Who listens primarily to Redbook CD?

My primary (only, actually) source is a CEC TL5 Transport feeding an Audio Note Kit 1.1 NOS DAC through a Cerious Technologies Graphene Extreme AES/EBU digital cable. They are both decked out with CT GE power cords, Synergistic Research Quantum Black fuses, Herbie's Audio Lab Tenderfeet isolation footers, plus other misc. tweaks.

Sounds great, and I have very little desire to add another source. Pretty much all the music I want is available on CD, and is usually quite cheap. I hope to upgrade to an AN factory DAC (3.1x/II, or better, would be nice), and a Teo Audio liquid metal digital cable (I have their Game Changer ICs, and absolutely love them!) in the future.

Who else is happy with Redbook CD as their primary source?
Most of the CD's I own are Redbook and I'm happy with them. The only major exception would be my LP's.
I recently doubled down on discs via my latest digital upgrade. Haven’t seen much point in going to downloads (but my system is ready if I change my mind).

Every time I upgrade my system I’m amazed at how much more info there is on RBCD. I have some SACDs but 99% of my listening is RBCD and I have no complaints.
I basically stream from Tidal which is basically redbook cd quality. Am very happy with the quality and have never found hi-rez to be better
"I primarily listen to redbook CD". I use an Ayre cx-7emp. I’m using a 15" x 18"x 2" Mapleshade block with black powder coated Surefeet. I have a Gutwire Notepad that I place on top the transport.

I also use the Oppo BDP105D though it’s not quite as good as the Ayre. However the Oppo allows me to play all other formats. Besides being a kicka## Blue Ray player, I stream Pandora, (low-rez) and use the DAC via several inputs. (USB hi-rez) I still like my redbook best. The Ayre has better pace, thunderous low end, sounds more life like and finds more music in the grooves of the disc than the Oppo.

I tend to listen to redbook, for the most part, but I’m using a ladder or R2R DAC. No delta-sigma single bit DAC here.

Which makes a huge difference, IMO. When folks hear it they keep asking me how to get that incredible sound out of digital.

The answer is to find a good ladder dac and (properly) modify the hell out of it.

Or spend a ton of money ($15-50k) for one of the newer discrete dacs that have emerged.(essentially the same design criteria)

I've also been working on designing that particular digital cable for you (and others). The fluid requires a whole different set of analysis, in design, as compared to 'wire'.
Tommylion....audionote dac are extremely musical, you should upgrade it to the 4.1balanced better than the 3.1, by a Big Margin.  

Separates are nice to have but without the right digital cables it can make or break a system.   Do yourself a favor and buy the NBS Blacklable digital cables.   You Will Not Be Disappointed! 
The last 5 years I have heard exceptional inexpensive DAC's that play Redbook as well as they play high-res.

I'm not really as interested in hi res/MQA anymore as a result.
After reading this thread, it makes me second guess my thoughts towards streaming and just trying out a really good DAC for my SACD player. I can be fickle that way.🤔

All the best,
If you’re looking for a dedicated CD Transport, I don’t think you’ll find a better one than the CEC TL5, for the money (around $2000). Here are a couple European reviews:



I just wish it was easier to get the factory 120V version in the US. The North American distributor in Montreal (Pascal of Mutine Inc.) is semi-retired, and sometimes hard to get hold of. After I got in touch with him, I had to bank wire him payment (no credit cards). He then placed the order, and it was drop-shipped to me from Japan. It was worth the hassle, though. You can order a gray market one from Japan for cheaper, but it is the 100V version, and you have to use a wallwart power adapter. Pascal also orders it with the full size CD stabilizer, that covers the entire disc, rather than the smaller one that comes standard with the TL5. According to him, this makes a significant difference in the sound.
ME.  I have about 2,000 CDs ripped onto my computer (mac mini).  The real SQ problem is in the mastering or recording made, so I am always looking for better releases.

I also have a couple dozen SACDs, and many of the CDs have HDCD processing on them.

I kept about 15 LPs (mostly MFSL, etc.) and have some live cassette tapes of concerts I have not listened to in the last few decades...

TAS has a laudatory review out on the Yggy DAC, which is supposed to make Redbook sing...

I may buy one and see.
Redbook CD is my only source and I love it! Consonance Opera Reference 2.2 , modified by Stephen Montey as "factory" mods, which apparently they were not. But the mods made definite improvements over the stock gear.
Jazz is the music that I like and since there is no chance man could find all editions that wants on new lp's (even if one could afford it), Rbcd format provides the biggest choice.
There is also a matter of owning (holding it) the actual product..
Using the Dcs Puccini player, looking to bulid up sacd collection because of it as well...
Also looking to redbook pretty much exclusively both my own ripped cd's and tidal streaming. Running my streamer into an Audio Note Dac-3 Signature super musical!
I do.  Two systems, one with Luxman D06, one with Luxman D05u.  One Vandy 5A speakers, the other VS Unified 3 mk2.  Love each.  

REGA ISIS Valve cdp/DAC fronting a REGA OSIRIS integrated amp with a full NORDOST FREY cable array..... a Goliath killer spinner/DAC that works for me.

now, throw in a premium grade XRCD format silver disc, and it takes it all to an even higher performance level. 
teo_audio113 posts06-09-2017 2:01am
I tend to listen to redbook, for the most part, but I’m using a ladder or R2R DAC. No delta-sigma single bit DAC here.
Which makes a huge difference, IMO. When folks hear it they keep asking me how to get that incredible sound out of digital.

+ more than 1 on this teo_audio, as DSD dacs (Delta Sigma) don’t do pcm Redbook (cd) justice, as it’s just presents a facsimile of what a pcm (cd) really is.

Cheers George
CD and SACD is all i use can do computer audio, but have no reason to 1500 CDs and 100 plus SACDs
Primarily redbook cds ripped to hard drive via Mac mini. My usual routine now after buying a new cd is to listen to it then rip it. The cd goes on the shelf after it's ripped and that's pretty much the last time I touch it. 
I don't stream music, nor do I download music. I do have a turntable setup and about 75 lps, but rarely listen to them. The ripped cds sound better to me than the lps.
Using a Consonance Reference 2.2 cdp recently updated with OPA627 Opamps, Auricaps and Furutech IEC. The updates really improved detail image, and soundstage. 
I have pretty good vinyl setup also (Eurolab, Lehmann, Morch, Allaerts).
To replace the cdp now seems too confusing too many choices and changes, Oppo205, Marantz SA8005, Computer DAC, Music Server. Real expensive cdp Esoteric, Ayre, PS Audio etc. Even though new equipment would be a sonic improvement. 

I use an Ayon CD5s (which includes transport, DAC and Preamp) with NOS Russian Tubes. I music I hear from Red Book on well recorded discs is top notch, with no desire to go into downloads, computer audio or turntable in terms of sound.
I do listen to CDs, SACDs and blu-ray.
I discover music through Pandora and Spotify, and I buy a copy of what I feel is worth listening in higher resolution.
When high capacity SSD becomes affordable, I will start to build a hi-res library, downloaded .  But for now, CD and SACDs....
LP and CD in equal measures, CD being mostly 16/44. I had been getting more and more heavily biased towards LP as far superior SQ until the power supply I had been working on was tested for the first time. This revealed that digital suffers quite badly from it's mains power connection. The transformation of the sq from digital needs to be heard to be beleived, with 16 bit cd now very very good, it's difficult to imagine it getting much better, but we shall see. A very good friend has recently placed his order for a T+A PDP3000HV, which we may compare to my MBL/Concert Fidelity/Esoteric combination with the Symetrica power supply feeding them. (Same friend will also have a power supply soon, as it is essential for better sonics). Other friends have like me, concluded that non physical media is inferior to physical; and this goes all the way up to DCS Vivaldi full stack.

Long live the humble silver disc!

Rgds, Paul.
IMHO there is a greater variance among performances and recording quality than between Redbook versus other formats. I have an AncientAudio LektorPrime CDP.
In both of my systems, I've been very happy with my Sonic Frontiers SFT-1 Transports (modified) and my Yamamoto DA converters YDA-01(slightly modified).
I heard such improvement with that combo I deceided to have them in both systems.
Several 1000 CD ripped to a hardrive using iTunes about 10 years ago. Some HD tracks hi resolution material. More recently Tidal. I like the way I can sync my iPhone and get a compressed lossy version of my complete catalog for the car.

I discovered Benchmark DAC1 about the same time and I now own a DAC 2 also and a DAC 3 is being shipped to me right now.

To add to what Georgehifi said: About 15 years ago R2R DACs were indeed better sounding than early Delta Sigma DACs. However early Delta Sigma issues (glare) have been resolved and their performance currently far exceeds R2R.

I would add that I use a Mac Mini and optical to the DAC. I use a digital volume setting of 1 and an app "BitPerfect" to ensure iTunes original file sample rate is preserved all the way to the DAC (Bitperfect controls the Mac audio output and ensures it changes on the fly to match the original file sample rate). I believe it is best to let the DAC handle the original bitperfect file and do all conversion (upsampling) to analog.

For Tidal, I use the Tidal app and set it to highest quality and also to control audio output sample rate to match the original Tidal source file sample rate.
I build my own components so I use a Direct Heated Triode DAC.  Power supply is 35lbs alone.  Use an older Audiomeca CDP as a transport (same as the CEC).  Have you compared your CEC to anything else?  I wanted the 3 series but its not made anymore.  I have heard my DAC with the top CEC and it was amazing.

I also have a HDMI connection with the DAC and build a converter and a server, its very close but I have not perfected it yet.  Working on it.

For a Digital cable I have come back to using a Moray James.  For some reason it just has a tone that I really like.  I also have a Shunyata Cobra but that seems to make everything sound smoothed out, and seems to hold back some dynamics in direct comparison.  It seems to mask the digital glare that some system may require, but that is not my system with my dac.

Happy Listening.
To add to what Georgehifi said: About 15 years ago R2R DACs were indeed better sounding than early Delta Sigma DACs. However early Delta Sigma issues (glare) have been resolved and their performance currently far exceeds R2R.
The most lauded and celebrated and lusted after dacs in current cutting edge technology.... are all R2R discrete dacs.

going back in time and buying a 20-24 bit R2R dac unit and upgrading it, and using it for redbook 16/44 playback, will far exceed what any delta-sigma dac can achieve.

The manufactures of the units that use delta-sigma dacs (99.9% of all audio dacs available these days) would gladly use R2R dacs in their units, but those R2R dacs are simply not available at any price.

They are simply too expensive to make via the wafer process for IC manufacturing, in modern times.

You can’t put a $100 chip (when bought in thousand lots) in a $200 or even $800 dac unit. It has to be a $3-8 delta-sigma single-bit dac chip. Which they all are.

In the world of digital....It is a elephantine, 800 pound gorilla in the room, "bull in a china shop" "emperor’s clothes" issue in audio, where we all had to take a DOWNGRADE in musical quality when the industry was forced to call it an UPGRADE (measures well, looks great on paper!), as no alternative existed to go forward and upward with.

The whole thing went Orwellian doublespeak and pear-shaped, due to the introduction of more than 16 bits of resolution. When we went to 20 bits, we could make a $10 (thousand lots) chip, and when we went to 24/96, we could do a $50 (thousand lots) DAC chip, but when we went beyond that..to 24/192 and then 32 bit..we could no longer produce a R2R dac on a chip.

If even possible, they might be some astronomical cost per individual item. Suffice it to say... it is not really possible to do a 32 bit R2R DAC wafer based IC chip... it is a theoretical projection. It simply cannot be done. Price is: infinity. Simply not gonna ever happen.

So we were stuck trying to jerry-rig a delta sigma bit chip to being good. That mess is still being fixed, but the industry cannot wait, so it used and uses..... inferior sounding chips to get to these high sample rates. According to the principle on how a delta-sigma dac works, the problem will never be fixed.

the entire digital audio world took one in the butt and was forced to cover it up in order to stay in business and move onward. Very little was spoken about this when it went down and now that the moment is in the past, the more finalized shape of it ...is saying exactly what I’m saying here.

Obviously, no one wants to say much about it. these things happen. Just like digital originally was a step backward from the best in analog..and it slowly evolved, even digital in it’s own market and design issues, etc...suffered the same fate at a point in it’s evolution. One that is still affecting it today.

The alternative... is a 24 to 32 bit discrete ladder/R2R dac, coming in at about $15k US for a stereo unit as the baseline cost in the market for one of them. Then the price goes up from there.

They (dac chip companies) are coming up with different schemes to improve the delta-sigma base design parameters at the design and execution level (wafer design compatible), and have issued such, but we are still not back to the quality level available from the $50 chips, the 24/96 ladder/R2R dacs that were available in the early-mid 2000's.

The problem for the high end audiophile market is that price drives development as the prime motivator and market force.

Audiophile sound quality aspects are 2nd, 3rd, or 4th down on the list.The next limitation point is the one mentioned, the wafer design/build limits. That's the part that is really getting in the way. Costs vs quality vs technology available. Same questions as ever.
A couple of quick questions: I read in another thread some folks saying their ripped (CD) contents sounded better than original CD. Is that technically possible or its just the differences between the components in the audio path, e.g., CDP vs. NAS, etc., that are contributing to the difference? Also, those of you who listen to CDs as well as stream music from Tidal, how would you compare the SQ? This is if you could actually make a fair comparison given the different components in the chain. I personally find the Tidal MQA content sound better than my CDs using a common DAC.
"I read in another thread some folks saying their ripped (CD) contents sounded better than original CD. Is that technically possible or its just the differences between the components in the audio path, e.g., CDP vs. NAS, etc., that are contributing to the difference?"

Great question. It’s also been reported that Copying the CD Copy also improves upon that Copied CD, ad infinitum. Is this a big can of worms or what? What in the wide wide world of sports is going on here?

Look for something on this subject from George Rankin (wavelength), is where I would start.

I expect we are looking at a re-clocking issue of some sort.

The vast majority of older CDP's, IIRC, get some of their important aspects of clocking cues from directly off the disc read. I has to do with the original design spec. Ie that the disc read itself is intrusive into the jitter spectrum question. Part of why Sam Tellig of Stereophile thought that some of the first buffering portable CD players sounded quite good. The buffer means the disc read jitter spectrum issue is not directly connected to the emergent waveform of the music signal. That sort of hardware does a re-clocking of a sort.

When we rip, the clocking happens elsewhere and if done well, it can be a better reconstruction of the waveform, jitter spectrum wise.

The given individual case sensitive final clocking set up and reconstruction of the waveform is where it is all at. Which is pretty well what Gordon Rankin is on about.

Note to Geoff: the Popper reference elsewhere made me look him up. Thanks for that. I (and many others, obviously) have similar or parallel conclusions in many ways, but not so explicitly perfected and outlined. I've not spent a lifetime refining it as he had. It's nice to be confirmed in one's ideals/conclusions.(Standford website, I'm still reading...)

And the more I say the more I become a target, which takes you 'round to his thoughts on theories......

I am am aware that R2R DACs are impossibly expensive - this is because they are trying to compete with the latest 21 bit resolution of Delta Sigma and the technology is limited by the ability to build a resistor ladder to such high accuracy as to be competitive with Delta Sigma.

How this is conflated to mean that R2R is better?? Only if you equate more expensive with better...

I had R2R ladders in several older generation CD players but current Delta Sigma DACs are far superior (at least to my ears.)
It is well known that the optical reader of a CD is motorized. It has been shown that oscillations in this motor (as it attempts to read a spinning disc) can induce via these fluctating power supply demands a subsequent spurious jitter in the CD player output. This is why a copy of a CD might play better (or not) on a particular drive. It is nothing to do with bits but all to do with mechanical reading of the spinning disc data using a servo motor that is drawing power in a cyclical manner from the same power supply used to covert the digital to analog...
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I should add that current leading converters use very many parallel 1 bit Delta Sigmas to reduce SN. This eliminates the major drawback of a Delta Sigma 1 bit converter. The linearity and consequently low THD is the major advantage of Delta Sigma 1 bit over a ladder 16 bit DAC. Since the noise issue of early Sigma Delta DACs has been resolved (by using many in parallel) their sound has improved and surpassed R2R ladders DACs to my ears and IMHO. I believe the performance measurements of current leading Delta Sigma DACs support my contention - unsurpassed SN, THD etc.
I listen mostly to CDs, although I have many LPs that are superior in sound to the CD reissues of those albums.  I actually have ripped all of my CDs to WAV files, so I am not actually listening to the CDs themselves, even though I could do that as well (a music server is much more convenient than playing CDs).  I don't know about attributing performance to particular technology, but, I believe my server employs a R2R ladder DAC.
i have Tidal , SACD, Hi Rez on hard drive and red book cd.
Red book cds off my MSB transport to MSB DAC sound best to me.
i listen to Tidal to discover new stuff and when Im too lazy to pull out a cd. I listen to Hi Rez and titles off my hard drive when want to listen to my own collection but mainly when i am lazy.  i always end up being most satisfied when i play red book CD
BTW  MSB has designed and built a new proprietary R2R architecture that far exceeds the performance of the original ladder DAC design. 
recording & mastering is usually done in PCM, not DSD

really makes you wonder if DSD is really giving you better SQ...
I have aurender,  tidal,  PS audio DS,  TT but my Luxman  D08U is in another league.  I'll be spinning as long as I live. 

Dear sir, I have and adcom GDC 700 HDCD decoder listening to an hdcd encoded cd is like night and day compared to redbooks. The dynamics are incredible, you hear instruments and vocal inflections you never thought possible through your system. Blake Sheltons newest cd is recorded in hdcd and the sound is off the charts. Some on this forum seem to think its no big deal, but take it from me it's a big deal, look for an adcom 700, 250-300 used. You will thank me.
Funny but I also have a CEC transport feeding an Audio Note Kits Dac (3.1 sig) and I only listen to Redbook CDs. I do listen to 60% vinyl because it sounds even better on the right recordings, but Redbook sounds great. It is largely about system balance, though I am sure high res could sound great. It mqa sounds as good as vinyl I will be the first to dump it all and start streaming.
I primarily listen to CD and SACDs only. Bluetooth is a distant second at 10% of the time. Pretty happy with the setup, but need to upgrade the CDP soon.
I am absolutely happy with my Redbook CD's. In fact, you don't need anything else. High definition audio is a gimmick, nobody can hear the difference in a blind test.
Echoing what has been said, the best digital I've heard was at an audio show. It was a few years ago in the MSB room. What I thought was computer audio turned out to "just" a CD.

I only hope I've enough years left in me to see that level of tech trickle down to a decently priced CDP.

All the best,
What is the alternative? Vinyl or or tape?

If you're primarily listening to digital, you're also primarily listening to Redbook CD resolution source material...discs, files, or streams. Kind-of the only option for now. MQA streaming is coming along...we can argue if there's any sonic benefit to the format vs. CD. SACD is legacy and mostly dead. HDtracks is mostly a waste of money given no provenance information.
One issue with cds relative to a copy perhaps sounding better may have to do with the computer drive reading the disc while it's being ripped having better error correction and/or simply reading the disc more accurately than the cd player the user normally played their cds on. I found that DVD players, even the inexpensive ones, often sounded better than some dedicated cd players did due to their (often) superior error correction, etc as needed to read DVDs.
I like what Audio Note did. They listened to the available DAC chips and chose the Analog Devices AD1865 based purely on sound. When it was discontinued, they bought up all the remaining stock, so they wouldn’t be forced to change over to a sonically inferior one.

They are are currently working on an R2R DAC using discrete resistors, which, reportedly, sounds much better than the AD1865.



Schiit Yggdrasil is a modern R2R ladder DAC that will play hi res PCM.
Uses a very accurate chip designed for military applications but adapted for music by Mike Moffet, the developer of the original stand alone DAC. It sounds way better than any sigma delta DAC that I ever heard (though I haven’t heard any of the super expensive ones.) See what Robert Harley has to say about the Yggdrasil in the current TAS. Seems I now have little use for my many SACDs because CD on the Yggy is spectacular.