Stuck: 20-bit/96kHz or 24-bit/96kHz DAC?

I'm a new audiophile so I don't pretend to know all the issues with regard to formats, but here's the rub:

I want to get the best sounding *used* CD player I can afford. Some years ago, the CAL CL-20 was a highly reviewed CD player, and it has my interest. I'd like to compare it's sound to a Toshiba SD-9200. I've heard the latter, and forgetting all about DVD-A and the player's usability faults, it makes an ordinary CD sound marvelous.

The CAL unit, like other older units, has a 20/96 DAC. The DAC in the Toshiba plays up to 24/192 for DVD-A. Assuming for the moment that the choice is between 20/96 (the CAL) and 24/96 (whatever else), how much sound performance am I giving up if I go with the 20/96?

I suppose what is really bothering me is something like the frustration I feel when my computer components become dated. Sure, they worked fine in the day, but now there's better to be had. I haven't yet auditioned 20/96 and likely won't be able to A/B test with a 24/96. The main point: if I go with a 20/96, am I buying something that I'll toss in a few years for playing red book CD audio?
Recommend not going 20-bit/96kHz. The CAL CL-20 is just O.K. compared to other affordable CDP's. A 24-bit tubed output stage can approach turntable/vinyl sound when tweaked with the right tubes for your system. Be patient and buy something you'll enjoy for many years. Recommend you look at the AH! Njoe Tjoeb 4000 with 24-bit/192kHz upsampling.

Personally, I don't think the computer analogy holds up in regards to a CD player choice. Computers become "less usable" over time because the software becomes more complex and requires more CPU performance, memory space and disk space to run. A CD player that you buy today will still play future CDs with the same performance that it delivers today.

So, if you audition a CD player today and it sounds good, it will still sound that way in the future. Now, there may be better and less expensive players available in the future (like computers), but they won't make your player obsolete.

That said, I generally would not recommend buying most older CD/DVD players because they have a relatively high failure rate over time. The transport mech (motor and lazer assy) tend to fail after several years of use. Of course, if you find a great deal on a player and can budget in the cost of a replacement transport mech, go for it.

What is your budget for a new player? Knowing this can help forks offer some suggestions.

BTW, Cal Audio has been out of business for several years, so you would be exposed to parts and service availability if you purchased that unit.


A well designed and built 20/96 will smoke a lesser quality 24/96. It's not just about numbers.
Thanks for all the responses.

The AH! Njoe Tjoeb 4000 has caught my attention. As I said, I'm not spruced up yet on the core technologies. What does upgrading 24-bit/192kHz TjoUpsampler board do for me? Is this an analog of the most current redbook cd technology, or the most current technology itself?

I'm still learning this stuff, but is it that when you lay your money down on a CD player like this, that what you are really doing is putting confidence in a transport and a DAC, 2 technologies that you could really buy seperately and upgrade as needed?

Yes, 24-bit/192kHZ is the current top of the bit/sampling rate heap. I think there are some higher sampling rates for a few esoteric units, but most high-upsamplers are 192kHz.

For the Ah! 4000, I think the upgraded upsampler is a replacement of the 24/96kHz board that comes in the stock Marantz unit that Ah! modifies to create their model.

Not sure the price of the Ah!, but if you are planning to spend more than about $800 for a used unit, the Quad 99 CDP cd player is excellent. The Quad has an excellent transport, excellent 24/192 DAC and it has 6 additional inputs so you can use its internal DAC to improve a DVD player or other digital component. Additionally, the Quad has an excellent built-in, remote controllable volume control. You can connect it directly to a power amp saving dollars normally spent on a pre-amp or pre-processor. The Quad is excellent at its new and used price. It is an especially good deal if you have an all digital system and can get rid of an expensive pre-amp, using the Quad's remote to control the volume.


I'm going to continue to track the Ah! and the Quad. However, I usually prefer to buy from Echo Audio (, my local used hifi vendor. Are there any worthy contenders in their list of digital components? I'm trying to stay under $500 total, though I may not be able to and will entertain something upward of $1000 if necessary. Here's the current list:

Krell KAV-250cd Cd player ($2500) - $925
Pioneer CLD-99 Elite CD/LD player ($2400) - $595
G&D UCD-1 Cd player ($1500) - $695
Music Hall Maverick SACD/ upsampling Cd player ($1500) - $825
Audio Aero Capitole 24/192 Cd player w/vol control ($6200) - $2995
Yamaha CX-1 5-disc DVD/SACD player ($1299) - $575
Rega Jupiter 2000 Cd player- $895
Music Hall MMF CD-25.2, new ($600) - $495*
Sony SCD-CE775, 5-disc SACD/CD player ($399) - $185
Counterpoint DA-11.5 Transport ($1895) - $475
Monarchy DT-40A Universal transport/CD player ($1450) - $375
Cal Audio Delta Transport - $250
HHB CDR-800 CD Pro CD burner w/remote ($1000) - $550

The Krell holds some appeal because the Kav-300i is at the center of my system, and the remote will control the CD player I think.
ONE obvious choice on yr list is the Aero -- but its price is well beyond your stated budget.

Help us out! What are the other components that you will be using in your audio system? Will it be a 2-channel music system or a multi-channel combination music/Home Theater system?

If you don't plan to use the player for DVD playback or multi-channel music, I would suggest a dedicated CD player as they generally load the disk faster and don't have any usability problems.



Someday I would like to move to DVD-A or SACD capble players, but I've decided that the formats haven't settled down yet and therefore will an ordinary CD player is all I'm looking for (unless the player also happens to be DVD-A or SACD). I would like my player to be HDCD capable, however. All I'm looking for is 2-channel playback.

The other components in my system are:

Krell KAV-300i
Thiel CS2s
Oh, yes. I forgot. I'm also using a Squeezebox2 in my system, which really perhaps argues that at most what I need is the best DAC I can get for under $1000. I may start a second thread on this.