AUDIO FORUMS >> General Discussion and Support >> "Computer/DAC sound" vs. CD Player sound

Message started by HPDJ on 10/22/12 at 21:19:10

Title: "Computer/DAC sound" vs. CD Player sound
Post by HPDJ on 10/22/12 at 21:19:10

Posted this in a Mini Torii  thread as well

Hey guys, wanted to post a quick question and I should (and may still) post it in a more appropriate thread later on but.....

My CD player has been giving me problems and I am now sending it back to the manufacturer for the 3rd time and there is a dealer out in San Diego who I bought my phono preamp from who tells me that it's probably time to give up on the CD player and use my computer with a program like JPlay etc and a good DAC....he says I can get even better sound this way and can avoid the downfalls of CDP transports...

Now, I'm new to the Hi-Fi world but I am totally aware of doing things the computer way, but it seems like if I can get better sound then it's something I should look into. I primarily listen to CD's and thought that going the computer route would introduce other factors that would maybe take away from the sound on my CD's....I'll probably have to spend some money demoing some DAC's and seeing what I think, but...

Anyway! I read these threads all the time, but I'd love to hear (read) what you use in the computer realm of things (if you use your computer at all) and if you don't use it, then why...

I've read things about usb spdif converters, jitter etc etc and it makes my head spin thinking about the extra things I would need to just get the audio on my PC sounding as good as the music coming from a great CD player....does this make sense? The computer convenience thing doesn't really apply to me because I do enjoy grabbing the disk and holding the art work blah blah blah (you've heard it all b4 haha) and I'm usually fixated on one album at a time for what turns out to be weeks sometimes.  Ok, no more rambling for now...hope you all are well!

Steve mentions this on the ZDAC page which I found interesting:

"With a computer you can rip CD's that are checked against online databases for accuracy.  This means you can get a bit-for-bit perfect recordings with zero errors - this is difficult to achieve even with brand new CD's on the very best transports."

My Gear:
Mini Torii
Trapezium speakers
Decware IC's and speaker cables
Denon DP-72L vintage turntable
Musical Surroundings Phonomena II Phono Preamp
CDP (on it's way to be repaired)
LCD 2 headphones

Title: Re: "Computer/DAC sound" vs. CD Player sound
Post by Donnie on 10/22/12 at 23:23:51

All I am going to say is once you go "Computer" you won't go back.
Check out They will have all of the answers for any of your questions.

Title: Re: "Computer/DAC sound" vs. CD Player sound
Post by Donnie on 10/23/12 at 00:47:40

I just got thinking some more on this subject. It really is strange that I like the 'puter thing so much, hell I don't even own a cell phone!
The convienience factor is number one on my list. I guess that I am really getting lazy in my declining years.
Sound quality isn't as big of a issue to me as it is to most of you. I really just like listening to music. Yeh, some stuff sounds better to me than some others, but just play a song that I like and I am happy.
As I look at what I have been saying, maybe I've picked the wrong hobby, or maybe I'm right where I belong, hard to call at this time.
That being said, all I want is to hear music sound like it does live. I've still got a long way to go to get that. Maybe some new speakers are just what I need. I guess my quest is just starting.

Title: Re: "Computer/DAC sound" vs. CD Player sound
Post by Crazy Bill the Eel Killer on 10/23/12 at 02:31:18

Hello HPDJ,

W/O question,unless you want to spend obnoxious amounts of money, the combination of JPlay riding on J.River Media Center will turn your computer into the world's best transport. PERIOD !!!

Download this program. It's the best bargain in computer programs there is. Fifty bucks and you won't believe the transformation it will make in the sound quality of your music files. Plus the photo and movie capabilities make it a no brainer. You can download and use for free for thirty days the full unrestricted, fully functioning program for your evaluation. I'll buy you a drink if you don't decide to keep it.

You will think you've reached audio nirvana when you get this running optimally, but the addition of J Play into the mix will completely blow your mind.

While the J.River playback engine is very good, it can't compete w/ JPlay. Please note, JPlay has no library capabilities, you need J. River for that. I know it sounds confusing, but its not. I will be happy to help you in any way I can. I've played w/ both programs a lot.
Disclaimer: I have no interests of any kind w/ either program, other than to state that after evaluating both, I GLADLY parted w/ my hard earned cash to purchase them. The JPlay trial version is not full featured in that the sound punches out for about 10-15 seconds every couple of minutes. There is no loss of sound quality or other features, so you will be able to hear any improvements it brings to the table. I predict that you will be shocked to learn that bits ain't bits, even though mainstream audio will tell you otherwise.

Just so you can get an idea of how good this is, I do not ( yet, though I will ), use a separate DAC. I use an HP notebook w/ Windows 7 and Beats Audio. HP supposedly went to great lengths to maximize the sound quality of the internal soundcard in their Beats Audio equipped computers, and it appears they succeeded. If you have a good soundcard in your computer, you should be able to get very close to SOTA performance. I know you all think I'm crazy, but try this on for size.

I feed the output of my computer's headphone jacks directly into my Stax SR007TII headphone amp, w/ Omega I cans ( I've got a set of Omega II cans, but I prefer the original version I ). this is a VERY revealing setup, and I can state w/ complete honesty that I can get lost in the music in a way that I never could using any CD player, and the best I've heard is the Burmeister CD/linestage combo , which is not too shabby.

Next, I took my computer to my buddies house ( he owns the Burmeister ), and fed the output into his system, which is the most revealing and musical ( for headphones ) system on the planet.
Macbook Pro/Amarra, feeding a WeissDac 202, into a fully tricked out Woo Audio WES ans A Stax SR009 earspeaker. Was his Mac/Amarra/ wesiiDac system better than my notebook and internal Dac w/ J.River/JPlay ?

Yes, it was. But the difference was miniscule. My computer source was so close to his I'll quote him " If I had heard this ( mine ) prior to putting my system together, I never would have felt a need to upgrade. "

Bottom line. If you've got a good soundcard in your computer, and at least Windows 7, get started. You've got nothing to lose. Again, I will help you in any way I can.

Cheers, Crazy Bill :) :)

Title: Re: "Computer/DAC sound" vs. CD Player sound
Post by HPDJ on 10/23/12 at 06:43:28

Crazy Bill and Donnie, thanks sooooooo much for your feedback wow! And Crazy Bill that's a great story about you bringing your set-up to your friends place, sweet! I'm also gonna look into the links you both left me once I have a chance to read them slowly...I'll let you know if I have any questions, or if I try it and need to take you up on your drink offer in case I don't like it haha....

Donnie, the convenience issue doesn't bother me at all right now, but maybe that would change over time once I got used to using the computer to retrieve and play my music...

Crazy Bill, what DAC's are you looking into getting? If your even looking right now, seems like your really enjoying your set-up which is great!

Ok, here is the lengthy response I posted on the Mini Torii thread:

OMG, thank you Radu, Lon, Fireblade and everyone for your feedback wow haha! I was tied up for most of the day after writing my little post and got some fantastic responses! So thank you all!!

Radu, I was withholding the maker of my CDP mainly because I like them and I don't want it to seem like I'm saying they are bad or something. Apparently the issues I've had with the player (first with the transport and now with some weird digital static sounds that pop up every now and then) are unique to lucky am I huh?? haha. I've been super patient with it all......ok enough stalling right!? The player is by Resolution Audio, it's their Opus 21 CDP that is discontinued (was $3500 when it was new, I got it for much less) and surpassed now by their new flagship player the Cantata music server. The Opus has some great write ups on the web if your curious at all and I bought it used from an authorized dealer.

It's a player that was reported to have a very analog like sound and a great even freq response and to also be highly resolving....I agree with most of these comes in two parts, the transport section and the power (DAC) section and the cool thing is that it all needs just one power cord. Their is an umbilical cord that connects the two units so they can "talk"......AND it has a digital input via RCA Coax (24/96)....and that was important to me because I wanted to try some of the higher resolution stuff on the web and be a little future proof....and least for a while....but the problems with the player prevented me from even getting to a point where I felt stable enough to try out the digital input or really enjoy the player without fear of some issue popping up...

NE way, so their is some (maybe too much) background on my "unique" issue. I'm now in a place where I may try and plead with the dealer to take the player back after it's repair (and resell it) and give me credit towards some of the DAC's he sells (he seems mildly open to this...I've had the player for like 10 months and it's spent almost half of that time being away for repairs on 2 different occasions)......I needed to get some more insight on the matter of DAC's and computer audio from you guys after the advice I got from the dealer and I have some more thinking to do for sure, but it's all been really helpful, truly...

If he agrees to take the player back and gives me some credit towards something else, I'll be limited to choosing from the things he offers (I've been curious about battery powered stuff from Red wine audio like their that will be a no go...also Anedio's DAC)....the dealer has stuff from Peachtree and Hegel and some pricer stuff from Pathos and AMR which are out of my reach for sure...I suppose something that is immediately appealing to me is that if I use my computer, then all I need is a DAC....and a usb/spdif converter I guess, depending...and I'll be set! I'd have to buy a seperate external hardrive to store music too though, but those are pretty cheap nowadays in relation to most audio more CD's skipping for some reason or another as well...the file would be their in it's entirety and ready to play smoothly...barring any issues with the computer itself which makes me a little nervous..

I loose remote control access and rewinding with a remote (not a big deal I guess)...though I know there are ways to have a remote with some setups and some DAC's.....Hegel has something with a remote when you use their USB input.........I'd loose the ritual of going to my CD shelf (which is alphabetized and quite neatly arranged) and stumbling upon something I haven't heard in ages and choosing that instead of what I thought I wanted to hear etc...I like that stuff.....then again, my vinyl rig could satisfy that part of things for me though...
There are more positives and negatives, but this is a long enough post as it is be continued..

I think I'll end up asking to demo something this dealer offers while my CDP is away for repair and then go from their. I'll hear it in my little desktop system (which is my only system so I want to really get it to sound the best it can sound)...I'll play some of my most well known/loved tracks and feel it all out....could be fun :)

Title: Re: "Computer/DAC sound" vs. CD Player sound
Post by Crazy Bill the Eel Killer on 10/23/12 at 13:57:49

Hello HPDJ,
Time for another link:

If you are a decent diyer ( can stuff a board ), you can build their stuff. Check them out, their stuff is absolutely SOTA and if implemented properly, can compete w/ anything.I will most likely be building a Buffalo III, but I haven't ruled out the COD.

Problem is, I'm in no hurry to build it as I have access to my friends system, and I still prefer my vinyl rig to ANY digital playback that I've been exposed to. The nice thing about Twisted Pear is that even though their circuits and implementation is SOTA, the ability to choose your flavor of I/V stage ( either one of their two offerings or a different tube based design ) is a huge plus. In addition, they are presently working on a new USB interface that will do 32/384, eliminating the need for a USB/spdif converter, which is limited to 24/192 per spdif specs.

Well, that's all I have time for now. Good luck in your quest, and please be patient. You been given a lot of info to digest.

Cheers, Crazy Bill :) :)

Title: Re: "Computer/DAC sound" vs. CD Player sound
Post by Lon on 10/23/12 at 14:14:13

Crazy Bill the Eel Killer wrote on 10/23/12 at 13:57:49:
Problem is, I'm in no hurry to build it as I have access to my friends system, and I still prefer my vinyl rig to ANY digital playback that I've been exposed to.

Bill, it's so amusing to me that as soon as I got the best digital playback I've ever heard in my system or outside my own system, and acclimated to it, I got back into vinyl and found that all along I was trying to make my digital sound like vinyl!

There are distinct differences, which are advantages, to each, but I find that I get a special satisfaction out of listening to vinyl, especially vinyl of "pre-tape" audio, music recorded on acoustic or early electric microphones onto disc, before magnetic tape came along. This music just comes alive on vinyl in a way that it rarely does on digital masterings, and this has really opened up a renewed vigorous interest in the excellent music that I have collected from these years. And the other great thing is that excellent vinyl versions of this music are much cheaper to collect these days than the digital versions.

I have been absolutely impressed with my PS Audio GCPH phono preamp, I believe it gets me to the heart of the music as easily, and at a considerably lower price point than the Perfectwave DAC Mk II. And my Rega RP3 turntable has just wowed me. I would say that right now my listening is about 65 percent digital and 35 vinyl. With the ZP3 about to be built and sent, I think I may even listen to vinyl more!

But I still love digital. Any format that gets me to the heart of the music is welcome here. :)

Title: Re: "Computer/DAC sound" vs. CD Player sound
Post by HPDJ on 10/23/12 at 17:02:01

Thanks for the link, will definitely take the time to digest it all!

Funny how many people are basically trying to make their digital have lots of the qualities of their analog stuff....I get it though...I haven't even heard the best of what vinyl has to offer yet, but I've had some magical moments with my vinyl rig and it's not even at it's fullest potential yet....yeah. :)

It's really been something when I really get into the music more when a record was well recorded....I know Lon and others have said some great things about this already, but I do find that I'm reaching for the better recorded stuff to really hear what my system can do most of the time....the Mini Torii's tone nob really does come in handy when the recording is too harsh though...even helps deal with some hiss on LP's...though I'd prefer to deal with that issue in other ways. But the sound stays musical so I play with it sometimes. Nice feature :)

I listen to ALL kinds of stuff, but I recently got into a great band named Spoon (rock/punk/fun stuff!).....I LOVE them now! Their album Transference. Now, I noticed how sweet the sound was on my system and really great on my headphones....reading up on the band, I learned that they record to tape and their stuff just sounds more full and less plasticy than some of the other modern bands I like.......with my system, I could even tell that one of the songs on the album was mixed/recorded by someone else...I confirmed this when I looked at the booklet...I was like "man I knew it!" haha!

Title: Re: "Computer/DAC sound" vs. CD Player sound
Post by marky on 10/23/12 at 18:42:18

Short aside...
Because I kept all of my cassettes, I bought another Nak ( LX5 110 eb fully functional) when my basic 30 yr old one became a repair job.
My cd player wont play cdr and I`d rather put any money toward a new D/ware main amp.
Reading all the comp playback info I had a moment.
I`ve been checking out usb interfaces so those albums`s I occasionally download can go to tape.
Nak playback is good enough that I rarely use any of the 3 filters.

Title: Re: "Computer/DAC sound" vs. CD Player sound
Post by will on 10/23/12 at 19:27:39


I have never craved "vinyl" or "analog" or objective always being a sound that is real. However, the gear I have was made by folks who worked to create "analog" sound, using master tapes as guides.

My system is unbelievably real sounding with optimized ---Mac Mini, Tranquility DAC, Tranquility Essential USB cable, and EVOX USB power supply. Optimizing includes the just right feet for my tastes on the DAC and Mini, and I like Pure Audio for software since it has dithered EQ and other really good features for optimizing the sound transparently. You can use a remote with the mini though I don't. There are a few other Mac programs that are really good too...even iTunes sounds good.

Back when I got the Tranquility, those folks, DbAudioLabs had done (along with other trusted testers in their clan) extensive research and found that the Mini was overall the best sounding and easy to use computer for many reasons, some of which I describe in other threads on this Forum.

...if you do a search in the forum for computer, you will find a lot of I started a long time ago with a similar name to this one. They will have useful links too. I think some are in the ZDAC section, but they are spread around.....

And you can definitely get bit perfect with a computer and software.

Anyway.... rest assured, you can get a kickass sound with computer to DAC, but as with everything else, every part matters!

Title: Re: "Computer/DAC sound" vs. CD Player sound
Post by Lon on 10/23/12 at 20:34:05

will, to me there's nothing wrong with comparing "real" and "vinyl" or "analog" because to be honest from the beginning there's been something "artificial" to me about the sound of digital that I've really only gotten past in the last half a dozen years.

I don't know if I would have been so conscious of it had I not spent so many years with vinyl and tape (and live sound in the air from people!). But I did and I see now that all the time in my digital experience I've always been trying to make my system sound more "real" in an "analog" "vinyl" (and natural sound of real performance in the air) way.

Just my journey. :)

Title: Re: "Computer/DAC sound" vs. CD Player sound
Post by HPDJ on 10/23/12 at 21:33:03

good to know will, thanks!

Title: Re: "Computer/DAC sound" vs. CD Player sound
Post by will on 10/23/12 at 21:34:17

Yes, I get that Lon. In the 60's, my first "favorite" medium was 1/2" tape, and I used records for what? 30 years or so?? with a progression of pretty good tables, and for the final 5 or so, while transitioning to CDs. And I, and many other Decware users are also accustomed to live music, being avid listeners and/or players....

I just find the "vinyl"/"analog" thing a bit overstated at this point, and over time an impediment to the optimal development to making the inevitable "digital" as good as it can be. Vinyl and tape (vinyl with its innate compression and fragile groove structure) also have disadvantages, but no matter the medium, if we just try to make music sound like music, then we are on a productive path. And trying to make digital sound like the best aspects of older technology makes sense, but more, I prefer trying to get the best period. And granted, two inch tape is a good reference...carrying all of what came in through the gear without digital anomalies. So the analog reference makes sense in this way.

But the digital transition has finally gotten pretty sophisticated from within its own particular sets of issues and solutions. Finally sorting out how to optimize all the various things of parts and synergy needed to arrive at real sound from digital material. My NOS chip (and its very synergistic implementation, and then adaptation into my system), though by some beliefs, unable to have smooth retrieval, is very "analog!!" Due to the experience of this DAC and the mini, I suspect, that 44.1K is in fact a lot more information than we think, it just tends not to have been fully exploited in a musical way by many. My least favorite recent digital source, a Rega Apollo, famous for its relatively inexpensive "analog" sound, and produced with good vinyl and "analog" as sounds a bit "produced" to me with a smooth "affect," or pretense, rather than the sound of music to me.

I find I can get a great smoothness from good tube system/room implementation, and with excellent digital implementation, that is to me better than my vinyl ever got, though I never got into a mega table.....But what I hear now from this system, is very real and balanced top to bottom.....smooth, but also really, really good in inner detail retrieval, micro and macro dynamics, timbre...the lot.....

As you point to, getting smoothness, and reducing "glare," edginess and "brittleness" was an issue in the digital transition, and from what I read now, still a problem for some... but frankly, my sound is pure digital, and it is absolutely amazing...sounding better than the vast majority of great instruments in live rooms I have heard.

And since this thread asks about switching from a CD player to a computer/DAC response was in that context.


Title: Re: "Computer/DAC sound" vs. CD Player sound
Post by Lon on 10/23/12 at 21:47:49

Cool, I don't think we're disagreeing at all. I now have excellent analog and digital side by side, and really I get music either way. I agree that many cd players trying to sound "analog" are missing the boat, and you're right in that there are many factors to deal with that one box just isn't likely to address and conquer. And there are limitations to vinyl. But I don't know how to get around saying there is a "feel" or "spirit" to the vinyl sound that is different enough from that of digital, a comparative difference that diminishes the more one addresses the issues of either, both media.

I'm glad that I have a system with both analog and digital sources that get me to the heart of the music. Which is what we both have been trying to accomplish. It took me til about 2005 or so to get close to here with digital, but it's been great fun since.

Title: Re: "Computer/DAC sound" vs. CD Player sound
Post by Donnie on 10/23/12 at 23:51:20

I just recently read that how music sounds "right" to people goes back to how they were first introduced to recorded music.
When I was heavy into vinyl I invited a young frind over to listen to one of his favorite recordings on my turntable. He couldn't stand it. To his ears it was way too laid back and lacking detail. He was a CD guy from his very first recording, so that is what sounded good to him.
Truthfully, I find that 99% of the time my computer setup sounds as good or even better than my old Sota turntable ever did. I do have to qualify that statement with the fact that I haven't ever used a turntable with my Decware equipment.
I always think that my Torii rounds the rough corners off of my sharp edged computer generated music.

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