A good transport + good DAC is likely more expensive than a good single box player, and you need an extra cable. But the 2 box system is more flexible, ie as new and better DACs come out you just need a new DAC rather than both. I use a ML 37 transport (and expect to have it for years) with a ML 360S DAC that is "software" up-gradable in the field, ie lot's of versatility. Still, the ML 39/390S (CD player) has the temptation of simplicity. The same kind of logic applies to amp and pre-amp vs integrated. Cheers. CRaig
Micromega has a nice transport and some good DAC can bring more music than the CD player as whole. I've never tried Music Fidelity DAC, but you can shop arround used CAL or EAD DSP7000(the one I have). EAD DSP7000 is available at measurable prices here on audiogon and deserves the best respect about built quality and performance.
While I have not heard the Micromega Stage I, I have owned 2 Micromega (Duo BS2 and Microdac) dacs for years. About 1 and 1/2 years ago I got the upgrade bug and since then I have bought three 24/96 dacs (MSB, Bel Canto and Art DI/O) and one 18 bit dac (Cal Sigma). All 4 had more detail than the aging Micromegas, but none of them was more muscially satisfying to listen to. All of them introduced some form of electronic coloration to the sound that was not there with the Micromega. If you like the sound of the Micromega, to find something that betters it is going to cost alot. I haven't heard the Muscial Fidelity, but would not buy one w/o a right of return.
I've never listened via an external dac. Therefore, of course I do not believe one needs the expense of an external dac. If the opposite were true I'd own one and my opinion would be different. :)
In all seriousness, I agree with the poster above that if you put your money into one appropriate cd player, then you probably have just as good or maybe even better with less clutter and cabling.
According to Ed Meitner, using an outboard DAC increases jitter dramatically. He stated in an article online that the output interface circuit/cable/input interface circuit cause more jitter than any other cause, even the transport.In his opinion, a single box player with a good DAC stage is superior in performance to outboard units. This digital transfer timing error problem(jitter) is the reason you need a digital correction engine when you use an outboard DAC. The transfer induced jitter in two box systems is present no matter how good(or expensive) the transport and DAC may be. Unless the DAC has a digital correction engine built-in. Since jitter is one of the major offensive aspects of digital sound, it seems like a poor choice unless you are going to use a DCE along with the package. For the people going whole-hog with an Elgar or something, this is not a problem because the price of an extra DCE is negligable compared to the costs involved.(I don't know if the Elgar has a built in DCE or not) It would seem to me that for the price of one of these $12k DACs, you could find a one box player that has an excellent DAC stage that wouldn't create this jitter problem in the first place.
Forgot to mention that the only single box cd player I have heard recently that impressed me was the Cary. I think it was the model#cd306.
Twl answered some of my questions, thanks. Although the MF DAC is closer to 1k, adding a dac also requires finding the right cable and if a jitter reduction device is added, thats two cables and a lot of electronics added to your chain. If the MF DAC has its own jitter correction (dont know) it might be cost effective. I like Musical Fidelity products and use a MF CDP, so I dont mean to sound negative about this DAC.
So, if I have all this correct: If the Musical Fidelity has a digital correction engine, then this might be $1200 (less discount of course) very well spent. Also: forgive my ignorance, but I do not understand what jitter is, and how it is manifested in the music. How does it effect the music?
Single box players often have a "forgiving DAC-transport combination" making us believe that the jitter is on its possible minimum. In real life the jitter does exist on one-box players as well. Following the logic, when the one-box CD player is assembled it's being tested as whole in most cases. That's why very often it's not successful to mate one box CD-player with external DAC. If the dedicated high quality transport and DAC is used that can produce better results than CD player alone. Micromega is one of several inexpencive(as used) players that can be successfully used as a transport even without correction engine. For most of us(I believe) the digital correction engine, jitter reducer, or else-how-named device is some magic box. I consider this kind of product as "shaper" that works on whatever doesn't look standard and wheather or not it's better to "shape" it or leave it "unstandard" our ears decide. In case of high quality transport-DAC combo above mentioned "shaper" can only damage the sound. Meaning it might successfully work with mid-fi-ish player-DAC combos.
P.S. There are bunch of threads about jitter here. Jitter is defined as an error in digital reading. For example: if transport sent "1" it was read by DAC as "zero". Imagine yourself at the exhibition and you're watching paintings enclosed under the glass frame(which is pretty odd isn't it?). Certainly you cannot say that you're seing the real painting since the glass reveals the image with distortion -- meaning that there is no ideal glass window and if you open the window you will definitely see the differences. That is the way you're listening to the music through any digital playback.
Jitter starts at the transport. If you don't have a good transport, it can only get worse further down the line. You can add filters, re-clocking mechanisms, etc... but this is all more "junk" in the signal path and extra cabling. As such, a well designed one box player SHOULD always beat separates ( transport / DAC ) in terms of total performance. Unfortunately, the machines that are built to that level cost thousands upon thousands of dollars.
One can attain very good performance for a LOT less money by using a reasonable transport and upsampling DAC with a carefully chosen cable. That is the path that i have taken for multiple reasons, the main one being lack of funds : (
As to the newer Musical Fidelity DAC, i've seen it and listened to it. Only problem is that i was not familiar with the system, recordings or the room. I asked the salesman his opinion of it and he basically confirmed my thoughts. The fruit of Antony Michaelson's labor have not fallen far from the typical Musical Fidelity tree in terms of "house sound". In other words, it is clean, clear and detailed without being etched. It also lacks warmth and body, coming across as being slightly lean and lacking in impact. Whether or not this would compliment your system and personal tastes is a matter of choice. Obviously, others may have different experiences and opinions of this product.
Why don't you try holding out for a bit and see what the newer G&W piece will be like ? It is an upsampler that uses tubes in the output section. While Sam Tellig gave their stand alone upsampler high marks, i don't really put much faith in his written advertisements called "reviews". However, Marty from Bound for Sound also raved about it and i do respect his opinion. If you wanted to find out more about the G&W piece, you can read about it in Tellig's article or on the Audio Advisor website.
I don't know when the upsampling tube DAC will be out, so you might want to give AA a call and see what they know. As usual, you could probably take advantage of their 30 day trial period to see if it will measure up to your expectations once it does come out. Being able to swap tubes would also give you some added versatility in terms of fine tuning the overall presentation and tonal balance. Just a thought. Sean
My understanding of this is admittedly limited, but as I understand it, the problem with separates is that a DAC has to reclock the signal, and not all of them do that well. The result is jitter (which is a mistiming, akin to analog flutter, although I imagine it sounds very different). If that's the case, one might ask how any box between transport and DAC can solve the problem. Seems fewer boxes is the better way to go.
People familiar with their technical aspects have told me that Rotel and Arcam make very good CDPs in this regard, adn they're probably well within Whirshfield's means.
Sam wrote a glowing review of the new MF upsampling DAC, which got me wondering, too, despite my wariness of reviews in consumer magazines. The real question in my mind: is upsampling truly the trump card? I've read in a number of places that it is. I've been considering upgrading from an Arcam cd72 to the FMJ23 and now wonder if the MF would be a better choice for about half the money? An a-b comparison, practically speaking, is impossible to arrange. I have an older MF preamp that I really like. Anybody who has done a-b's between upsampling dacs and known good non-upsampling CDP's please weigh in. Sam said the MF improved the sound of his Rega Jupiter, and that adding an anti-jitter box helped even further.