New vs Old? How far have things moved?

Discussion in 'Hi-Fi Stereo Systems & Separates' started by mrrinse, Nov 2, 2004.

  1. mrrinse

    mrrinse
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    Hi,

    I'm wondering how much hi-fi technology has advanced in the last 8 - 15 years... e.g. would say a new, cheaper CD player (maybe a Cambridge AUdio Azur 640 at 250 pounds) give, say, a Marantz CD63 SE, or even a KI SIG, a run (c.500 retail back in 97) a run for its money.

    I realise plotting say value against RRP and the Year would be a bit of an oversimplification (would be good if someone could give a rought idea though!) but I'm curios as to to how far have things have really advanced recently on all this front (or is it just a conspiracy from the manufacturers to encourage us to upgrade!!!).

    Without the facilities for A/B comparison, I'm feeling a little lost and am debating the new vs second hand market... any thoughts appreciated.

    Thanks
     
  2. WhyAyeMan

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    I cant speak for CD players in particular, but I dont think they'd be that different. I replaced my soundcard yesterday, which was a Terratec EWX 2496, a design that is ultimately a good few years old now with a bang up to date E-MU 0404. Both use AKM DACs but the price of the best DACs has fallen a hell of a lot. The E-MU sounds very substantially better than the EWX, with a more lively sound and much more detail, whilst still retaining the groove of the original card. Yet this E-MU cost half as much as the Terratec did just two years ago, and uses a top of the range DAC chip.

    Going back a bit further, the Terratec was bought by me to replace my ancient Cambridge DAC3 and again the Terratec was noticably better than the DAC3.

    I would reckon CD players will, by and large be the same, and if they are not, then I'd be worried since the E-MU 0404 destroys the old school DAC3 for a fraction of what that thing would have costed back then.
     
  3. quadfan

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    Upmarket old stuff will always be good. The rate of change isn't that dramatic with mature technology. I have a Meridian power amp from the 80s that will stomp anything modern at under 1000 pounds. I have done AB comparisons with Quad 33/303, 44/405 and modern Pioneers (remember the respected A400 etc?) and quality still talks.
    My CD is an AVI 2000. It was £300 secondhand. I'd bet its purchase price that there isn't a CD player out there under £500 that can better it, and the reason is that it's a handbuilt machine costing over a thousand pounds. It isn't worn out therefore it's as good as it ever was. Go secondhand and you won't look back.
     
  4. CJROSS

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    I have an old Sony CDP-M108 from circa 1985 IIRC at my mothers place, this is a simple 16 Bit 4x Oversampler (a lot of people like these types of players even these days and would not swap them). Ive had it rigged up to my system and Its sounds pretty stunning to these ears, If there was an exponential change in CD player terms as hyped in the press etc then CD would have improved in sound terms well beyond DVD-A & SACD in its lifespan, quite simply their have always been good players.

    I think the quality of recordings on CDs has improved more than CD players per se and has had more of an effect than CD players coming out every year and blowing away last years technology.

    IMHO of course.
     
  5. alexs2

    alexs2
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    2 good points there,and a real shame that all recordings couldn't be up to,or at least approaching the quality of some of the best.
     
  6. Londondecca

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    HiFi is a mature system. CD is slightly different but it is reasonable to suggest this is now a mature format.

    Setting aside wear related issues, a good amp from the 1980's will still compete well with a similar amp from today.

    A decent Quad electrostatic from 30 years ago, is still going to cost you a lot of money, mainly because it is a bloody good loudspeaker.

    What is most impressive about AV is the rate of change and the speed in which new technology and designs are introduced
     
  7. alexs2

    alexs2
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    Definitely true,and also interesting to note what the production costs were then,and how relatively small the profits apparently were.
    That was a groundbreaking speaker then,and still revered by many as having the best midrange of any,albeit with the problems of treble beaming,and needing to raise them off those little feet.
    The other nice thing is finding how good the aftermarket support for them is,in particular One Thing Audio...absolutely superb.
     
  8. CJROSS

    CJROSS
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    Alex, I wonder what a few audiophiles or reviewers listening to CD players back in 1980s would have made of recordings such as Jarres Aero, Peter Gabriel, Sting, Lucinda Williams on HDCD, Massive Attack, Bjork, Dixie Chicks, Justin Timberlake, Orbital, Sasha, Buena Vista Social Club and many more current recordings which are mind boggling different to the standard fare of the day back then that I recall. I remember actively searching out AAD/ADD recordings as a mark of sound quality, but on the whole recordings were dodgy, today I would say relatively few in the grand scheme of things are, of course there are a few but on the whole things are way improved.
     
  9. alexs2

    alexs2
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    Yes...I'd definitely agree with that....all of Gabriel's recordings are of superb quality,even down to the live ones,which are often a test of how good an artist can make his recording standards.

    Like you,I also used to look for AAD/ADD recordings,and also have a few MoFi CD's and vinyl recordings,for examples of the best.
     
  10. Londondecca

    Londondecca
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    I remember reading an article in the early 80's about the MD of SME, he had a whole bank of Quads held in solid brass frames. He had also reworked the crossovers and apparently they sounded incredible.

    As for recordings, I have found the different mediums used are not a good indicator of sound, sure, some sound good but so much depends on the engineer and the producer.
     
  11. overkill

    overkill
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    Interesting that CJ. I used to sell the 108 and along with the 302/502es, I found them the most unpleasant CD players I think I've ever heard! Your comment shows, more than anything, how personal taste effects what we like to listen to hardware wise - and why we should beware when recommending stuff! :D Personally I wouldn't agree that CD hasn't moved on. The budget - mid price players of ten/eleven years ago aren't as detailed as the new machines, and sound a tad "ragged" by comparison with say, the Azur CDs mentioned.

    As for CD quality, thats swung up and down. I guy I know who works for WEA in the US, was recently bemoaning the poor quality of many recent recordings by comparison with five or six years ago. I also used to try and get AAD rather than ADD or DDD disks. The DDD CD's sounded harsh and brittle by comparison with the Analogue masters.
     
  12. alexs2

    alexs2
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    Alastair Robertson-Aikman.....and if I remember a more recent article,he has a set of completely reworked ESL63's,and run off Krell MDA 300s....or thereabouts.

    As CJROSS and myself have said,good recordings are out there,but not always easy to find,and your point about the engineering and production values are equally important...there's a hilarious quote in an upcoming edition of Essential Guitarist relating to what makes a rock star these days,courtesy of Steve Lukather,probably the most prolific session guitarist of the last 20yrs...well worth a read,but somewhat off topic.

    www.essentialguitarist.com
     
  13. Londondecca

    Londondecca
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    Alastair Robertson-Aikman Thats the chap :smashin:

    I think the pursuit of searching for high quality recordings is dangerous. Although it has been many years since I was involved in HiFi, I did meet people whose record collections were mainly made up from reference recordings. Obviously these sounded great but when the system played a normal record, the sound was less than satisfactory. Such an approach, to my mind was contrary to music application as the focus was on the sound quality and not the music. Such people were extreme but as someone who spend hours in second hand record shops I wanted to listen to a specific artist and cared not for what mechanism was used to make the recording.
     
  14. alexs2

    alexs2
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    You're too right there....I have number of old MoFi vinyls lying around,and some CD's(MoFi,JVC etc),and it can be a letdown to go back to the usual quality,but it's sometimes good to listen to the best you can get,albeit not too often!

    Back on the subject of new vs old,my Krells are still the equal of most current amps,at least for bass power and control,if not midrange neutrality,but a bit aggressive in terms of power for my old Quads,so i have a set of Quad IIs for those,and soon a pair of 300B monoblocs for a little more power....there are lots of new amps I like,in particular many of the current Chords,but the price differential,and the small gain in sound quality makes it unlikely i'll change soon(unless a pair of Levinson 20'5s should appear).
     
  15. overkill

    overkill
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    A good point. Someone recently said in a hifi rag that too much time is spent listening to the quality of the "sound", rather than equipments ability to convey the music.
     
  16. CJROSS

    CJROSS
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    Yes I think we have established that we are different spectra of the scope re. personal tastes, what’s interesting Overkill though is that I am not just relying on my “old” vibes of the 108 machine ie listened too back then (ie mid-late 80s) but also now in my current system with sterling recordings of today (maybe you try and listen again :D ), if it is one of the most unpleasant CD players you have ever heard then we will have to disagree majorly on that score as it does not sound that much different to many £2-300 CDPs of today IMHO. I don’t think I have ever heard a CD player sound as bad as you describe FWIW apart from say a Bush CD Radio. It’s a very subjective issue ie what is regarded as “the most unpleasant CD player I have ever heard” levelled at any CDP, Im pretty sure any CDP you rate highly in the same bracket as the 108 will have people saying the same somewhere else. I think the 108 is pretty comparable to many £200-300 CDPs of today, YMMV.

    As you may have noticed I always try to put IMHO on all my opinion when explaining my experiences, if that counts as reccomending stuff then yes people should be as aware of my opinion as yours :D as neother is finite, For example You also seem to think vinyl is overtly superior to CD I do not, I rate cheap DVD transports (and shock horror even recently my PC off a M-Audio Transit SC) into well designed DACs you do not, and on it goes. Do you believe in the jaw drop effect of IC Cables by any chance :D.

    Well the viewpoint of detail ever improving in CD players is a funny example to me, when there is a major effort to “Soften up” CD replay via valve output stages for CDPs today – ie maybe the ouput that was evident back in older CDP that “lacked detail” sounds similar to these types of player, technology maybe “moves on” but it does not increase by leaps & bounds every year as pushed by industry/press. Elst we would be at SACD/DVDA levels with redbook CD players. IME & IMHO I hear lots of technology from yesteryear superceded by todays technology and feel we are hoodwinked quite a bit in this hobby.

    Take for example the Chord 64, a stellar digital device and upon its launch universally lauded by mag/user alike, now 2 years down the line, without technolgy pssing it by, its now longer regarded as di-rigeur in CD circles, nothings changed in the timeframe other than the effect of suggestion in the press/users that new CDP/DACs etc are better sounding, Emperors New Clothes Syndrome in effect. Not singling out the Dac 64 here, think of the Marantz CD7, Per Tech, MF Nu-Vista, Tri-Vista and many other CD devices regarded as the pinnacle of their day, I argue they sound as good today as they did then.

    All IMHO of course.
     
  17. overkill

    overkill
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    NO I do NOT!! :D

    Fair comment. However, none of my colleagues liked them either (which is probably why they gathered so much dust........kidding! ;) ) so we must all have had pretty similair "ears" on music/sound quality. However........I was the only person who liked Rock/classical, and no-one had the same tastes - I'm pleased to say! I found them over-bright, with weak bass and very little stereo image, and this was through MF pre-power setups (the main system) with a mix of KEF/B&W and Tannoy speakers. As you say though, each to their own.


    Ah, nothing new there. Back in the late 80's the revival of valve was largely due to an attempt to "tame" CDs "aggression". ;)

    I wouldn't argue CJ. Well designed kit, even up to twenty years old, can still sound excellent today. My Uncles Audio Research SP8-M100, Kef 104/2 combie still sounds awesome whatever front end he sticks on it. I would also agree that the hi-fi world does try (inevitably - they have product to sell) to hype up "advances", but sometimes the improvements really are there. Budget amps for example, are in a different class to the topical choice of wooly sounding, or overbright efforts of the 80's, or the "only good on some inputs" efforts of the 90's.
     
  18. alexs2

    alexs2
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    Absolutely right...all of these were,and still are excellent DAC's.

    Also interesting the see the prices of used dCS gear currently....once the most expensive,and decidely the best I'd heard,but now changing hands in the £2-3k region,now that newer and "better" things are available.
     
  19. DonMaico

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    I have a mix of vintage and not so modern. I recently bought a QED passive pre and was amased at the improvement it made over my AI pre( which i now use as a phono stage) and it only cost me £40 which I think its about right given how simple these devices are.I also bought a QED dac( and power supply) ,which I am waiting for to, see what improvement bitstream has over 16 bit. My major expense will probably be an Origin live T/T upgrade(cost about£450) and a new cartridge-either Grado gold or goldring 1042 MM.I also bought a pair of Kef Duettes( circa 1964) and was quite amased at the quality of bass. These are most revealing speakers and are ruthless with any poor sources including software.
     
  20. alexs2

    alexs2
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    Hi there,Don....I see you decided on the QED after all....glad it does what you wanted.

    As you know,mine is also a mix of modern,not so modern,and downright ancient if you include the Quad ESL's and II's.....each has it's good and bad points(lack of power etc in the old valved gear,and depth/imaging not as good with the solid state).

    Some older speakers can still be superb in quality terms,and things like the ESL's and Meridian M3s can still hold their own with many modern designs too.
     
  21. DonMaico

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    Hi alexs. Only decided on the Qed mainly coz of the price. I thought I couldnt risk divorce( my wife has a canny way of finding things out) so i thought I'd take a risk with a cheapy - still got a bollocking tho!
    On the issue of speakers ,it amazes me that no one seems to know much about sixties Kef gear.even the dedicated Kef enthusiast website doesn't include them
     

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