Suggest Transports that can be Demo'd at home


I'm quite happy with my system (Silverline 17.5 monitors/Wells Majestic integrated/Aqua La Voce II/Jolida JD100 (as transport) but am wondering whether I ought to purchase another transport before they're no longer available.
$3000 would be my limit, budget-wise and longevity is a big concern. Used is OK, as long as unit is M. 

I have two caveats which make this tough-- 1) as a rule, I don't purchase any gear I can't first demo at home and 2)
I'd ideally prefer something made in N. America. Of these two qualifiers, the second is negotiable, but not the first.

I could demo a Bryston BCD-3 from Audio Advisor, but I'm not sure it makes sense to pay for a unit that includes a DAC I won't use. Also, I came across a comment in the Forums that the Bryston has fatiguing highs-- a flaw I particularly abhor. And, it's considerable over my budget. 

The Moon Neo 260D is not, as far as I can tell. possible to audition at home and I read on one of the AGon transport discussion threads that the drawer is flimsy. 

The Jay's Audio products look to be very good but I didn't see anything on their site about a trial period. 

A used PS Audio is a possibility, I guess, although I read that they used Oppo transports, which are no longer being made, so that's a concern from the longevity stand-point. 

 Any other units I should be aware of ??????????????

Thanks. 


stuartk
Yes-- I'm aware of the Cambridge and it may sound strange for someone with a 25K system to worry about a product being too inexpensive, but I do worry about that. 

Any opinions on using readily available/easily demo'd CDP's as transports, such as Rega or Marantz,for example ?  

There are actually more transports out there than you might think. Cambridge, Bel Canto, Audiolab, NuPrime, etc., then moving up to the Sim Moon, Jays, league. There have been a couple of long threads on transports over the last year. If you’re shying away from the Bryston, strongly consider the Primare CD35.
Thanks, twoleftears-- I've read a review of the NuPrime but wasn't aware of the Primare. Will check it out. 

I went through a similar problem recently. I wanted a U.S or N. American unit, or a non-Chinese sourced unit.

 I considered the Sim Audio unit, but was not sure what CD mechanism it used. I wanted a transport that used a dedicated audio CD drive, not an adapted computer drive. I also wanted a unit for which I could easily get a spare drive, in case it failed. I looked at the Japanese CEC TL05 drive, but the U.S. distributor did not respond back to me. I considered buying on E-bay, but  was unsure the unit could be adapted to U.S. voltage without affecting the sound quality.

 I then started looking at European units, and considered the Atoll (French) and Van Medevoort CT360D (Dutch). Both the units used a > $100 Teac 5020 audio only CD drive, which is a robust unit of newer design. and easily found. The Van Medevoort could not be sourced in the U.S.. So, I contacted the U.S. Atoll distributor, who was very responsive to my questions. The unit can be serviced in the U.S., I believe by Nick Gowan at True Sound. The components in the unit are largely of French manufacture. I picked up a spare drive  when I purchased the unit for a modest cost.

I am not certain if an in-home demo is available. Perhaps if you have a nearby dealer? I took a bit of a leap-of-faith by purchasing before hearing. But, I had read a number of European reviews and reviewed the internal design and construction, which appeared to be sound. 

The Tascam 200  uses the same Teac 5020 drive. The Atoll has a significant number of enhancements over it as a transport, but I’d bet the basic character is there. They can be sourced fairly cheaply, and perhaps that might give you enough insight on what a Teac 5020  based unit sounds like?  And the transport build quality? Perhaps a Tascam 200 might even sound good enough as a transport to suit your needs?

 The Bryston BCD-3 uses a Blue Tiger JPL-2800 transport, which appears to be a good quality drive. However, if you’re not going to use the DAC, I’d say you’ll get more value buying a dedicated CD transport.

That Primare CD35 also uses a Teac 5020 drive.   From what I can tell, a number of higher end transports are using the Teac drive. Just some info I thought I’d pass along.

 


Mooglie67-- many thanks for your helpful/informative response !

Your list of considerations/priorities is very much in synch with mine. 

Can you give me any idea how the Atoll has affected your system, sound-wise ? 

I'm very pleased with my Aqua DAC and agree that a dedicated transport would be a wiser use of my money. 

RE: Primare, I don't see a listing on their site for a transport-- only the CD35 Prisma, which includes a DAC. 


I had been using an Oppo-93 SPDIF out to my Yggdrasil Analog 2 with a Jorma Digital cable (RCA at Oppo, BNC at the Yggdrasil). I was never quite satisfied with the sound. It seemed to be somewhat mechanical, bleached, or lacking tonal densities, with the mid-bass sucked out, and an emphasis on the treble. From memory, I seemed to recall getting better overall quality sound when I was using a CAL Delta transport with a lesser DAC (CIA VDA-2) and cabling.

The Atoll DR200 Signature gave me a fuller tone, with better timing (PRAT), and fluidity. The images are more defined and fuller bodied. The soundstage widened and deepened. The mid-bass is back. The sound is more relaxed, non-fatiguing, but still with good drive. 

So, basically everything improved.

There’s a review by Edouard Hendrix for AV2D (in Dutch, but can be translated), that pretty much spells out what I’m hearing.   If you search for “Atoll factory” (Son-Video blog) , you can find some interesting photos and story of the factory in the Normandy area of France. The Atoll is a fine unit. I’m sure some of the other units mentioned here are also quite good, too. 

 But, I suspect once you get to the level of the Sim Audio or Atoll ($2K-ish units), any additional refinements are going to be smaller, and at a significantly greater cost. Atoll also has a higher end, top loading unit ($4k-ish?), but that was more than I wanted to spend.

Yeah, the Primare CD-35 looks to include a DAC.

The Atoll CD transport was a significant upgrade to my system. But, that could also be because the Oppo 93 was so bad as a transport. I don’t know how good your Jolida works as a transport. 

If you have access to some other CD or DVD players to try as transports, you may want swap them around and see what you hear. That will give you an idea of the sensitivity.  I’m pretty sure with your gear the sound quality will improve with a better transport. How much? Hard to say, but I’m pretty sure you will hear it.

 


I auditioned the Primare CDT 35 transport only, but was so unimpressed that I took a chance on the Jay's CDT Mk2 (bought blind, same price in South Africa) and have been in audio heaven since.
Check C.E.C.  excellent belt-drive trsnsports.
Mooglie: thanks for providing your sonic impressions of the Atoll. They are apparently available from a store in San Francisco by special order but even if they were in stock, I happen to know that particular store will not allow an  in-home demo. I already asked them about it re: the Sim Neo 260D and they turned me down.  

I was able to demo a friend's Heed Obelisk transport and was quite underwhelmed. 

itzhak1968: not sure how I'd be able to demo the CEC. 

garrard: Glad to hear you're pleased, having taken that gamble.  What is your system? 

I’d expect you would hear a difference with the Heed Obelisk. Perhaps the Jolida is not too bad? What type of connection and cable are you using?


mooglie:

I believe I borrowed my friend's digital cable-- it was a Zu, but I don't recall which one. I'm using  Blue Jeans bnc at present. I should also mention I'm using an Empirical Audio reclocker, which (hopefully) is eliminating whatever jitter the Jolida produces. 
mooglie: also, the Jolida was modded, so it definitely sounds better than the stock version. 
From the sounds of it you may have to spend a LOT to better your modded Jolida with the reclocker.

Sometimes the grass is not greener on the other side, been there and done that.

Sitting pretty happy with a CEC belt drive transport right now.

I know you likely cannot demo one but I was very impressed with the build quality under the hood.

And the SQ left my old OPPO spinning its wheels back on the line.

Your spdif cable might be a limiting factor, as could the power cables to the DAC and Jolida, to hearing differences.  You could probably get more resolution or shift the tone around with other cables. Cables can certainly affect the sound, sound staging, make it more liquid, etc.  Something you may wish to consider.


mooglie: perhaps I should clarify that I have no real complaints re: sound. My main aim is to increase longevity of my capacity for spinning cds without degrading the system's present sound.  I have no desire to burn discs or stream at this point and besides,  I actually enjoy handling physical media. 

The Jolida is probably 10 years old and the design is perhaps 15 years old-- I'm not certain. In considering a current model transport, I'm looking for something that will last as well as be serviceable (I'd want, like you, to buy an extra drive).  I thought an up-to-date, dedicated transport might also offer enhanced sound as an added benefit. 

However, the modded Jolida + Aqua sounds pretty darned good, so maybe, as uberwaltz has suggested, I might not be able to better it, significantly, for my budget. 





As requested by OP:
Garrard 401/Garrard 301/EMT 948
Jay's CDT Mk2
Black Cat Silverstar Mk2 BNC to BNC
iFi ProDac
Accuphase C2120
Accuphase P3000
BAT VK75SE
Various DIY Open-baffle speakers

I'm more of an analogue guy, but CD is now a lot more enjoyable (CD was pre-Jay's for warm-up only).
If you're using an Empiracle Audio Offramp I'm not sure you'll hear all that much difference between transports, no?  I'd just buy this Bel Canto CD2 and be done with it.  Built like a tank...

https://www.usaudiomart.com/details/649501384-bel-canto-cd2/

I'd also highly recommend trying this digital cable.  It's only 40 bucks and it beat out my Stereovox (aka Black Cat) XV2 digital cable in terms of tonality and overall more organic and balanced sound.  It was also John Atkinson's reference digital cable for a while.  FWIW...

https://www.amazon.com/Geistnotes-Apogee-Clock-Cable-WE-BB/dp/B01N6XL1XW/ref=sr_1_2?crid=3ODRJOPRA5T...
uberwaltz: True Sound carries and services the CEC units, so if I was to buy one, at least I'd have someone relatively close by, in case anything went wrong. That changes the equation in CEC's favor, somewhat. . 

garrard: thanks for gear list. 

soix2: I have the Synchromesh reclocker. Isn't the Offramp his DAC. . . or am I mistaken ? Do you have personal experience with the Bel canto and if so, what was its sonic impact on your system ? Thanks for the cable recommendation. 
If you buy the CEC you really don’t need a reclocker because this CD transport has very low jitter.
@stuartk -- I'm not familiar with the syncromesh vs. the Offramp, but my impression is the Offramp could make the transport a non issue.  Personally, I'd get an Offramp and not have to pay or worry so much about the transport going forward.  And yes, I fed a BC DAC3 VB with my Oppo and the CD2, and there was a notable improvement with the CD2 as a transport.  However, and this is a BIG however, I would've loved to have heard the DAC3 VB with my Oppo with an Offramp and see how that compared.  My guess is there would've been very little difference.  The main reason I recommended the CD2 is that I've had personal experience with it and it really seems built to last for the long term and destroyed my Oppo as a transport.  But I'd talk with Emprical Audio about your reclocker versus the Offramp and start there.  Personally, I'd get the CD2 mainly because it seems like it'll last forever as a transport, then take Emprical Audio's advice on which reclocker will help your system sound its best. 
soix: I found a short stereophile description of the two devices:
" There is now an Off-Ramp 5 asynchronous USB converter ($1299), which now has HDMI in addition to S/PDIF and i2S output"  and:
" the Synchro-Mesh reclocker ($599), which dejitters the datastream for a source such as an Apple TV, Squeezebox, or CD transport". 

Steve was the one who actually recommended the Synchro-Mesh to me on another of my A'gon threads, so that's what I went with. 

Is your description of the Bel Canto as a unit that "seems like it'll last forever" based on the drive, the casework, or ????
stuartk OP
I’m aware of the Cambridge and it may sound strange for someone with a 25K system to worry about a product being too inexpensive, but I do worry about that.

Don’t be, my systems up there too and I use the Cambridge CXC, it’s only $600aud here in Australia, but it’s a purpose built CD transport, that has very good spdif wave form (I’ve measured and see it) and said to only have 5 ps of jitter, and looking how clean the wave form is I believe that. Here’s what Lapizator (transport guru) said about it when I showed him pics of the tests.

This wave form is as perfect as it gets.
the speed is exactly 1.41 MHz.
Regards
Łukasz Fikus

The Sim Moon Neo 260D you said having a flimsy transport is that it has nothing special in the way of a transport laser mechanism, having a Sanyo SF-HD65 in it.
https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/SFHD65M-SF-HD65M-HD65M-Original-New-Sanyo-Laser-Lens-Mechanism-SF-HD65/120971864496?epid=1300237646&hash=item1c2a7c29b0:g:wloAAMXQiM5RAREU&frcectupt=true

So one cost $600aud and the other $4000aud, with laser/transport mech that are, well as good as each other.

Some of the places you can get the Cambridge CXC from are the type of store that you can take it back to if not happy, here in AU they are in hiend stores but also in hifi chain stores that you can return to.

Reviews
https://www.whathifi.com/cambridge-audio/cxc/review

https://www.tnt-audio.com/sorgenti/cambridge_cxc_e.html

https://www.dagogo.com/cambridge-audio-cxc-transport-review/

Cheers George
georgehifi; I was actually intimating that, as my system is relatively inexpensive, my concern about using an inexpensive transport might strike some as odd. The only two audiophile friends I have own much, much, more costly systems, so that's all I have to compare mine to.

Thanks for your input re: merits of Sim vs. Cambridge. I'm pretty clue-less when it comes to knowledge of CD drives. Here, the Sim costs 
$2000 US but, as mentioned, I haven't found an option for a home demo. 

I am aware that such an option exists for the Cambridge and from more than one online vendor but I do appreciate your input! 






@stuartk @mooglie I would highly recommend checking out CEC as others here have suggested. If you want to get in touch with the U.S. Distributor, contact Nick Gowan at gowanattsounddotcompany and he will help you. I purchased a TL-1 and it has been fantastic!
Op

just to second the digital Apogee cable choice as that is what I am using on my C.E.C via aes/ebu right now.

pretty darn impressive for $42.
I tried to purchase a CEC TL5, but the US distributor would not respond to me.  I even got in touch with Pascal at Mutine who said the TL5s were not available to him. Maybe they’ve changed distributors? Or, perhaps with the exchange rate CEC doesn’t like selling TL5s in the U.S.?
mooglie:

Did you approach Nick Gowan ?


soix:

According to Bel Canto website, that cdp you suggested is no longer being made, as the drives are no longer available.

I'd be nervous purchasing a unit for which no drives were available, in case of failure. 
No, it was Audio Union.  But, after talking with Pascal it seemed like the TL5 would be difficult to source.  I wasn't interested in the higher up models.
Which is why I went for a Teac 5020 based unit.  CDPRO2 drives are out of production.
Bluesound Vault II. Can’t believe I waited as long as I did to get one. Using my Cambridge 851C as a DAC only. Once you try it you’ll never go back. Feed it your CD’s and control them from your tablet or smartphone. You don’t have to jump into a streaming service at first but you will... you will. I’m floored how good this thing sounds; the internal DAC is pretty good but I prefer the DAC in the Cambridge which is noticeably better. I bought the previous model direct from the Bluesound site for $800 compared to $1200 for the new unit.
adg10: I've thought about going with one of the similar units by Innuos of Portugal, but I don't own a smart-phone or tablet and frankly, the prospect of having to use one to operate my audio system is not appealing. I'm idiosyncratically more inclined to put off the computerized route for as long as I can but thanks for the suggestion. 



georeghifi


I read your comment about CXC Vs. Moon 260T ( not 260D with built in DAC) and must disagree . I owned the CXC which is a great transport for its price but felt that is not exactly hi end gear and after less than 2 years
of use I ordered the Moon 260T (dedicated transport without the build in dac of the 260D which cost 1K more) and the difference is substantial it’s a true high end transport the sound is much "clean" and clear,every note is more accurate. It’s more organic and natural.
It was the first time I felt my digital sources now really sound analog and I am not missing my vinyl collection anymore.
Yes the difference between their prices is huge but the improvement the Moon 260T provide to my system justifies the cost.


I had used CEC Tl0x from 2000 to 2006.

It was the best transport that I had used with sharp focus and tight bass.

But I ditched it since it kept failing to read some of CDs after 6 years of use.

I got Jay’ Audio CDT2 about 7 months ago without auditioning relying on review.

But I am happy with it.

Jay’s approach 90% of the performance of CEC Tl0x at less than 1/5 th price.

I recommend you to go for new Jay’ Audio CDT2.

It is hard to get used one since the owners are happy with it.
CEC TL51XR falls short of Jay’s CDT2 mk2.

That is the claim by Terry London (Teajay).

CEC TL0x is two league above CEC TL51XR which is cheaply made.
The $600aud Cambridge CXC better than CEC TL51x transport we a/b them, and the CXC is new with warranty, with less jitter.

Cheers George
stuartk
I am excited for you obtaining another CD transport. Likewise, I am a physical medium guy (CD and SACD). I look forward in reading about your next purchase. For a straight up Transport, C.E.C., has always received high marks/praise.  Staying tuned.Happy Listening!
I have a C.E.C TL2 and a TL2 X. Per Nick at true sounds who is the only US service center for C.E.C the new CEC gear is not as good as vintage like I have. I purchased a TL5 from Mutine back when he was a North American rep it was close to the TL2 but not the same. I am still kicking myself in the donkey for selling it however. Also trying to talk to the US rep Audio Union is a joke. 
I am still kicking around the purchase of a Jay's Audio transport however that Phillips mechanism is obsolete. So when Jay's runs out of them.guess what.Thats all folks
OK. Thanks, everyone, for your input. 

I'm afraid I'm still not inclined to buy anything I can't first demo at home.

I've been burned more often than not in the past not following this policy. 

Maybe the best course for me is to simply wait till I can afford to try the Bryston CDP-3 as a transport. 






I posted my opinion in the last CD Transport post.  I build my own direct heated triode R2R DAC and have used many transports including many of the above.  So here is my opinion.  I was using an older Audiomeca as a transport with a separate power supply.  That was the best sounding of everything mentioned above but it is not driven by a belt, it is driven by a string attached to a spring.  So repairing the unit is an issue.  I also used an older CEC TL5100Z and a Rega Apollo and Saturn as transports.  The CEC sounds better than the Rega but the Rega has great tone and more of a jump factor, CEC much more musical for long term listening.  I would choose the CEC over the Rega but could live with the Rega.  I used to own a CEC TL-2X which was nice sounding but I sold mine as CEC no longer had replacement parts.  It was a better sounding transport than my CEC TL-5100Z.  We compared the Cambridge to the NuPrime and to an older Sim Audio used as transports into my DAC and a Musical Fidelity (M1 DAC?) that was modified by me with V-Caps, etc.  In each listening arrangement, The Rega sounded better than the Cambridge, NuPrime and the Sim Audio.  We did not have the Jay Audio at that time but another person has one with the Terminator DAC.  That set-up did not outperform the CEC TL5100Z with the DHT DAC.  Was not even close.  So you have to really listen for yourself in your own system to see what you prefer.

If you are looking at older model units, the lasers are getting harder to find.  So even though these units can be repaired, it is getting harder to finds the parts.  Plus some of the lasers were modified so even if you do find the part, it may not be a plug and play arrangement.


I hope this was helpful.  Happy Listening. 

According to Bel Canto website, that cdp you suggested is no longer being made, as the drives are no longer available.  I'd be nervous purchasing a unit for which no drives were available, in case of failure.

Couple thoughts.  Bel Canto may have a supply of replacement parts.  You can probably check with them on this.  Also, you're buying this at less than 50% of retail, so if you get several years of use out of it, you're not out all that much.  Last, the thing really feels like it's overbuilt, and there is no flimsy drawer to fail.  It's a top-mounted unit.  Jitter is stated to be 250 femtoseconds -- most transports are stated in picoseconds.  Just saying, might be well worth the risk, especially if BC has replacement parts -- assuming you'd even ever need them. 

soix2: how did I miss the top-loading aspect ? ! Can I blame that on age ? Thanks for pointing that out and for the suggestion that BC may have parts. 

bigkidz: very pertinent input, especially considering that we both have R2R Ladder DACs. Thanks. 
Wrap-up: Given the current trend away from physical media and the lack of consensus as to how long manufacturers of transports/CDPs might continue to stock parts, I'm unwilling to gamble on spending 3-4K to upgrade in that direction. At the same time, I'm in no hurry to jump into computer audio. If I had unlimited funds to lavish on audio or harbored a fondness for frequently buying/selling gear, it might be a different story. As neither is the case, I can't see a way to go that's more practical than hanging on to what I've got until the Jolida gives up the ghost, and then, moving to a server... barring the unlikely event of a transport/CDP "renaissance", due to some sort of technical break-through we can't yet foresee. In the meantime, I offer my thanks to everyone who contributed to this thread. 
stuartk OP
I’m unwilling to gamble on spending 3-4K to upgrade in that direction.
I can’t see a way to go that’s more practical than hanging on to what I’ve got until the Jolida gives up the ghost


Ah, you have the Jolida, this is a TNT Audio review of the Cambridge CXC $600 in Australia, and it happens the reviewer owned the Jolida, here’s what he said when he compared them
" To say there is a big difference would not be an exaggeration, the CXC clearly reads better than the Jolida. Playing music that had been ripped to the server via pc was always cleaner than the Jolida, which I had put down to the effects of the valve output and DAC. Comparing digital out on the Jolida to the CXC there is a vast difference with the Cambridge extracting more information (detail, air and ambient space) and less fuzziness (or cleaner sound). The CXC also trumps the sound of the same disc ripped via pc to the server."
https://www.tnt-audio.com/sorgenti/cambridge_cxc_e.html

Cheers George
@stuartk

If you are on tight budget the CXC is the best option you’ll find.it’s an excellent transport for its price. I used the CXC for 2 years till I bought the Moon 260T which is clearly better however not a day and night difference between them.I didn’t sell my CXC and keep it as a backup if something happened to my 260T.
georgehifi5: 

Thanks for the info. I suppose I could order the Cambridge from Audio Advisor and compare it to the Jolida. 

itzhak:

To clarify, longevity is my #1 concern. I'd be willing to spend 3-4K, to extend my capacity for spinning discs into the future, but not knowing whether manufacturers will actually have the parts to repair any potential problems down the road is a very thorny issue for me. Fiscally, I'm fairly risk-averse and the fact that the industry-wide trend seems to be away from physical media at this point is not reassuring. If being unwilling to gamble 3-4K equates to being on a tight budget, then yes, I am. 

When I initiated this thread and simultaneously began researching transports online, I had no idea I'd encounter so much uncertainty regarding longevity. This has definitely altered my perspective. 

 


 
@stuartk

To clarify, the Moon 260T ( the version without build in dac) cost 2K and not 3-4K . Simaudio is very reliable brand and will support their products on long term basis . However I can understand your position ,the CXC is a fine transport even I bought the 260T I am not willing to sell my CXC and saving it as backup .it’s reliable and well build product , This transport is the best value for money right now.
@stuartk If you don't at least try a good CD transport, you will be missing out.