The anachronistic CD Transport? And do I really need one.
This is a machine that in my early audiophile days I could not afford. I appreciated, philosophically the advantages of it. Thinking of this device in 2021 seems strange. Yet they still exist and, maybe more importantly, they are still manufactured.
Just a few years ago (I dunno...maybe 2015) I remember thinking Redbook CD sounded great with the right DAC, and underlying system of course. But today, I don’t know this to be true. It is starting to seem that the compact disc is riding in the third row of the vehicle, with vinyl and non-cd-digital vying back and forth, musically for the driver’s seat.
So, my listening habits are
Vinyl 65% of the time Digital 40% CD 5%
I do have a small collection of CDs. They are things that I cannot easily or actually hear on other mediums.
I have a great DAC and it made an old (2005) Rotel CD player sound pretty good. The Rotel CD player's remote is dead with no easy replacement, and it does have progressive optical reading disease--...it drops in and out with less than perfectly clean discs.
Can you please evaluate the following options for me? Or tell me to piss off!
1. Buy a Transport 2. Buy a CD player (maybe with SACD ability) 3. Dump the discs and stick with your better sounding vinyl and digital. 4. Are you insane for listing as no. 1 "Buy a Transport"? You must be old.
Since you have a great DAC, buy a transport. And since you don’t play CDs often you probably don’t want to spend a lot.
The Cambridge Audio CXC v2 is very popular around here. I use a PS Audio transport so I can’t speak to the performance of the unit, but it’s very affordable. You’ll also need a good quality S/PDIF coax cable.
Transports are not anachronistic for audiophiles. There are several companies producing high-quality transports and a good transport is important for quality CD reproduction from a dac. If you like your dac, I would buy a transport. If you check Ebay, Cambridge sometimes offers factory-refurbished CXCs for about $350 or so and I think they're very nice for the money.
My situation is very similar to yours and, as lowrider57 recommended, the Cambridge CXC was my choice. It's well built, the operation is straightforward, it sounds very good connected with a coax cable to my Bel Canto DAC and the price was very reasonable.
Overkill for your situation, but I recently bought a SimAudio Moon 260 transport to replace my high-quality, but old CD player, and am very happy with it. It would be an expensive alternative, though, given your small percentage of CDs.
Agree with the other posters, if you are going to keep your CDs get a transport. From personal experience the Cambridge is a competent transport for the money, and in it's price range others on Audiogon have also recommended the Audiolab 6000. I moved up to the SimAudio 260 in my main system and agree with whipsaw's recommendation of it if you want even better sound and willing to pay the higher cost.
Can you please evaluate the following options for me? Or tell me to piss off!
1. Buy a Transport
You say you have a great dac, the wait for the new Schiit Audio cd transport to come out, it "should" be a cracker! knowing the designers background designing all that Theta Digital was known for in the past.
Ditch the spinning buggy whip and buy an Innuos Zen server/streamer, load your CDs into it and never deal with a transport ever again — and very possibly improve your streaming performance as an added bonus. Best of luck.
I switched to server only when my last CDP failed (long time ago). I use external computer CD reader to rip new CDs. I can also play CDs directly in my DVD player connected to Benchmark DAC3 (high jitter suppression), but I never do - nothing beats convenience of the server.
+1 for Schitt transport. Or a used Theta Compli. The Compli originally sold for $2500 and you should be able to get one for around $500. They are built like battleships and are as solid and good as ones costing much more. I have happily used mine with a great $20K tube dac for many years. Bit if Schitt is coming out with one it should be affordable and really good. Mike Moffett at Schitt was the man behind Theta and actually designed the first CD player. It was a prototype monster called “the Frankenstein”. If Mike is designing a new one it should be excellent!
5% CD’s vs 40% digital files. My suggestion is to rip your CD’s into digital files. Then spend the money you’re planning to spend on a new transport towards improving your digital implementation, or if it’s already great, towards new music.
I have the Cambridge CXC and run it to a BenchmarkDAC3 HGC and with this setup I find it's hard to hear the difference playing rebook CDs to playing SACDs through either a OPPO 105 or a Yamaha CD-S1000.
The audiolab cdt6000 or the Marantz hd CD-1. The Marantz is a player, but with a great transport. One more choice, the new vintage looking Leak cdt. Both the Leak and Marantz are compact, however good luck locating the Marantz, getting scarce as it is discontinued. Glad I got one years ago.
Since you already have a DAC you can use a DVD or blu-ray for a transport. Some even support SACD. Right now I am using a DVD player that got displaced with a blu-ray player in main system. To be honest I have played less than a dozen CDs on it in the past year. Mostly vinyl and streaming.
Download CDEX to any computer with an optical media drive, and have CDEX rip your CD’s directly to FLAC. The resulting files will sound better through your media server and DAC anyway, so, your welcome.
CD replay done right should not sound all that different from a good streamer. I know we are an Audiophile site and small differences can mean a lot, but going into the same DAC, if the CD transport and the streamer are roughly in the same price range, they might sound a bit different, but not necessarily “better” in either direction.
"Different strokes for different folks". There is no correct answer to this question, but it sounds like you received some good suggestions. Like in all of the social media, I would suggest that no extreme solution is correct.
After my NAD CD player crapped out, I bought a Marantz 6006 player. Even though it sounded pretty good on it's own (more lively sounding than the NAD) I bought a Denafrips Ares ll DAC and liked the sound even more, still using the 6006 as a transport. Then I got an Audiolab 6000 transport and noticed a slight improvement in a few areas - more distinct soundstage, tighter bass, smoother sound all around. It even read CD's that the Marantz didn't, notably ones with scratches and skips.
Ripping the cds is an option, but I'm not as fond of it. These are special albums and I appreciate them and their physical media. I suppose I could still hold the physical media in hand while playing a ripped file. Somehow that feels weird to me though.
I think a good transport is the way to go. I was unaware Schitt was coming out with one. And the Audiolab was on my list. Thanks to dtapo above for noting that the Audiolab bested the Marantz. I was thinking of that too!
I've been using the Audiolab 6000CDT with a Neko Audio D100 MKII DAC and have nothing but good things to say about the rig. I read a lot of reviews and forums before settling on the Audiolab, whose main competition seems to be the Cambridge. When Schiit does release theirs, that might be the best choice, especially if they keep the price low.
But if you have a good DAC, and the transport does its job, you'll be fine with any of these, or other, choices. The DAC is the key piece.
I like my cambridge transport. Smooth player. I wish it was slot loading like the audiolab. I still have an arcam player but is not a stand alone transport. You can't go wrong with the CX Cambridge transport.
I bought a transport from AliExpress for around $600, supposedly a Wadia clone circuit. It does have a tendency to overheat or something which causes it to stop playing and error out after some time. There's a newer version out with a better clock so maybe they fixes that issue I'd ask before buying.
In terms of quality it's clearly superior to my CD player (MHZS CD88J) if also used as a transport to the same DAC. Lower noise. It's roughly equal to my custom audio PC (linear PSU, battery-powered USB card, SSD isolation) for much less footprint and cost (the USB card, a Paul Pang V3 costs $450 by itself). But, obviously, a CD transport doesn't have the flexibility of the PC. Compared to my regular unconditioned PC it's on another planet of course, even when plugged into the PC's regular power strip. Works fine passing MQA-CD signals.
Also consider the belt-drive units from CEC.
Schiit is coming out with a transport soon and it's supposed to have a USB input which is a big deal IMO. It allows the use of high-end USB cables and conditioning and the use of a lot of MQA DACs with use for MQA-CD. Only a few DACs on the market support MQA decoding on the SPDIF input, most of them support it only on USB.
Hello, I just went to my local Hifi store to check out some Rouge preamps and amps. They had a Sony CA777es CD player. It no longer plays SACDs. But the Redbook out of it was incredible. I have an Oppo 205 so I don’t really need it. They had it for $350 plus tax which sounds like a very good deal for a CD player with dog outs. https://holmaudio.com/ They do ship stuff. This component weighs quite a bit so it might be $40 to ship. Maybe I am not right about using it as a transport. The drawer was opening and closing smooth as silk and this sounded incredible.
The risk of buying an older CD player is that you will not be able to find a replacement for the transport when it fails. That's happened to me twice over the last ten years. As the demand for discs declines the incentive for manufacturers to provide the parts to keep the players going declines as well.
Here's a very low cost solution. Back at the dawn of high-res disks, Pioneer introduced a very inexpensive mass market universal player (SACD, DVD-Audio, and CD). The transport is rock solid, the same one that gave expensive audiophile CD players such a good reputation vs. Sony. Has both coax and toslink digital output for CD's, and sounds excellent through my Bel Canto e.One series DAC 3 (better than my Oppo 105 and much better than my Sony C2000ES SACD player.
The unit was inexpensive (less than $200 when new) and many were sold. In the US the model number was DV-578A, but elsewhere either DV-575A or DV-676A-S). At one point, John Atkinson raved about this little machine. They are around on the used market for maybe $75.
@jbhiller - a solid choice. IMO, better than waiting for the new Schitt transport to come out, which has been in the wings for a long time but hasn't yet materialized. Give us a review of your impressions when you get going. BTW, if you need a nice digital cable for the money, there is a seller here (CJS) selling Wireworld digital cables at a substantial discount. IMO, either the Silver 7 or Gold 7 are very good choices. No relation to the seller. Just a satisfied customer.
The Audiolab arrived today. Very nice unit. I saw their products at Axpona 2019--pre pandemic--and was impressed with the build, fit and finish, and sound. The transport sounds great feeding my tube DAC. Very simple and subtle design too!
Congrats! They look very nice. One question that I can't get past, though, is why would they incorporate a complex slot-loading system? No matter what the build quality, surely such systems must be less durable than top-loaders.
Looks like you don’t need more recommendations, but . . as I posted elsewhere, I just bought the Audiolab 6000cdt and am playing it through an inexpensive dac, the Pro-Jett DAC Box S2+. They replace a 27 year old Pioneer CD changer, which still works fine but who knows for how long.
I debated about replacing the Pioneer, as I have a Bluesound Vault 2i and rip CD’s to that for playback. I was using the Pioneer less. But, I decided that I wanted to keep the CD option and the Audiolab (as well as Cambridge unit) is well-regarded and should hold up.
The sound of this new combination is definitely better than the Pioneer. So, I am pleased.