Oh, and it should be able to play CD-R as well. Thanks!
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There is a pretty good (IMHO) explanation of why digital cable length makes a difference here (assuming you are using coax instead of optical):
If the article is too technical to understand, the gist of it is that a 1.5m digital cable is able to hold the entire length of a square wave's "rise-edge" based on spdif specifications, and that shorter cables can cause jitter-related problems because of mismatched impedences and the resulting signal reflection inside the cable.
The other important factor is to make sure the digital cable you use is truly 75ohms.
If a hard drive solution is interesting to you, also check out the Squeezebox by Slim Devices (http://www.slimdevices.com). It's only $250-$300 and works with iTunes...
Go to www.empiriclaudio.com or www.vhaudio.com. Both sites have information on the reasoning behind using a 1.5m digital cable. Steve Nugent at Empirical Audio wrote a white paper on this and I believe it was published in PF. You should be able to locate the article on his site. He is also known here on Audiogon as Audioengr. Like you, I was using a 0.5m digital IC and upon moving to a 1.5m length noticed a difference. Then again it could just as easily been the cable upgrade.
Well if your transport is adequate enough to put out a clean digital signal. The devices will take that signal and produce a more refined reclocked signal for your Dac. It will also increase the digital signal from 6 to 10 times depending on which model you use. These devices work very well! The difference will be very apparent from the moment you turn on your equipment. Only someone with a VERY expensive transport may not notice the difference. Good thing about a device like this .You can use it as you change transports and sources ..while still enjoying the benefits.
As Phil suggests you can also use a 1.5 m or 5 ft cable from your transport. Or if using one of these devices use the .5 meter from the transport to the Upsampler. Then use the 1.5 m cable to your Dac from the Upsampler.Adding the 1.5 m cable to your transport will not give you the difference in sound adding a DIP will. But it can't hurt having the cable in the mix..I use a 1.5 m cable also.
You can get a 5 ft digital cable from Blue Jean cable. Cost... you're looking at $18.00 total with shipping. This is a very solid cable.
Your Bel Canto ought to be taking care of most of the errors any transport might be sending it but I guess it's possible a really bad transport might be screwing things up.
In your price range a reasonable thing to try would be to find a good used Denon 29xx-series DVD player and try it in place of the Toshiba you now have.
I've got both a 2200 and a 2910 and both sound great with my Benchmark DAC. They're pretty well built and the ergonomics are very good. I bought the 2200 used but in mint condition for $200 and the 2910 new for $435. If they don't solve the problem they're not tough to resell or you can use them as excellent DVD players. They'd give you a chance to play around with SACD and DVD Audio, too, if that's of any interest.
I used my DAC2 with Sony S7700. As Phil suggested, this dvd player is an excellent transport and works extremely well with DAC2. But, S7700 will/may play 95% of CD-Rs, but not absolutely all of them.
Suggestion about digital COAX cable being 1.5m in length is good too, but honestly, it all depends on the cable.
I have experimented with at least 8 different digital cables. DAC2 responds well to better digital cables.
This brings me to what I wanted to recommend to you, and that is, keep your current transport and instead get yourself an awesome digital cable, such as Virtual Dynamics NiteII. You can buy it for around $400 demo or used well under $400). I am certain this cable will make more difference with this particular dac than a $400 transport, be it used or new one. The best thing to do is to try. So, if you can borrow someone's cd player or transport to try with the DAC2 with your current digital cable, do that and see how much difference there is. I am willing to bet, unless there is something seriously wrong with your dvd player, that any transport under $400 will not produce that much difference, again, with this dac.
Call cable company and borrow VD NiteII. You want smooth sound, deep bass and excellent imaging with Bel Canto DAC2, the NiteII cable is all that. This was the best digital cable(under $1000) I've tried in my system.
The NAD C541i (and its successor) the 542 has a number of good things going for it:
- It's in your price range, esp. used ;^)
- It plays CD-R and CD-RW no sweat.
- NAD's Redbook error correction is a complete implementation of the spec.
- These players decode HDCD correctly to their analog outputs.
To my ears, HDCD sounds better properly decoded by the C541i than through the DAC2, though it's different and you lose some soundstage. So I happily switch back and forth depending on the disk. One thing for sure is I'm not hearing error artifacts.