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*Amazing* results from source component test

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi Stereo Systems & Separates' started by jimmy_b, Jan 23, 2005.

  1. jimmy_b

    jimmy_b
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    Hi

    Did some tests the other day when my friend brought over some of his hifi kit. One of the many tests we did was the following and the results astounded me.

    Kit:
    Arcam CD72 - Long time admired cd player ~£250 second hand
    MF a3.24 DAC - Long time admired mid-range DAC ~ £450 second hand
    Cyberhome ch-dvd 402 - Previously unheard of (at least for me!) budget dvd player ~£60 new.

    Tests:
    All tests done using MF a3 amp and mordaunt short 906s

    1. DAC v cd72: cd player connected direct to amp and via coax digital out to DAC. Able to switch instantly between sources by simply changing amp input.
    Result: No difference at all in sound.

    2. cd72 v cyberhome: Both playing same CD roughly synchronised.
    Result: NO DISCERNABLE DIFFERENCE AT ALL

    3. DAC v cyberhome: cd player connected direct to amp and via coax digital out to DAC. Able to switch instantly between sources by simply changing amp input.
    Result: NO DISCERNABLE DIFFERENCE AT ALL

    I am amazed. This test suggests that source components make absolutely no difference at all to the sound of a system. I challenge anyone to hear any difference in sound between these 3 source components.

    Time to ditch my DAC, buy a cyberhome and bank £350 ???

    Any comments anyone?

    Jimmy
     
  2. Daneel

    Daneel
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    My CDP testing gave the same result, Arcam CD72 vs Marantz CD4000.

    What are your speakers?
     
  3. Knightshade

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    To show absolutely no difference says there is something else acting as the limiting factor. The speakers would be my chief suspect. Certain tonal differences should be noticable at least between the Arcam with and without DAC. Nothing major but i'd be amazed if there's no difference.
    When testing CDP's I usually try and find the best amps and speakers possible.
    Interesting results though especially for someone considering a budget system.
     
  4. jimmy_b

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    Daneel - The info is in the thread! - Mordaunt short 906s, MF a3.2 amp.
    I am prepared to accept that the cd72 and MF a3.24 might sound the same but the MF and a 60 quid cyberhome dvd player!!??? :(

    Jimmy
     
  5. Knightshade

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    Jimmy,
    Can't say i've really done any 'real' testing but I use (at the moment!) a £90 Sony DVD player connected to a Chord DAC 64. The difference between this and a Rega planet as a transport alone is simple, there's no difference!
    The system itself is not really a definitive music system but the amps and speakers are plenty good enough to show up the slightest difference between transports.
    There is a slight difference between the planet's DAC's and the Sony's. The sound stage is slightly bigger and the Planet slightly more dynamic but it's certainly not 5x better as the price tag would suggest.
    But you try getting people to sit up and take notice of you.....;)
     
  6. Commited

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    hmm interesting - i tested an Arcam 5 CD when I was demoing my Arcam 7SE, and there was quite a difference in detail.
    I have a wharfedale DVD750 here - i might put it into the meridian/B&W system and see how it sounds...
     
  7. Daneel

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    Doh, sorry about that jimmy, it's been a long day :)
     
  8. fama

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    KNIGHTSHADE
    Tell us if theres any difference between the sony dvd/dac64 and the cd12!
     
  9. jimmy_b

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    Hi all

    Thanks for the responses so far but I think you have all missed the point of the post (I guess it got jumbled up in me rabbiting away too much...)

    Anyway, the main point of the post was to say that there was no difference between the cyberhome DVD player through the DAC and the cyberhome DVD player on its own using its analogue outputs!!!! I was able to switch instantaneously between the 2 and there was no difference.

    Jimmy
     
  10. Knightshade

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    ;)
     
  11. Knightshade

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    Jimmy,
    Sorry I must've been half asleep as well! My second post now makes a little more sense....
     
  12. phillfyspoon

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    I know source makes a difference on my system. are u using the analouge outs or digital?
     
  13. jimmy_b

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    phillfyspoon - This is the amazing thing. I compared (amongst other things) the analogue outputs of the cyberhome dvd player with the sound from the same player connected via coax digital through the MF DAC. There was no difference in sound! I can't explain it - can you? :lease:
     
  14. Knightshade

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    If you can Jimmy, try the same experiment but with a better speaker. For there to be no difference at all means you either have a faulty DAC or as i've said before the rest of the system is the limiting factor. Good as these cheap players are as purely transports the DAC's aren't usually as good (tweaked) as those in, for instance, Arcam or Marantz. Certainly no where near as good as those in most dedicated DACs.
    I doubt you'll notice a staggering difference but the sound stage and detail should be larger and more detailed with better separation between instruments.
    Of course there is every possibility that you've found the preverbial exception to the rule!
     
  15. dynamic turtle

    dynamic turtle
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    Do the test with some PMC studio monitors, transparent cabling, and some reference quality recordings, and I'm sure there will be a discernable difference.

    But the point - that using budget speakers, you could detect no difference, should deter people from spending money on sources that will be lost on budget kit further up the audio chain. (Tannoy R2's excluded :laugh: )

    Swapped the speaker cables around in system 2 last night and was amazed to hear a difference - they sounded a lot worse - strangled dynamics and an immediate loss of fine detail.

    Can't be bothered to swap them round again though. Let's hope they imrprove with age :suicide:

    DT
     
  16. jimmy_b

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    Knightshade and dynamic Turtle - Thanks for the comments. Seems you are both saying pretty much the same thing which is that the mid-to-low end level of the amp/speaker set up is "hiding" the difference. :eek:

    Not having the contacts / cash to upgrade / experience I cannot discount this theory however I am amazed that I wouldn't be able to hear a difference using an MFa3.2 amp and mordaunt short 906 speakers. OK, the speakers are low end but are excellent for the money. And the amp is fairly decent right?

    So is the conclusion that I should ditch my MFa3.24 DAC unless I am prepared to spend 4 figures on each of the amp and speakers? That seems......well......silly !?

    I bought a DAC mainly for flexibility of wiring it up to multiple source components (DVD, freeview, music streaming device) but also from recommendations made here that DACs can make a difference to low end CD players/transports. Seems silly to downgrade to a cheaper/worse model......

    :confused: :censored:

    Jimmy
     
  17. Fents

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    Hello everyone, I am the friend in question in this particular thread and I too am a bit confused. :confused:

    We played a variety of different music and we were able to switch between sources instantaneously and as Jimmy says the Mordaunts are not bad speakers - we should have heard some difference.

    I am in two minds at the moment. I don't know whether to break the Cyberhome up as an afront to all audiophiles or to put it on a pedestal.

    I also re-iterate what Jimmy said - I challenge anyone to be able to tell the difference. Believe me I really wanted there to be one as it makes my Arcam purchase seem a bit silly.

    Fents
     
  18. Knightshade

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    Hi Jimmy, welcome Fents,
    I understand what you're both saying. I doubt the A3 is the weak link. It is the speakers. The fact that you say 'No difference at all' says to me there's a limiting factor. While i'll agree the 906's are an OK speaker for the money they are not going to show off the amp or higher grade CD players to their full potential. They will however make the Cyberhome sing at it's best.
    The thing is you're trying to match an (equivilent to) £1500 CD player with an £800 or so amp on some £300 floorstanders. The designers of these speakers expect a maximum of £700 of CD and Amp at the front end. So that's the price range they are built to perform well with.
    I'm afraid you have an imbalance IMHO but they only way you'll find out for sure is to test the theory.
    Talk to your local dealer and try and get a home demo or loan a set of Monitor Audio s8's and see if you can still detect no difference. £800 or so retail.
    Good luck.
    Knight
     
  19. CJROSS

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    Guys if you cant hear any difference between the DAC and the Cyberhome DVD player, you have arrived at Sonic nirvana, FWIW I recently added £2000 worth of stonkingly superb DVD-A player and comparing between my DAC and this device the differences are tiny, read tiny. But there still there, could I tell them apart blind who knows, but one things for certain Im happy with what I have if you guys like the Cyberhome, then base a hifi system around it, cause MF DACs are pretty sweet to these ears.

    Have you guys tried listening to a DVD-V playing 5.1 thru the DAC in PCM mode ie downmixed and the 2 anlg outputs in stereo L& R (from my old DVD player coampred to my DAC I could spot that difference like a neon light), if you dont here any difference there then you guys have passed sonic nirvana and are leaving the solar system.

    FWIW I should point out Im as sceptical about cables and there abilities asit possible to get, so Im a far way from being a golden eared audiophile.

    ATB and power to Cyberhome, FWIW I also think DVD players get a bad press in CD terms I think they are a lot better than made out by the rags. Its just fahsionable to say, £500 DVD player = £100 CD player, thats horseplops to me FYI. Maybe the Cyberhome is a nice device. FWIW I also think the speaker angle mentioned is a fair one from the dudes above. £300 worth of floorer is hardly going to be revealing in the grand scheme of things.
     
  20. Ovation

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    As far CD playback on DVD players goes, I bought the Cambridge Audio 540D as my primary CD player after going head to head with the 540C, which, according to all accounts, should have been miles ahead in sonic quality. I blind tested it with the shop owner and he picked the 540D as well (there was absolutely no way for him to know which player he was hearing when he made his choice). However, in this instance, I had the opposite experience, as I could tell a difference between each player as well as the receiver (when using the player as a transport only).
     
  21. karkus30

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    The differences between CD players is tiny and usually very subtle. Depends what your expectations are really. Many people tend to think there are going to be huge leaps in performance that will be instantly recognisable, but its just not the case. Any differences are only obvious using high quality components for the rest of the system, that doesnt mean that your system is sub-standard by any means, just that it will tend to be more tolerant of less well specified source components. As the rest of the system improves, it becomes less tolerant. Its like building an F1 car, any weak links are amplified and can lead to serious problems, in the same way as the average family car would'nt really benefit from having a few F1 parts added, but would'nt really suffer either.

    In conclusion, dont spend thousands on a high end source if the rest of your equipment does'nt justify it.
     
  22. jon_mendel

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    Cambridge DVD players at least seem to have quite decent CD playback - bought myself a DVD300 just cause I wanted a cheap DVD player, but also tried it with CDs. Didn't expect changing the CD player used to make much difference, or the Cambridge to be much good for CDs, but was surprised to find the the Cambridge sounded notably better than my (admittedly budget) Sony CD player... Again, no massive differences, but somehow the Cambridge sounds like it has a slightly different tone and slightly more detailed.

    Jon
     
  23. WhyAyeMan

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    Not exactly CD players I know, but a while back I compared a Pioneer DV350 DVD player and Cambridge Audio DAC3 against a soundcard, a Terratec EWX 2496, and to be honest, even though my kit was not as revealing as some, I have to say I think the difference was pretty marked - the Terratec had stronger bass, clearer treble and more detail. Needless to say I got one...

    Then some time later, I got an E-MU 0404 to compare against the Terratec, and once again the difference was marked - it sounded more real, and was more detailed and lively.

    I also compared the DV350's DAC against the DAC3 when I had it, and in that particular case, there wasnt all that much difference.

    Source components definitely do make some difference IMO.
     
  24. jimmy_b

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    Thanks all.

    Seems two conclusions to make here:
    1) Source components don't make as much difference in sound as amps & speakers. This would be backed up by the other tests we did where we heard obvious differences between amps and speakers - even those in the same price bracket
    2) A balanced system is important otherwise you are wasting (or losing) the quality of the good kit.

    I fully believe (1) but although I can see that (2) would make some sense I still think that it should be possible to hear a difference between a Cyberhome transport + £600 DAC and the cyberhome analogue outputs. Maybe if I was feeding it all through an aiwa mini system then i would agree but I would expect the amp and speaker combination I used to reveal some differences. As there was none I can only assume that the cyberhome is an absolute bargain or the MF DAC is not as good as I was led to believe.

    Maybe I'll try to get a demo of some more classy speakers and run the test again - I am eager to do this but would feel bad as I currently have no intention of buying new speakers due to lack of cash!!! :(
    Would be a bit harsh on the dealer me thinks.

    Incidentally (and as an aside) we were also amazed by the obvious difference between Kef Q4s and mordaunt 906s (tested using NAD amp with two sets of speaker outputs). The Kefs sounded very hollow and dull compared to the mordaunt shorts - a clear upgrade with for little extra money :thumbsup:

    Jimmy
     
  25. Knightshade

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    Source components are just as important as Amps and Speakers. As you go up the market it becomes more important. At the high end I think source is the most important component.
    As you've discovered most <£500 CD players all sound very similar anyway so in that budget range I would agree. :)
    Couldn't agree more! :thumbsup:
     
  26. Ovation

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    I've subsequently compared my 540D to my Marantz DV6400 and my Integra receiver's DACs and I can pick out the difference between the 540D and each of the other two, but it's extremely difficult to pick the difference between the Marantz and the Integra. What's more, while the sound is different, neither one is bad. The 540D seems to present a wider soundstage while the other two are a bit better in bass response. Not huge, but there if you listen for it. FWIW, I prefer the wider soundstage, but my fellow audio nut prefers the deeper bass. So often, I'd say, subtle differences are enhanced by personal preferences.
     
  27. Fents

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    Not surprisingly I agree with Jimmy (seeing as we did the test together) :)

    The thing that strikes me about all of this is that when people want a system for e.g. £1500 (which they often do) - the magazines (and several posts) almost always recommend a CD player worth 300-400 quid. On the strength of the discussion here it seems that this would be wasted cash (at least wasted for anyone who is not planning to upgrade fairly rapidly). Likewise for a DAC. Given that we heard a difference (not massive) between our amps and a really very telling difference between two similarly priced speakers it would suggest that these recommendations are at best misleading.

    Perhaps one should spend 800 quid on speakers, 600 on an amp and 100 on a CD player (or even 60 quid on a cyberhome DVD player!)
    :confused:
    This is obviously an extreme example but it does make you think - particulary as relatively budget systems are often the place where most people start their audiophile career (and perhaps where many end up or stay)

    Anyway we had great fun doing it - even if some of the findings were not what we would have wanted or expected :censored:

    cheers

    Fents
     
  28. booktrunk

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    I tried a similar sort of thing last weekend.

    Inbuild DACs on a Denon 2800 MK II v Rotel 1068 DAC

    See my .sig for what Kit I have. I tried blind listening to a few favourite tracks. Had my partner swapping ove the input without me being able to see the amp and did the same with me swapping over the input for him. Bear in mind both are HDCD. I tried this with 1 HDCD and 4 standard CDs.

    The results both of us couldn't really tell a difference on the HDCD, on the other 4 cd's x 2 between the pair of us on 7 occasions we prefered the Rotel and one we couldn't tell the difference.

    So for the listening out of 8 goes at listening to two tracks side by side we noticed a difference on 7 of those occasions.

    You can see from my kit what I have I could hear the difference on that.

    I should try this week comparing again with the analogue output on my £50 Tosh dvd player.

    If I do i'll let you know the results.

    Steff
     
  29. Andywilliams

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    Hi
    When i swapped my nad 541i for my roksan caspian m series-1 cdp the difference was very easy to hear,The first thing was much tighter stronger bass and the detail and better dynamics,Made me even think about jacking in av :suicide: and going back to 2 channel,
    So it seems garbage in garbage out still stands.
    Cheers Gonzo. :)
     
  30. Ovation

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    Of course, one thing to watch out for is level matching the outputs of the various players. Many tests have shown that louder sounds are interpreted as better (and we're not talking huge differences, sometimes 1.5-2 dB will do it). I did not do this level matching at the outputs when I did my comparisons (I'm not equipped to do it) but my receiver allows me to set relative volumes on each source so volume remains constant when I switch sources. I'm told it's not as effective as output level matching (though I don't know why--if my SPL shows the sources are matched via this function--perhaps a more technical person can explain it to me) but it seems, at least, a close second in effectiveness. When I did that, I could still notice differences, though they became more subtle. It's possible the Cyberhome's output levels are at variance with the other gear (not uncommon for any gear, I've read) and its slightly higher dB output improves its perceived sound in a way to make it indistinguishable from the other gear. Doesn't really matter, in the end, as long as the owner is happy with the sound. It is, in the end, all about the tunes. :smashin:
     

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