I can't see the one-box units you mentioned comparing to a really high quality dedicated transport. But then I'm no expert. I'd say the best deal on a true audiophile transport would be another one-box unit: the Sony SCD-777ES CD/SACD player. Used, they run, typically, $1300-1600. Check the original Stereophile review, where they reviewer praises the unit as a state-of-the-art transport, plus you get Redbook and SACD playback as a bonus.
Good luck and happy listening!
I'd tend to agree with Dr joe, much as it doesn't make sense to me logically. I have a Forsell, Sony SCD 777ES and Marantz DV-18 which I have used at various times to feed my Audio Logic DAC, and damned if they don't all sound different. Forsell is clearly the best, Sony second and Marantz third. However, if you are looking for a player to do double/triple duty I'd avoid the cheaper combo units and go for something substantial like the Sony, I think you'd be better off. In this regard, I wonder if the Esoteric/TEAC universal players might not be good transports, as their standalone transports are top-notch.
Thanks for the responses so far - keep them coming!
Do you really feel that the SCD-777ES hybrid player (used as a transport with my Delius) is as strong as a dedicated redbook transport like the Proceed CDD (essentially a Mark Levinson 37) or a CEC TL-2? Also, my Delius does not have the 1394 port upgrade, so would it be even able to decode SACD/DSD?
Just to clarify, SACD isn't a requirement for me, but many of the combo players that I'm reading about such as the Denon 2900 and Philips 963 have the capability to play SACD. If I ended up with one of those units, it would be used exclusively as a transport to feed the Delius...
Having heard the Levinson 37 in my system, I'd say the Sony in its stock form was close to it; however, I admit to not liking the Levinson in my system that much. Since I had the Kern modifications done to my Sony, its performance as a transport has been more pleasing to me in that it's less clinical and more musical, if that makes sense. The CEC transports are like that as well; I'd choose them over a stock Sony. But I love the Forsell sound and analog, so that's my bias.
I'm only talking redbook here. As far as the Sony sending a DSD signal, unless you get it modified or get one of the new ones with a DSD output, it won't send a DSD digital signal, you'll need to use its analog outputs for that, and there's no guarantee that the dCS 1394 port upgrade that can be put onto the Delius will lock in to any digital interface other than the one from the dCS Verdi transport (which, by the way, is an excellent transport, if you can afford it, but won't handle DVD-V or DVD-A, I believe), as my recollection is that dCS's interface is proprietary--you should check with dCS if you're looking to use it as a DAC for a DSD signal. And by the way, having heard it on a lot of occasions, the Verdi/Delius combination is top-notch, just very expensive.
I'd have to agree with your comments on the Forsell. While I haven't heard it in comparison with the others, my dealer sold the Forsell transport and it did have a very analog sound from what I remember.
Believe me - I'd love to have the Verdi! Unfortunately, seeing as I just got the Delius, my audio budget needs a breather. But, after doing some more thinking, I've decided that I'd rather hold out for a Verdi and Purcell to add to my Delius. While this is not a near term goal, it's where I ultimately would like to go... Based on the sound I heard from my PCD3 (when it was working) as a transport, I don't feel that it is a terribly deficient piece and think I could be happy with it. So, rather than getting into a used transport that might have problems down the line (depending on how many hours are on it), I'll probably just get the Proceed fixed and live with it... That way, I can save my pennies for a Verdi!
For the time being, I might pick up a Philips 963 so that I can play around with SACD. Since the Delius has multiple digital inputs, I can have multiple transports connected to it at once. The other attraction to the 963 (besides the $320 price) is that it has an upsampling feature for redbook audio. While I'm sure it's no Purcell, it should prove interesting...
If anybody else has any input, I'd love to hear it... Thank you all for your help so far!
I just sold my Delius, but when I owned it I tried a bunch of standalone CDPs and transports and eventually ended up with a CEC TL-2X. Awesome combo, very smooth.
I am actually considering selling my proceed cdd soon so your discussion caught my eye. I currently have a delius/purcell combo and am using the proceed with it with great results. I've had the sony sacd players, and the marantz SA-1 and can tell you that both worked well with the digital output(cd). But I have to say that the cdd is better. It's basically the levinson 37 in a cheaper box and less sophisticated power supply. Mine was rebuilt by the guy that had it before me as most have been. They replaced the transport machanism and lazer rack making it almost new. Proceed is really great at service. They just had some bad parts for a while. You will find that almost all of the cdd's on the market have been rebuilt and are working fine. They have a true balanced digital output as opposed to most that use an op-amp to create the other half of a balanced signal. Even cec uses op-amps for theirs. I am considering selling mine for 850. I was going to try for a emm labs or a wadia.to see if I could get some improvement. In my opinion the sony SCD777ES or scd-1 are really great transports but you will spent a lot for the priviledge of listening to a few classical discs on SACD. I have decided to stick with the delius purcell with redbook cd's until music I like comes out on SACD which may never happen.
I recently *bought* a Proceed CDD so your discussion caught my eye. I agree with much of Sm2727. Mine was recently upgraded with the latest software and a whole new drive ass'y, now also used in the 37 and 390S. The CDD does share much of its circuit design and functionality with the 37 as they were designed in parallel. Nevertheless, it still has a few operational quirks you'd never find in a cheap Philips or Sony. But even though it's $2K cheaper than the 37, I don't feel it's worth 2500 1996 dollars compared to many of the better current cd players that sound at least as good when used as transports. I did compare my CDD with a 37 using my DAC in a megabuck store system and couldn't tell any difference after 1hr+, so my unit is sonically fine.
The last few months I've compared my CDD to a bunch of players to try and justify its price, although no Really Good units (ie Wadia, SCD1, CEC). But stock $1K Denon 2900 and Yamaha DVD-S2300MkII universal multi-channel AV players sound just as good as transports:-O However the CDD and other decent CD-specific players are clearly better than sub-$1K dvd-based universal players in transport duty.
My BelCanto DAC2 seems to level the playing field and minimize transport sonics signatures, as it's insensitive to jitter by reclocking the input. You're right to point out there's more to the sound of a transport than the jitter, which your dCS also probably deals with well. Bass extension, image density and soundstage depth are the differences I heard, though generally pretty subtle.
Don't expect wonders with SACD at the $1K price point: the cdd/dac2 overall sounded better playing the (identical) cd versions of SACDs played through the analog outs of these 2 universal players. I wouldn't expect you'd get much out of the Philips 963 in comparison either. I'd also like to find a 2ch audio-only sacd/cd transport/player, but seems the marantz sa14 and the older sonys are about it now at a reasonable price.
The CDD has greater CD functionality, and with cones and a power cord does come out on top of all I've listened to by a hair, but I would advise you try the Sony 777 and its ilk before the CDD.
Thank you all for your great feedback!
I actually went ahead and ordered a Philips 963 and the much talked about BlackGate power supply cap to mod the unit... At $320 for the player and $20 for the cap, I couldn't pass it up. It will make for an interesting experiment with the dCS and could always move in to my video system when not in use in the 2-channel system. From what I've read, most like the upsampling in the 96k setting, but it'll be interesting to hear what the Delius does with it.
Now, some indvidual responses:
Ndjedinak, your comments on the CEC were what turned me on to them. While I haven't heard one personally, the idea of a belt drive transport sure is interesting... I'd guess it has the "analog" sound that the air bearing Forsell does.
Sm2727, if you decide that you want to sell your CDD at some point, feel free to drop me a line! While the Verdi is ultimately what I'd like to pair up with the Delius, your CDD might be interesting if since it has had a rebuild. If the price and condition are right, I'm sure it would make a great upgrade over my PCD3 since the PCD3 is only RCA out.
Sdecker, from what I've read, the dCS is very resistant to jitter, so it will most likely respond like your DAC2 does do different transports. While the Delius won't be able to decode SACD from the 963 (from what I understand), I'm really excited to hear what the upsampling does since I don't have a Purcell.
Again, thank you all for your great input! It sure is nice having an outlet to discuss these issues...
Gtb75- the $20.BG cap will help lower the power supply noise a bit, but if you plan to use the Philips as a transport, you should also replace the cheap
caps in the digital circuit path with N or NX series BGs.
A Bybee Purifier in series with digital output would also make a nice improvement.
The 963 is a great little player for the money but as a transport its nothing special. I have one (with the BG in the ps) and recently swapped in my Sony DVP-S7000 as a transport - not even close. The Sony extracts so much more detail its not funny. But again I reiterate that the Philips is a great player for the buck.
I'm not expecting the 963 to be the "ultimate" transport, but I'm hoping it's better than the Nakamichi MB-2 I'm stuck using while my PCD3 is out for service. I'd be very surprised if the 963 even ends up as good as the PCD3 sounded (when it was working)...
At the moment, I'm only going to do the cap in the power supply of the 963 and see what that yields. As I mentioned, my main goal in this experiment is to see what the upsampling can do with the Delius. I don't want to make a huge investment in the 963 until I can A/B it with my PCD3 when it's back from repair. Besides, I'd rather put the money towards a Proceed CDD (for the AES/EBU connection), Sony 777, or a dCS Verdi.
I guess that brings up another interesting question... Which of the following makes more sense to you all:
1. Invest $4000 to $6000 in a Verdi to connect directly to my Delius (don't have a Purcell).
2. Invest $3000 to $4000 in either a CDD or 777 AND a Purcell - again to connect to the Delius I already have.
I'm guessing that option 2 is going to give me more of a sonic benefit based on what I remember of the Purcell, but I'd be curious to hear what you all think...
Again, thank you all for your time and feedback!
You pretty much will move the 963 to your video system after playing with it. It plays okay as a sacd / upsampleing player but it's definitely not a well built unit to use as a good transport.