Your low end DAC is a potential solution to your dilemma, but I strongly suggest that you consider utilizing Stan Warren's services at Supermod. He serves to help the budget audiophile achieve the kind of sound that you are looking for. Stan recently told me that he had found a budget Pioneer player, that after modification, holds its own against the big buck D/A's. Stan can be contacted at 541-344-3696. P.S.- If you want to try a better DIY cable design, you may want to read my recent posting under "Best Wires for Cost".
Yo Dark, I think you would be better off skipping the cheap DAC upgrade. I had a similar problem with my system. I bought a Parasound D/A1500 ($300) and connected it to my used ($25)Yamaha CD player. It sounded more dynamic but also more fatiguing. What opened my eyes (or ears) was a Rotel 990 cd player and better speaker cables. I was using AQ Type 6 and found that Purist Audio Designs Elementa speaker cables removed out the overly bright sound from my Apogees. Try replacing you DIY stuff with Elementa interconnects as well. I have no idea what your DIY cables and connects are doing to the sound, and until you try some good cables, neither do you. You can find them used for about $60 (1M interconnects) and $100 (2M speaker cables).
You can't go too wrong trying the Soundstream DAC. If you don't like it you should be able to resell it an get your money back no problem. I try out equipment this way a lot. In my experience Rotel equipment also tends to be on the bright side with the one exception being the Rotel RCD-990 CD player mentioned (and probably the RCD-991). I use to own a Rotel RCD-940 years ago and found the Van Den Hul "The First" Interconnects worked wonders. It is a very detailed but still laid back cable. Read the reviews at Audioreview.com that confirm this. They are pricey new, but I've seen used pairs for $90 to $125 depending on length.
Hi Dark: For free, you can try mixing your DIY IC's and the Radio shack Gold's. Try different ones in-between the preamp/power and the source/preamp. This may eliminate some of the glare that you are experiencing. You can also try hanging a blanket or tablecloth on the wall behind your speakers or work some more with speaker placement. I usually level my speakers (using a level) and then work with small degrees of tilt to adjust the sound. This seems to have almost as much effect (on the mid and HF's) as raising or lowering the speakers. I also have a moderately priced system and know where you are coming from. If better recorded CD's sound good at least you have that much:-) I have added some things to my system that have helped reduce glare as well as improving other areas of the sound. These additions are Vibrapods under the CD Player for $24.00 (follow Craigs instructions at Vibrapod), an updated power cord for the CD player (Harmonic Tech. Pro 11 for $125.00 used), HT Truthlink IC also for $125.00 used (really helps with poorly engineered CD's and sounds great on the good ones) and also a Monster HTS power conditioner (discounted to $125.00 new on line (you may not require power conditioning, I live in a congested area and benefit from it). The Vibrapods and the PC were the biggest improvements in my system and I started out with the Pods, again just a $24.00 investment plus a scrap of MDF, or use Maple if you happen to have a spare cutting board around the house. I am now adding a better DAC to my CAL player but am glad that I started off with the inexpensive basic tweaks that are now out of the way. I have wanted to try the DIY cables, but am always confused by the on-line instructions. Good luck.
PS: Sorry for not addressing the DAC question itself, but since I am not familiar with the sound of the DAC in your player I cannot say yes or no. As mentioned above when you purchase at a good used price you can resell with out losing $$$ on most items. In addition to the Truthlink IC's that I mention above I also use Silver IC's from Homegrown Audio with good results, this is just to say that the little things that I have done really did put a dent in the glare that I was experiencing as I no longer have to tame it with IC's for "most" recordings.
Thanks all of you for the suggestions! Unfortunately, I just noticed that the Denon DCM 360 doesn't have any digital output, so (I think) the option of using a DAC is moot with this player. I'm going to try some of the "cheap" tweaks suggested first, while saving my pennies for a good (used) Rotel CDP or DAC and transport. I did a little mix-and-match between the RS & DIY connects and it did substantially sooth some of the grating highs, but unforntunately, once I knew they exist, you know, can't stand any. I don't care what any of the ranting fools say on Audioreview.com's name-calling forums, different cables and connects make a big difference. Also, the difference in sonic atrributes/quality between cd's is amazing since the "glare" or "hiss" is so much worse or non-existent on many recordings. I'm not likely to get rid of the DIY speaker cables because 1) I spent weeks meticulousy braiding twisted pair w/ twisted pair to get a total of 27 pair per Low freq's and 9 pair per highs for a bi-wire set. Too much time and blisters invested, also they are highly rated by many experts and only cost me $37 + time. 2) I find it easy to believe that the cheap Denon CD carousel is the weak(er) link. Besides, pride won't let me admit to the girlfriend that I made our living room into a wire braiding jungle for weeks, all for naught. Plus, they really do sound great!
Since i think that the DCM-360 has a permanent power cord, that kind of lets that out unless you feel like doing internal modifications. You might try starting off with filling a large zip lock type freezer bag with sand and mass loading the CD player. Some Vibrapods underneath it rated for the weight of the player AND the sandbag might also help. In terms of your interconnects and speaker cable, they are probably FAR superior to much of what is available on the market for WAY, WAY more money than what you spent. That is as long as you followed the directions properly. My REAL suggestion is to look into another CD player if you want to solve the problem. I have tried the DCM 360 and it fell WAY short of the NAD 515 in terms of warmth and musicality. It also felt a helluva lot "cheesier" in terms of build quality. Cycling times were also measurably slower with the Denon. If a changer is not a big deal, look for a Cal Delta / Sigma set-up. The Sigma / Sigma II will do MARVELS for your system in terms of musicality, warmth and soundstage. The later version of the Sigma II is 24/96 and is not as full sounding, but does offer a more open and detailed sound. Depending on what your seeking, you can play with the single tube in any of these DACS and fine tune the sound to your liking. I also have one question. How do you have your equipment set up ? Is it in an entertainment center, rack, on top of some type of cabinet, etc ??? Please be as specific as possible. Sean >
This is an interesting post--I do own a DCM360, and mine does not have a digital out--hence you cannot hookup an external DAC. I have found that monster interconnects (M550 or higher) do a nice job of warming up the sound and also improve the bass. I am using M1000i, which sound awesome!!! Of course, most people would consider it foolish to use a $200 cable on a $300 CDP. The only reason I do is that I have several systems, and so I took the M1000 out of a higher end system when I changed cables. Double check your back panel for a digital connection before you buy a DAC!
Egg on my face for not reading your followup--You already know that you don't have a digital out!!!! Sorry. I do agree that the 360 is harsh and thin sounding--and I definitely liked the smoothing/warming effect of my cables. They also made the soundstage huge! Otherwise, start auditioning some of Rotels players. The 991 is known as a smooth sounding one, and would be a nice match to the rest of your gear. And the 971 gets great attention, too, although it's primary fault seems to be a slight graininess. If its in the budget, sony just launched a 5 disc SACD player in their ES line. The ES players have always been highly regarded, and they tend to have a warm and rich tonal balance. I would say the CD player is definitely your weak link in the system. Good luck in you searching!
Thanks Sean and Ehm3, for confirming that the DCM 360 is harsh, I was begiining to doubt myself. And no matter how much tweaking I do, it will always before undercut by the CD player! Thanks Sean for pointing out the NAD 515, I never knew about it, and I have always wanted a Cal Audio rig. The tube/SS combination really is begiining to appeal to me, my brother has a new Audio Research setup (tube pre, SS amp), Rotel 991 CD, and Vandersteen 3 sigs that really delivers a beautifully smooth, detailed sound. While I don't have that kind of $10K+ cash, I think that I can get 70-80% there with the right component mix and I really think that in the "mid-fi" range, Rotel has the most appealing sound to me. So, thanks Ehm3 for pointing me back towards Rotels, the RCC-955 should met both my girlfriend's (demanded 5 changer) and my criteria. I think that I will try to A/B the NAD 515 vs. the Rotel 955 and find which suits our tastes. Then acquire a transport/DAC later for my own pleasure. Ps, this forum is so much more civilized than the drunken bar room brawl that Audioreview.com has.
Dark: There are a lot of good players in the price range that you are looking at. For example: Audio Refinement Complete (used), Cambridge 500 (new), CAL Icon MkII (used -I own this) and the CAL 5 changer (used). Check out as many as possible. I also listened to the Rotel 970 before it was discontinued and found it to be a little smoother than its replacement the 971. A nice thing about using a player as a transport (in the future) is that if you decide to go for any DAC mods that become available you can still play music on the player while the DAC is off to the factory. There is also a lot of info on previous threads in regard to inexpensive but good CD players, I guess just search "CD player".
Hey, Dark--check out the new post today for an RCD970 for $180. I agree with Dekay--I used to have a 970, and liked it pretty well. Although I don't have any firsthand knowledge of the others. The Audio Refinement seems to have a good following. (actually, I think Dekay reccomended it to me a few weeks ago! Sorry, Dekay--I ended up with a Linn)
Gret news, someone offered to buy my Denon today for exactly what I paid for it. So, now I've got a little more money to burn. Unfortunately, the significant otheris standing hard on the 5 cd changer (I think she's had enough of my fiddling for now, one of those "who does care more about" things). There's a real toss-up going on in my brain right now; NAD 515 or Rotel 955(?) at the higher price range, a Marantz cc4000 (some features probs, but has digital ouputs), or another stable carousel for less w/ the Musical Fidelity X-DAC I found for $69. The X-DAC got excellent reviews when it came out 2 yrs ago, and I've noticed that some people prefer 18 bit to the latest 24/96k (which I can't afford anyway). Decisions, decisions, decisions! I'm going to repost asking if anyone has used the MF X-DAC. Any suggestions on a good (cheap) carousel w/ digital outputs?
Dark, Read my thread response to "good entry level transport". I and 18 other audiophiles use this $125; 5 disc changer as our REFERENCE transport, in each of our audiophile systems. I have yet to find another transport for 20x as much that sounds as good. This is not a joke.
Ehider: Does the Aiwa have an RCA digital out? Or what outputs does it have? Also what DACS did your group have good results with?
I looked all the way back to to September in this forum and couldn't find a thread titled "good entry level transport". Please let who makes the CD carousel. Is it the Aiwa XC-37M?
Dark: Search the forum under "entry level" without the word and. Ehider is referring to the XC-35M now discontinued but still available online. I just saw one for $149.00 new when I searched the web with "xc-35m". I beleive that the group was also using a homebrew DAC which is why I asked what other DAC's they tried it with. My wife would love to have a multi player and for the price I would pick one up if it worked well with my Bel Canto. The input specs were not available at Aiwa's web site.
Aiwa is owned by Sony. They bought them YEARS ago when Aiwa tried to sue Sony. I'd be curious as to what makes the "budget" Aiwa player any better / different than a comparably priced Sony ???? If anything, i would think that the Sony would be better built out of the two just so that they could "protect" the parent companies much bigger/better reputation. Sean >
Ehider, The Aiwa XC35M has been replaced by the XC37M. Has your group checked this unit out to see if it is comparable to the XC35M? Also, what DAC do you recommend, Bel Canto, EVS or MSB? I will look for a used XC35M.
I have been told that the Aiwa xc37m is the sonically the same as the xc35m , so either player will work. Although I can't recall every DAC that everyone has, here is a short list of all my buddies DACs : MSB Platinum, MSB link original, and link 2 (both with Supermod enhancements), Bel Canto, Monarchy, Parasound, Theta, Wadia and Classe. Now, as to the Sony question; If you re-read my original posting on the Aiwa (see "good entry level transport"), you will see that the original comparison test involved EVERY japanese cd player, that had an optical output. And the Aiwa was the ONLY player that was indistiguishable from the Wadia (which was used as the benchmark transport). So, why isn't a better constructed Sony player, similiar in performance to the Awia? Because they have different internal electronics. The outstanding performance of the Aiwa was definately NOT a design consideration. THIS IS AN ANOMOLY! What probably happened is that the Aiwa design team sourced in inexpensive digital output devices, that just happened to have incredible performance. This DOES happen once in a while. For example, I sell chips for a living, and have sold a couple of "budget" chips, that actually use ultra expensive design topologies (which are not common to my compeditors' offerings). This is done to commonize chip manufacturing, and ultimately save the chip manufacturer money through reduced tooling expenses (chip tooling can be in the millions of dollars). Of course, we don't inform the customer that we have budget chips, that are actually equivilent in performance, to our flagship devices. In fact, we don't even publish their true specifications. Instead, we "underspecify' the chip, knowing that it will trounce the listed specifications. The above aforemented scenario is probably what happened with the Aiwa. A design engineer at Aiwa bought a cheap xyz chip (or chips), not knowing that they are actually an exotic topology, common to an ultra high performance chip. It may be only a matter of time until a "high end" transport manufacturer finds out about this player, and purchaces one for teardown to determine why it is so great sonically. But, believe me, they are NOT going to pass this cost savings on to the consumer, with a reasonably priced transport. Why do I say this?; Because us audiophiles are conditioned into thinking that we HAVE to spend fortunes, for those state of the art sonics. It would be bad business for the transport manufacturer to provide a sonically state of the art product, at a reasonable price. Do any of you really think that those ultra expensive cables don't have a serious mark-up? I PERSONALY know three MAJOR cable manufacturers, and they are laughing all the way to the bank. (One did try to provide a sonically superior cable at a reasonable price. Unfortunately, not many people bought it, and he made less money than if he would have priced it much higher).
Note:"Good entry level transport" was posted on 11-26-00.
Thanks Ehider. Very interesting. Didn't an industry publication follow up on the findings of your gruop? Seems like I read that somewhere, maybe at AA.
I just got the ad for Best Buy today. The Aiwa xc37M is on sale for 89.99!!!! I am on my way to pick up this transport. I am also in the market for a used DAC to compliment the cd player. Will let you know how it sounds when I have it set up.
Now that I'm sold on trying the Aiwa, can anybody suggest a good used DAC to use w/ it? Compared to my Denon DCM 370 w/ Burr Brown DAC's, is it too late for an Audio Alchemy v 1.1, or Musical Fidelity X-ACT, MSB Link DAC DAC 1, etc?