Upsampling/Advice on Transport

After reading Sam Tellig's piece in the Feb. stereophile, I've decided that I want to take the plunge into upsampling via the MSB Link DAC. Unfortunately, my current CD player (Sonic Frontiers SFCD-1) doesn't have digital outputs, and so I will need to get a transport. His article implies that the quality of the transport is virtually irrelevant (he even used a Radio Shack portable and got the same results), because part of his suggested system is a Monarchy Audio Digital Interface Processor, which acts as a jitter reducer. So here is my question: in order to get the best sound, do I need to spring for an expensive transport, or will any consumer-grade CD player with digital outputs do the trick. Opinions?
Go with a Pioneer DVD player. I heard a cheap Pioneer 333 at the CES show run into a Perpetual Technologies P1A (upsampler-dsp based interpolation unit) run this way and it was great. By the way the DSP bases interpolation the the rerason units like the DCS and Perpetual Technologies sound so good. It is not the upsampling. Upsampling is very similar to oversampling in its effect and is probably only 10-20 % of the total difference that these units make on the sound quality. DCS, Meridian and Perpetual Technologies use their own DSP based computer code to take 16 bit words and output 24 bit words. This is the reason they sound so good. NOT the 44.1k to 96k upsampling.
Sonic Frontiers use to add a digital output to that player when asked to do so...why not email them and find out about price and availability??
Miguelk, I use a Pioneer DV 525 ($250) with a Bel Canto DAC1. I think it works well as a transport although it is not programmable and the tray reminds me of the flimsy trays on my Micromega cd players in the past. Also, if some new thang comes out we all just have to have, you at least can use it for movies. [:)] Good luck, Charlie.
I use a Nakamichi mb 10s and a MSB link III with the upsampling option and the combination works great! I believe that the trans port makes no significant difference so I went with a good 5 disc changer for the convenience and then the MSB sound is amazing! Total I have spent 700.00! In my opinion go for a good quality disk changer marantz or ect.. and the msb you cant go wrong!! Jim
Marantz makes some inexpensive cd players with digital outputs. There used to be a lot of used/demo stuff on ebay. I bought a demo CC-67 for $168 a couple of months ago. It works fine as a transport.
Search for threads on Stan Warren and read about the $79 Aiwa changer.
One of the best tranports is the Audiomeca Mephisto. I just replaced the Muse 8. Great air and detail.
I have MSB DAC1. no upsampling, no mods. I've tried it with DVD players (pioneer525 and apex)and HK CDP as transports. One think that bothered me about DVDPs was mechanical noise from spinning CD (this is the case for all cheap DVD players). Soundwise all transports sounded differently. Pioneer sounds better then Apex. Generally, I'd say entry level CD players (upto $300 ) with digital output is a better choice for music reproduction.
You have a very nice player. Were you panning it to finance the rest? If not having SF retro fit it seems like a good option. I had thought of going with some of the less expensive players to use as a transport such as the Aiwa mentioned but enjoy the solid build and reliability (never a problem) of my old CAL player, which I now use as a transport.
"Were you planning on selling it to finance the rest?" - big typo.
Dekay: I was thinking of selling it, but I may keep the SFCD-1 for a second system. It's about $700 to have a digital output added, and frankly I've never had the sense that the transport on the SFCD-1 was anything special. Audio Advisor has a Parasound CDP1000 on sale for $249...I'm thinking that the transport in that unit is probably as good (or almost as good) as the SFCD-1. Any thoughts? Also, any sense as to whether using the MSB Link Dac III will give me sound that is superior to my SFCD-1? I've always liked the sound of the SFCD-1, but still find CD's played on it tiring on the ears compared to analog. I was hoping that the MSB unit would give me something closer to analog.
Many of the CDP1000's have transport failure down the line. I was told this by a salesman that I was going to purchase one from and he knew that this was the only item that they carried that I was interested in, so I beleive him. I do not find the MSBIII to be an improvement over my stock CAL Icon Mk II for the same reasons that you find your player not good for the long run. I have only listened to your player one time and liked the sound but I did not live with it which is the true test for many things in life:-) I am now using my CAL with a Bel Canto DAC and find that I can fine tune the highs, mids and lows with isolation devices and platforms. I am not using anything expensive, just Vibrapods, Mapleshade Surefeet cones and MDF and Maple platforms (the Maple one is my good cutting board for the time being). I would tinker with these before I bought any more gear. I first started with a set of Vibrapods and an MDF platform (total cost $27.00) which considerably tamed the highs and increased detail as well. Check out some of the "shelf material" threads at the site and you will get a lot of ideas. I also replaced the stock cord on my player with an inexpensive upgrade which also made a nice improvement in the sound. I am in to cheap tweaks and spending a lot of time setting the gear up properly in order to squeeze out the last drop of performance (with reasonably priced tweaks). After this is done I am either satisfied or I move on. The isolation components will always come in handy and improve the sound of most anything that you use. You can try them under your speakers as well (or just one speaker if you buy one set for the player) abd see if you like the sound. I also buy new gear but get a sense of acomplishment from improving the sound of what I have and it costs less. It's a win/win situation for me as tinkering with the stuff is my hobby and the music just gets better and more involving as well.
Transports make a musically significant difference and can be heard through any upsampler/jitter reducer I have ever heard - same for the cable running into it. That Parasound transport sounds smooth and congealed - cannot understand why anybody would like it except to tame something wrong elsewhere in their system. While there is a lot of stuff I have not heard, my experience tells me that the SFCD1 will better almost ANY dac in the world when that DAC is driven by the likes of the Pioneer 525 and other cheap transports - unless of course you do not the subtle and gentle way in which the SFCD1 does its thing. DACs seem to get all the attention because they are flavoured, a bit like preamps are. But transports are like power amps - the differences are less obvious in a brief audition, but getting a musical transport (as for an amp) is not easy or cheap. This is just my experience, but my experience also tells me to take what Sam Tellig says with a bucket full of salt.
Well so many opinions....I would agree that the transport is very important...that is why I too (as Snook2 does)have an Audiomeca Mephisto... an excellent unit. But that means a significant investment at this point. Have you tried power filters or better power cords? They make a difference...but you get what you pay for.
Miguelk: I just caught the $700.00 part - !!!
Yes, Dekay...that changes the equation a bit.
I have found that all else being equal, better transports sound better than cheap ones - that's the easy part. That being said, I'm not sure I would invest in a new transport with the current evolving state of digital. You may be better off buying a more modest used 16 bit transport and doing what you can with D2D products such as a DIP or PT P-1A until the next generation of universal transports emerge. I know that the new generation of upsampling DACs really stomp older ones like those found in the SF player. However, it's also important to have a strong analoge output stage - something often overlooked in today's frenzy of new DACs. The MSB may not measure up to the SF in that respect. With the cheaper DACs, I have seen this manifested as a more detailed but ultimately "thinner" sounding presentation.
I'll take your SFCD-1, for my Linn Karik II transport/CD player. It will spare me a temptation and $$ on getting a DAC myself. And my wife will sure appreciate that.
Stan Warren's mail address?For that Aiwa upgrade would be appreciated.Thanks,Bob
I'm no expert, but based on what I've read, it seems that the digital output from a CD transport contains 3 signals: left, right, and clock. While the bit transfer of the left and right channels is essentially perfect, even with an inexpensive transport/player, the clock signal is "fragile" and subject to inducing jitter. I use a jitter filter, and plan to add an upsampling DAC in the near future. Presuming all 3 signals are corrected fully within a good quality digital filter (I use the Camelot Dragon 5.1,) it seems the weakest link might actually be the digital cable (which can throw off the clock signal) between the jitter filter and DAC. This leads to a problem, as jitter errors are so small (yet plainly audible) that nobody's figured out a means to test for them accurately. However, compared to interconnects and speaker cables of audiophile quality, even the most expensive (and presumably most stable) digital cables are priced reasonably. I'm going to try one of the higher priced digital cables, and compare it with the "standard-fare" digital cables I'm now using. I'll try to post my impressions here in the near future.
The Radio Shack cd player that Sam Tellig used is an unusual product (for Radio Shack and the price) that used a cd-rom drive and is no longer available. It is not indicative of "consumer grade" cd players as a transport but will not outperform a high end dedicated transport, either. The quality of the transport, jitter reduction device and cables all make a difference. Getting it right took me a lot of trial and error-buy nothing w/o a right of return is the best advice I can give. I have had digital cables sound very different in different systems and price does not always determine what works best. Also, read some of the other threads on this subject to learn more.
I have a Pioneer DVD-414 mated to a Birdland O'deon Lite DAC
a great combination.
I agree with Joe_b. You cannot get away with trying to dismiss the importance of any of the steps in the digital chain, and you cannot avoid trial and error if you want the best result.
Alot of good suggestions have already been made. I'll add that I have been auditioning the Aiwa changer/MSB III with upsampling combo for about two weeks now. My comparison is to a Roksan Caspian CD Player. Honestly, I'm still not sure the Aiwa/MSB is better than my Roksan, even with upsampling; though instruments do sound more relaxed and natural. It certainly is cheaper - $650 vs. $1600. Transports are IMO a very important part of the digital chain. That said, you can't always judge a book by its cover. Don't mistake expensive for good; or inexpensive for garbage. The Aiwa was recommended by the Chicage Audio Society (don't remember if they are the originators or just propogated someone elses findings). At $90 it was worth the audition. After all, I've spent more on brass cones! I have spoken with Stan Warren about his mod to the Aiwa. It sounds reasonable. Rather than try to regurgitate something I only half understood, here is his number: 541.344.3696. He is great a guy and fun to talk to. Hope this helps. After I've spent more time with this combo I'll post my observations. One initial observation is that consumers must be attracted to lots of bright flashing lights. The Aiwa has them in spades - and you can't turn the darn things off!
You may want to try a jitter reduction device with the Aiwa changer, especially if you do not get the Stan Warren mod. I have the Aiwa and while it is better than you would think for $90, it improves alot when used with an AA DTI Pro. I also have 2 of the Radio Shack 3400's, which I have used as transports, and they also benefitted significantly from jitter reduction devices although they will not work with a DTI Pro (secondary lock won't engage). I have used AA DTI and DTI 2.0 with the Radio Shacks.
This is a fantastic thread with very good posts! I've learned a lot just reading through the responses. This is of great interest to me because I am considering upgrading my Musical Fidelity Elextra E60 CD player by adding an anti-jitter device like the Monarchy DIP and a Bel Canto DAC 1.1. One question though. Is the length of the digital cable as critical as I've heard some people say? I've heard that 1 meter is the absolute shortest run that can be used without adding too much jitter.
I am not a techie and so I do not understand why, but there is something about the length of the digital cable. I have tried a 1/2 meter and 1 meter lengths of identical brand digital cables and the 1/2 meter sounded worse-a little brighter and definitely grainier. I have read, although I can't rememeber where, that 1 and 1/2 meters would be the ideal minimum length for a digital cable.

Regarding your experience with varying lengths of digital cables, and their performance, I've lifted an excerpt from the FAQ page at the Bel Canto website as follows:

"NOTE: We suggest if you are using Toslink, make the toslink the longer cable and the RCA cables going to your preamp short. If you are using RCA type digital cable, make the digital cable short and the RCA’s cables going to your preamp longer."

It seems that your real world experience matches the advice given by Bel Canto. I am no techie either, but I have also heard the 1 1/2 meter length as being the minimum for a digital cable in order to avoid excess jitter. Interesting...