My surprising test results: high end 80s CD player vs modern low end DVD player

Discussion in 'Solid State' started by Alkeys, Dec 29, 2009.

  1. Alkeys

    Alkeys Active Member

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    To those of you trying to decide which is better to use as a budget CD player- a cheap modern DVD player or a high end CD player from the 80s, I hope this helps you.


    Now this all started because I got rid of my Sony DVD player I was using as a CD player, and exchanged it for a used older high end CD player thinking I'd get better results- boy was I wrong.

    So we all know that if you've got $100 to spend on a amplifier/receiver you're better off spending the $100 on a used old discrete solid state amplifier/receiver from the 70s and 80s than a brand new cheap one for that same $100. So what about CD players? I have often asked myself this question.

    So would you be better off buying a used CD player that is heavy, has awesome build quality, perhaps it was TOTL back in the 80s sometime, or are you better off taking that money to a box store and buying the $88 DVD player that also plays CDs and using that?

    Well my results surprised even me. I asked a few people who I know and they said that you'd be better off with the old player. This is what I expected too. Before I did this test I was expecting my CDs to sound way better on the older high end CD players.

    To my surprise, I found all this to be wrong.

    Amplifier in my test: (2 systems)
    Kenwood Receiver KR4140
    Kenwood basic M1 power amp with NAD 1155 Preamp

    Speakers:
    Energy C2 Speakers.

    3 high end CD Players from back in the day I used as a test:
    Sony CDP-302 from mid 80s.
    NEC CD-810 from late 80s.
    Denon DCM-1300 from late 80s.

    1 humble modern DVD/VCR combo player that costs about 50 bucks from Panasonic.


    My test material were 3 CDs- 80s heavy metal CD by a german band called Accept, instrumental Jean Luc Ponty CD and 1 more modern electro-pop CD by a band called Empire of the Sun.
    I got the same results on all 3 CDs.

    Well I hooked up the high end CD players, one after the other from the 80s and they were loud, gritty, digital and harsh, with a forward-in your face with digital artifacts and aliasing noticeable. The sound of kick drums felt like they were poking my eardrums. To be honest, they hurt my ears and were not pleasant to listen to. Then I was so frustrated that I went into the bedroom, yanked the Panasonic DVD/VCR combo unit that I have, hooked it up to my receiver and the sound was to my surprise, much more round. Gone was the harsh highs, there was more bass and I was treated to a less fatiguing sound.

    Before I did this test, I was expecting that the older high end players would sound better, warmer, less harsh etc... The only thing the older players did was sound a tad louder. Other than that in every way, the old high end players were way worse than the modern crappy little VCR/DVD combo unit I tried.

    In conclusion, My guess is that DACs have come a long way since 1985 and my tests prove to myself that even the crappiest modern DACs on a $50 DVD/VCR combo player sound better than the high end 80s DACs of yesteryear in these players. I was really disappointed in my findings and found the exact opposite of what I thought I'd find.

    I really admire the design and construction of the 80s Japanese players and normally I'll gladly throw money at 70s and 80s Japanese electronics all day long but not in this case. Now I'm sure if you spend a lot of money and buy a NEW/MODERN high end CD player, that will sound better yet, but for those on a budget like me who can't spend $500+ dollars on a CD Player and have to settle for spending $100 on either a high end used player from the 80s or a cheap modern DVD player, I’ll from now on go the DVD player route.
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2009

     

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  2. similost

    similost Rockin and Rollin....

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    I'm not surprised.. my low buck phillips DVD player sounds a lot better than my Yamaha higher end player..
     
  3. JohnVF

    JohnVF Lunatic Member

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    I'm not surprised, either...build quality is one thing, but the DAC is the heart of the sound I would think, and they've come a long way. I briefly had a high-end Sony from the early '80s here after reading some 'warm' comments. It lasted about 2 CDs before it was re-donated.

    The newer players with both the new DACs and build quality sound even better than the DVD players..much better even.
     
  4. Alkeys

    Alkeys Active Member

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    112
    Yeah it's funny- all these used stereo shops I go into the store owners rave about how these old CD players are warm and fat and how a cheap little DVD player sounds like crap- they must be trying to get rid of all their old 80s CD players.

    So yeah to all you people looking for a CD player on the cheap-don't go on the opinion of the store owners trying to sell you a $100 old 80s player- just take your money and go buy a DVD player- you will be better off.

    I've no doubt that New high end CD players sound better than both- would love to try one someday when my budget permits
     
  5. JohnVF

    JohnVF Lunatic Member

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    You don't even have to go really high end. The Cambridge Audio players sound fantastic. My 2001 Sony CD-burner still sounds good, though...I wonder when the biggest improvements were made? I'd like to upgrade from the Cambridge and AMC player I have to something like a Rega Saturn if money and other pursuits don't get in the way.
     
  6. Coytee

    Coytee Super Member

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    Several years ago, Klipsch had a company sponsored gathering at their factory in Hope. While there, they auditioned the Jubilee for anyone who wanted to hear it. Most that heard it walked away dumbfounded using words like "best speaker I've ever heard", "Kills my system", "most lifelike presentation"...

    Being a super efficient horn system one might expect it to be shown off with the most esoteric of equipment.

    They used a solid state Adcom preamp connected to some Crown power amps, all being fed by a $50 cd player that they bought at Walmart.

    I was there and heard it myself.
     
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  7. RickB

    RickB On the Road to Find Out

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    If the older stuff had been sitting unused and not powered up, it might be worthwhile to leave it plugged in and on for at least 48 hours before making tests...Theta had in their owner's manuals not to expect the units to sound as good when they were first turned on as they would 48 hours later...stating that if you turned them off to wait 48 hours before making any critical listening comparisons...

    I have a CAL Icon MkII from the '90's, arguable a true high end player from a true specialist manufacturer...it, too, takes a couple of days to settle in when I put it in the system after it's been in a closet for a while, and even better if you put a burn-in CD in on repeat for a day or so....

    But.

    My new $36 Yamaha DV-S5860 that I was turned on to by folks here on AK sounded nearly as good out of the box...and after a few days each of DVD-A's, SACD's, and CD's playing non-stop trough it, damn it if I don't feel like it's at least equal to the CAL, it's at least every bit as satisfying, and it seems as if it might be a touch better...yet, even though the Yamaha converts DSD to PCM, it's SACD performance is a tad better than my Sony SCD-CE775...a player good enough to make me sell my Rega Planet 2000, and then buy the worst audio purchase I ever made, the Philips SACD-1000....while it lasted it was great...but it expired as soon as it got out of warranty, and there were no parts left in the world to repair them, and since Philips had already lost their shirts on them, they just left me hanging....I've not knowingly bought ANYTHING Philips since....good thing I got my at a discount and didn't drop the entire $2K on it, but still an $800 paperweight really chaps my rump.

    Only thing about new DVD players that I absolutely hate is that the damn tree-huggin' greenies have required new units like it to power down when they aren't being used to conserve a few watts of energy...the Yamaha does sound better after it's been on overnight...so, I usually leave something in it on pause at least if I am going to be doing any critical listening the next day...my Pioneer DV-563 and Toshiba 3950 are the same way, my SCD-CE775 is not....

    It is actually the third DVD player that I have bought based on sound quality reports...first was the Toshiba 3950, then the DV-563, and now the DV-S5860...

    Oh yeah, the Yamaha's 480P component output looks good on my Panasonic 1080P plasma, too...no HDMI on this older player...
     
  8. Alkeys

    Alkeys Active Member

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    JohnVF-
    I bet those Rega players are nice but then you have a $2000 CD player that sounds a little bit better than an $80 DVD player.
    As I get older, I seem to like things that are less of a headache.

    I'd rather have an $80 DVD player that sounds better than an 80's audiophile CD player and not have to worry about it
    than a $2000 player that I have to worry about if it gets knocked around, my cat jumps on it, damaged in moving etc...
    $80 is a lot easier to replace than a $2000 player. Just goes to remind me how much markup and marketing BS is out there etc...

    I once owned a nice car and I always worried about it gettign scratched up. Now I drive an old beat up truck and although the ride is rougher,
    it's much easier because parts are cheaper and I never have to think about it.

    Less headache=music sounds better :)
     
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  9. JohnVF

    JohnVF Lunatic Member

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    I talk about getting the Rega but I'm so much more into LPs that it will probably never happen...especially with how happy I am with my Cambridge Audio 640c and AMC CDcb players. The AMC player has a tube stage, it might just be a tube buffer but it sounds good to me...better than the newer Cambridge in an A/B listening test. Much more natural..but the Cambridge sounds good as well. It just makes me wander what the very newest high end players have to offer, hearing what these two players have to offer over the '80s players. The AMC is probably 10 years old, the Cambridge less than a year. They both sound much better than my Samsung and Panasonic DVD players. I also have a newer Denon multi format player that I should try CDs on...lot of digital options for a guy who professes to love vinyl so much!
     
  10. Alkeys

    Alkeys Active Member

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    you're right LOL- every time I think about digital stuff- it all goes away the second that needle drops onto the vinyl
     
  11. ehoove

    ehoove Old & New - Carpe Diem Staff Member Super Mod Subscriber

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    I use a Marantz 8001 in my main rig and it is a fine unit that sounds very non digital, and I use a Phillips DVD963SA in my Vintage rig for Redbook and SACD playback that was my reference unit before the Marantz. I bought the Phillips used for around $125, and am not convinced the Marantz is 7-8 times better. But it is the better unit no question. In fact the Phillips is a fine player in it's own right, but the Marantz will stay in my main rig. My point being that each unit stands on its own merits, but both units will eat a Sony CD595 alive. So spend wisely.
    Regards,
    Jim
     

     

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  12. Damage

    Damage Super Member

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    Sony CDP-230 isn't high-end in the least.
     
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  13. whoaru99

    whoaru99 Epic Member

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    My biggest gripe about some of the cheap DVD players is that they insert a hard gap of silence between every track on a CD regardless if there is one or not.
     
  14. CallMeJoe

    CallMeJoe Over Modulator

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    The controls on many DVD players leave a lot to be desired for navigating audio discs.
     
  15. guiller

    guiller Toscaninichus Australis

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    My conclusions are a bit different: I keep both my Denon DCD-1650G (japanese internal market) from 1991 and my Cambridge Audio 640 C v2 from 2008 in my main rig because both sound excellent, actually I cannot say that one is better than the other. They surpass by far any other CDP I had, and that includes all DVDP I use (there is a Pioneer DV-343 in my main rig that I use to watch movies only). I also tried more modern DVDPs (Philips, Pioneer) and they are not in the same league as the CDPs I mentioned. Ilisten only to classical music, perhaps that is an important factor, who knows. So, my experiences do not support the idea that a cheap DVDP sounds better than good CDPs (old or new). If that were the case, one should conclude that all those dedicated CDPs that companies like Cambridge Audio, Rega, Music Hall and others in the same league are sold because of marketing. I don't believe that marketing could be that powerful.

    Have a great 2010!
     
  16. mcp1

    mcp1 Well-Known Member

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    I've had similar results with a DVD-DVD-A player from Panasonic. Used with a digital receiver from Panasonic, CDs sound pretty damn good. That being said, I listen to vinyl 95% of the time.
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2009

     

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  17. whoaru99

    whoaru99 Epic Member

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    Yes, but simply playing a disc some put in the silence. Discs like The Wall just aren't the same with ~2 seconds of hard silence between each track.
     
  18. bigaltx24

    bigaltx24 AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I've run Kyocera DA-310CX (early 80's) in my main system for about three years now. In that time I've rotated five or six different DVD players ($80-$100 range) in and out of my system. To me the DVD players always sound a bit more detailed, but also a bit more harsh than the Kyocera.
     
  19. 33&athird

    33&athird Turn on & Tune in

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    :yes: doing a test listen of Dark side of the moon on my xbox 360 earlier, it added a small delay, and while the music wasn't affected, the mood was. I really don't understand why some players do this :dunno:.

    I need to try a newer player. Currently (it was free) i'm using a early 90's Admiral (sears roebuck) 5-disk changer. Very cheap, but sounds alright. Should try the little cheap zenith dvd combo...but I don't have high hopes (can barely play a dvd right). The xbox is okay...but obviously not meant for much of anything but games.
     
  20. Tinman

    Tinman AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Actually, a lot of the 80's players had some pretty bad brick-wall filters in them. Many did not sound all that good.

    My personal favorite is a good swing arm philips based player with a TDA-1541 DAC. Sounds good to me. I don't keep any other type of CD player. My daily driver is a Studer A727. CDM-1 cast mechanism, TDA-1541 DAC. I like it's build quality and industrial durability. I'm certain that there are MUCH better players out there now, but I either can't afford them, don't care for the plastic look, or the UNREPLACEABLE laser dies in a year. New stuff is designed to die, and soon. Thanks a lot, China.

    Anyway...
    For a while, the early DVD/CD players sounded horrible on CD's but good with DVD's....

    This, too, has changed. Technology has improved in some aspects, but declined in others. I used to replace hundreds laser heads under WARRANTY, they are so lousy now. I don't know.... I'll trade off SOME sound for a system I can own and enjoy for 25 years.

    The good thing is that most old but very good quality players will take a modern DAC.
    Best of both worlds, IMO.
     

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