CD player

LuShLuSh Posts: 887
edited December 2003 in 2 Channel Audio
A few months ago a couple of people lent me their thoughts on cd players. I set out this morning with my Sony SACD E775 5 disc under my arm and went to my local dealer.

It's been awhile since I've posted so I'll refresh some people's memory. I bought Polk Audio LSi9's about 5months ago. I have them currently hooked up to a NAD 320BEE intergrated amp. My source was a Sony SACD player. I had heard from a number of people that the source (cd player/vinyl) is often overlooked and is the heart of any good system.

I had my eyes on a couple of players. Namely the NAD 521i and 541i. There is about $300 difference between the players. The 521i has a 20 bit dac, and the 541i has a 24 bit dac, among other things. I brought in my Sony and hooked it up to a NAD 320BEE amp and pushed a pair of Floor standing Monitor Audio's. I put in my Nirvana CD and we were off.

I had selected Nirvana with reason. I dont listen to Mozart, jazz or Blues. I like my Rock. And regardless of most StereoTypes, I care about how my rock sounds. This best of Nirvana CD has a couple of live performances which I've heard over and over again. I'm very comfortable with it. Some of the Acoustic performances on the CD are quite nice.

The first thing I noticed was how unforgiving the Monitor Audio's were with the Sony CD player as a source. The sound was very flat, perhaps dull. The bass response seemed thin. My Polk's were more forgiving, again I know these recordings inside out. After 15mins of the Sony, we hooked up the NAD 521i and I was allowed to sit back and listen once again. Right away I noticed how the soundstage had openned up. But to my amazement it was the bass response that had me scratching my head. I made sure the volume was at the same position. It was clear the NAD cd player had a higher gain, so I used my ear and set it to a position which was equal to the Sony's. Still the bass seemed so much tighter, deeper and accurate. I had envisioned sweeter highs and more of a soundstage. It was the bass characteristics that had me amazed. The Monitor Audio's started to really sound like a good speaker. They were open, natural and deeper. The difference between the Sony and NAD 521i was indeed great. Next up was the $300 more NAD 541i. Again an improvement but not as great, as I had experienced minutes earlier. But bass, soundstage and treble were all improved over the NAD 521i. The Monitor Audios started to really open up now and I got the impression they wanted to say "thank-you" after a few mintues of listening.

The NAD 521BEE is a new CD player (coming out in a couple of weeks) which is an upgrade of the 521i and is said to be closer to the 541i. I knew I was either gettin the 541i or the latest 521BEE. The 521i was very nice, and did offer a huge improvement over the Sony, but I didn't want to question myself. After some bartering, I got my brand new NAD 541i at about $125 off the tag price. I've had this puppy home now for about 8hours, and I've had music running for 6hr's of it. My system sounds fantastic. The Polks are a more forgiving speaker, but the differences are still there. The soundstage, and mainly the bass has been oh so much better. I really can't explain how shocked I was at the difference in bass response. I just didn't see it coming. My speakers have impact now and mid range is incredible.

Speakers have different tonal characters to them, and speaker A WILL sound much more different then Speaker B. However I am convinced now more then ever that your source is actually the most important part of the equation. Yes, there are less sonic differences within the same prices ranges, BUT there are huge improvements from one price point, to the next with CD players, dare I say even more so then Speakers.

At any rate, I'm happy, i'd like to thank those who added input a couple months ago. thanks.
Post edited by LuSh on

Comments

  • danger boydanger boy Posts: 15,888
    edited December 2003
    very nice read.... sounds like you replaced your Sony SACD with the NAD right?

    Source players are very important... that's for dang sure.. but I would have to disagree and say that your receiver/pre amp is really the heart of a good system. You can have a great CD player.. but if it's hooked up to a so so receiver. it's not going to let it's true brilliance shine.. just my thoughts.

    In reality.. all components that make up a good or great home theater are equally as important.. same can be said for a 2 channel music only rig too.
    PolkFest 2012, who's going>?
    Vancouver, Canada Sept 30th, 2012 - Madonna concert :cheesygrin:
  • dorokusaidorokusai Posts: 25,487
    edited December 2003
    Lush - Yea, what did you do? Don't leave us hanging. :)

    I agree, its the gear that creates the whole relationship. Mis-matches can really turn things ugly.

    I always thought that Sony sounds "clinical", not a huge amount of "life", unless mated with some warmer sounding speakers. I consider RTi's warm, and they compliment the Sony ES perfectly. I also have really liked this NAD setup I have....certainly my favorite to date.
    CTC BBQ Amplifier, Sonic Frontiers Line3 Pre-Amplifier and Wadia 581 SACD player. Speakers? Always changing but for now, Mission Argonauts I picked up for $50 bucks, mint.
  • organorgan Posts: 5,022
    edited December 2003
    Congrats on the purchase Lush:). I've owned the C541 for about 2 years and still love it today. Like you, the first thing that caught my attention is the amount of bass and slam. After that came the soundstage, clarity and mids. You should try some HDCD recordins on that CD player.

    Maurice
    CD Player: Original CD-A8T
    Receiver: Harman/Kardon HK3390
    Speakers: Polk Audio RT1000p
    "I would rather have a cup of tone than an ocean of power" **Dr. Harvey Rosenberg**
  • dorokusaidorokusai Posts: 25,487
    edited December 2003
    Duh....he actually did say what he bought DB.... I feel silly :D

    The NAD C541, sweet.
    CTC BBQ Amplifier, Sonic Frontiers Line3 Pre-Amplifier and Wadia 581 SACD player. Speakers? Always changing but for now, Mission Argonauts I picked up for $50 bucks, mint.
  • steveinazsteveinaz Posts: 19,060
    edited December 2003
    Now the NAD C542 is out, about $449 at AudioLab. I've been looking VERY closely at this player as I'm in the market too. NAD claims more innovations inside, though I think its probably mainly minor cosmetic changes. They've also addressed some complaints with the remote on the new model.
  • Tour2maTour2ma Old School Posts: 10,176
    edited December 2003
    LuSH,

    While I'm happy for your purchase and the jollies it's bringing you, sorry, but I just don't see speakers as secondary to anything in a rig.

    Speakers are about 80% of the sound equation in my book. In saying this I am not going to argue that you can't mismatch gear, I think you can. A given source might emphasize/ de-emphasize the same frequency ranges as speakers and not be a good match. But with multiple sources, the neutrality of the speakers is paramount.

    What I read above is that to your ear your 9's are more neutral than the Monitor Audio's and that the NAD masked the MA's shortcomings better than your Sony. Note that this difference lessened with your 9's.
    More later,
    Tour...
    Vox Copuli
    Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. - Old English Proverb

    "It's easy to get lost in price vs performance vs ego vs illusion." - doro
    "There is a certain entertainment value in ripping the occaisonal (sic) buttmunch..." - TroyD
    "Death doesn't come with a Uhaul." - Dennis Gardner
  • LuShLuSh Posts: 887
    edited December 2003
    Tour2ma.

    No, The LSi's didn't have anything over the MA's, they just hid inferior sources better. You could argue if you wanted to the MA's are better for not masking anything.

    My point. Is CD SOURCE is the most important part of the equation. Speakers as a whole have a wide range of influence on your systems sonics. However, it has been my experience that money should be alloted to source as much as any other part of your system. In 2channel at least. You could review any number of different $700 CD players and for the most part they will sound the same. You could review any number of $700 speakers and they will sound quite different. The point though is that'd I recommend a $700 CD player mated with $150 speakers before I'd recommend a $150 CD player with $700 speakers. Would I seriously recommend either? No, but by the same token if push came to shove I'd recommend getting the best possible source every time. Just as I would recommend a person buying $150 speakers mated with a CD player over a $700 speaker set mated with an 8-track. Your speakers should be delivering what your source is telling your amp to feed them.

    At any rate, Im happy. And I suggest anybody that has spent alot on speakers to look into a better source before even touching cables, interconnects or wiring.
  • Tour2maTour2ma Old School Posts: 10,176
    edited December 2003
    Old school rule 2 ch of thumb was 50% of budget for speakers...

    We can agree on the cables and agree to disagree on speakers... Deal?
    More later,
    Tour...
    Vox Copuli
    Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. - Old English Proverb

    "It's easy to get lost in price vs performance vs ego vs illusion." - doro
    "There is a certain entertainment value in ripping the occaisonal (sic) buttmunch..." - TroyD
    "Death doesn't come with a Uhaul." - Dennis Gardner
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