How much do want to spend?
Also, we don't have lives here. :)
Also, we don't have lives here. :)
I second Lkdog! Other thing, no matter what you do or how much you spend, all fixed voicing cd players are going to really really suck on some of your favorite cd's. My approach was to define what I didn't like about the sound of my current cd player on some cd's (too bright), and find a reasonably priced cd player that erred in the other direction (in this case a stock njoe tjoeb). If you want a one box solution for being able to match cd player voicing to particular cd weakness, I'm thinking Cary makes one with selectable tube or solid state output.
Wow, nice system....I think just about any higher end player would be a nice addition and give you a better presentation in comparison to the A3.
Right off the bat, I'd recommend a resolution audio opus 21, which can be had used for $2.5k or the GNSC moddified version for 5k new (highly recommended IMHO). The opus is a very musical player that -I think- will compliment your CJ equipment nicely.
Phaelon, I seem to have a similar situation, relatively lower high end digital (Perp Tech p1a,p3a, monolithic ps, modwright signature, shunyata pc's, resolution audio, Mark Levinson No. 37, all going through BPT 3.5 sig) within the context of a much higher end system. I've gone beyond the paralysis and tried two much higher priced, and highly praised DAC's. The end result is I'm still using the original digital, very disappointed with these less than lateral moves. I am now surmising I may need to go to the highest end DAC's to get what I'm looking for, anything else is a lateral move at best. I would suggest you may want to go to a top ranked digital rig for satisfaction within your fine system. Wadia 861, Esoteric x 01 or 03, Accuphase, MBL are a few suggestions.
This feedback is great! A more specific question: I never really considered mods until I logged on. Now it seems people are saying it's better to buy some $2000 player and spend $3000 on a mod than to buy a $5000 player. Does anyone have experience with "Reference Audio Mods"? There claims are wild. In a nutshell; what's up with all this mod stuff.
"Does anyone have experience with "Reference Audio Mods"? There claims are wild."
That statement says a lot more than you probably intended it to say. There are lots of mod shops out there and all have different philosophies and marketing approaches. Two shops I have a lot of respect for are TRL and Modwright. Paul Weitzel and Dan Wright are two very talented engineers who know how to treat customers fairly and truly stand behind their work. I heard Dan's Sony and Denon players at RMAF, with his new preamp, and I have personal experience with TRL mods. Both shops offer quality services at reasonable prices. I chose TRL because of the vast experience they possess in building high end equipement, in addition to performing mods on just about any digital source you can imagine, for a $550 standard fee no less.
I would encourage you to call both Paul and Dan to discuss your needs. I think you'll find the information they provide very helpful in your research.
BTW - in the opinions of several people I spoke with recently, at CES just recently a TRL modified Sony DVP-NS900V outperformed a modified Marantz that cost $12K. I'm not going to name the vendor who got smoked, but they were mentioned in a recent post.
Large corporations manufacture to a price point. When you look at huge corporations like Sony and Denon with vast networks of distribuotrs, dealers, and retailers to support, not to mention huge overhead and having to sell volume to create adequate margins, sometimes things just get lost in th shuffle. These corporations have pools of talented engineers who probably have loads of ideas as to how to make their products better, but the bean counters and marketing schmucks squash them.
The mod shops take advantage of the opportunities the large corporations pass on and it's certainly not hurting Denon's or Sony's bottom line, so they have at it. Which makes it great for us in the end.
My opinion regarding the mods is that the mods done by a professional modder can make a difference. Drawback is that if you want to sell the component, you will not be able to get nearly as much back as you spent. Solution is to buy used modded component or buy a new component that does not need mods and is very good on its own. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this seems to be the case with selling modded components. Example I bought a modified Music Hall CD25 player, used it for a while, determined it's not my cup of tea and sold it. Lost a nice chunk of change in the process. The player itself was not expensive, but I barely got 40% of its value back.
You are correct on the resale value of modded components. They depreciate much faster. That is why it is important to really research mod shops and work with one whose modded players sonic signature suits your tatses. Also, only work with those who offer trial periods or money back guarantees. That solves the issue of having to resell something you don't like and taking a huge loss.
Agree with the idea of going the modded player route.
A used modded player, if it is one that you want, can be a good option also.
You don't need to spend big bucks but their are modders who are happy to help you do so. :)
No doubt you will lose some money on your investment on modded units, but that is the case with new stock units too.
Face it-digital front ends are the worst investment in audio.
Speakers and amps hold their value much better it seems.
I would agree with the recommendations about Modwright and Tube Research Labs (TRL). I would add Empirical Audio.
There are certainly others, too.
Do your research and ssk questions here and on Audio Asylum, or Audio Circles.
So, just to be clear Clio09; We are saying that if a small high-end manufacturer was to duplicate a mainstream unit, it's cost would be much higher. Therefore, instead of having this relatively inefficient company build an entire unit, let the larger corporation build it to a point, taking advantage of economies of scale, and then have shorty bring it up to spec. Conclusion: On the aggregate, a modified cd player is a better value. Do we all concur?
"Conclusion: On the aggregate, a modified cd player is a better value. Do we all concur?"
LOL. This bunch here cannot concur on anything. :)
I think it depends and there are lots of opinions.
In answer to your first analysis-yes the modder can do things that are likely labor intensive that the big corporation cannot do as it is not cost effective. They are trying to sell 100,000 units at $299, or 10,000 units at $1499. The margins are small.
Typically people are not modding really expensive units.
The issue there is why pay $3000 or $5000 for a unit that actually needs modding to sound decent. (You can buy average sound in need of help much cheaper) :)
The ideal mod candiates seem to be $300 to $1000 machines, or used previously expensive units that can be bought much cheaper now. The mods can cost anywhere from a few hundred to $5000+.
The results are debated endlessly here.
Most of the modded units are probably really very good.
One problem is it is impossible to hear these things before you buy unless you know soemone with one, or go to audio shows. That is why you should do your research.
Modders are known for signature elements or sound or what they deem as ideal sound. May or may not be your ideal.
Thanks Lkdog. I think you nailed my trepidation with the mods. No audition. A while back, I had the opportunity to listen to a variety of equipment when a buddy opened his own audio shop. I was amazed by the amount of expensive, award winning equipment that failed to move me. And even when they did, and I'd take a piece home, system synergy could change everything. I guess I was hoping someone would respond: Hey, I have the exact same system and auditioned every cd player in existence. Unit "XYZ" is the bomb. PS. My name is Daniel Barenboim; I live two blocks away, come on over.
I'm using a system that is not too dis-similar from yours. JM Labs Mini Utopia speakers, REL Stadium III sub, Herron tube pre amp, Herron Mono amps, Harmonic Technology Magic interconnects and Acoustic Zen Satori speaker cables. I am currently using a ModWright 999ES CD player in my system which I like very much. I was using an older Cary player prior to the ModWright. I like both products. I would check out the new Cary SACD player since I think it would sound great with your system.
Lkdog- It's interesting that you tied in SACD with classical music. Iv'e been relatively unenthusiastic with my systems performance in that regard. Ironically, that was my main reason for getting involved. Ya know Lkdog, It's been about 15 years since I walked into my first high-end shop (with five hundred smackaroos) vowing to keep it simple. Now, here I am with cryogenic AC outlets and a wizz-bag of gagets I'd be too embarassed to admit to, even to you mugs. Well, why stop here. SACD huh?
Lkdog - Phaelon
I have the full reference Modwright 999ES mod with cryo tubes. Is it the ultimate? At a total of $2,600 including the player probably not but I don't know how much you would have to spend to better it.
Regarding the sub integration of my REL Stadium III with the Utopias I am very satisified with seemless results I am getting. My room is not optimimal with acoustic treatments but with the correct crossover and volume level the sub goes unoticed. I am currently crossing it over at 46hz and have had it as low as 28hz. It depends on the electronics being used. You can get a feel pretty quickly on the correct settings. Also my speakers are playing full range and the sub just auguments the lower frequencies. After living with the sub for a couple of years I think it was a sound decision with these speakers. It gives them that extra bottom end and air that you can't achieve without it.
I didn't have an opportunity to listen to the Musical Fidelity A5. I did listen to the Denon 2900 Exemplar modded player and the Esoteric player. I had to trust the reviews on the 999ES and paid particular attention to the type of sound (warmer or cooler) Without a direct A/B comparison in my system it's really not fair to comment on which is "better". I do know that with the Utopia's I would stay away from the "analytical" or cooler voiced players. The Modwright is more open and extended on the higher frequencies but has reduced upper frequency etch and the vocals have less sibllance than my older player. Kind of a contradiction but somehow it works (maybe the tube ouput stage). If you can get some players to bring home and try in your system, that would be the best option. The one player that I didn't try and would have liked to is the new Cary 303-300 tube player. I just happen to have a fondness for the Cary sound.