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aswp

Trounced, David pc-audio vs Goliath cd-transport (David TKOed)

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I was curious how a basic pc-audio setup (mine) compares to a high end cd-transport (not mine). The comparison track was Jazz At the Pawnshop Track #3 High Life.

 

My source was Tidal @ hifi lossless and master setting, and 24/192 tracks from HDtracks, running on a Lenovo Yoga 900S laptop on battery, with an old wireworld usb cable connecting to a W4S ulink feeding a Zanden Model 5000 dac via W4S coax cable. The Goliath opponent was a Zanden Model 2000 CD Transport (US$28k in 2005) feeding the DAC via Zanden's I2S cable.

 

Yes, I compared a $300 W4S Ulink to a $28K CD Transport. And the results were distinctly unbiblical. Goliath completely trounced, and trampled on poor David. Imagine Samwell Tarly fighting the night king equipped with a toilet roll.

 

Comparing the same song on HDCD vs Tidal, is like comparing low bitrate mp3 to 24/192 files. The difference was apparent from the first second of playback. 

 

Not wanting to capitulate, I bought the hires 24/192 album at HDTracks (unfortunately the W4S uLink doesn't do DSD). It wasn't quite as embarassing as Samwell Tarly vs the Night King but the difference was immediately apparent. What was different? Every metric was different. Transient, decay on pianos, depth, dynamic range, speed, everything.

 

2 weeks from now I will again challenge the Zanden Model 2000 with my Mutec MC-3+ USB. That unfortunately is the extent of my pc setup, I do not have a proper sotm-like setup.

 

----

 

The above equipment feeds an Audionote Kondo (yes an audionote kondo!) M1000MkII preamp and Audionote Kondo Ongaku power amp (yes, the legendary ongaku!), to a set of Cessaro Beta II speakers.

 

I meant to post this in the general audio forum. I can't find the button to delete the post. Can a moderator kindly move this thread to the general audio forum. Thanks.

 

W4S Ulink.jpg

 

Zanden 2000 Transport.jpg

 

Zanden 5000 DAC.jpg

 

Audionote Kondo Ongaku.jpg

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Not surprised at all. Computers are noisy, and it takes a lot of effort to achieve similar performance to a well designed CD transport. 

 

Tidal's streaming quality is far away from playing a locally ripped CD. People have been able to improve Tidal's quality by taking a really good care of the network using SOTM switches, JCAT Femto NET cards, good LPS, cables, etc. But I have not heard anyone with a good resolving system saying that Tidal sounds as good as any other sources. 

 

You would be better off comparing a CD that is properly ripped on your local computer vs. the same CD played through the CD transport. You might be surprised that some locally ripped CDs may sound better than hires HDTracks files.

 

I personally do not expect your Lenovo laptop to get even close to the transport no matter what decrapifiers/reclockers/etc. you add after it. Your laptop is adding a lot of noise and it's nearly impossible to completely get rid of it. It would be a much better approach to start with a very clean digital signal and try to keep it clean all the way to your DAC. This is what companies like Innuos do in their products. But to be honest, I don't think any of their products besides the Innuos Statement ($14K) would be able to compete with the Zanden transport. Maybe the Innuos Zenith MK3 gets close but not there... 

 

And just for the record, I don't have a CD transport and have been trying to make computer audio to sound as good as a CD. It has been a long journey...

 

If you look at the big thread here, you would see the extensive efforts people put into their digital source set ups.  This comes to mind:

On 4/22/2019 at 12:27 PM, austinpop said:

Audio-topology-qx5.png

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Thanks for the informative reply.

 

I thought running the laptop on battery would clean up the signal, but from what you mention, it seems that the pc itself is introducing the noise.

 

I don't understand how locally ripped files can sound better than HDTracks files. Can you clarify how this is possible. It's akin to saying, be careful, my excel report might not balance out because you've downloaded the file over email and some bits might be corrupted.

 

It's fascinating how, when it comes to audio, digital isn't digital.

 

I will read up on those articles. Thanks.

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3 hours ago, aswp said:

I don't understand how locally ripped files can sound better than HDTracks files. Can you clarify how this is possible.

 

I did not mean that ripped CDs are always better than files downloaded from HDTracks. It depends where the files were extracted from. It could be from a different CD release than yours than may or may not sound better. If you are comparing a CD playing from a transport to the same music playing from a computer, it would be a good idea to reduce the variables by playing the same data (ripped from the same CD) rather than downloading the album from HDTracks and assuming it is the exact same recording, mastering, release, etc. 

 

When you are ripping a CD, there are different settings you can use. Generally speaking, you can do it the fast way or you can have the ripping software take its time to ensure every bit is downloaded accurately. CDs can have have micro scratches, which makes some sectors difficult to read. Your ripping software could skip those hard to read sectors (i.e. fast mode) and interpolate the data. Or it can take it's time, go back and forth until it could recover every possible bit. On a resolving system it is not very difficult to hear audible differences on the same track ripped accurately and not so accurately. 

 

Then, there is the upsampling. I don't believe that every source HDTracks sells as 192/24 is a native 192/24 recording. And I do believe they use an upsampling process. Not to open a new can of worms, but upsampling does not always sound better and that would be system specific. In my system for example, a native CD 44.1 kHz/16 track sounds better than some of the upsampled tracks from HDTracks. And I have also heard the opposite - an HDTracks track that sounds better than my CD rip.

 

People also report that playing the same file from different media (i.e. SSD, HDD, NAS, USB, etc.) sounds different. I also find that to be true and most likely it is the interference of the storage device with your computer while reading / writing. For example, SSD drives are quite noisy devices, and people don't like to play their files from SSD (they generate noise while extracting the file). I use a software player that loads the track in RAM while playing, and that helps.

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On 4/26/2019 at 6:55 AM, Nenon said:

 

If you are comparing a CD playing from a transport to the same music playing from a computer, it would be a good idea to reduce the variables by playing the same data (ripped from the same CD) rather than downloading the album from HDTracks and assuming it is the exact same recording, mastering, release, etc. 

 

I don't believe that every source HDTracks sells as 192/24 is a native 192/24 recording. And I do believe they use an upsampling process. And I have also heard the opposite - an HDTracks track that sounds better than my CD rip.

 

People also report that playing the same file from different media (i.e. SSD, HDD, NAS, USB, etc.) sounds different. I also find that to be true and most likely it is the interference of the storage device with your computer while reading / writing. For example, SSD drives are quite noisy devices, and people don't like to play their files from SSD (they generate noise while extracting the file). I use a software player that loads the track in RAM while playing, and that helps.

 

Thank you for the fascinating reply. PC based audio is more complex than I originally envisioned.

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We did that test. More specific one of my resellers did the test.
 

Tube glow



I can state that the music server source we produce, beats his very expensive CEC drive costing 28.000 € according to my reseller.

This source (432 EVO MASTER) was taken to the Munich show in 2017, in the Aries Cerat Room, and also this CEC transport and a Vyger turntable was installed in the demo room in the MOC. We only played with the server and vinyl. The room won best of show from Hifi Pig & AVShowrooms.

We also ripped a Bach CD in his Belgian demo room, than played it from the server vs live played on the CEC both using his Aries Cerat DAC, and the server had more depth and soundstage. Server was in bitperfect mode.

Do not expect it to be very easy to build something that will beat his CEC. Probably windows is not going to cut it, and you'll need a custom Linux build like what we did and a lot of tuning, your own PSU design, .... But it's not impossible.


Designer of the 432 EVO music server and Linux specialist

Discoverer of the independent open source sox based mqa playback method with optional one cycle postringing.

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My best success with a laptop was Windows Server core, with AO optimization...

But, as mentioned above, you can more simply try the OS effect with something like Euphony or Volumio...

I had a ULink and I am sure that bottleneck can be improved... but you may be surprised by the difference the operating system and general software optimization can change the sound .

 

 

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3 hours ago, Summit said:

Yes, contrary to popular belief, the compact disc isn’t dead yet.

 

dCS Rossini Transport SACD/CD transport.

https://www.stereophile.com/content/dcs-rossini-transport-sacdcd-transport

 

Jay's Audio CDT2-MkII CD transport.

https://www.6moons.com/audioreviews2/jaysaudio/1.html

Also:

 

http://www.luxman.com/product/#Digitalplayer

 

http://www.accuphase.com/digital_source.html

 

All current models


AS Profile Equipment List        Say NO to MQA

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How about a hybrid from PS Audio:)

https://www.psaudio.com/product-category/disc-player/

or MSB:

http://www.msbtechnology.com/transports/

 

I don't own any of these above, but if I'm feeling nostalgic for spinning disks I can

pop a CD/SACD/DVD-A in my Oppo with an Audiopriase digital output board.

http://audiopraise.com/products.php

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4 hours ago, FredericV said:

We did that test. More specific one of my resellers did the test.
 

Tube glow



I can state that the music server source we produce, beats his very expensive CEC drive costing 28.000 € according to my reseller.

This source (432 EVO MASTER) was taken to the Munich show in 2017, in the Aries Cerat Room, and also this CEC transport and a Vyger turntable was installed in the demo room in the MOC. We only played with the server and vinyl. The room won best of show from Hifi Pig & AVShowrooms.

We also ripped a Bach CD in his Belgian demo room, than played it from the server vs live played on the CEC both using his Aries Cerat DAC, and the server had more depth and soundstage. Server was in bitperfect mode.

Do not expect it to be very easy to build something that will beat his CEC. Probably windows is not going to cut it, and you'll need a custom Linux build like what we did and a lot of tuning, your own PSU design, .... But it's not impossible.

Stop promoting your own products. 


Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing Polestar | Quick Community Reviews and Ratings

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