Universal Players vs. Dedicated CD/SACD Players

Greetings all. I'm curious what other's experiences are listening to Universal Players vs. "dedicated" cd/sacd players. I have an Oppo BDP95 based on the reviews and convenience of the "one-box" solution. However, I've been wondering if I'm missing some audio performance this way. I'm more into sound than video BTW. I have an audiophile friend who says he doesn't like audio and video in the same box. I've entertained thoughts of purchasing a dedicated audio cd/sacd player. Your input is appreciated.

I prefer a dedicated audio player ( have used Lexicon and Oppo universals), also prefer a CD player for redbook, as opposed to cd/sacd
Love the Lexicon RT-20 as a CD transport though...
Hmm, interesting...

Isn't this why Oppo has the 95/105 with direct 2 channel out?  They recognize the possibility of interference and have tried very hard to minimize that.
I would think so. My thoughts are kind of "jack of all trades and master of none?" when it comes to universal players. 
They can minimize it but not eliminate it
I went from the Oppo 95 to the Esoteric line and the Esoteric crushed it. Oppo is good in its price range. But does not come close to a good SACD/cd player. I did find using the XLR outs bettered the RCAs on the Oppo.

The Oppo 95 and later are good units (I have the 105D and have heard others in the past) but they are engineered to a price point which they've done the best to maximize ROI at that price. Owning the 105D I can tell you it excels at video and does a good job of CD and SACD playback, ability to leverage its DACs from an external source, etc...(XLR sounds better than RCA) BUT there are Universal players out there that are better at audio.  Shop around, listen extensively, etc...before you buy. Esoteric will definitely 'crush it' to use 68pete's words but my opinion having owned several generations should be taken as exactly that.
Thank you all for the input. I didn't know if I was splitting hairs with this or if indeed a universal player might compromise the audio side which is most important to me. 
I would say just enjoy the music. Hi-enders like to spout on about interference, internal crossover, etc.which is more imaginary than reality, with marginal improvement. Also, people often like to justify their purchases, with owners of 10k CD players compelled to state that is the only way. I have a sub 2k universal player from years ago, and I don't find the audio lacking. Video is horribly outdated!
I have an Oppo BDP-103 and use an Ayre C-5xeMP for music. I tried the Oppo with music, but it sounds flatter and less dynamic than the Ayre. Not terrible, but not terribly exciting either.
In my experience, dedicated CD players have better redbook performance than similarly, or even somewhat more expensive multi-format players.  I haven't tried very expensive (10K+) multi-format players, which may well have better CD performance.  If you listen to a lot of regular CDs, I would try adding a good DAC to the Oppo, say something in the $1K+ price range, which should be a significant improvement over the CD performance of the Oppo, IF you are sensitive to the improvements better CD replay will render.  
Interesting option, thanks!
I think my Oppo 105 sounds superb playing DTS-HD MA or Dolby True-HD BDs, but I much prefer my Ayre C-5xeMP for playing CDs and SACDs.
Ayre produces some beautiful sounding gear, a little out of my league though...
People seem to really like the Schiit DACs, especially the multibit versions. The Bifrost might be a good fit.

((Ayre produces some beautiful sounding gear, a little out of my league though...))
 Your bell is ringing at 1795
 If you listen to the New Ayre Codex Dac taking the Dig out of your Oppo
 would put you where you need to be.
       Good listening JohnnyR 
As a purist, I too, prefer my Audio separate from my Video spinners.
Keep me posted & Happy Listening!
The Modwright Sony XA5400ES OR Oppo 105 are world class.  I prefer the Modwright XA5400ES...as close to vinyl as it gets without the clicks and pops!
Thanks! for sharing- dave_b.
Personally, I prefer keeping things separated. I have a dedicated CD/SACD player in my main rig and an Oppo 103 universal in my second system (for the rare DVD-A and Blu-Ray Audio disc I own). I put the Oppo in the main stack for giggles, but as decent as it is, it couldn't hold a candle to my Marantz player on either redbook or SACD. Then again, the Marantz cost many times the money of the Oppo, so it didn't come as a terrible shock to me.
No contest. A quality dedicated CD player will annihilate the Oppo/Cambridge universal players on redbook playback.


which Marantz spinner are you using?


It's a modified Marantz SA-7S1. Not at all a fair fight between it and a stock Oppo, I realize. As I said, I just did it for giggles--to get a baseline on the Oppo. A buddy of mine is bringing his 105D over for a comparison next week. We're gonna stack it up against the Marantz and my 103D. 

Very cool =lynott.

tell me more about the mods.


The mods were done by an Oregon-based company called Jena Labs. You may have heard of their cables. My player was done a long time ago, and a lot has happened in the interim, so I've forgotten a lot of the details of the mod, unfortunately. But I remember she cleared the signal path of a bunch of crap and did a lot of damping, among other things. She left the Marantz HDAM output stage in place, because she really likes that particular design. Some other modders strip it out and replace it with something fancier. 

The result was really eye-opening. After many comparisons over the years, I think it can hang with some of the big boys. It's pretty good, IMHO.

Sorry I couldn't provide more technical info on the mods. The 'ol noggin' ain't what it used to be!

What player(s) are you running?
It depends if you are using them as transports.
Many Thanks! lynott-

I am in the market for a SACD spinner. I have heard several Esoteric players. I really liked what I heard in the Esoteric. Additionally, I have an interest in Marantz, especially any special edition or limited edition, by Ken Ishiwata (KI).
Hello Jafant
If you go with the Esoteric players you will want to get into one of the"X" versions. They are a step up from the older ones. K-O1x or like in the product line. The Absolute Sound just gave the K-O3x high marks.
Agree the new X series looks sweet, but the K-05 that are listed now are at very reasonable price. It may be worth the time compare them, it's a shame that Esoteric does not allow an upgrade path for existing owners. 

12-17-2015 12:02pm
In my experience, dedicated CD players have better redbook performance than similarly, or even somewhat more expensive multi-format players..."

17 posts
01-29-2016 8:05am
No contest. A quality dedicated CD player will annihilate the Oppo/Cambridge universal players on redbook playback...."


I have the ARCAM FMJ Blu-Ray player for multichannel (movies and audio)
I have the REGA ISIS Valce cdp for 2-channel.

Verdict: As good as the ARCAM is, the performance superiority of the REGA for 2-channel red book cd audio is  not even close: the differences  are not subtle.

Much Thanks!  68 Pete.

I want to say that there are the X-01 and X-03/03SE players. Am I missing any others?

TY- maxboy00.

I concur w/ akg_ca on the dedicated CD or SACD player.

Anytime we choose a universal spinner, something has to give up in order to capture all of the proposed formats.

I use a Pioneer Elite 59-AVi for DVD duty only and it is a killer.

I would further break down Blu-Ray playback as well.

I have been a fan of any CD or Universal player that has an output for an external DAC.
I don't play SACDs, just CDs. I have found that every couple of years the DACs get better, and as such the CDs sound better. So I guess I like the idea of swapping an external DAC or even swapping a board in a DAC to make the CDs sound better. Much like the Schiit Bifrost upgrades offered. When I added a Benchmark DAC to my older Sony CD player it was a big improvement in sound. Of course I try to get a spinner with the best transport and optical playback I can afford.
Like the OP, I had an Oppo 95 and just sold it after about 5 years.  It's a swiss army knife of a player, very flexible and can play just about anything off a thumb drive.  It sounds really good too with redbook cds.  

Personally though, I got tired of the long delay upon start up.  Since it's a blu ray player, it has to go through this arduous start up.  It won't start playing a previously inserted cd for close to 30 seconds.  

And if you want to scan through part of a song, it has this oddball method of playing a second of audio, then repeatedly skipping ahead 5 to 15 seconds(depending on how many times you press the scan button) to play another second.  No smooth scanning through to more easily get to the part of the song you want.  I found it difficult to work with.

On a whim, I bought an old used Marantz carousal player from '97 and compared it to the Oppo.  I was surprised that it came pretty close in performance, though Marantz has always made pretty good stuff, and this one was not an entry level model, the CD65SE.

The Oppo had a little more detail, but the Marantz was a little warmer.  I can't remember if the Oppo had a bigger soundstage.  It opened my eyes a little, because I would have thought that the Oppo would slay the old Marantz.

This had led me to believe that a dedicated cd/sacd player can be better than an all in one.  I'm now waiting for delivery of a used Nad C565BEE cd player.  I figure it should do better than the Marantz, it can at least play more file types and can operate as a DAC with a Wolfson chipset.  It retailed for $800 when new.  Oppo is good, but certainly not the be all end all.
I don't have experience with Oppo or auralic I am still using my beloved Classé Omega CD/HDCD/SACD player on a daily basis, it also does redbook like nothing else, when I do look at streamers I will upgrade my Magnum Dynalab Tuner to one of their top-of-the-line internet tuner/sreamers. There is no substitute for high-end quality!
Okay, you can put me solidly in the separates category.  As mentioned above, my Nad C365BEE came and I immediately dropped everything and spooled up some cds.  Wow, Nad makes some nice sounding gear.  It's got more of a 3D soundstage than the Oppo 95, with a nicer balance of warm and detailed.  One track stands out, a shimmering cymbal in which I'd never heard the individual drumstick strikes until now!  

And of course it easily bests the old Marantz.  The 365, which is not a current model, has 4 filters you can pick from for a different sound. It also has a 12v trigger, the Oppo for all of it's swiss army like functions, had neither of this.  Nor the optical input that allows the Nad to act as a DAC!  

I'm not sure how much of these items or the sound is contained in the current Nad C346BEE, but it's worth an audition just based on what the 365 can do.
That's interesting news 213runnin. The all around appeal of the Oppo makes it hard to part with but I am much more concerned about audio than i am the video performance. I was considering the current Emotive ERC-3 which is reasonably priced and gets nice reviews...

the Omega series was very sweet. Does Classe' still have parts/service for these players?

I agree- NAD makes excellent cd players, especially, the 1990's models.
Oops, I got the model number of my Nad wrong, it's the C565BEE, and the current model I was referring to is the C546BEE.

Beernut, I had the ERC-1 and sold it after becoming dissatisfied with it.  It would freeze up every now and then and I had to power cycle it to get it to work again.  It also skipped the first few seconds of the first track played upon power up, after that it was fine.  I replaced it with the Oppo 95, which did sound superior.

The ERC-3 shouldn't have these issues.  Marantz, Nad and Cambridge all have interesting options.
Thank you. I was wondering last night if I wanted to improve upon redbook cd performance, how much would I need to spend on a dedicated cd player to better the performance of my Oppo BDP-95? I'd be happy with a $100.00 blu ray for video. If I'd have to spend $1000.00+ to improve upon the cd capability of the Oppo which I bought for $500.00 then I'd think harder probably...
Hopefully some more Oppo 95 owners can chime in.  I know the Nad C565BEE is superior, but it's no longer made and went for $800 back in 2011. They pop up used now and then.  I'm not sure if the current Nad C546BEE is just a stripped down version of the 565 or not, and thusly would sound the same without the optical input and filtering modes.

But it does come down to taste, some prefer Marantz cd players over Oppo and vice versa.  Owners say the Oppo 105 is nicer sounding than the 95, but you'd have to spend a fair amount.  
I'm not sure OP told us where the output of the 95 goes.  Oppos can provide many of the functions of a processor or they can be used as spinners if HDMI is taken to a pre/pro.

Balanced analog from my Ayre C-5xeMP goes to a Parasound JC 2 BP, but HDMI from my Oppo 105D and Sony XA5400ES goes to a Bryston SP3 that does the analog processing.  Front LR from the SP3 is passed through the JC 2 BP to JC 1 mono blocks.  The SP3 has closed the gap, but I still prefer the Ayre for stereo, especially for CDs. 
Hello 213runnin
I have owned Oppo 95 and a friend has a Oppo 105. The Oppo 105 has no fan noise. The 105 is supposed to have a better chip set.  The Oppo 95 has a fan that can come on when it gets warm. Some owners complained about the noise. My Oppo 95 fan came on on about the forth or fifth disc in a row. I only heard it when i was right on top of it. From my listening spot about  ten feet away i never heard it. The 95 vs the 105 from what i heard the 105 was a slight bit better across the board. I had to use xlr cables to hear the difference. To be fair my Oppo 95 was well broken in and the Oppo 105 did not have the same amount of hours on it. Both are very nice units and need a long break in period. Oppo customer service is all so five star.
Enjoy Pete

Thank you 68 Pete.
Good info Pete, I forgot about the fan.  I would have been curious about the 105, but Nad has made a believer out of me.
The NAD 565BEE is a very fine spinner.
I bought a McIntosh universal player (MVP-871) and it was nothing but problems, and it was eventually replaced by an Oppo 105D. What a difference! The Oppo was truly plug and play with any type of disc. It has balanced, RCA and HDMI outputs. No, it doesn't have the beautiful green-led faceplate like my other Mac components, all it does is sound great and put out ultra clear video. To me, it seems to be the biggest value in A/V.
So, if you have only one system, including audio and video, you would be hard pressed to match the performance of the Oppo 105D at anywhere near its price. However, for headphone listening I'm using a transport and DAC combination. Things are changing so quickly that today's SOTA equipment can be tomorrow's boat anchor. But today, it's definitely Oppo!