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Computer audio and dedicated CD Player - Confused!

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Miany

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Oct 19, 2009
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Kollam, Kerala
Hi All,

I have seen numerous threads on the same and most of the things have already been discussed in detail. But, just wanted to know couple of things. Before jumping to the questions, here is my setup.

Creek Evolution 50CD Player with DAC.
Exposure 3010S2 Pre-Amp.
Exposure 3010S2 Power-Amp.
Dali Ikon 6 MK2 Speakers.
QED Reference one RCA cables.
Audioquest Rocket 33 Speaker cables.
AND a not-so-bad USB cable (dont know the brand).

Since the CD player has got a DAC, i tried using the DAC (through USB). I used flacs ripped from the audio CDs that i have and compared with audio cd playback. Though i cannot say the USB playback was bad, Audio CD being better is what i felt.

Laptop - Acer Aspire E1-470P
Software - Foobar with WASAPI(EVENT mode) with fidelizer with optimization level set to "audiophile". Volume level has been set to 0.0 dB. Replaygain has been disabled too. Bitrate has been set to 24 bit (my DAC accepts a maximum of 24bit 96KHz signal through USB).

Now, this is what bothers me. Why is the quality not comparable to CD? I am feeding bit-perfect data (at least this is what i believe) to the DAC, which is an asynchronous DAC, ensuring very low timing issues and jitter (at least not to make any audible differences). The same DAC is getting used in CD playback as well.

What am i doing wrong? Any other suggestions? Will there be an increase in sound quality if i use a high-end USB cable? Please give your inputs.

Thanks,
Miany
 
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musicbee

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You can give JRiver a try, I've found it better than Foobar.

Also, enable RAM playback in JRiver. You can try that option in Foobar too.

Only thing additional I can think of is improving the "transport" by adding an SSD, preferably for the OS, but better for the files too... but this is an expensive proposition.

No experience with USB DACs. I use onboard soundcard, Oppo and AVR and personally prefer the soundcard + JRiver, but many in my family prefer the Oppo.
 

cyber_cat

Active Member
Joined
May 19, 2008
Messages
228
Points
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Location
Bangalore
Hi All,

I have seen numerous threads on the same and most of the things have already been discussed in detail. But, just wanted to know couple of things. Before jumping to the questions, here is my setup.

Creek Evolution 50CD Player with DAC.
Exposure 3010S2 Pre-Amp.
Exposure 3010S2 Power-Amp.
Dali Ikon 6 MK2 Speakers.
QED Reference one RCA cables.
Audioquest Rocket 33 Speaker cables.
AND a not-so-bad USB cable (dont know the brand).

Since the CD player has got a DAC, i tried using the DAC (through USB). I used flacs ripped from the audio CDs that i have and compared with audio cd playback. Though i cannot say the USB playback was bad, Audio CD being better is what i felt.

Laptop - Acer Aspire E1-470P
Software - Foobar with WASAPI(EVENT mode) with fidelizer with optimization level set to "audiophile". Volume level has been set to 0.0 dB. Replaygain has been disabled too. Bitrate has been set to 24 bit (my DAC accepts a maximum of 24bit 96KHz signal through USB).

Now, this is what bothers me. Why is the quality not comparable to CD? I am feeding bit-perfect data (at least this is what i believe) to the DAC, which is an asynchronous DAC, ensuring very low timing issues and jitter (at least not to make any audible differences). The same DAC is getting used in CD playback as well.

What am i doing wrong? Any other suggestions? Will there be an increase in sound quality if i use a high-end USB cable? Please give your inputs.

Thanks,
Miany
All I can say is do a blind test you will be surprised at the results.
 

Miany

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Messages
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Location
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Fine. i can give JRiver a try. But i have one question ...

Foobar with WASAPI is giving bit-perfect data, so will JRiver, right? What difference can JRiver bring in additionally that can make a difference in sound quality?
 

musicbee

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Fine. i can give JRiver a try. But i have one question ...

Foobar with WASAPI is giving bit-perfect data, so will JRiver, right? What difference can JRiver bring in additionally that can make a difference in sound quality?
Probably DSP or the lack of... don't know but using same setup and using RAM playback in both, you can still perceive a difference. I would not call it sound signature... just a tad bit more detail in JRiver and also smoother playback. In other words Foobar can cause fatigue. Myself I perceive JRiver offers a little bit more detail... friends I've set it up for tell me it offers a lot more detail and fuller bass too. You have to test it out for yourself.
 

cyber_cat

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Pardon my ignorance. What is blind test?
What I meant was listen to the same songs through cdp and PC to dac

Ask someone to alternate between PC and CDP without your knowledge and find out which you like. keep a note of which you liked and compare your results in the end.

Idea is for you to not know the source.

Thanks.
 

panditji

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Location
Faridabad (suburb of Delhi)
I agree with you completely and have been facing the same situation...I have a NAD 521 BEE CD player bought 10 years ago and CDs played through the CDP have always sounded better compared to high rez files played by DACs (none above Rs. 60,000) even though the DAC inside the CDP is more than 10 years old....
 

Miany

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Messages
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Points
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Location
Kollam, Kerala
What I meant was listen to the same songs through cdp and PC to dac

Ask someone to alternate between PC and CDP without your knowledge and find out which you like. keep a note of which you liked and compare your results in the end.

Idea is for you to not know the source.

Thanks.
I have done this! Still CDP is sounding better. The changes are evident even otherwise also. The overall detail, tightness of bass etc are easily recognizable to be having a advantage when CDP is used.
 

reignofchaos

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It is quite possible that the usb implementation of the cd player was added as an afterthought and is quite bad. Hence the cd transport sounds better.
 
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ranjeetrain

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Miany,

On several occasions I have had the opportunity to do a CD Player vs Computer File Playback comparison. CD Players I have had the opportunity to use during this comparison have ranged between Meridian/Wadia to Marantz TOTL to vintage Sony. Overall setup themselves have been between approx Rs 3 Lac to Rs 1 Crore+. I would be lying if I said I felt CD playback was "better".

CD players, like any other audio component, can be voiced differently. So can be DACs. Anything that has an analog output stage can be voiced as the designer wishes. So, if you like the presentation from a CD player A vs a DAC B, then there could be many possibilities.

(a) You prefer the 'presentation' of the CD player or it's a genuinely better player.

(b) The DAC (if another separate component) is relatively lower quality, or has a 'different presentation' than what you like.

(c) If you are using the DAC section of the CD player for the comparison, its inputs may not be as good as required for the incoming bit-stream to sound the same.

(d) Your transport (computer used for playback) isn't doing as good a job as it possibly can.

(e) The USB link could also be a possibility (though this should be least probable).

What I can suggest you is - go for a DAC with Asynchronous input and voicing to your liking. I have a feeling you may like the sound of NOS DACs. Leave aside computer configuration for a while, just focus on the DAC that has a sound that you like.

All the best!


PS: You can get a lot more out of your system by getting yourself a better IC.
 

Nikhil

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Setting up a computer transport is not as trivial as it appears to be. You may have to try out different combinations before you get to a sound level you are looking for - in this case better than the CDP. Truth be told, it takes a very serious system to fully exploit regular 16/44.1 CD playback.

However after moving to computer audio I have never looked back ...

Using a good media software like Foobar or JRiver is a start.
Lot's of options available in setting up which is a subject by itself.
One of the best advantages over CDP here is ability to use hires files along with massive convenience of library management.
Another is the ability to use DSP to compensate for speaker type and placement / room conditions.

I didn't see significant improvement over CD playback until I used a dedicated DAC.
Only very high end players have quality DACs that are capable of standing toe to toe with a dedicated DAC.

I wasn't a believer in USB cables until I started experimenting with them last year. The difference between a well implemented USB cable and regular USB is easily noticeable. For best results, I would suggest a dual conduit type USB cable which separates the power from the data leg.

Another option is to use something like the iFi USB power which cleans up the power completely.

The next level is using USB converters - an area all by itself. You can go from something very effective like iFi Audio iLink to a Berkely Audio Alpha USB


Did I say using a Computer Transport was not trivial? Enjoy the journey!!
 

amit11

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While cd playing, it is pure 16/44.1

While using the DAC of cd and feeding it data from laptop, the DAC is doing the up- sampling and hence changing the sound.

Just a thought and possibility.
 

Rastapopulus

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A computer is doing a lot more than your music playback, this is bound to have some bit of noise and distortion being added to the music.

As someone above mentioned, an async mode used by a well designed USB DAC will re clock the data and provide better resolution.

Also, there is a noticeable difference that will be heard depending on the actual DAC chip being used and the topology of the DAC design.

A nice and relatively cheaper way could be introducing a NAS like the Synology to be the source.
This will give you dedicated source and options of using USB vs DLNA. Additionally, your capacity for storage can be increased based on need in the future.
One more benefit of a dedicated NAS is the ability to stream hi resolution music anywhere in the globe without needing a static IP [emoji2]
 

koushik

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It is quite possible that the usb implementation of the cd player was added as an afterthought and is quite bad. Hence the cd transport sounds better.
+1.

I was thinking on the same line.

Try an external DAC and feed them both using the same input of the DAC and then and only then that can be a fair comparison.

Also, to my ear too, JRiver sounds better than Foobar2000. Although, Foobar in itself is also very good player.
 

Miany

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Location
Kollam, Kerala
It is quite possible that the usb implementation of the cd player was added as an afterthought and is quite bad. Hence the cd transport sounds better.
In my case, i am using evolution 50CD player from Creek. From what i understand, its more of a "DAC + CD transport" than a "CD player with USB input". 99% i am believing that the DAC section is a discrete module and does not care if that is getting the "bits" from CD or through USB. Ofcourse, the creek designers can only confirm this.

I strongly suspect one of these.

- The claimed "bit-perfect" output is not really "bit-perfect". But WASAPI guarantees that. Right?
- The "bit-perfect" data from my laptop's USB port is not reaching as "bit-perfect" data at the DAC's end. I am using a "not-so-great" local USB cable now. Will upgrading that to a high-end USB cable make any difference? Also, any software out there which can actually do a bit-wise comparison and say that my USB port is indeed outputting a bit-perfect equivalent of my flac file? I think i am asking too much :)
 

reignofchaos

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In my case, i am using evolution 50CD player from Creek. From what i understand, its more of a "DAC + CD transport" than a "CD player with USB input". 99% i am believing that the DAC section is a discrete module and does not care if that is getting the "bits" from CD or through USB. Ofcourse, the creek designers can only confirm this.

I strongly suspect one of these.

- The claimed "bit-perfect" output is not really "bit-perfect". But WASAPI guarantees that. Right?
- The "bit-perfect" data from my laptop's USB port is not reaching as "bit-perfect" data at the DAC's end. I am using a "not-so-great" local USB cable now. Will upgrading that to a high-end USB cable make any difference? Also, any software out there which can actually do a bit-wise comparison and say that my USB port is indeed outputting a bit-perfect equivalent of my flac file? I think i am asking too much :)
From this pdf:
http://www.creekaudio.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Evolution-50CD-V1.6.pdf

It appears that the usb input has the following specs:

1 x USB class 1.0 Audio, 24 Bit 96 kHz asynchronous, galvanically isolated.

These specs normally point to a USB implementation based on the Tenor TE7022L.

TE7022L - GFEC

Not the best chip out there to be honest. You are better off with something based on XMOS. You probably will get better sound using an m2tech hiface or a similar converter.
 

Miany

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Messages
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Location
Kollam, Kerala
From this pdf:
http://www.creekaudio.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Evolution-50CD-V1.6.pdf

It appears that the usb input has the following specs:

1 x USB class 1.0 Audio, 24 Bit 96 kHz asynchronous, galvanically isolated.

These specs normally point to a USB implementation based on the Tenor TE7022L.

TE7022L - GFEC

Not the best chip out there to be honest. You are better off with something based on XMOS. You probably will get better sound using an m2tech hiface or a similar converter.
There will be better DACs out there. Not denying that. But what i am concerned here is that the same DAC when used with the internal CD transport is giving a better SQ than when used with USB input.
 

Mayank Shah

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I am new here and was reading all the posts regarding DAC / USB and using a PC as a transport for Flac. A few days back I got a brand new NAD 356 BEE with inbuilt DAC modue.

As I listen to heavy metal and rock mostly so I took my amp and checked out Klipsch. The sound was horrible and I know there is nothing wrong with the speakers, as it played like a dream on the Demo CD player.

1. I hooked up my laptop to the NAD USB (Type B) and was using VLC Media player. Something which I did not understand that i was able to control the volume and the EQ on VLC. Now how do I know what would be the appropriate input volume into the amp without frying it. After more reading I came across the WASAPI plugin for Foobar. Have downloaded it and yet to check it out.

2. As the NAD has a USB type B input, I had a few of the normal printer cables. I used all of them but the sound from the klipsch was crap. NAD manual had me download NAD USB driver which I did but the SQ was crap.

3. Suspecting my laptop setup and cable. I ordered a new cable from Amazon BlueRigger SuperSpeed USB 3.0 (Type A Male to Type B Male) Cable (6 Feet / 1.8 Meters): Amazon.in: Electronics, but the type B connector is different from the normal printer ones which NAD accepts.

4. Had ripped some of my CD's to FLAC and now I will be taking those CD's along to see the difference. Also have ripped some CD's to pure uncompressed "WAV" format and will see how it plays from the laptop.

5. Have not come across any special USB type B cable. Maybe I am missing something in my search.

6. Getting the NAD was not my preferred option but due to unavoidable reasons, had to commit to it.

Dear FM's please help me out on this. Eagerly awaiting your inputs.
 
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