What is the best transport?

I want to upgrade my transport. I am using the Audio Note CDT 2. My dac is the Audio Note 2.1x sig. I have not yet auditioned any new transports, but have read up on the Audio Note CDT 4 and the Esoteric P-03.

Both of these are in the 16-18k price range. My budget can go that high. Will my dac be good enough or be overpowered?

What else is available which should be considered?
Ag insider logo xs@2xchangeout
PS Audio PWT. Of course it's not as expensive as some of the others but none the less its one of the best


May I suggest, presuming you haven't - already, communicating with Audio Note UK? I've found them responsive :-)



Please contact me offline. I am about to put up for sale a superb transport that will more than fulfill your needs. I do not want to use this site for sales pitch. I am not a dealer.

Neal, the system will not allow me to see your contact info. I am not sure how to manage this new Agon.
Unless you always equate higher cost with higher performance, ericminer`s suggestion is correct. The PWT(memory buffer) is really a superb sounding transport and will be difficult to exceed with the much more expensive transports.
Ridiculous to put so much money into a CD transport IMO, even one based on a computer. It's a dying breed like the CD itself. For about 1/8 of that you can have the same performance or better using computer audio, and its more convenient. You can start downloading hi-res too. Also, you dont have to worry about the CDs decaying over time, which they eventually do. I took the modded CD transport out of my rack about 5 years ago. Never looked back. You think that JA of Stereophile still spins the silver disks for himself? No way.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
I've read that the PS Audio transport was manufactured to be used with its PS Audio DAC. It's good to know that perhaps they don't have to be used together after all...

Has the computer based system fully arrived? I have follwed discussions about this format on this forum and others. It seems the manufactuers disagree on usb, firewire and hdmi connections. additionally, opinions on the software are scattered.

I do not doubt this is where the music business will wind up, just not sure if things won't settle out a bit in the next 3-5 years. Do you think JA paid for his gear?


I had not been aware of the PS Audio option. Thanks.
Not evryone agrees that computer audio is'better' like most things in audio it`s subjective. If it suits you then that`s fine. Some folks have a large CD collection and see no need to rip to a hard drive,again simply preference. Who cares what JA prefers,totally irrelevant to others individual needs. Either path can provide a satisfying solution.

The PS Audio PWT is just wonderful with my Yamamoto YDA DAC.
"Has the computer based system fully arrived?"

I feel that it has. Others may have lesser experiences with their gear and software. There a currently two high-performance roads: Networked using proprietary devices such as SB Touch or Sonos, or async USB converters and DACs. Networked is simpler, but does not support hi-res and is limited in performance due to the proprietary nature of the hardware. USB is more open, so one can select playback software, computers etc. to achieve optimum results. The recipes for good USB results are getting to be well-known, so most manyfacturers can provide guidelines.

Manufacturers will always disagree because they are in competition with each other. It's up to you to sort through the marketing BS to get to the truth.

Did you know that 90% of the exhibits at RMAF use computers for their source? Did you know that several took best of show in 2010 and 2011?

Networked audio will at some time in the future become open and ubiquitous, allowing all manufacturers to compete on high-performance hardware. This is at least 3 years off IMO.

In the meantime, there are USB converters and DAC's available now that not only beat the very best CD players, they actually beat vinyl. This is primarily based on posts and feedbacks, but my own experience is the same. If you want to see these posts, I can put the links here.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
"In the meantime, there are USB converters and DAC's available now that not only beat the very best CD players, they actually beat vinyl."

Please elaborate. In my experience I have not yet heard a digital system that can best high-end analog. Would love to hear what you recommend. Spending $50 for high quality 45-rpm vinyl quickly adds up.
I've been using a computer based system since 2007 and from my experience, it has fully arrived. All music ripped to a laptop running SB server talking via wireless network to MW Transporter and using my iPhone to control tbe player.

Also with computer based system, internet radio is fabulous with so many choices and excellent sound quality. I find myself playing internet radio 50+% of the time and discovered so much new music.

I have a TRL Sony SACD player but my MW Transporter is much superior so only seldom use for SACDs.

The ultimate solution is preload the data in memory and the processing possibilities are endless. Before a dac/computer can process the data, it has to be loaded into memory so IMO, transport is probably the worst reliable way. Once in memory, data can be pre-process before use if desire, dynamically accessible instantiously ...

On Lukasz Fikus of LAMPIZATOR website, he has statistics in various methods to reading data and the worst by far in terms of speed and reliability is from a cd transport and reason he builds a memory transport.

Just my .02
For those who prefer to use conventional CDs the PS Audio PWT has memory processing. I believe this is a major factor in its ability to outpreform many of the expensive(traditional laser based transports).

I`m sure computer audio based systems can sound excellent,at this stage many CD users just are`nt 'compelled' to change just yet.I `m certain at some point in the future many will make that transition but there`s no great sense of urgency.
I`m sure computer audio based systems can sound excellent,at this stage many CD users just are`nt 'compelled' to change just yet.I `m certain at some point in the future many will make that transition but there`s no great sense of urgency.
Charles1dad (System | Threads | Answers | This Thread)
Of course it's a personal decision and just responding to the question that music server has ARRIVED years ago.

Once it's setup, you will never go back to spinning the silver disk. Having a juke box at my finger tips and the ability to rediscover my music collection again.

My Transporter is both a receiver and dac so save the hassle in an extra PC and digital cable. When I demo the Lamp L4, it took 4 different PCs and 2 digital cables before finding the best combo. So depending on your setup, might require some work to get the best sound.
>Neal, the system will not allow me to see your contact info. I am not sure how to manage this new Agon<

No more email on this site. That is an Audiogon No-No!

i enjoy a pretty good computer based system using the PSA perfect wave dac and bridge. have some friends who also have good PC set-ups. the convenience and features of PC audio are outstanding. i really enjoy it.

that being said...i have not heard ANYTHING in the PC realm that can touch my perfect wave transport. for normal listening, my pc set-up is more then adequate. for critical listening, i go for the PWT. contrary to what some folks think, i've found pc audio still has some work to do.

the PWT is an incredible piece of equipment. given its price, i'd call it a "giant killer". think anyone considering spending several thousand on a transport should give it an audition.

good luck
"Please elaborate. In my experience I have not yet heard a digital system that can best high-end analog. Would love to hear what you recommend."

Well, now we are crossing the line into advertising so the moderators may nix this, but I'll first start with the customer posts and reviews that support this:





Okay, now the recommendation: Overdrive USB+ DAC with the right options driven from Mac Mini with Amarra or Pure Music or PC with Jriver or Jplay. Music ripped from CDs using XLD on Mac to AIFF format or dbpoweramp on PC to .wav format. This has earned TAS best of show at RMAF the last 2 years, Golden Ear Award, Editors Choice Award and will be in recommended components in Stereophile.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio

Send me your email address at [email protected] If you are comfortable, send cel number as well. Thx.
All the stuff in Steve N.'s email just shows what a headache it is to enen get started with all this computer audio business, and that's before something crashes, freezes, has indecipherable instructions if there are any at all, etc.
Neil - you would probably say the same thing about using an iPod, using iTunes or installing a driver for a new printer etc.. Maybe these are not for you.

All it takes is to follow some simple instructions and make the right choices. Less difficult than choosing the right phono cartridge, tonearm, cables and phono pre, and learning how to adjust a turntable and tonearm. I have seen people at shows spend more than an hour adjusting a tonearm etc.. I'll take the computer thank you. I think its time to give up the buggywhips.

I dont experience freezes, crashes etc... Read the reviews.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
I think it may be over powered. You may need traction bars. LOL!
I agree with advocates of Computer-based audio having fully arrived, and the reasons they've presented are valid in my experience.

I do not agree that it's a headached to get started; that depends a good deal on how much you enjoy working with computers. I happen to enjoy it, so ripping, organizing and tagging CDs, and setting up the music server were satisfying experiences. As Steve N. says above, it's just about which paradigm you're used to or gravitate to. None of it is "difficult", it's just relative to your skills and patience to learn something new.

I don't understand why anyone would assume that the digital output of a device spinning a disc would be superior to the (same) digital output of a device decoding the *same exact data* from a computer file. Many of us believe that the absence of said spinning disc results in superior audio. Ironically, the CD players that buffer the CD to storage before outputting it are... guess what.... computers! I don't see how that is *any* different from a music server or network transport.

In any case I believe so much of it still has to do with synergy of components, just like in the old days.

Add the convenience of having an entire collection of tagged, instantly-accessible music and no need to keep physical CDs racked and organized, and I will never go back.

Many high end DACs accept USB, or something like the Halide S/PDIF - USB converter, making a connection from something like a Mac Mini a no-brainer. And the software/player options seem to keep getting better and better. The local audio store here uses a MacBook front-end running Amarra into the DAC over USB to feed a system with Wilson Sashas, Ayre mono-blocks and pre, and it sounded beyond belief.

I am using the Transporter, because I happen to really like the interface and options, but I'd be equally satisfied going USB out from a Mac Mini straight into my DAC.

I really don't know if the sound equals CD physical transports costing $4k and up, but it sounds a boatload better than the sub-4k players I've tried in the same system.

I'm going to take a guess that many of the nay-sayers have never actually heard a decent music server/network player setup.
I wonder what the advantages of PS Audio PWT transport is compared to just saving your cds in your computer...
Anyone using computer based system, BACK UP your music. Several years ago my external USB drive died and thank GOD it was backed up.
I have`nt seen any "nays-ayer" posts,just people who are comfortable with what they have and who feel no need to change at this time. You`re happy with a computer based system, that`s your choice, who`s putting it down? What ever allows you to enjoy your music to your satisfaction is the way to go. Why do some people feel the need to get others to convert when they`re already content with their current individual choice?
Could I interest you in a Victrola?

Spending 16-18K on a transport in the year 2012?

There might even be a blurb in the Farmers Almanac regarding the demise of the CD. Nostradamus predicted 2014.
changeout, I am likely i the minority here. However, I think really good transport is tough to beat. Have you considered the dCS transports? The dCS Paganini transport is right at your price point (17k usd)

I run a dCS Puccini and U clock currently and hope to move up to their separates soon...
01-27-12: Branislav
I wonder what the advantages of PS Audio PWT transport is compared to just saving your cds in your computer...
Branislav (Threads | Answers | This Thread)
I think the advantage is with PWT, data is stored in SS memory so it avoids reading data from the hard drive into memory before transmission.

LAMPIZATOR has a wifi memory transport that I'm going to demo once my dealer gets one in.

What is a digital file? A file n bytes long. A byte is 8 bits. A bit can be a 0 or 1. So you basically have a file of 0 and 1. The only requirement is this file needs to be loaded into memory before it can be processed and doesn't care how.

What is one of the most expensive operation for a computer? Interfacing with an external peripheral such as a hard drive or worst a CD drive. So the logical implementation is preload the data into memory before processing. This will eliminate the engineering required to sychronize the data transmission and cost ... loading a file into memory is a trivial task. Don't need the over priced transports, clocks ... this means less profits for the companies.

I think in the future, our music collection will be stored in a Cloud and could be access from anywhere with internet. But with ULTRA LOW demand for audiophile grade audio, it doesn't attract the $$, best and brightest so advances will be SLOW compare to video.
"But with ULTRA LOW demand for audiophile grade audio, it doesn't attract the $$, best and brightest so advances will be SLOW compare to video."

I would not be so sure about this. I have seen the RMAF show grow a lot in the last few years even with the recession, and prices on speakers and components have skyrocketed. There have to be buyers for $100K speakers and amplifiers or manufacturers would not bother doing them. It's that top 1% that is willing to spend the big bux that is driving a lot of of high-end audio now. These people want convenience and sound quality too, so many of them are converting to computer audio. They tend to be tech-savvy anyway.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
I have to say it took me a while, and for many of the reasons mentioned here by those who still favor the transport/DAC set-up. There was a time I was pretty overwhelmed with the various computer audio options. I happen to have what I consider to be a very nice digital front end featuring a CEC TL51X transport slaved to a Lessloss DAC 2004 MKII. I have enjoyed this set-up for about 5 years.

Recently I acquired a Resolution Audio Cantata and put together a very simple computer audio set-up using my MacBook, Pure Music, and an Oyen Digital Mini Pro 1TB HD. I used XLD to rip about 300 CDs to the HD using AIFF. Then I use the Asynch USB interface on the Cantata and run Pure Music in hog mode with memory playback. The sound is excellent IMO and with the Cantata, which also allows one to play CDs, I can A/B the USB input against the CD input. I can't tell a difference. So for convenience purposes I have predominantly been using the computer as my transport.

The transport/DAC combo are in the closet for the time being.

Disclaimer: I am a Resolution Audio dealer.

No, I have been using computers and printers since the DOS days and have had an iPod since the first Windows version, so I am not a tech Neanderthal, as you may be suggesting. I also had the first 16 bit CD player - the Magnavox CDB 650. After playing around with it, I just concluded computer audio is way too complicated and trouble prone for the ordinary (non-audio engineer) music listener. Too many hardware and software pieces that often do not work together. Maybe in a few years the kinks will be worked out. Just one man's educated opinion.

Howdy Jfreh, I have not thought of dCS, but the heads up on the price point is interesting, I had always been under the impression that dCS was more expensive.

Audioengr, I am a mechanical engineer with a PE. I work with computers all day every day. I would consider myself tech oriented. Not techie.

At night and other off hours I am more interested in relaxation than doing another analysis. However, I am reading youe web pages and considering your products.

This thread is helpful with several good inputs,

thanks to everyone,
At the highest level there are really just two simple parts to computer-based music. First, ripping, tagging and storing your music files into a central location. Tools like dbpoweramp, mp3tag and exact audio copy make the process fairly straightforward and automated. I actually find the process fun, but it can be time consuming and I can see how some might find it tedious. Difficult, however, I just can't agree with

Second is the transport part. How do you get these files to play on your stereo. The simplest way may be to just connect the computer you store the files on via USB to your dac. If your dac only has s/pdif you can use a USB to spdif bridge. Fire up your software and voila, instant jukebox. the computer is your transport. The other alternative is a networked player, for instance squeezebox touch or transporter or auraliti, Marantz, etc. this route is great also, the player is your transport, but it can be slightly trickier to configure.

I'm just clarifying here, not proselytizing. Do what makes you happy. I just don't buy that it's difficult.

As far as which is better, I guess only your ears will tell but I recommend trying or auditioning both before ruling either out.
I would sell my Teac Esoteric P0vus if you are interested in. It is over 70lbs. massive unit. I can send you more details with photos if you wish,
changeout, the other benefit to the dCS transports is they can up sample and you do have dual firewire that outputs pure dsd (but I do think you need a dsd dsc here as it's a proprietary link)

upsampling redbook cd seems a big improvement in my dCS Puccini and U-Clock...but opinions/technology vary here....
There is no definitive "best" of anything. There are way too many variables involved. The "best" you can hope for is to find something that works well in your system. You can then say it's the "best" for you until you find something you think is better !!!!
Agreed, very good advice!
" shows what a headache it is to enen get started with all this computer audio business, and that's before something crashes, freezes, has indecipherable instructions if there are any at all, etc."

Firstly, in good server you do not have this
Secondly, select right company to buy this server from: company with established record of excellent customer support.

All The Best
There is an article here that you might want to look at involving a shootout between a transport and a music server. Make of it what you will.

I would recommend the OPPO with the add-in card to reduce jitter reviewed in TAS in January issue.

Audiopraise Vanity 93 module


Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Happy New Year to all! The update as to what I have done and am currently doing is as follows:

1.Bought a PS Audio PWT
2.Auditioned an Esoteric P-03 and had a shoot out with the PWT.
3.The Esoteric was returned to the dealer. I could not hear a $15K difference.
4.I am in the waiting period for delivery of a Music Vault server from Sound Science.

A friend of mine bought a Music Vault server and his experience with Neal Van Berg has been exemplary with regard to installation and start up. SQ may/may not meet my expectation. At the least I have gotten off the snide and am inching forward with something different .

The old adage - " suck it and see " is where I have landed.
How are you gonna interface your server with the DAC ?
The Audio Note has a AES/EBU input. Neal van Berg is providing the digital cable.
Changeout: you're gonna have a tuff time finding a better sounding transport at anywhere near the price of the pwt. thought so 3 years ago when i got the thing and still think so today. even though my pc set/up sounds great (pwdII/bridge), i still go back to the pwt for critical listening. it really is a special piece of gear. wish it wasn't!....i'd love to sell it to pursue other shiny toys. could pack away all my disc's for good as well.

you made a good choice imho. enjoy!
I agree with Levy03 in that the PWT is really an exceptional product that offers very high quality sound.It does`nt surprise me the the PWT competes so well with the much more costly Esoteric.The PWT offers 'very high' value and will be difficult(not impossible) to top.It seems Changeout trusted his ears and was`nt swayed by the price tag psychology.The PWT and Yamamoto DAC combined is just devine and very involving.
Is computer audio difficult to set up and run?...I don't think so. Can it sound great?...you bet! Can it drive an audiophile crazy with tweaking?...definitely!!

You audition a few transports on your DAC and find the one you like and you're done, except maybe for some digital cable tweaking (congrats on the PWT by the way, many great reviews!).

With computer audio, though, everything seems to impact the sound so the tweaking involves seemingly endless combinations of ripping software (dbpoweramp, EAC, etc.), file formats (wave vs. flac vs. aiff, compressed vs. non-compressed), computer/storage hardware (PC vs. Mac, different hard drives, NAS, etc.), library management software (iTunes, JRiver, Amarra, UPnP options like Asset) playback software (add-ons to iTunes), settings within playback software. You can definitely get a great system going but you've got to have a lot of patience and good support from your local dealer to put the pieces together for a digital front end system that gives you optimal performance. It's a tweaker's paradise or nightmare, depending on your perspective...

Closed systems help make some of these deicisons for you (e.g. Sooloos) to simplify the matter but they can be expensive.

I agree that computer audio (networked or not) will become increasingly popular but it'll be a different world with a more "open source" type of approach that is more akin to the world of computers than traditional audio.
Canb: spot on buddy...we're miles away from plug & play. have spent countless hours to get my pc set-up where it is today and even then...i run into the dreaded "glitch" once in a while. three years of tweaking, head scratching, help desk calls ect....have me wondering how close we are to a true high quality "plug & play" pc set-up.

between the hardware, software, network and everything else, all the variables are mind numbing. you can get good sound pretty easy imo. getting great sound is something else entirely. thinking i'm pretty close now but it sure wasn't easy getting here.

don't get me wrong. i'm a pc audio fan boy and love my set-up. just want to help others understand where we are in the game. if you don't have the time, patients and will to get it right....you're in for some disappointment and frustration

i own the audionote player you are using as a transport and also own the ps audio perfect wave transport.

the audionote is not a good transport, and i am aware of two transports that i prefer as compared to the ps audio.

i would suggest that you listen to transports. a server is a good idea, but cec use to produce some excellent transports.
No question computer audio has a complexity level. Having the tenacity to persevere is the biggest challenge for the installer.

My reasons for interest in having a music server for a transport:
1. To preserve my vinyl collection. I plan to rip my LP collection.
2. To play Spotify and Pandora though my system. ( I enjoy the ability to preview the album before the purchase)
3. E-mail, downloading and wireless is replacing the printing press, publishing houses and the world I grew up in.
4.I am joining the this movement only because I have no desire to miss the wave. If I have learned anything in 36 years of association with the engineering business it is : the only technology which is insignificant it is the one which has been left behind.

What we are now using my be obsolete by the time this is posted. Who knows?

I did not light the fire but I might as well warm myself with it.