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CD Transport vs Music Server


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Hello Everyone,

 

I am in the process of upgrading my digital front end. I am trying to decide whether to invest my $'s in a nice CD transport (e.g Jay's Audio, CEC TL2N) or a music server (e.g. Innuos Zenith Mk3, Mojo Audio Deja Vu etc). In an ideal world, one might invest in both, but for now, financially I can only do one. Putting considerations like convenience aside (e.g not having to physically place a CD into a transport, experiencing a ton of music off streaming services), from sonic performance standpoint, if one were to spend say $6K or so on a CD transport OR a music server, which one would yield a higher sonic performance? My assumption for the music server is that one is playing the music of a local file stored on the server (I've been told and read that streaming real-time off the internet performs worst than playing a local file). In either situation (CD transport vs music server playing a local file), I will be connecting directly to the same external DAC.

 

If this question has been addressed somewhere else, please point me to it. But I was hoping for folks who have done such a comparison and have decided to go one way or the other or did both, I would love to hear about your experiences and any insights you can share is much appreciated.  Thank you!

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As in most things audio, there's no consensus. Some say a good disc player sounds better than file playback, and vice versa.

My advice: think about what makes the most sense for YOU and how you consume/listen to music. Once you've decided that, get the best setup in that category you can afford. 

There is no "correct" answer.

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: RPi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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I want to share my experience.  My Marantz SA-10 CD/SACD player is also a DAC.  It can play music files though its USB drive input and can also take USB Audio input from streamer.  It took me a while to reach a stage where an external streamer using SA-10 as a USB DAC produces better sound quality versus playing music files with SA-10, and that's through a DIY streamer with music files stored in local SSD.

 

https://dranwarali.com/2021/06/06/audio-recording-01/

 

In your case, consider getting a streamer with local SSD and with digital audio output suitable for your existing DAC.  Having a streamer means you can also play high resolution audio, not limited to CD 16-bit 44.1kHz.

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On 6/6/2021 at 12:21 AM, longinc said:

Hello Everyone,

 

I am in the process of upgrading my digital front end. I am trying to decide whether to invest my $'s in a nice CD transport (e.g Jay's Audio, CEC TL2N) or a music server (e.g. Innuos Zenith Mk3, Mojo Audio Deja Vu etc). In an ideal world, one might invest in both, but for now, financially I can only do one. Putting considerations like convenience aside (e.g not having to physically place a CD into a transport, experiencing a ton of music off streaming services), from sonic performance standpoint, if one were to spend say $6K or so on a CD transport OR a music server, which one would yield a higher sonic performance? My assumption for the music server is that one is playing the music of a local file stored on the server (I've been told and read that streaming real-time off the internet performs worst than playing a local file). In either situation (CD transport vs music server playing a local file), I will be connecting directly to the same external DAC.

 

If this question has been addressed somewhere else, please point me to it. But I was hoping for folks who have done such a comparison and have decided to go one way or the other or did both, I would love to hear about your experiences and any insights you can share is much appreciated.  Thank you!

I've read a lot on this topic and I agree with @firedog, there is no consensus. It depends mostly on how heavy someone has gone into their main interest (and maybe mindset?). 

 

Since these technologies seem equally capable that's a win for streaming, for the reasons you mention; convenience and variety. Technically, USB and I2S done right are superior to CD/coax, because clocking is separate from the data stream and controlled by the DAC. Clocking has no effect on obvious things like bass or treble, but it affects PRaT, which is key to musicality and engagement.

 

I have a Cambridge Audio DiscMagic transport which I rarely use, because my Playpoint player sounds better. A better CD transport may be able to change that, but I won't be buying a better transport, ever. I ripped all my CD's to zero compression FLAC. It took on average about 5 minutes each, and all metadata was captured automatically. A couple of damaged CD's took several hours to rip, but I can play them now, whereas they are unlistenable in a CD transport. I ripped all my vinyl to 88/24. The last few music purchases I've made were 24/96 and I have a number of hi-res PCM and DSD files, not available with a CD transport. I enjoy mixing and matching and creating playlists, which is easy with streaming, not feasible with CD. 

 

I just sold my Audiolab CD player. I won't replace the old DiscMagic when it dies. If I need to play a CD for whatever reason, I have a couple of universal players and a Blu-ray drive for my headphone system. 

 

IME, CD's ripped and stored locally sound better than internet streaming via Tidal and Amazon. I believe MQA is a scam that will peter out. I have not tried Qobuz. I enjoy YouTube Music for its vast content and live performances that are not available with other music services. 

 

Get the server, CD is dying. 

“The best sounding audio product is the one that exhibits the least audible flaws.”

 Dr. Floyd Toole

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