, you are wrong. Just kidding.

It's all a matter of tastes. I prefer vinyl myself, but I also have a BAT VK-D5SE, which is not the most dynamic cd player. However, I find that I'm able to listen for hours without grinding my teeth, which is a good thing. I do have a couple other cd players (cheaper) hooked up to the system as well. If I'm in a rocking mood, and want more dynamics or edge, I use one of these.
If I had the money, I'd set up two seperate systems. One for smooth, rich sound (vinyl/SET/horns) and one for dynamic punch (digital/SS/dynamic drivers).

Why don't you split your budget in half and get two cd players. A smooth one (AudioMeca Obsession II?)and a dynamic one (Wadia 830/850?). Just a thought. The Wadia gear is too edgy for my tastes. I do like things smooth though so YMMV.

before this turns into a tubes vs. SS thread... can anyone speak to the sonic signatures of the modwright, apl, and exemplar modded universal players? and what does it mean, when someone says, it's the most "analog" sounding player?
I would just advise hearing one before plunking down your cash. A local shop had one of those 3 you mentioned, with the full blown tube mod, set up for a couple days and it may have been the worst sounding player I have ever heard. I won't say which one because it could have been set up wrong, bad tube, or something, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt. But mushy, no dynamics, tonal response was just plain off. It is not an anti tube thing as I have enjoyed the Jolita and BAT players before. And yes I was familiar with the system it was playing on as I had been in several times to audition some speaker I ended up buying.

" and what does it mean, when someone says, it's the most "analog" sounding player? "

They mean that they really would rather listen to vinyl but in it's absence this will have to do

If there's one thing to say about digital, it's that you can't have it all. That is why I find it ridiculous that people want to know which is the best CD player without any mention as to what they value when listening to music. What we have right now at the high-end are super-specialized CD players. When you are spending this much money, you need to know your own tastes and what you are looking for in music.

For me, I know that I have an analytical approach to music. I like to hear all the detail and neuance. I am willing to sacrifice some of that mid-range bloom so that I could hear the color of the instrument, the musician's technique, and the ambiance of the venue. I could totally understand that this is very user and music dependent. If I listened to jazz CDs from the 50s and 60s, then I would want something that makes these aggressively dehissed and thin-sounding CDs into a more full sound. It's all a matter of taste and music preference.

In the meantime, I say let the debate continue. That's what makes this hobby fun. We are all neurotic creatures that get that little twinge in the back of our head when we hear that our toys are not the best. And then that little voice starts back up...

I wonder who will make the best CD player in 2005?
I love it when analog is referred to as "rolled off" Analog tape, LPs and phono cartridges can have measured response to beyond 50K. The brick wall filters in most CD players are already down at least a db at 20K and have no response beyond that. So, redbook compact disc is extended and analog rolled off. Who comes up with this stuff?
Robm321, how do you fit those ducks in your CD player :-)

The tubes are MULLARD not Mallard (a duck). Also, be careful of people selling "mil-spec" Mullards in the white boxes circa 1980's (tubes are not branded Mullard, but will have a month and year date code). These are modern junk, and will not come close to the genuine NOS Mullards from the 1970's and earlier.
My digital rig is all solid state and sounds wonderful. Tubes are not needed--proper power filtration is, though...