source disappointment

I have built a system that I would guess is fairly revealing(in my limited experience), and have begun experimentation with the CD Source.

Signal Cable Analog 2
Cary SLP 88 pre
Zcable Live V3
Cary 2A3 se monoblocks
Elco Sti-2b Silver Bi-wire (used as single for soliloquys)
Soliloquy 2A3 monitors

Sennheiser HD590

I recently purchased a used Audio Note CD 2 to replace the use of my Panasonic XP50 DVD/DVD-A, player which I assumed was not much of a source, though it does have a remastering upsample feature.

In several extended listening sessions using various albums I have been unable to detect any sonic improvement offered by the Audio Note which I purchased because of their reputation for analog sound. I actually A/B'd a getz/gilberto cd I had two copies of, syncing both players up and using my Headphones, and I believe I prefered the Panasonic. During intermmitent audience applause on the disc, the Panasonic rendered a warmer and much wider soundstage.

Is this crazy?
I find many times that I need to adjust to the change in perspective that a new component brings, before appreciating some upgrades. Many times I have wondered "what was I thinking" after finally appreciating the superiority of the new component, which many times has been radical.

Give it some time, you may prefer the Audio Note after the adjustment. I suspect another factor that may be at work is that digital is improving, in part due to newer and better DAC chips, so I wouldn't rule out the Panasonic being the better unit either, if it has newer technology.

It won't take long to decide which approach you like the best.
You need at least 2 weeks of listening to determine anything. Besides, the Audio Note can't be broken in by now and I'll bet it will come around be the unit you expected.
The Audio Note is actually 4-5 years old and was upgraded with NOS tubes by the original owner, so I am fortunate in that the break-in phenomenon should not be a factor here.

I can understand the concept of appreciating something over time, but I don't feel like I'm at the point yet where I'm searching for the last 1% of improvement. I'm still looking for leaps and bounds. Like the difference that I hear when donning the Sennheisers and discovering subtle echos in the room where the music was recorded.

I think I'll try again with a 2003 CDP - Arcam maybe, and see if the DAC technology is the reason.
wheeler, trust your ears. if you feel you like your old panasonic better so be it. i have done the same thing as you. if you wait a while you will just acclimate yourself to the new sound....whether it is better or are the only one to decide what is better. and better is what YOU like....
Newer, cheaper digital is getting better all the time. People should realize that with respect to digital, they are essentially buying a computer; one that, unfortunately will be well on its way to obsolesence in 6 months to a year. I've written about this here a number of times, but will simply repeat it. Almost 3 years ago, I sold an Arcam Alpha 8SE CD player. What did I replace it with? An RCA 5223P DVD player (which I still use today). The RCA (which I understand is Panasonic based and quite reasonably built-more solid than almost any of today's DVD players) simply sounded better. If I was to buy something today, I'd probably look at the Philips 963SA-a serious bang for the buck well under $400. Unless you have an outrageously expensive system and the room to go with it, along with tremendously deep pockets, I think that digital front ends are at the absolute top of the list in terms of diminishing returns in this hobby.
IMO, the remarks made above all have the ring of truth and the wisdom of experience.
In my experience in the last two years, I have moved from an HT environment to a music environment. I have cycled thru a number of pieces, within my limited budget. I have taken the approach of focusing on the front end first. I am using MLs, and am using an Audio Logic DAC.
After acquiring the AL DAC, I used a number of pieces as transports and was disappointed that I heard no differences that seemed to me to be significant. Then I had the fortune to get a CEC TL2 Transport. I now know that the transport CAN make a difference.
The advice from Hdm is IMO spot on. The Philips 963SA IS a terrific piece for the money. I recently purchased one for the DVD player and for my first taste of SACD. For the $, this piece is amazing.
As a Linn Sondek owner I can sympathize with your search for the best possible source. My own opinion is different from Hdm's--I think there is a lot to gain from looking high up the scale. Higher than Arcam. I would compare both your players with a Linn Ikemi, a very good YBA, a Moon Eclipse, or even a Shanling CD-T100 like mine, before I would compare them side by side. I would do this even if I couldn't afford the best right away, just to know what the good stuff sounded like. Then I would look for the player that sounded closest to that without breaking my budget.

You do get more bang for your buck today than ten or even four years ago, but with respect to Hdm, there is a serious limit to the music you can get from a source under $1000, even with very good equipment downstream. At worst, the electronics and speakers will only reveal the source's imperfections more clearly--but that shouldn't be the case with your system.

One final idea has to do with how evaluations are done, and please excuse me if I'm repeating what you already know. Rapid switching between players--called A-B testing--is not the way to spot differences, in my experience. Instead, choose a varied selection of pieces and listen to them all the way through, first on one player, then the next. Pay attention to the music and the emotion, not the details like timbres, PRAT and the rest. If you find your mind wandering, it's a bad sign. OTOH, if you find tourself touched, that's good.

Best of luck !
Good thoughts.

I just remembered hearing something about the high output impedance of the AN CD 2 which apparently means that it should be used with amplifier inputs with a suitable input impedance, "ideally around 47kOhms"

I don't know how the SLP-88 or Cary 2a3s relate in this respect.

If you picked your interconnect cables because they sounded good with your Panasonic; you may want to start over with cables.

CD players are very cable dependent from my experience.

Cables that make the Audio Note sound nice, could very likely bring out the worst in the Panasonic.
Is the Audio Note you are using one of the ones with no digital filter and no oversampleing?
I believe so Viridian. It's not the 2.1x
First off you need to keep the AudioNote plugged in for at least a week or two so the DAC's can warm up. My Wadia dac required 3 weeks before it sounded musical. So if you just plugged it in an listened.... that might be it.

Even if that doesn't do it, you should then look at tubes as the NOS might be duds (I switched my Audible Illusions to NOS, and assumed it would be better, and suddely I was missing tons of information compared to my friends with the stock tubes...)

PS: If you haven't done a power condidtioner you need to do that... PS Audio Powerplant or something.

Wow, I have trouble believing it would take that long for the heat to conduct its way around the unit. Certainly an hour or two, but weeks?

Is this the case with SS also? Are you sure that we aren't splitting hairs?
sheesh, this should have come up earlier. Maybe you should try listening through your speakers instead of the phones. Most headphone amps are not that great, also you lose all of the information that soundstaging and imaging can tell you about a cable or source, or whatever. If the panasonic really creates a more palpable sense of instruments and harmonics through your speakers then it just may be better. However, I have a technics DVD-A10 that sounds ok but does not hold a candle to my AN 1.1x dac.
Hi Wheeler,

I am certainly of the "trust your ears" persuasion.

I would be curious to hear your experience with other "reference" CDs. The Getz/Gilberto was one of my 3 reference CDs until recently, you know the ones you take with you to listen to gear.

I did a signficant amp upgrade a while back, and while other CDs sounded noticeably better, this one did not. Then a few months ago, I auditioned speakers better than I've auditioned before, in the over $5000 range. While other recordings (Such as Alison Kraus' Forget About It) showed distinct differences between the speakers, the Getz/Gilberto did not.

So I've concluded that as great as the music is, this is no longer a good reference CD for me in terms of recording quality.

- Eric
I have to come back to the "no filter" thing. This is a radical technological departure from the commonly accepted practices in converter design. That doesn't necessarily mean that it will sound bad, but it will certainly sound very different. You are comparing it to a conventionally designed, modern, player. There are sound technological reasons why the vast majority of DACs use oversampling and either analog or digital brick wall filters. For one thing, the ultrasonic spuriae that is produced without a filter can cause the amp to become unstable. Even if this doesn't happen, tweeters do not like being hit with ultrasonic energy, their power handleing is quite limited. Beats, or difference frequencies can also fall back into the audible range. Finally, the transport that you are using may be causing large amounts of jitter due to the transport output/DAC input interface. This is a source of jitter that is avoided in an all-in-one-player.
I used a Panasonic XP50 for a while and thought that its sonic performance was excellent. (And it is pretty). My only gripe was that it doesn't do SACD's. You must remember that D/A technology has advanced greatly in the last few years, largely as a result of the huge market generated by DVDs. Even an inexpensive DVD benefits from this, (the chip manufacturers will sell to anyone) and the XP50 may well outperform the best players of only a few years ago.
I have listened to Audio Note setup before in one of the hifi show. The same feeling as yours: very revealing to a degree of disapointment.

You may need to avoid Silver or Silver coated cable. If still can not resolve, change your CD player.

Zhang Xi from Singapore