Observations on the DACs of CDPs & DVDPs

Wharfedale Linton Heritage Speakers

roszmoef

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Leaving aside the all-in-one audio systems I owned, the first separate I owned was a Sansui EDP-550-S DVD Player. I didn't know what DAC it used, but the sound quality was horrible!

Couple of years later, I bought a Philips DV-625K. This was one gem of a player, although little slow in loading movie DVDs. There was a significant improvement in the sound quality, and I was using it as a source for my first serious audio system. Philips boasted that this had a 192 KHz/24 bit DAC, and hence the improved quality of sound. The build quality was not much to speak about, and back in 2003, the player costed about Rs.7,000/- (I understand that now, you can get almost the same thing for about Rs.3,000/-)

My next "upgrade" was to a TEAC C-1D (the "Distinction" series of TEAC). The player was well built with brushed aluminium facia. The internals were meticulously organized, and it had the centrally mounted, legendary, TEAC transport. It was a pure audio CD player (did not even entertain the MP3s and unfinished CDs), and when I look back now, I feel that this player was grossly under-priced by TEAC (Rs.12,000/- towards 2004 end), struggling then to enter the "mid-level" audiophile market (eventhough its sister-brand TASCAM, and the TEAC Esoteric series were well known names in the high-end audiophile circles). This player had this "1-bit DAC" thing, together with a "16-bit, 8 times oversampling digital filter". The bass this player delivered was most authentic, close to that in the live performances I have heard. The overall resolution was very good, and a tad more than what the Philips DV-625K could deliver. However, this model was short lived in the market, and when the push-button for power on /off of the player broke, I could not get it repaired. For quite sometime, I was switching it on and off from the mains power switch, not willing to let go the player!

Then came a Pioneer DV-676A universal player, which boasted of DAD-A and SACD playing capabilities. I bought this, since I wanted to do away with the clutter of having too many players around. But I am sorry to say, despite the good reviews it was given, particularly in the Australian hifi magazines, everytime I connected this player as a source instead of the TEAC C-1D, I regretted, and reverted back to the TEAC. Once again, the Pioneer boasted of a 192 KHz/24 bit DAC. But its sound could never match that of Philips DV-625K, though the Pioneer was a much costlier player.

Recently, I acquired a Denon DCD 700AE. Denon boasts of several advanced features, such as "pure-direct" mode, a 192 KHz/24 bit Burr-Brown DAC, curve-shaping etc., found otherwise only in its very advanced models. The player sounded smooth, and I could make out the lyrics in some songs where the singer almost murmured, which I could not do with the TEAC C-1D. But that is it, and no more! I can honestly say, that there was no phenomenal sound improvement with the Denon DCD 700AE over the TEAC C-1D, or for that matter over even my old Philips DV-625K, not withstanding the "stellar" reviews the Denon got in some audio magazines! The build quality though, is very good!

My conclusion : Do not worry about how many KHz and how many bit DAC your CDP / DVDP has got. The way these technologies are implemented is more important that the technologies per se. Listening is believing. Concentrate only on the sound, and the build quality. Sometimes, depending upon the implementation, a Rs.3,000/- DVD player may sound almost as good as a Rs.25,000/- dedicated CD player, though it may not have the same build quality.
 
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Guns

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A very nice observations, sometime back even i did a AB on a Philips DVD costing Rs 3000 and an expensive Denon SACD player and hardly noticed any difference in SQ i initally thought my hearing had a problem(no golden ears) but after reading this thread my doubts have confirmed.
 

smedhavi

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My Denon AVR 2809 with all the "pure direct" modes, AL24 plus processing, dual 32-bit DSPs etc., does not come close to the NAD amp (C372) and NAD CD players (C542 and even C521i) when it comes to playing a stereo CD. I have been doing some extensive comparisons on the DAC, preamp and power amp sections. Though it works well for movies with all the Audyssey features and HD audio decoding. Expect a report soon on this forum.

Thanks,
Sharad
 

marsilians

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... Denon boasts of several advanced features, such as "pure-direct" mode, a 192 KHz/24 bit Burr-Brown DAC, curve-shaping etc.,..

These are not advanced when compared to offerings by other CDP and Universal players over the past 5 years even.
As you might have observed, it takes many things to work together to produce good quality sound. Your sound is as good or a shade worse than the weakest component in your audio system. Here I am referring to a component as being either the CDP, speakers, amp, cables.

your observations and assertions will gain credibility if you state your system with greater detail. same with your assertion.

I do agree that reviews are biased to say the least.
 

SaurabhK

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A very nice observations, sometime back even i did a AB on a Philips DVD costing Rs 3000 and an expensive Denon SACD player and hardly noticed any difference in SQ i initally thought my hearing had a problem(no golden ears) but after reading this thread my doubts have confirmed.

What amplification and speakers did you use to test the players. It would greatly depend on that.If you used the TV speakers or a LOW-Fi speaker set up you will probabaly not hear any difference but if you say set up a good amp and speakers the difference will be clearly audible between a Philips dvd and a denon sacd player. Difference is night and day. You will not need any golden ears to tell the difference.
P.S- Its not only the Dac's which contribute to the sound. There are a lot of other electronics which greatly effect the SQ of a digital source.
 
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Guns

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What amplification and speakers did you use to test the players. It would greatly depend on that.If you used the TV speakers or a LOW-Fi speaker set up you will probabaly not hear any difference but if you say set up a good amp and speakers the difference will be clearly audible between a Philips dvd and a denon sacd player. Difference is night and day. You will not need any golden ears to tell the difference.
P.S- Its not only the Dac's which contribute to the sound. There are a lot of other electronics which greatly effect the SQ of a digital source.

The speakers and amplification used were of pro models(studio) and not lowfi and 2 cds of the same song was played with a 4 sec difference and switched between DVD & SACD player and checked throughly, the result i found was no difference. i would have been happy even if there was 10% difference in SQ.
 

SaurabhK

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Did you play the Denon right out of the box or did you do the test after a good burn in. Most players sound crappy right out of the box.
 

SaurabhK

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im very surprised at the DENON . Recently upgraded from a philips Chapathi DVD to a Cambridge Audio DV99. Difference is night and day even on these 2 dvd players. And yours is a full fledged high end CD player. The difference after Burn in was significant.
 
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Guns

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how do audiophiles measure SQ difference in %age?

regards

The same way like day and night (LOL) let me put it audiophlie language even if the difference was between dawn and morning i would have been happy.(LOL)
 

anm

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That's a good reply :)

I can tell the difference myself between day and night, and sometimes between dawn and morning - but I am still not sure how will I compute the %age ;)

The same way like day and night (LOL) let me put it audiophlie language even if the difference was between dawn and morning i would have been happy.(LOL)
 

hifiashok

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how do audiophiles measure SQ difference in %age?

regards

i second this question.

i don't mind going over to try and understand this, if convenient.

anm, i see you too are in delhi. would sincerely appreciate any education you can impart.

hey! SaurabhK is also Delhi!!! ditto request as made to anm. am a newbie.
 
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anm

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I am completely uneducated when it comes to audiophile/ golden ears, so I asked the question.
How to compute %age is still unanswered, but Guns has responded that he can tell difference between dawn and morning, and doesn't need to carry an photometer to tell the difference. I agreed to that and said I too can tell the difference with my eyes, and I so I may also be able to tell difference with my hearing.

But how to calculate %age is still unanswered.

regards


i second this question.

i don't mind going over to try and understand this, if convenient.

anm, i see you too are in delhi. would sincerely appreciate any education you can impart.

hey! SaurabhK is also Delhi!!! ditto request as made to anm. am a newbie.
 

moserw

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I did visit Guns yesterday and he played a track from Minsaara Kanavu on his budget Philips DVD via Rotel amp and JBL speakers. The difference was indeed night and day when compared to others places/sources/setups I have heard the same tracks played over the years which have mainly been mid-fi systems, PCs, etc.

Guns, (I think) your Philips DVDP is connected via digital out so all processing is done at the amp end and not the CDP or in this case the DVDP hence probably no difference between the Philips and the Denon if both were using a digital out to the amp (at least that's what I am assuming so correct me if I am wrong).
 

ajinkya

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Did you play the Denon right out of the box or did you do the test after a good burn in. Most players sound crappy right out of the box.

This concept of 'burn-in' is a myth for electronics. Switching times for these are in milli to microsecs. There is no need to 'burn' anything. I can somewhat understand the period for speakers since they have mechanical parts that can change over time. Not so much for today's electronics. Valves ... I may still try to understand engineering-wise. Not CD players or solid-state amps.
 

SaurabhK

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This concept of 'burn-in' is a myth for electronics. Switching times for these are in milli to microsecs. There is no need to 'burn' anything. I can somewhat understand the period for speakers since they have mechanical parts that can change over time. Not so much for today's electronics. Valves ... I may still try to understand engineering-wise. Not CD players or solid-state amps.

Im sorry But i beg to disagree. I m only stating what I heard when the player was new which was horrible and how the player slowly opened up as the unit got burned in. Vocals,bass all improved considerably.
 

SaurabhK

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I am completely uneducated when it comes to audiophile/ golden ears, so I asked the question.
How to compute %age is still unanswered, but Guns has responded that he can tell difference between dawn and morning, and doesn't need to carry an photometer to tell the difference. I agreed to that and said I too can tell the difference with my eyes, and I so I may also be able to tell difference with my hearing.

But how to calculate %age is still unanswered.

regards

HI anm. There is not %age which can be measured LOL. Its only your ears which can start discerning differences in SQ over a period of time and the more equipement you are lucky enough to hear the more the comparitive parameters you can note to compare those differences . Nuthing else.
 

anm

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Did you compare to another source in that setup?
BTW, which was night and which was day, and which was better? Do you prefer night over days or otherwise :)

regards

I did visit Guns yesterday and he played a track from Minsaara Kanavu on his budget Philips DVD via Rotel amp and JBL speakers. The difference was indeed night and day when compared to others places/sources/setups I have heard the same tracks played over the years which have mainly been mid-fi systems, PCs, etc.

Guns, (I think) your Philips DVDP is connected via digital out so all processing is done at the amp end and not the CDP or in this case the DVDP hence probably no difference between the Philips and the Denon if both were using a digital out to the amp (at least that's what I am assuming so correct me if I am wrong).
 
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anm

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or could it be that your ears got burnt into this electronics and ultimately you started liking it? :D

Im sorry But i beg to disagree. I m only stating what I heard when the player was new which was horrible and how the player slowly opened up as the unit got burned in. Vocals,bass all improved considerably.
 
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