CD player for Classical

Discussion in 'Digital Sources' started by duckrabbit, Apr 5, 2018.

  1. duckrabbit

    duckrabbit New Member

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    Greetings! I'm looking for a CD player that would fit well with this setup of mine:

    - NAD 3020 (original)
    - Usher S-520 II speakers

    Please recommend me a good CD player, new or old, for classical music. Budget around 400 EUR.

    This is my first hifi setup (though I've plenty of years with various studio monitors). I'm very fond of it, no desire to 'upgrade'. I mostly listen to vinyls (on a SL1200 mk5 with Grado DJ 200i, techno, hip hop, old jazz etc).

    But for classical (Pärt, Ligeti, Reich etc.) I prefer the sound of CD. So detail, clarity and air is what I'm looking for. I wish to hear the snap of strings and the punch of the brass. Since the NAD is pretty dark (but I love it's sound in general) something clear, vivid, fast would probably work well.

    I'm now using my PS2 slim analogue out for CDs. It sounds surprisingly good. Clearer, more vivid and punchy than my 13" MBP 2017 line out anyway. But the PS2 is a bit aggressive in the mids, e.g. piano gets a bit shouty and quickly fatiguing.

    I should note that I'm not looking for DACs. I do not like to stream or play digital files. I like to leave the computer in another room, pick up a CD, feel and smell the case, insert the disc to a nice CD player, browse the booklet, relax and listen to the album from start to finish.:)
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2018

     

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  2. savatage1973

    savatage1973 Addicted Member

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    What you have to realize is that a CD player with analogue outputs is actually three components in one--a transport (spins the CD and reads the disc), a DAC chipset (converts the 1's and 0's to an analogue signal), and an analogue preamp stage that brings the signal up to line level.

    From the sounds of it, you are hearing the differences in the analogue preamp stage. Some are opamps, some are discrete components, and others even implement tubes, and they will sound different from one another.

    I know you stated that you were not considering DACs, but any drive/transport with a digital output will bypass the internal DAC and analogue output stage and allow you to tailor that final analogue output stage. Basically, anything that spins and reads the CD and has a digital output is fair game--then you can select your DAC chipset and preamp combination with the external DAC unit. For classical music, I would recommend something with tubes, kind of for two reasons--tubes tend to be less "clinical" than SS, and you can easily "roll tubes" to get a sonic signature that fits your tastes. External DAC units are not just for phones/streaming/computers--they just convert digital to analogue and amplify a signal to line level, so you may want to do a little reading, and not dismiss them as a viable option.
     
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  3. duckrabbit

    duckrabbit New Member

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    Thanks for the reply, savatage.

    About DAC's: What I mean is that I don't want to use my computer as the sound souce and use an external DAC. Even less the PS2 Slim. I realize that route would offer versatile and cost effective possibilities but I'm just not interested in that for reasons explained above. Call me old fashioned. FYI, I've experience with external DACs (and ADCs) in the studio environment, currently own Apogee and MOTU audio interfaces.

    About tubes: I'm hesitant to combine tubes with the humble little 3020 which itself adds plenty of harmonics, albeit not as transparent as quality tubes. Wouldn't a very transparent, but not harsh, CDP work better? Moreover, can you get anything decent with tubes under 400 EUR?
    So again, what I'm looking is advice for matching the 3020 with a good CDP for mostly classical music. :rockon:

    Based on what I've read (not heard) so far, some olive-era Naims could fit the bill, price and soundwise. They look great too. Any thoughts?
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2018
  4. guiller

    guiller Toscaninichus Australis

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  5. BillWojo

    BillWojo AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Since you already have a transport, assuming it has a digital output, I would look for something like the Parasound D/AC-1000.
    It's an older DAC that works great with CD players and has a very good sound quality. Legendary BB PCM63 DAC chips and extreme build quality.
    Like you, I'm not moving away from CD's anytime soon. The Parasound DAC and a used CD player as a transport makes a great combination.

    BillWojo
     
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  6. duckrabbit

    duckrabbit New Member

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    Thanks everyone! I'll post here when I've decided and acquired the CDP. Might take a while though. Meanwhile more opinions welcome :)
     

     

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  7. Archguy

    Archguy Official Roiurama Factory Rep Subscriber

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    Welcome to AK duckrabbit. I like your taste in music!

    From your link:

    I'll say that again! Thanks for the ref--interesting component to say the least.

    ETA: Apparently they have a team now. From their website:
    "The Astin Trew design team are themselves passionate music lovers and music makers"
     
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  8. doctor fuse

    doctor fuse AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I also run a NAD 3020 in my bedroom system, and listen mainly to classical. The 3020 is such a lovely sounding little amp - I love listening to it.

    But I mostly listen to vinyl with it; it's phonostage is very nice. I have a Denon DCD-470 CD player hooked up to the NAD, and just today I compared a CD version of Reiner and Chicago playing Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra, to a second-rate vinyl pressing (Victrola budget reissue), and the vinyl version kicked the CD's butt. Nicer highs, more air and realistic sounds, the bass just as good.

    In my main system, I use a Denon DCD-670 with coaxial digital out, into a PS Audio Digital Link III DAC. This is a very nice sounding DAC, especially for classical music (to my ears, anyways).

    If you go the route of a CD player as a transport, into a good DAC, I recommend that the CD player has the RCA (coaxial) digital out, or both RCA and optical outs. This is because many DACs have one optical in, and one RCA in, and most digital devices today have optical out, so this input will get filled pretty quickly (I know you say you are not interested in streaming, etc, but best to plan ahead for changes of plans!).

    Hope that helps.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2018
  9. guiller

    guiller Toscaninichus Australis

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    I had the pleasure of interacting via e-mail with Michael Osborn a few years ago. He answered my questions clearly and in the kindest possible way!
     
  10. duckrabbit

    duckrabbit New Member

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    Thanks Archguy - my musical taste covers a rather wide spectrum, from rugged Detroit techno to jazz, but only recently I've discovered the fascinating world of 'modern' classical.

    doctor fuse, which turntable do you have? My SL1200 + Grado cart is great for electronic music and older jazz but it for classical I've found it too coloured and mellow. Very balanced and pleasant but rather soft on transients and acoustic instruments have less punch. E.g. my German pressing of John Adams' Chairman Dances sounds too laid back. I could get a better cart and change the original tonearm for something more hifi, of course. But I see big advantages in investing in CDs and a good CDP. For example, it seems that many albums in the classical genre were not released on vinyl or difficult to find in good shape for a reasonable price. CDs are cheaper too. And for some strange reason I've developed nostalgia for CDs.

    Currently I've started to collect the ECM Records catalogue, classical, modern jazz and world music. Well selected artists and performances and usually very well recorded. Many of those are released or reissued on vinyl though.

    A cheaper CDP option I've now come across is the Maranz CD-63 SE. Perhaps a good place to start?
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2018
  11. savatage1973

    savatage1973 Addicted Member

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    My apologies for such a simplistic response--with new members, you never know how much they know, so I hope I did not offend you in any way.

    Perhaps a DBX DX-5 (not tubed) or a Carver SD/A 490t (with tubes)--both offer options for their "sonic signature". I own both and they are my "daily drivers" for CD, although I am more of a vinyl and R2R person, but I do own a couple external DACs for other sources--one with tubes, the other is SS. Both of those CDPs should fall within your budget, but I don't know your market/location.
     

     

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  12. duckrabbit

    duckrabbit New Member

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    No need to apologise! Your reply was helpful and appropriate given the info you had. I could have of course given a better introduction of myself.

    I am in the EU. Will check your recommendations.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2018
  13. doctor fuse

    doctor fuse AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    In my main system I use a Thorens TD160 with a Benz Micro Wood SL, into Benz Micro PP-1 MC preamp.

    The NAD now uses a cheap CEC BD-2000 with a NOS Grado XF-3 cartridge. I was using a Dual 1009 SK2 but it just self-destructed a few weeks ago. I miss it, and will try to fix it in the summer when I have some time. But I am not much of a mechanic, so I might have to take it to someone. It ran an Excel ES70EX4 cartridge. I might try my Grado Green1 with 8MZ stylus on the CEC deck. I am amazed at the sound this old turntable makes - it sings. And for $30 CAD!

    Which Grado do you use? I find them very effective for classical music. Very dynamic, with good highs and bass. I like the warm midrange they possess. Is yours aligned properly? I have found fiddling with cartridge setup really pays off in dividends in terms of sound quality.

    But I hear you about all the more modern recordings that aren't available on vinyl, and the lack of surface noise and imperfections sure is nice. But my ears just don't respond to most digital recordings as intently as they do with a good LP.
     
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  14. duckrabbit

    duckrabbit New Member

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    Grado DJ200i. Got them for dj'ing, they are among the best sounding dj carts available, and supposedly they have the 'grado' sound. They are probably not aligned perfectly, I've only adjusted (1) the weight so that the needle barely keeps in place through the punchiest kick drums and (2) anti-skating, i.e. making sure the needle doesn't slide either way when dropping it on the flat surface of the vinyl.

    Now that I'm moving more towards hifi, I could consider various upgrades to the SL 1200 mk5. But I wish to sort this CDP thing out first.
     
  15. damacman

    damacman Blown and Injected Subscriber

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    FWIW, my single best source for classical playback is my serviced and aligned McIntosh MR75 tuner. We have an awesome classical station here in Phoenix - KBAQ - I'm actually listening to it as I reply. If you have a local classical station still available to you, then I strongly suggest you also consider adding a high performance tuner.
     
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  16. doctor fuse

    doctor fuse AK Subscriber Subscriber

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  17. doctor fuse

    doctor fuse AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Damacman, duckrabbit seems to have particular tastes (Reich, Part, etc), as I do (Stravinsky, Bartok). As much as I love classical radio, I only rally listen to it in certain rare moods. Especially now that pretty much everything you will ever be curious is available at the tap of a screen.

    But I fondly remember my teen years, looking at the radio guide and staying up until 1am to hear some Shostakovich piece I had never heard before.

    My Pioneer SX-737 receiver is the best tuner I have.
     
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  18. duckrabbit

    duckrabbit New Member

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    I'm having (noob) revelations here:

    1) Yesterday I bought a second 3020 (a local deal too good to pass), which I think is a later version of the original 3020 Series 20. Its internals are in different order than in my first 3020. To my surprise the new one sounds tighter and there's a bit more clarity, although this could be due to differences in the aging of the components. While the bass is (slightly) less warm and round in the new one, I prefer the new one - more clarity is exactly what I missed in my first 3020. The tone of the new 3020 is actually somewhere between the old 3020 and the 302 which I've also used for a while. The only problem with the new 3020 is that there is audible hum up to about 90 cm when there's no music.

    2) Just did an A/B comparison between the PS2 Slim's internal analogue out and laptop connected to my MOTU 828 mk2. I played Pärt's Fratres (ECM 1984) on CD in the PS2 and an apple lossless rip of it on the laptop. Volume level was quite moderate less than 60 db. The difference was more obvious than I expected. Though the MOTU is only a mid range 8 in 8 out audio interface (150 EUR secondhand) it sounds much fuller, clearer, airier, dynamic... better in pretty much every way. The PS2 was just thin and veiled in comparison. So my impression is that the PS2 Slim is just rubbish as a CD player (and probably not at all like the hyped PS1 early models). But I'm still grateful for it for the countless hours of pleasure I had with GTA Vice City.

    Luckily enough I got a clean NAD 4040a tuner on top of the 3020 (for 40 EUR). doctor fuse got me correctly, my taste in classical is very particular. But there is still a world of classical music unknown to me which I'm keen to explore.
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2018
  19. savatage1973

    savatage1973 Addicted Member

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    I know this thread started regarding selecting a CDP for classical music, but since it has digressed, I'll throw this onto the pile, so to speak. Not all recordings of the same piece will sound the same (obviously), due to recording venue, conductor, and musicianship. If you have the opportunity, try to grab some of the recordings by The Academy of Ancient Music--they use museum piece instruments that were crafted during the time period that the original scores were penned. The sound is amazingly different than a performance on contemporary instruments.

    Sorry for further de-railing the thread, but just some food for thought in your exploration of classical music.
     
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  20. xero-D-hero

    xero-D-hero Super Member

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    I usually recommend the Marantz players that have the TDA1540/TDA1541 DACs.
    Marantz CDP DAC listing HERE >>>> http://www.dutchaudioclassics.nl/

    HTH

    Bret P.
     
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