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Comparing the LX91,3800BD and BDP-83 as a cd transport!

Vipers

Well-known Member
I thought I'd post my findings after spending some time yesterday at TLC comparing several Blu Ray players for playing back cd's as since getting my LX91 I've started listening to my cd collection again and I was curious to see how they compared to a dedicated cd player like the Arcam CD37.

I originally wanted to try the 91 through the Arcam 600 with both HDMI and analogue as on friday evening I spent a good hour comparing the 2 on my setup just to see if I still preffered analogue as I know some people have tried both and stayed with HDMI, well for me analogue defiantely gives a more natural sound with the vocals being far clearer, the bass carries more weight and the whole soundstage just seems tighter, but with the 600's amazinly low jitter figures I thought 91 through the 600 via HDMI might work better.

So first of all I was using Massive Attacks Teardrop for the demo as it has a deep bass track throughout with crystal clear vocals and a lot of fine detail in the background that can get lost. The first thing I noticed was what a massive step up in quality there was using the 600 and PMC's compared to my 81 and Monitor Audio speakers so in theory it should make the differences more revealing, and if I'm honest I still prefered the 91 via analogue compared to HDMI thru the 600 but there really wasn't much in it, nowhere near the difference I get on my setup at home, it really was quite tough to hear the differences so I guess the differences I'm hearing at home could be down to jitter.

So I stayed with analogue to compare the other players, so using the 91 as a banchmark which I have to say sounded excellent I moved onto the 3800 which if I'm honest I expected the 91 to sound better as so much has been made of the analogue section but to my suprise the 3800 seemed to be pulling out more detail, there is a low level bass that merged into one sound on the 91 but on the 3800 you could hear each individual note, I went back to the 91 again to check but the 3800 was definately pulling out more detail, had more control and the base track definately sounded tighter.

Then I tried the Oppo, now I'm sorry to all the Oppo fans out there but the Oppo just didn't do it for me, the difference was quite startling, it just sounded very flat and lifeless, the vocals in Teardrop carry alot of emotion but on the Oppo that was totally lost and it all sounded a bit empty and flat. The thumping baseline also lost its weight and control and just sounded hollow. Now to be fair to the Oppo its not in the same price range as the 3800 and 91 so I guess its unfair to put it in that league but I thought it was worth comparing as it was there but as I said the differences were quite startling.

Now saving the best for last, I tried the same track in the Arcam CD37 which is a £1100 dedicated cd player, Wow, what a transformation, the song just came alive with the vocals crystal clear, you could hear every instrument and the base had a real thump and tightness to it, I ended up with this big grin on my face and the hairs really did stand up on the back of my neck, it differnces was just astounding.

So as good as the 91 and 3800 are at cd playback they really can't compete with a dedicated player like the CD37, but that was to be expected really, my big suprise was how good the 3800 was as a cd player, the 91 and 3800 were very close but the 3800 just gave a slightly fuller, more detailed and controlled sound.

But what became clear to me was that if you want to get the best form your cd collection a dedicated player is the way to go, oh yeah and a Arcam AVR600 and some PMC speakers, bugger :)
 
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Apollo72

Active Member
totally agree, you really need a dedicated cd player to appreciate your cd's.

I chose the denon 3800 over the pioneer lx91 due to prefering the sound out of the analogue outputs.

I did try the pioneer as a cd player, but was totally out of its depth against the rega apollo (35th edition)

also the better amplification you use, the more it shows up the cd player (or dvd player or blu ray player used as a cd player)
 

Ian_S

Distinguished Member
IThe first thing I noticed was what a massive step up in quality there was using the 600 and PMC's compared to my 81 and Monitor Audio speakers so in theory it should make the differences more revealing, and if I'm honest I still prefered the 91 via analogue compared to HDMI thru the 600 but there really wasn't much in it, nowhere near the difference I get on my setup at home, it really was quite tough to hear the differences so I guess the differences I'm hearing at home could be down to jitter.
I suspect it's more down to the quality of the respective DAC stages in the LX91 and SC-LX81. The former probably has a better quality 2ch and 7.1ch setup than your amp, which to be fair, shouldn't be a massive surprise as the 91 costs more and does less. On the Arcam AVR600, you have a much better quality DAC stage than the LX81, so the gap closes. I would doubt a huge jitter effect if at home you're using PQLS for CD over HDMI.

On the CD37, I would expect it to shine against the AVR600's capabilities for much the same reasons, however, when the AV888 arrives I think you might see a much closer contest, but then prices are going upwards very fast.

If the 3800 did SACD/DVD-A then I'd have bought one long ago. Still, roll on the 4010.

Thanks for sharing. :smashin:
 

Welwynnick

Distinguished Member
Vipers, your posts get more and more interesting. Of course its useful to hear from someone who can actually hear these differences, but also to get some sort of pattern out of it all. And there are a few surprises there. For several months I had been thinking that a good BD player plus a legacy processor with 7.1 analogue inputs might represent some sort of optimum solution in many situations.

Then the AVR came along with sub 5 ps jitter, and I started thinking all over again. Jitter is an attribute of digital audio, and analogue connections don't suffer from it in the same way. Problem is, there is jitter everywhere there is digital audio, and once its hopped over to the analogue domain, its frozen there for good.

Typically, a player on its own will have lower jitter than a player/amp combo with an LPCM / HDMI connection. So while digital audio always gives you the possibility of recovering the original audio clock, I think its normally only realised in bar-room theorising, rather than in reality. The AVR600 might be able to do something about that, and if it can receive all the data without error AND reduce the jitter to inaudible levels, then it should allow every digital audio source to sound the same. This made me think the 600 might even be able to IMPROVE on the player on its own. I can't think of any player with less jitter than the 600, so any analogue input to 600 will already have more jitter than what the player + 600 combo would together.

But it doesn't seem to be working out like that. Firstly the 600 does get HDMI to sound better than the LX81, even though the latter has only 50 ps jitter with LPCM over HDMI, and even less with PQLS. Thats quite something - I thought the LX81 would be good enough as it was. Yet analogue sounds even better - much better with the CD37. So what does that say? I suppose we conclude that the CD37 has better DACS than the AVR600.

Best regards, Nick (still on a journey)

Edit: Of course the thing that I'm really driving at concerns the processor. If you want the best sound quality, and even an AVR600 sounds better with analogue inputs, then what's the point of having a digital audio processor at all?

The logic is that since good D to A convertors cost money, why duplicate them across all your sources? From my usual systems engineering point of view, why not consolidate your resources so each unit does what its good at, and try not to make each a jack-of-all-trades. You know, put all the best video processing in the display so all sources can benefit, all the best DACs in the audio processor/receiver, that sort of thing. But it just doesn't seem to work out like that.

I'm speculating that for mainstream equipment, it may make sense to have digital sources for everything, and do all the hard work in the receiver. That may well give you the best functionality and performance per pound for most people. For high performance equipment, we still want value for money, but the optimum solution may still be with analogue connections. If thats the case, then where do we draw the line?
 
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MI55ION

Distinguished Member
If thats the case, then where do we draw the line?

The Arcam Blu-ray player with MC analogues? :eek: :cool:

It's the phenominal price tag that only puts me off though. :(

With regard to the Oppo, I really think they concentrated on their audio and video performance via HDMI with MC analogues as an afterthought. Somewhat similar to the Tosh XE1 which I was disapointed to find sounded dreadful via MC analogues. Not surprising when we consider the price.

So I reckon that for now, anyone with a top notch legacy processor should be looking at the Denon 3800 as a minimum to get worthwhile results with HD audio. The only issue with it being however that it is still performs like the old school BR players, sluggish. Confident this will change with the new players.

Better start saving! :D
 

kingfats

Distinguished Member
Cheers for the feedback vipers :thumbsup: if you do get another chance to compare the same kit again matched to the 600 would it be possible to use HDMI? this is where my interest lies.
All the best.
 

Vipers

Well-known Member
Cheers for the feedback vipers :thumbsup: if you do get another chance to compare the same kit again matched to the 600 would it be possible to use HDMI? this is where my interest lies.
All the best.

I quickly tried the Oppo with HDMI but something couldn't have been right in the settings as all the audio seemed to be comming out of the center speaker which sounded terrible and not being familar with the player like I am with the 3800 and 91 I left well alone, maybe you can point me in the right direction :thumbsup:
 

kingfats

Distinguished Member
I quickly tried the Oppo with HDMI but something couldn't have been right in the settings as all the audio seemed to be comming out of the center speaker which sounded terrible and not being familar with the player like I am with the 3800 and 91 I left well alone, maybe you can point me in the right direction :thumbsup:

Not sure to be honest what would cause that issue to happen over HDMI :( i'll have a fiddle around with my player to see if i can duplicate the problem myself.
 

IWC Dopplel

Distinguished Member
Interesting findings, never even tried a CD in my 3800 TBH :rotfl:

I have in my 983 to run the centre speaker in and guess what it was deeply unimpressive ! (But then again I have no reference for mono center playing music!!)
 

JonStatt

Well-known Member
Actually the components used in the XE1 for analogue are far from cheap. I won't go into a complete analysis in this thread as its OT, but the XE1's analogue outputs are far from poor. They did better than something like the analogue outputs of a Panasonic BD50 for example, during my comparisons. However, they don't match, and nor should they considering the pricepoint, of a 3800, LX91, S5000 etc. Considering the pricepoint of the 83, we shouldn't be surprised there either. Yes the 83 is a miracle in terms of what it provides for the money, but you simply can't construct the analogue performance at that pricepoint. There are 83 upgrades coming out that will significantly improve the analogue audio.

We have to distinguish between two things. Accuracy of reproduction, and pleasing reproduction. I have talked before about people preferring over colourised or contrasty images, because they appear more pleasing. A bright green apple, looks more tasty. Thats just partly down to the way we are programmed. The same sort of concept applies to audio where we had the fashionable U-shaped equaliser settings in the 80s with bass and treble accentuated.

Lexicon's room eq system, intentionally does NOT remove all resonances. It lets you choose how much you remove. If you set it to max you end up with a very lifeless flat sound...as if you were listening to speakers outdoors. It is actually rather uncomfortable to listen to for a long time. We need some "colour" to the sound.

It is this "colour", which defines part of our preferences for equipment. For example, some people prefer a brighter sound otherwise they feel their music lacks clarity. Others find that clinical or grating and prefer a softer warmer sound.

The fact is that every DAC I have ever listened to sounds different. In some cases, yes it is clearly better...in other cases it is just different.

So once again, we come to my original thought. Accuracy vs pleasing....which is more important?



On a technical note, as a lot of jitter is added at the HDMI stage, using analogue outputs is most likely in a well designed player, to have been converted with very small jitter indeed. However, there is the dilemna whether to re-digitise the signal in the processor in order to provide much better bass management, time management and most importantly room EQ. Unfortunately this is only done well in a very few processors and for anything else I find it hard to believe that the analogue route is the right one over HDMI. Of course this applies to surround material. For CD, there is the old SPDIF/Toslink route that people seem to have forgotten about! :)
 
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MI55ION

Distinguished Member
Actually the components used in the XE1 for analogue are far from cheap. I won't go into a complete analysis in this thread as its OT, but the XE1's analogue outputs are far from poor. They did better than something like the analogue outputs of a Panasonic BD50 for example, during my comparisons. However, they don't match, and nor should they considering the pricepoint, of a 3800, LX91, S5000 etc. Considering the pricepoint of the 83, we shouldn't be surprised there either. Yes the 83 is a miracle in terms of what it provides for the money, but you simply can't construct the analogue performance at that pricepoint. There are 83 upgrades coming out that will significantly improve the analogue audio.

We have to distinguish between two things. Accuracy of reproduction, and pleasing reproduction.

I think we are both saying the same thing aren't we?

I'm aware the XE1 had some very nice components including DACs but with MC analogue audio the net result whatever this consists of was for me rather disapointing. When playing HD audio via the MC analogues it sounded flat and simply lacked detail, comparing Lossless HD audio from the Tosh against Lossy HD audio via the Arcam AV9 the difference was and I don't say this lightly, night and day. Not talking about what is pleasing to the senses here mind! So what I'm getting at here really is that for a player to improve upon the processor's SQ, it really needs to be something special with greater resources put into the sound department and not just to tick off a features checklist. If lossless HD audio via analogues is poor, it's better to stick to lossy HD audio via spdif/coax to processor. I believe nick's player/processor comparisons also demonstrtated this. Of course the decision is much easier for the end user if they have a HDMI equipped processor which I believe would be the case for the vast majority except some of us weirdos.:D I do not expect the Oppo to beat the likes of the big boys for MC playback although kind of hope it would come close. There has not been a full review as far as I'm aware between these players so who knows, the Oppo might still surprise us :eek: although after testing the XE1, I am starting to think this highly unlikely.
 
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mwomwell

Active Member
Having read all of the post on jitter, Analouge vs digital etc, I think I'm going to use my (relegated to the bedroom) ARCAM FMJ DV139 as a CD / DVD player fo analouge signals in to my Receiver (Denon A1HD) and only use the LX91 as a Bluray player. Whilst the LX91 provides perfectly adequate CD / DVD performance via HDMI or analouge I might as well utilise the capabilities of the ARCAM as this is an excellent unit after all + I get the ability to playback SACD's etc. So living with one CD / DVD / Bluray spinner has been binned as I really dont want to spend something like £4.5k for the new Denon AU1D muti-format player - I mean why bother just for the sake of an extra slot on the AV rack being populated.
 

paulst10

Distinguished Member
Then the AVR came along with sub 5 ps jitter, and I started thinking all over again.

Firstly the 600 does get HDMI to sound better than the LX81, even though the latter has only 50 ps jitter with LPCM over HDMI,

A bit OT Nic, but do you happen to know what jitter levels other mid range amps offer ? Onkyo, Denon etc! ? :)
 

JonStatt

Well-known Member
Adding on to what i wrote before. Does anyone know the comparative jitter figures for SPDIF vs HDMI with ARC?

I am not sure its worth struggling with HDMI for CD. I have been using SPDIF for years and found this to be better to my MC-12 than any other route.
 

crobo

Well-known Member
Am I missing something or is the title a bit misleading - Vipers, you are testing these units as CD players aren't you, not transports as such? I always take 'transport' to mean sending a digital signal to a separate DAC.

In some cases a good option is to use the BR player to send a digital signal and let the receiver or processor act as the DAC. The trouble is that not many receivers / processors can do the job as well as a good dedicated CD player. But I would imagine something like the Arcam AVR600 must do this pretty well. Certainly worth a try anyway - better than spending another £1k on a CDP.

I'm using a Proceed AVP-2 in exactly this way. My early BR players were not good as transports (presumably tons of jitter) but the Pioneer LX71 is fine, so no need for a CDP at all.
 
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JonStatt

Well-known Member
Am I missing something or is the title a bit misleading - Vipers, you are testing these units as CD players aren't you, not transports as such? I always take 'transport' to mean sending a digital signal to a separate DAC.

In some cases a good option is to use the BR player to send a digital signal and let the receiver or processor act as the DAC. The trouble is that not many receivers / processors can do the job as well as a good dedicated CD player. But I would imagine something like the Arcam AVR600 must do this pretty well. Certainly worth a try anyway - better than spending another £1k on a CDP.

I'm using a Proceed AVP-2 in exactly this way. My early BR players were not good as transports (presumably tons of jitter) but the Pioneer LX71 is fine, so no need for a CDP at all.

Exactly.

I think Vipers missed out a vital test.

We keep talking about HDMI and Analogue,but for CD he should have evaluated SPDIF. Especially if you want to make use of features like room equalisation, this will be the best route.
 

Ian_S

Distinguished Member
I would question why, if over HDMI jitter is reduced to very small amounts (finally) that SPDIF should be any better. Once you get down to 10ps surely any differences are just measuring noise?

If there are any significant differences to sound between amp+player for CD over HDMI and SPDIF, then surely it's down to something else going on in the amp.

Jitter free transmission just gets us the correct data (hopefully) at the correct time to its destination. After that, all sorts of stuff not just DAC choice will affect the SQ coming out of either player or amp via analogue. Filtering, component choices etc. A lot of the sound differences between units over anlogue will probably have more to do with this than jitter.

Where jitter should be of concern IMO is where you start seeing silly multi-thousand ps figures. I would have thought the difference between units measuring 0-50ps is going to be elsewhere, back to hifi and away from digital data transfer.

Now, in a setup where HDMI jitter is multi-thousand, then yes, you would hope that SPDIF may well sound better, and that might be a good reason to use it, but as tested on the AVR600, if it's as low as has been measured then why use another digital connector?
 

Bumtious

Banned
I think what Vipers meant was using the BD player as CD playback units, how they compared to each other and how they compared to a decent standalone cd player.

Let him play on his own for a bit, but then he asked me to listen.

I was not familiar with the Aassive Attack track but as it turned out was very revealing.

I will echo what Vipers stated, but will add a couple of things, he controlled the players so there were time I had no idea what was playing.

One interesting thing, he switche off the diaplay at one point of the 91 and I immeadiately picked the difference that made as I said "not heard that one yet which one was it."

We then turned all the dispalys off and listened again.

For me via HDMI as I have already stated the Oppo is unlistenable to as a CD player and Via analogue while is better is just too forced and over empasised, imagary wanders all over the place, top end is bright, bottom end loose, thin and lacking detail.

The Pio 91 came next, via HDMI with the Arcam 600 doing the relocking, it again for me its a little harsh and there is no control at the bottom end, imagary is there but instuments are flat across the stage. Via analogue the top end was smoother, but still too shril for a long comfortable listening session, still the overall presentation seemed thin and undynamic.

3800 was adifferent story, it was hard to tell the difference via HDMI & analogue with the Arcam, Just the slightest sense more guts to bottom end via analogue but was very slight. The whole track came to life, top end was smooth and ozzed detail, bottom end we could now hear the fact the the bass was now sounding like a guitar being plucked and the notes were destinct instead of just merging into one another, the sound stage was wide and deep instead of a flat 2 dimentional stage and every instrument and sound had its place. Vocals became very focused and precise.

Moving to Arcam CD37 again takes things up another notch, the stage even bigger, with a large sense of scale and depth just goes on forever. Again even more detail is pulled aout at the top end with the bottom end being even fuller and more controlled.

Interestingly enough, you should also be aware that many top end CD players also take a while to initialise, closing the disk tray to the disk being ready to play.

EG from switch on to disk tray opening

Oppo 5 secs
CD37 10 secs
3800 14 secs
LX91 28 secs

Tray close to playing

Oppo 8 secs
CD37 9 secs
3800 13 secs
LX91 17 secs

Sum up

With the Arcam still the players sound different via HDMI, the Oppo while being fast (still no where near ps3 with blue ray) sound wise for me not great, its a good £500 machine and as a universal player for that money is grat value, but NOT if you are serious about sound, the LX91 is quite a Jump in sound from the Oppo (same for blue ray IMHO) its not just jitter, there something else going on that I just cant put my finger on, as is the 3800 from the LX91, but then again the CD37 is from the 3800.
 

dts_boy

Well-known Member
i'm not a technical type person but found the review most helpful - although as others have stated the title may not be 100% accurate!
its nice to hear real people's opinions as i am looking for a decent(ish) bluray player for music as well as movies and will have to get a listen to the denon!
 

kingfats

Distinguished Member
I quickly tried the Oppo with HDMI but something couldn't have been right in the settings as all the audio seemed to be comming out of the center speaker which sounded terrible and not being familar with the player like I am with the 3800 and 91 I left well alone, maybe you can point me in the right direction :thumbsup:

Just had a test for you vipers but whatever i do in the player settings CD remains unchanged.....sorry mate i'm a bit unsure what the issue was.
 
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kingfats

Distinguished Member
With the Arcam still the players sound different via HDMI, the Oppo while being fast (still no where near ps3 with blue ray) sound wise for me not great, its a good £500 machine and as a universal player for that money is grat value, but NOT if you are serious about sound, the LX91 is quite a Jump in sound from the Oppo (same for blue ray IMHO) its not just jitter, there something else going on that I just cant put my finger on, as is the 3800 from the LX91, but then again the CD37 is from the 3800.

Hi. :)
The Oppo is actually faster loading than the PS3 with some Blu-ray discs i tested. :thumbsup:
Cheers.
 

Bumtious

Banned
Just had a test for you vipers but whatever i do in the player settings CD remains unchanged.....sorry mate i'm a bit unsure what the issue was.

Thanks for checking KF, what he forgot to add is that the amp needed to be taken off its auto surround option as the Oppo via HDMI did not seem to default to 2 channel like the others do, some weird psudo sourround was being used. Once he did that it was 2 channel. But HDMI was dismissed for CD playback on all the players reasonably quickly.
 

JonStatt

Well-known Member
I would question why, if over HDMI jitter is reduced to very small amounts (finally) that SPDIF should be any better. Once you get down to 10ps surely any differences are just measuring noise?

If there are any significant differences to sound between amp+player for CD over HDMI and SPDIF, then surely it's down to something else going on in the amp.

Jitter free transmission just gets us the correct data (hopefully) at the correct time to its destination. After that, all sorts of stuff not just DAC choice will affect the SQ coming out of either player or amp via analogue. Filtering, component choices etc. A lot of the sound differences between units over anlogue will probably have more to do with this than jitter.

Where jitter should be of concern IMO is where you start seeing silly multi-thousand ps figures. I would have thought the difference between units measuring 0-50ps is going to be elsewhere, back to hifi and away from digital data transfer.

Now, in a setup where HDMI jitter is multi-thousand, then yes, you would hope that SPDIF may well sound better, and that might be a good reason to use it, but as tested on the AVR600, if it's as low as has been measured then why use another digital connector?

I guess its simply because SPDIF is a known commodity. You are right in principal that the AVR600 may make the interface irrelevant. However Viper's findings were that analogue was better than HDMI and that HDMI sounded different between players. Therefore I would still have liked to eliminate the HDMI aspects, by using old but trusted SPDIF connections.
 
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Ian_S

Distinguished Member
I guess with CD the physical drive could come into the equation. Might go some way to explaining some of the things seen. The Arcam's job is as a high end CD spinner so you expect it to be up to the job. The Denon has their own dedicated drive that is supposed to be highly resistant to vibration etc, and I guess the Pioneer and Oppo are using more std. BD drives.

I wonder if testing just Blu-ray music audio performance would close up the gaps so to speak as the vagaries of CD reading won't come into play.
 

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