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If one currently owns no CD’s/SACD’s (a rather young person, presumably), and asks the question to help decide whether or not to start buying them, keep in mind the cost of building a disc library. At, say, ten bucks a disc, a modest collection of 1,000 titles will run $10,000. I have somewhere around 3500, so even if streamed-sources sound better, I need a transport. It’s kind of late to start buying CD’s now, though they are much cheaper than they us to be, and will in all likelihood be even cheaper in the not-so-distant future.
Neither. The best setup is using a network card inside the dac, for example the Bridge II cars in the ps audio DS or the DCS network card. Sell all the so called ultimate usb cables, all you need is a good Ethernet cable (say cat7 or cat8 from audioquest for example), high speed internal network, and a good/fast internet, preferably using fibre because it’s quieter.
Since I build a "high end DAC" with a 35lbs power supply I have used both CD transport (too many to mention) and server into the DAC using HDMI cable as I felt with was the best sound. IMO only, the two offered excellent sound but different. The transport offered a more emotional sound in our direct comparison. The server offered an excellent soundstage with really nice details. It was very nice to listen to but certain instruments just did not sound as emotional as the transport in direct comparison. I could live with either as long as I did not have to compare them side by side. Hope this was helpful. Happy Listening.
I have an older model Music Vault paired with a Luxman DA-06 DAC. I tried feeding the same DAC with an older CEC transport and a PS Audio Perfectwave transport.
The Music Vault beat out both transports. The CEC was the better of the two transports, but it lacked detail and was flat sounding compared to the Music Vault. I expected to like the PS Audio Perfectwave transport based on all of the glowing reviews, but was unimpressed.
As I learn more about digital audio, I'm appreciating that while "bits are bits", the timing of those bits when they arrive at the DAC are very important to the ultimate sound quality. DACs do have clocks as part of their design, to "re-clock" those bits that arrive at their input stage, but "re-clocking" can only do so much to correct for timing errors.
I suspect, with your particular set of components the port on the Music Vault and your DAC just pair better together than the other options. I'd recommend you look into a cable upgrade, as that will likely further improve the sound quality.
The best that can happen here is that each person can relate their own experience. In my case ripped CDs on a HD sound better played through a simple ASUS laptop via USB than they did played directly through an Oppo 105 by spdif.
As @ejr implied, bits are not simply bits. The timing and quality of the analog (yes, analog) stream of bits makes a great deal of difference in the ultimate SQ.
Transports are. It created Raquel, each unit should be treated as an individual. IOWs, can’t answer the OPs question favoring one device over a different one in these 2 categories.
E.g. in a/b tryouts,my SimAudio CDP (Equinox, $3000) from 2007 absolutely killed the transport on the OPPO 95. While the Bel Canto dedicated cd transport($1500) was also better than the OPPO, and right on par with the Sim in terms of SQ, tho slightly different sound.
Why? I think bc the Sim has 2 dedicated power supplies for analog and digital. But the OPPO has 1 power supply for the 100 different functions it has, so the transport quality suffers.
I agree with BigKidz in that when you get into the no-compromise components in either servers or transports the sound quality is very close with each doing certain things better.
Please don't be offended by what I'm going to say: few people that make these comparisons are comparing apples to apples.
Some DACs have excellent S/PDIF inputs and poor USB inputs. Some DACs have excellent USB inputs and poor S/PDIF inputs. Few DACs have equal performance on all inputs.
The same is true of HDMI vs Ethernet vs USB inputs: not all are created equal so no one can make a blanket statement.
And what transport vs what music server are you comparing?
There's a huge difference between an Oppo multi-disk player and a high-end audio optimized CD transport. And there is a huge difference between one of the entry level CEC transports and their mid to upper level TL2N, TL1N, and TL0X.
The same is true in computer music servers: there is a huge difference between a MacBook Pro and an audiophile optimized music server.
When I hear people who consider a $1,000 Oppo multi-disk player an audiophile transport or a MacBook Pro a music server I just shake my head and roll my eyes. They may be excellent mid-fi bargains but no comparison to the potential of transports or music servers.
So I caution any of you who read threads like this who are inexperienced to take most of what you read with a grain of salt. Many of the people who post blanket statements in regards to the superiority of one technology over the another in reality have very limited experience.
@fuzzbutt17 - most people have never heard a high end transport or DAC for that matter. My problem is that it is now hard to find a really good transport to replace my Audiomecca Mephisto and Metronome transports which back in the day and even by todays standards are hard to find and very few transport sound as good as.