Upgrade CD player or get into LPs? Suggestions


I've now enjoyed my system for about 2 years now, and starting to think about upgrading or adding to it. Any thoughts of what I should do to increase my listening experience?

Should I upgrade my CDP? Or, change my entire experience by getting into LPs? If upgrade, any CDP suggestions that is below $5k (new)? If LPs, what are the beginners+ TT to consider (one added plus is that my current preamp handles phono)?? Thoughts?


Current system:
Cary 303/100 CD player
Audible Illusions 3A preamp
Dali 800 MKII
Synergistic Research Galileo speaker cells
BASIK strings I/Cs
Hi Broken.

Can see you are itching for an upgrade, having read your other thread! ;) your CD is very well regarded...$5K gets you quite a lot in good digital...Esoteric, DCS on the more linear side...Audio Note, Accustic Arts?...i am speaking second-hand, though i know you were speaking of new. Brand new, i think Weiss has good stuff...very clean, not to my taste but certainly very good...definitely not Cary-style of presentation.

No thoughts on LP as i do not do vinyl though i love it...too much brain damage for me. $5K buys a LOT of quality vinyl equipment. Enjoy!
Cd's have an ease of operation that is quite addictive and have improved considerably but vinyl plays music from the heart something cd's still need to improve on.
If you want to get into vinyl, you must decide if u want that kind of commitment. TT's need TLC, LPs need to be cleaned and cared for and it takes time and research to get the proper match of the table, cart, tonearm, and phonostage.
If serious, try and visit a local hifi shop and get a hands-on demo.
BTW, I love having vinyl in my system, but it definitely requires some effort.
I owned 303/100 for about ten years and I just purchased B stock marantz sa-11s2 cdp for 1900 from Music Derict with a 30 day return policy.This is a discontinued model that listed for around 3600,it looks perfect and is nice upgrade from the cary.
About 6 months ago bought a music hall 5.1se tt and more recently a Ray Samuels Nighthawk phono stage and I'm loven vinyl.I feel I am set on cdp but I'm already thinking about upgrading my table.
Maybe you can do both
You are regressin on the technology curve. Forget vinyl and get into computer audio. Saves you a lot of trips to the turntable, and no restrictions on available content (which is the most important thing at the end of the day). Sounds pretty damn good if you get the right hardware/software to boot. Just my 2c.
Do it all.
I would buy a budget turntable to dip into vinyl. Vinyl is a new paradigm for you, and there are software issues (you may not be able to find playable lps of the music that you want to listen to). An entry level Rega or Pro-Jett, or Thorens table can be had for a few hundred, and remember to budget for a phono pre amp. If you get into vinyl then upgrade in the future.
With the remaining funds I would by a CDP with good digital inputs so that you can branch into computer audio. Basically you would look for a good DAC that also spins CDs.
I take for granted you do realize nobody can answer this question for you, but rather provide some food for thought. How much do you value the availability of online music? Or the flexibility digital streaming enables? Or the ritual of selecting a CD (or an LP, for that matter) and playing it? Or toying with mechanical setup of a vinyl rig? Only you can answer that.

Having said that, here's my take: I pondered around this a while back too. Freeing up funds for me is not easy and I marvel at the improved sound a great system provides, rather than being fascinated by various media. Plus I live overseas where CDs/LPs/Hi-rez availability is limited. So I'm focusing on playing files only with the best components I can afford throughout the chain. Unlike vinyl, which is a mature technology, and CDs, which I consider mature too, playing files is nascent so I prefer not to spend big bucks there anyway. $1k today buys digital playback performance we couldn't dream about 5 years ago, and I bet this evolution pace will continue for a while. So I upgraded speakers, then amp, then preamp, cables, got myself a Squeezebox Touch (great!) and now will get a DAC. Plus significant work on room accoustics.

I would love to eventually get into vinyl, but that will have to wait. Do you own many LPs? Does the music you like come in vinyl?

If I wanted to upgrade my CD player and had your budget, I would probably buy a used Esoteric X03SE. Can't comment on vinyl. Maybe get a DAC and use your Cary as transport + experiment with files?
Do you own several hundred records in perfect condition? Do you want to go from a quiet background to clicks and pops? Instead of buying a turntable look for an early ('85-'89) Magnavox CD player. Leave it on for several days and you will think you are listening to a turntable with a MM cartridge without the clicks and pops.
"Do you own several hundred records in perfect condition? Do you want to go from a quiet background to clicks and pops? Instead of buying a turntable look for an early ('85-'89) Magnavox CD player. Leave it on for several days and you will think you are listening to a turntable with a MM cartridge without the clicks and pops."

That is so ridiculous, it's hard to know where to start....

Nothing is going to sound like vinyl, but vinyl. I love my digital rig and enjoy it often. But it doesn't sound as good as my WT Amadeus, nor should it. Don't listen to these naysayers, especially not the one I quoted above. You have a good cdp, spend the money on a good turntable and preamp then start hitting the used record stores. You will be glad you did.

Forget cds. Go for a TT or digital streaming.
Wow. Clicks and pops??? What are you listening to, some vinyl that used a nail? The discussion between vinyl and digital has gone on for some time. the real question is do you listen to music or use it as background? First, to answer your question, have you considered an external DAC first? You would be amazed at the difference between an internal and good quality external DAC. Before you go down that road, please understand that a DAC is three things. 1. A digital component that processes the digital signal. 2) a power supply and 3) an analog output stage.

Very important to know that the analog output stage should be judged just like a good quality pre-amp. People get so caught up in computer music and ease of use that they completely forget that the analog portion better be top quality or it doesn't matter how good the digital side it. This also includes a high end pre-amp quality power supply. if the two are present, then the DAC suffers. This is typically why internal DACS compared to good external DACS don't compare well. Go borrow a decent DAC and plug it into your system and you will hear the difference. I would still get the vinyl rig going anyway, because, well, it is wonderful to me.

But, I can tell you, in my long years of experience, that a good vinyl rig (phono stage, turn table, arm, cartridge, etc.) vs a good digital setup, if the music was originally digitally recorded to digital master and then mastered to vinyl and cd, you won't hear as much of a difference as opposed to music that was originally recorded to analog master and then to vinyl and cd.


You can read many threads on this site complaining about noisy Lps. Have you really never heard an Lp that pops and clicks?
I used to listen exclusively to LPs back in the 70s- early 80s. When CDs came along I bought in mainly to save wear and tear on my LPs, which I stll considered my reference source for music. CDs replaced cassette tape and the convenience of using them became addictive, supported by the lack of surface noise LPs (and tape) always produce.

Fast forward to today and I have all but forsaken vinyl, but plan on resurrecting it. IMHO 16 bit resolution of standard CDs is just not enough to provide the low level details of vinyl, surface noise notwithstanding. The higher resolution digital 24 bit may be a lot better, I don't know. I do know that 24 bit music selection is meager at best, and there is little to no hope that the hundreds of LPs or CDs I have accumulated over the years will ever be reproduced in high res 24 bit sources.

If you have never listened to a vinyl rig, you owe it to yourself to find one and listen. You may wish to freeze your digital CD based system where it is and start a vinyl setup. After you have made the comparison, then go from there. Vinyl does require a lot more tweaking and attention than playing CDs require, which require more than steaming from a music server. LPs also wear out while digital sources do not.

Surprisingly though, LPs for many artists are still available, with CD sources still being the most common.
Tomcy6: I consider clicks and pops on albums the same way I consider scratches on cds. That is to say, I go buy another copy. People complain about pops and clicks as if they are normal. They are not! They are caused by the owner doing something stupid to the album or a faulty album in the first place. I look for very good to excellent copies of albums and I clean them very well. If I have an album I like that has issues, I go find it in better condition. Wouldn't you do the same for a damaged cd? to me this is a non-issue. It is a problem with the album, then replace it. It is pretty easy to find good to excellent copies of used or re-issued albums, exactly the same as cds. That is all I was really trying to say. Not start an argument on pops and clicks. If it is bad. trash it and get another copy in better condition. I inherited some albums from my Mother and some friends. Yes, they used nails as needles and the albums were trashed. So, systematically, I replaced them (the ones I liked) with re-issues or very good used copies and I am good to go. No noise. Great music.


How many copies of an Lp do you buy on average to get one without clicks and pops? What is the highest number of copies of an Lp that you had to buy to get one without noise?

I'm not arguing, just trying to get relevant information. I haven't ever had to buy two copies of a cd to get one that was quiet. If a cd does not play properly the seller will provide a replacement at no charge.
Tomcy6: thanks for the question. No problem. When I purchase albums I look for albums that are in very good to excellent condition and typically I have not had any problems with the albums I purchased. Now garage sales, and huge bins at flea markets are a different issue. I typically don't go there unless I take the time to really look closely at each album. You can tell pretty clearly what the condition they are in by just looking at them. If the seller won't let me see each album, then I don't buy it. Now on-line sales, typically will list condition. Again, I haven't had one problem yet. I just recently purchased a used Quincy Jones (You got it bad girl) album on-line (Quincy Jones in the past used the absolutely best vocalist and this is no exception),It was listed as very good condition. Well, when it arived, I noticed that it had never been played. You can tell by looking at the album and more specifically, the hole. When I played it, well, not one pop or click. I have no patience for pops and clicks and I really take good care of my albums.

Thanks for the info, Minorl, and the very civil tone. Enjoy your music!
Lately, every lp I had gotten seemed unplayable to me, filled with noise. This applied to internet sales where the buyer listed the product as nm and to lps that
I purchased in stores that looked great on inspection.
I think the problem was deterioration in the stylus. Genius that I am, I hit on this when the stylus was hanging almost at a 90 degree angle to the cartridge body.
I used this as an opportunity to do a long deferred upgrade to the whole vinyl rig. Specifically I went from a Rega P%5 with with it's stock mm cartridge to a Clearaudio Concept with the Concept mc cartridge. Now, all those recently purchased lps that sounded so damaged sound playable.
Lesson: 1) I ain't to swift, and
2) make sure your stylus is in good shape if you think that the noise level from your vinyl is unacceptable.
dump the CARY and get an Esoteric
Buy the Music Hall 5.1 that a dealer has up for $600+. It's a complete plug and play unit that is good enough to give you a taste of what analog is about. Buy some new records you like from Acoustic Sounds or Music Direct and give vinyl a try. It will either resonate with you or it won't. If it does, you can fool around with the 5.1 for a while and then sell it for a couple hundred less than you paid to upgrade to something really nice. If not, just sell it at a small loss. The only other things you need is a bottle of LP#9 stylus cleaner and a carbon-fiber record brush. With new records, you can deal with the cleaning thing later on. Nobody can predict for you whether you're going to like it or not, but if you dig it, analog is very rewarding. You will stop chasing the digital dragon.