transport/dac vs integrated player

I have almost always used an outboard dac,  primarily because it always sounded much better, presumably because the external dac was better than my cd players internal dac. I have always concentrated on the dac and not on the quality of the transport, and planned on trying better transports and also playing via computer with a usb to s/pdif bridge. The question I have is this: assuming the dac in an integrated player equals the sound quality of an external dac, does the fact that it is in the player itself  alleviate any issues with the connection from a transport to an external dac?   To put it another way, assuming all things being equal, am I better off seeking out a player rather than a separate transport /dac?  Thanks in advance. 


CD Transports can make a difference. If you have a digital/analog switch, even more apparent. Sony, Esoteric, etc. Mostly brands from Japan are great. A separate machine, good short cables to connect them, makes a difference.

I've always read and been told that jitter is reduced in an all in one player, though newer DACs reject jitter much better...and if you are a cable guy, the cost of an extra power cord and a good digital main system uses separates, other systems all in one players...also depends on price range...are some good low and high cost transports, not much in-between...DAC's at all price ranges...depends how often you upgrade...don't underestimate importance of the transport...

Given where we are in the evolution of digital playback you definitely want to stay with separates. CD playing is rapidly being replaced with streaming.. many companies have discontinued manufacturing them. Streaming is rapidly replacing CD transports. My streamer sounds better on streamed high resolution material than a spun CD. My service ($12 / month) gives me access to over 1/2 million high resolution albums and millions of CDs. 

I can spin a CD… but only do a punt once a year… then can’t figure out why I bothered.

If you’re considering streaming, and you DEFINITELY should as you’ll have access to worlds of new music, just go with a separate DAC. Computers are awful as streaming sources, and when you can pick up a good streamer like the iFi Zen Stream for $399 (and even less used) or a Bluesound Node there’s really not much cost involved for significantly better sound. And the Zen has an SPDIF digital out so no need for a bridge to convert from USB. Hope this helps, and best of luck!

Incidentally, many people have bought the Audiolab 6000CDT transport with good results.  It appears to be at a big discount on Amazon…

Many thanks and yes I plan on introducing streaming to my system.  But the narrow question I have is for playing my cd collection: whether having an all in one player alleviates the concerns with the connection from the transport to the dac, in terms of the quality of the transport, straight coax from a transport vs playing from a computer via a usb to s/pdif bridge, etc. 

What’s a stinkin’ PC have to do with the fact that the best sounding CD drives are all in transports? And only use a PC for ripping tracks if you want to avoid years of learning.

It's not about A vs B, it's about musical enjoyment


But the narrow question I have is for playing my cd collection: whether having an all in one player alleviates the concerns with the connection from the transport to the dac

Well, if you’re going the streaming route anyway you could consider getting a streamer like an Innuos Zen Mini or Zen that also has an onboard disc drive and internal storage so you can just load all your CDs directly into it and have access to all your music from your chair and no need for a separate transport.  Just another option to consider FWIW. 

I will audition a streamer but for playing ripped CDs is there an advantage from playing from the internal storage of a Zen vs my PC's hard drive? I do not hear fans running when I am playing, but I have read that programs running in the background can create noise  that is introduced into the digital stream. All of my CDs are ripped to my PCs hard drive and I am playing with foobar.   

There is an advantage to using internal storage on a streamer vs external storage attached to a PC. You want a PC no where in the loop or near your audio system.


Most streamers still have internal storage for any ripped CDs or files you have purchased. A good streamer will have an internally stored CD sound exactly the same as a streamed album of the same mastering and file format. 

You want a PC no where in the loop or near your audio system.

@ghdprentice big +1 — a computer should be no part of your audio system.  It’s the nosiest source for music, and noise is the arch enemy of good-quality streaming, which is why standalone streamers exist in the first place.  Nobody who has a decent system, has any idea what they’re doing, and cares about sound uses a computer as a source.  Just go to an audio show — no one uses a computer as a source and all use streamers and/or vinyl.  That’s a big clue.  

gotcha. I will audition a streamer, but just confirming that you still recommend this over a computer using a usb to s/pdif converter - I have read that these units remove the noise coming from the  computer.   



It is most effective to remove noise at the source. Trying to remove it later is never fully effective and can cause additional artifacts.

My streamer uses battery power for audio circuits, is massively heavy to prevent mechanical vibration, and has a carefully controlled processor with no extraneous processes… etc. it sounds as good as my great vinyl end.  

I would think that if one were to make several comparisons of a CD player  against  a combination of a transport and DAC  at the same price point one may find some players that sound better. A savings result from both cost and effort in finding the best cable between transport and DAC. 

If a CD player is under consideration I would advise one to purchase one having access to the internal DAC for other digital sources. I consider such players as a DAC with a built in transport.