What is needed to have the best CD/Digital sound?

What is needed to get a full,warm, rich sound in audio.

Not asking for brand names. What items need to be in place in the system to get great sound from digital.

What purpose do they serve in the system?
I think having a seperate transport and DAC. Each built to the highest quality standards available.

The Transport is very important in getting the data off of the disk and getting into an electrical form. vibration control, really good lasers, power supplys are all important

The DAC is where the data is changed from Digital to Analog. To me the "music" is created in the DAC from the information that it receves from the transport. Having a really good DAC has a lot of advantages, like you can connect other digital inputs and still get a very good Analog signel out.
A DAC that uses Burr Brown DAC's and butterworth filters are among the best there is. (DAC = digital to analog converter)
Tubes and good recording cd's.
A high quality remaster is the most important thing, sometimes we lose sight of that in the quest for more gear. Then a good source is needed, and I disagree with Mark above, there are just as many good one box solutions now as there are dac transport combos. Lastly it certainly doesn't hurt to have a tubed preamp amp or both.
Tube amps and preamps, a DAC or player with tubes in output section will bring even more warmth and fullness.
I believe a high quality recording is 90% of the final sound.

The rest is a matter of preference, i.e. neutral & precise reproduction vs. colored & euphonic (there is a vast spectrum starting from neutral and ending with euphonic).
you need a well recorded and mastered disc and a machine capable of extracting what's on that disc. btw i also dissagree with Mark02131 about the need for two boxes. that may have been true in the past, but not any more.
What are some of these all in one box units?
In my opinion, the single most important factor is probably making sure that the digital signal is "clocked" as close the the DAC as possible. Many later models of of high end manufacturers now recognize this, and some, like Wadia, recognized the problem years ago which is probably a major reason why their stuff sounds so much better. But most transport/dac combos out there clock the signal at the beginning which means all the jitter resulting from the reading process gets sent along with the signal and are not dealt with in the DAC process.

I have a DVD-A and SACD playback system so I used a Sony SACD player for SACD and a the transport of a Pioneer "elite" unit for the DVD-A coupled with a MSB "gold" dac. I had serious problems with the jitter with that combination so I bought a Monarchy "jitter box" which not only reclocks the digital signal before sending it to the DAC but also upsamples cds to 24/96 kz.

I found a used upper end Denon SACD machine that played back SACD so well that I couldn't tell the difference between the $2000 Sony and the much cheaper Denon. The Denon let me scrap the Pioneer transport so all the units can be plugged together. The Monarchy box which lists for $299 (although they are dumping the units for $199 right now on the Monarchy web site as they are about to release something new to replace it) does such a good job that my DVD-As and upsampled cds sound better through it and the MSB than those processed by the Denon (better bass dynamics and "slam". . In fact, the upsampled cds sound better through this configuration than the upsampled cds through the Sony unit (which won't process DVD-A, the bastards!).

Hope this info is helpful!
I'm a tube person and until recently I believed a tube CDP/DAC was the way to go. Now after hearing and buying a solid state CDP used as a transport into a non-os DAC I've changed my mind. I still believe tubes are critical at the pre-amp and amp stage to add the warmth, but no longer feel that way about the digital set-up. The non-os sound is very analog and warm in my opinion.

I'll agree with the statements on well recorded CDs. If its one thing I learned is that good digital gear makes well recorded CDs sound great, but exposes poorly recorded ones.

One thing I'd like to add is isolation and vibration control. CDPs have lots of moving parts and need to be dampened to some extent. A good rack and possibly some additonal tweaks should also enhance the sound quality.
I'm going to add that no state of the art CD player I have owned has sounded warm and rich. They have sounded "real" and "live" with tremendous extension at both ends of the frequency spectrum, but I'm not sure that is going to get you where you want to go based on the description in your original post. Certainly tubes are going to help. However, I have heard terrific CD players like the Marantz SA-14 and Electrocompaniet EMC 1-UP that in their stock form I'd consider full, warm and rich, but once you modifiy them to squeeze out the last ounce of performance they lose their warmth. This is something to consider. These players can be found at very reasonable prices these days.
Either entire system under heavy mains correction or the whole system off the main and on many many batteries!!!
I secound the Monarchy DIP it also put out a signal up to 5 times stronger + and if you don't want the upsampling to 96 it can be switched to 48kz.
I generally agree with Tvad & Clio09. CDP/DAC is not the optimal place to get a "full, warmth, rich sound."

These are euphonic colorations that are not in the digital source but will come with your preamp and amp.

I am firmly on the fence when it comes to which sound I like best: rich and warm (euphonic) or detailed and wide open (accurate)--please, no arguments about the characterization or semantics; I am having enough debate with myself as it is.

So I use the most accurate CDP/DAC I can afford and switch my preamp/amp between tube and solid state depending on my mood. This way I can have my cake and eat it too. Remember, you can color the sound of your source downstream but you cannot take the color out.
What can it be about tubes and vinyl that adds warmth and richness except distortion? I concede that the quantization process and the conversion back to the analog domain can be flawed in a number of ways, but this is an area of understood signal processing. Done correctly, isn't digitization of the acoustic information more likely to capture an accurate representation of that information?

Great Northern Sound Steve Huntley's upgrade Magic
Donbellphd, it depends on how you define accuracy. I hate to get off the initial thread but I don’t think we can say that digital sound is inherently or potentially more accurate than analog sound or vice versa. It’s all a matter of definition and execution. Both technologies have their own strength and weaknesses in dealing with complex musical information. Digital sound gives you the MAIN musical signals accurately without noise but misses some of the musical subtleties--richness and warmth are not all distortions; they are high harmonics in the musical signals themselves. Analog sound gives you the main AND subtle features of the musical signal but also additional noises. One error is mostly subtractive, the other mostly additive. But both technologies are capable of reducing their inaccuracies though not the same way.

I am a pragmatist with little emotional attachment or dogmatic belief in either format. I just look at the end results. The sound of analog master tape, a 50-year old technology, has all the attributes of the best digital sound but in far greater degree and is stunningly musical. If to get all the music I have to also get a little distortion, I’ll take it. Mind you, digital sound is improving all the time. By definition, however, digital sound will always remain an approximation. One day it can be close enough to the real thing that the tiny difference may not really matter to anyone. But that day is far from here yet and may or may not come.

Digitization is a very powerful tool that allows us to do things heretofore impossible with analog approach. Digital sound also offers great compatibility with the Internet, computer, telephone, and other digital technologies we currently enjoy. But digital sound is far from perfect and it is not a panacea. It has its own kind of “distortions” that are different but as (if not more) difficult to eliminate as analog distortions. The best analog sound is warm, rich, highly musical but a little noisy. The best digital sound is clean, detailed, and extremely quiet but a little dry. BOTH are inaccurate and I have no proof that either is inherently superior. They are just different.

I think you're talking about beats among high frequency harmonics that result in sounds you can hear. At the sample rates used with some digital capture, several times the usual limits of audibility, you would expect to capature those harmonics. I'm not sure what the current trend is, but even in my day the best spectral analzers were digital. My experience with tape was that it was delicate stuff. We used professional Ampex machines in the lab and Nagras in the field, and rewound the tape slowly and backwards to reduce print-through. I wonder if any recording studios still use analog tape recorders.

Afterall, the acoustic energy goes through at least two transduction processes, first into electrical energy by the microphone during recording and then back to acoustic energy by whatever speaker is used during playback. In the case of vinyl, there is at least two additional transductions, electrical energy to mechanical at the lathe that cuts the master then mechnical to electrical by the cartridge assembly that tracks the grooves in the vinyl. If a tape recorder is used, there's also electrical to magnetic and back to electrical. Lots of opportunities for distortion to creep in.


Don, I am not sure I follow your line of thought. Sorry.

My point was simply that analog is just as capable of outstanding sound as digital. For either format, it still comes down to execution, not theoretical superiority.

I had the privilege to listen to some analog master-tape recordings of pop songs and the sound was vastly superior to the sound from analog LP or digital SACD/CD both of which I own. So excellence resides in the execution, not in a specific format. While the convenience of the digital format is quite abvious, I am unconvinced that it has any INHERENT or THEORETICAL ability to capture and reproduce music better than analog.

So far, the best digital sound from SACD/CD still has quite a way to go to catch up with the best LP sound. Theoretical explanation notwithstanding, SACD/CD is still unable to convey the richness and subtleties found in real music which LP seems to be able to routinely deliver albeit laced with colorations and noises.

I wish things were the other way around. I am sick and tired of adjusting my turntable/tonearm/cartridge and keeping my LPs clean--a real pain in the neck--and I long for the days when I can just enjoy the music with the convenience of the digital format. But so far, while digital sound is getting much better, it is still missing quite a bit of the richness of live music.

It may be premature to proclaim the superiority of digital sound now while it's still running behind. Let's wait and see.


All I'm saying is that the richness you enjoy may well be the result of distortion of commision or omission. Each transduction process in which energy changes form, i.e. acoutic to electrical or mechnical or magnetic or whatever is frought with technical and production compromise. I suspect most recording studios use direct digital recording, because analog tape is difficult to manipulate and subject to deterioration.

Don, now I see your point. No doubt transductions are potential and real sources of distortions and LP does add another layer of transduction.

I still have trouble reconciling that fact with my own listening experience: if digital SACD/CD is a more accurate reproduction than analog LP, why did LP sound closer to the original master tape than SACD/CD? It must be that the subtractive distortions in SACD/CD muck up the sound more than the additive distortions in LP. The only encouraging thing is that LP is—or should I say was—a technology near its peak whereas digital media still have a lot of room for growth. But to improve a technology, we must first recognize its existing or hidden problems.

As a research engineer, I’ve been humbled too many times to hold any hubris about a complete theoretical understanding of a new technology. We thought we understood quantization and dithering errors at the introduction of CD and foolishly proclaimed its sound “perfect.” Then jitters came out of left field and bit us in the behind. We are just as confident now that our current digital media (SACD/CD) can capture and reproduce all the nuance of music. Simple listening tells us otherwise. I think it would be far more productive to acknowledge current limitations of digital technology and spend time figuring out its remaining (hidden) problems.

I for one would love to enjoy music in my old age without having to clean another LP.

Have a nice day!

If I understand you right, you listened to the analog master tape, a CD, and an LP of the same recording session. Is my understanding correct? As I wrote in an earlier post, I suspect most current recording is direct to digital, because analog is more difficult to manipulate and more degradable.

I gave away all my LPs, except for my Westminster Lab series and a couple of early Capitol Full Dimensional Sound (FDS) recordings. These, of course, are monophonic and of mainly historical interest.

Tubes are certainly not necessary. Some of the best digital i.e. Reimyo, Electrocompaniet, Oracle, Audiomeca et.al is solid state. The design, parts, and build quality is far more important. After that good isolation and cables will take care of the rest. Good luck.
Might want to consider a computer based source - less jitter. There is a lot of info on this topic on audiogon.
Get a SACD/CD player
I've been wondering about this myself these last few months. I read a review on the Monarchy M24 DAC & Linestage in PFO and one criticism the reviewer had is its built-in volume control.

"...Is there a weak point to the M24? Yes. It's the built-in volume control, which knocks down the quality of the linestage quite a bit....If you use the Linestage with the built-in control, it'll sound noticeably more closed-in, less dynamic, and less open than it really is, with just a bit of grain at the top. With an external AVC or TVC feeding the linestage, the linestage actually sounds better than the AVC or TVC by itself, and the sound quality leaps to the top of the tube-linestage league."

What is an external AVC or TVC by itself? And who makes such components?
IMHO you will not hear the best from your cd player without exceptional ac isolation between the cd player and the rest of your system, and exceptional ac conditioning for the cd player. I found a combination of products and power cords to be best.Even power regenerators are sensitive to ac cord upgrades.