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?
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Showing 6 responses by audioengr

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
"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
"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
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
"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 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