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Do CD players sound different to each other?

dorakeg

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CD players 20 years ago were usually audibly transparent. The tech has improved (cheaper, smaller, better numbers), yes. But if they were already audibly transparent 20 years ago, then all they are now is even more audibly transparent. In other words, they sound the same.

Yes, it's possible for different CD players to have audible signatures. But why would they do that? Doing so would mean purposefully messing up the design and altering the frequency response away from flat, or adding noise/distortion when it is unwanted. Any competent designer avoids those mistakes.

Now, on the other hand, the marketing team will take those designs and come up with all sorts of colorful prose telling customers why the more expensive players are better.

What is audibly transparent and how do you define it? What kind of measurements will differentiate between an audibly transparent and one that is not?
 

GXAlan

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What is audibly transparent and how do you define it? What kind of measurements will differentiate between an audibly transparent and one that is not?

Recap of thresholds
Lenient

Dynamic range, linearity: 96 dB
THD, IMD: -66 dBFS / 0.05%
Noise: -85 dBFS / 0.005%
SINAD: 85 dB
Crosstalk: -60 dBFS
Jitter: -110 dBFS, -100 dBFS around the main tone
Frequency response: ±0.5 dB
Channel balance: 1 dB
Output impedance: 2 ohms

Strict
Dynamic range, linearity, SINAD: 120 dB
THD, IMD, noise, crosstalk, jitter: -120 dBFS / 0.0001%
Frequency response, channel balance: ±0.1 dB
Output impedance: 0.16 ohms
 

GXAlan

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Thnks for the info!! I didn't know there are such modes in Marantz players!

These modes were really only available in the SA-7s1 and SA-11s2 since they were the right window of time before the 2008 global economic downturn. These are the only known examples of products using Seiko DACs as well.

They have no USB input so you pretty much have to use CDs you have or burn 16/44.1 files on your own. They do not read DSD disc, so you cannot simply burn DSD files on your own.

They are glorified auto-adaptive tone controls. But here’s the thing. That is exactly what’s great about tube amps and filter 2 in the SA-11s2 or SA-7s1. They are non linear, better than you or I can do to dynamically play with EQ.

Everything tells you this is stupid. And it would be if it’s your only source. But somehow it can be very enjoyable especially with lower quality recordings where you like the artistic content but not the technical component.

What is interesting is that all of the different filter options for DACs are hard to hear. But filter 2 definitely sounds different than filter 1 and it makes sense because the ”distortion dithering” definitely reaches the level of audibility.

It is also informative to hear what 1 bit audio sounds like:
https://audiosciencereview.com/foru...n-a-dbt-listening-test-rlj.36438/post-1278818

So the distortion that can be added with Marantz’s SA-7s1 and SA-11s2 paradoxically can sound good while measuring absolutely horrendously.

But again, it is essentially that this is user selectable. This is different from their receivers where you are forced into a specific digital filter or different from really poorly performing equipment that tries to brag about being premium.
 

EJ3

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Yes they can sound different. A marantz ki 17cd mk2 and a cd 63 se can sound quite different when level matched.

I'd imagine today's modern players sound much less different, assuming trying decent delta sigma dac equipped units of good build quality.
My first CD player (I was an early adopter on this) a MAGNAVOX/Philips sounded great. The next one I bought (a SONY carousel) was terrible. I still have never bought another SONY piece of audio gear. Later CD players (above the base ones, under $100-$200) sounded, to me, on my system, lesser that the $150+ ones. As to the ones over $200, if they were for individual CD's I could not tell any differences in sound. But features: yes. And for cars, all bets were off.
 
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EJ3

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CDs are also becoming sort of obsolete these days.
Boy are they out of touch where I live. I can only think of a few people I know that do not have something that plays CD's.
And I can only think of a few people I know that stream music in their home (using a stereo of some type, not a TV [most don't have the things needed to stream with, me included].
 

JaccoW

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Say what you will about Darko Audio but last week he polled his viewers and patreons:
Global Feedback: Do you still listen to CDs?
  • Youtube: 13,000 respondents
    • 49% Yes
    • 51% No
  • Patreon: 282 respondents
    • 59% Yes
    • 41% No
I still enjoy listening to CDs, especially since they offer great sound quality and are incredibly cheap to buy. Both second-hand as well as new.

One thing that does seem to become an issue is that higher end CD lasers and the mechanisms are no longer produced. So stocks will dwindle.
You already see this issue with certain SACD players. Once the laser or mechanism fails and needs to be replaced there are no parts anymore.
 

Dialectic

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One thing that does seem to become an issue is that higher end CD lasers and the mechanisms are no longer produced. So stocks will dwindle.
You already see this issue with certain SACD players. Once the laser or mechanism fails and needs to be replaced there are no parts anymore.
I tracked down a PS3 to rip my SACDs to ISO. Not easy to find them, and I believe I paid around $500 in 2013 or so, when they were more plentiful than they are today.
 

Capitol C

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wow! great job keeping it civil (on your side), I feel like that's a master class in how to deal with those types. I love how the one guy accuses you of "appeal to authority" fallacy, then a few posts later is like "I guess all the recording engineers are hearing things!" :facepalm:
One of my few virtues is a great enjoyment of irony. It's easier to be civil when you are having a chuckle!
 

Adi777

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I still enjoy listening to CDs, especially since they offer great sound quality and are incredibly cheap to buy. Both second-hand as well as new.
Are you sure? Incredibly cheap?
In future, I think about some good CD player, and a lot of CDs with music.
How many? Circa 2000, 3000 CD. Of course new CDs. It's circa 30 000 Euro, plus minus. I think so.
 

JaccoW

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I tracked down a PS3 to rip my SACDs to ISO. Not easy to find them, and I believe I paid around $500 in 2013 or so, when they were more plentiful than they are today.
You can do it with quite a few cheaper Sony blu-ray players. Insert USB with the script and run it over your home network. I picked up a cheap unit for €35 or so to do just that.
Are you sure? Incredibly cheap?
In future, I think about some good CD player, and a lot of CDs with music.
How many? Circa 2000, 3000 CD. Of course new CDs. It's circa 30 000 Euro, plus minus. I think so.
For most second-hand CDs you're still paying in the €1-2 range. Maybe €5 for the rarer stuff.
New CDs can be had for €8-15 most of the time. Vinyl is in the €20-40 range for the same album.

But gathering such an extensive collection is one you do over a couple of years/decades. I wouldn't even know how to store that many CDs right now.
 

pvehling

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Note that most portable players that had a buffer (anti-skip) often highly compressed the audio, so you weren't getting full CD quality from those players anyways. At least this was the way it was with Sony/Panasonic/etc discmans that had upwards of 10 seconds+ buffer for anti-skip.
 

Adi777

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You can do it with quite a few cheaper Sony blu-ray players. Insert USB with the script and run it over your home network. I picked up a cheap unit for €35 or so to do just that.

For most second-hand CDs you're still paying in the €1-2 range. Maybe €5 for the rarer stuff.
New CDs can be had for €8-15 most of the time. Vinyl is in the €20-40 range for the same album.

But gathering such an extensive collection is one you do over a couple of years/decades. I wouldn't even know how to store that many CDs right now.
Only new, I don't want Cds from second-hand. Years/decades? I don't think so. 2, max 3 years.
 

Dialectic

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You can do it with quite a few cheaper Sony blu-ray players. Insert USB with the script and run it over your home network. I picked up a cheap unit for €35 or so to do just that.

For most second-hand CDs you're still paying in the €1-2 range. Maybe €5 for the rarer stuff.
New CDs can be had for €8-15 most of the time. Vinyl is in the €20-40 range for the same album.

But gathering such an extensive collection is one you do over a couple of years/decades. I wouldn't even know how to store that many CDs right now.
Ah, my illicit SACD-ripping knowledge is embarrassingly out of date.

My 2006 vintage PS3 is still going strong!
 

pvehling

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To say there is no difference is misleading and wrong. Why do you think Amir tests all these devices? I've had garbage Walmart brand CD players that sound like AM radio, most likely due to terrible DAC chip implementation and SINAD of 40.

But on an average CD player (boombox, etc) with a decent output I doubt the average person would hear the difference, or even care.
 

EJ3

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Say what you will about Darko Audio but last week he polled his viewers and patreons:
Global Feedback: Do you still listen to CDs?
  • Youtube: 13,000 respondents
    • 49% Yes
    • 51% No
  • Patreon: 282 respondents
    • 59% Yes
    • 41% No
I still enjoy listening to CDs, especially since they offer great sound quality and are incredibly cheap to buy. Both second-hand as well as new.

One thing that does seem to become an issue is that higher end CD lasers and the mechanisms are no longer produced. So stocks will dwindle.
You already see this issue with certain SACD players. Once the laser or mechanism fails and needs to be replaced there are no parts anymore.
Check with Audio Proz, Watertown, MA
This is the current first page of 5 of their CD parts:
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cd transport assemblies, 3 available, new

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JVC XLV211​

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(5) DVD/video CD/ CD changer, Multi channel DSP, Headphones Jack. *RSN311W64 H3 080319 Audio power pack* AMP OK, plays DVD, CD, Audio output OK, NO TOP COVER, for parts/Pieces. #8 condition Unit does work but not certain of long term reliability.

$ 60 Contact Us


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Unit has high quality KSS 150 laser assembly. Unit has door issue, being sold for transport and electronics. Low use hours. Mechanics #9, Cosmetic #7, scratches on top and face.

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HARMAN/KARDON FL 8450​

Audio Proz Inv #: 59342​

Lense/laser assembly KSS-210A. Chassis KSM-2101 AAM. Complete unit with lense, laser, connectors and motors mounted on board. Motors are 2 Mabuchi RF-310T-11400 D/V 4.0 and D/V 5.9. Customer must reuse existing cable. Condition #9

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Pioneer PYY1113 laser​

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Whole laser assembly with motors and sled/cable. Transport is marked "89." New in original box, tested once by AP.

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DonR

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Why on earth not. I'm picking up CD's from charity shops for around £0.50, sometimes half that - not had a dud yet. If I ever do, I'll simply consider it a (very small) donation to the charity.
Our local thrift store sells them as well. They were 50c 2 years ago. $1 last year and are now $2. Lookout!!!!
 

MattHooper

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CD players 20 years ago were usually audibly transparent. The tech has improved (cheaper, smaller, better numbers), yes. But if they were already audibly transparent 20 years ago, then all they are now is even more audibly transparent. In other words, they sound the same.

Yes, it's possible for different CD players to have audible signatures. But why would they do that? Doing so would mean purposefully messing up the design and altering the frequency response away from flat, or adding noise/distortion when it is unwanted. Any competent designer avoids those mistakes.

Ok, playing a bit of Devil's Advocate in an attempt to answer your question (in bold).

When I was putting together my earlier "audiophile" systems in the 90's I was able to try out quite a lot of equipment, due to friendly dealers and/or fellow audio buddies lending me gear (or just buying it second hand and trying it myself). I'd used my wife's early Sony CD player up until that point as my source and ended up buying a second hand Meridian 508.20 (released in '93). The impression I had is that it seemed to produce slightly more focus/density and texture to the sound than the Sony CDP. I eventually acquired the Meitner Bidat DAC as well, and there just seemed to be a subtle but distinctly obvious difference - there was something a bit more "see through" or "diffuse" about the sonic presentation of the Sony and Meitner vs the Meridian. (The Meridian had an audiophile reputation of sounding "a bit more like vinyl/analog" and I wasn't spinning vinyl back then much, but...yeah...my memory of the sound is that it had some of the characteristics I hear in vinyl on my system).

Anyway, as I mentioned earlier, being skeptic-minded even back then I did couple of blind tests (level-matched with voltmeters at the speaker terminals, helped with the test by my father in law, an engineer and good with electronics), and it was a cinch to tell the Meridian from the Sony and Meitner Bidat DAC. It just had this slight extra texture and density to the sound that made things sound a tiny bit more solid and less see-through. A trait I have always sought in my sound systems.

So...it's up to you or anyone else whether to accept the account of the blind tests. But for sake of argument, presuming I heard the difference I thought, we move to "so why would any designer want a CD player to have an audible signature?" Well...perhaps some people may like that signature.
I did (apparently). Of course, if there was an audible difference maybe it was actually the Meridian 508.20 that was the accurate player and the other two less so. Dunno. But I did also acquire a Meridian 508.24 CD player - the next upgraded generation, wondering if I'd hear a difference. I did not test that one blinded though. But anecdotally: It measured very well in Stereophile (per JA) but it sounded to me more like the Sony and Meitner DACs - very neutral/transparent....but lacking that texture/density signature of the earlier Meridian 508.20. So I ended up selling the newer more expensive CDP to keep my older one.

So, there's one Devil's Advocate possible answer to your question. :)
 

Adi777

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Why not second-hand records? Because I want to be the first owner. New is new.
Such a question for experts. What affects the sound of the CD player the most?
A user from the Polish audio forum wrote to me that the quality of the CD itself. I guess not silly, huh?
 
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