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Philip Bouscarle
2004-11-24, 03:37
Saything that... I once went to a hifi shop to buy a Marantz CD player.
They guy in the shop tried to sell me the SE version which was 100 more expensive. He set them both up side by side on the same amp/speakers with a copy of the same CD in each and switching between them made it all too aparent that the SE version was a lot clearer. (I even swapped the CD's from one to the other, and checked the wiring to see if he was pulling a fast one). I bought the SE version.


I don't know much about this sort of thing but surely everyone would buy the cheapest CD player they could find if all digital outputs were identical? They do them in supermarkets now for about 30 but I bet they sound dreadful. The same goes for interconnects and by logical extension, surely every other component in the path from CD to ear must have some bearing on what the listener hears?

Steve Baumgarten
2004-11-24, 07:22
> I don't know much about this sort of thing but surely everyone would buy
> the cheapest CD player they could find if all digital outputs were
> identical? They do them in supermarkets now for about 30 but I bet they
> sound dreadful.

There are two issues with CD players and other components that convert
from digital to analog. There's the D->A stage, where the digital
encoding is decoded to an analog signal. I'm willing to believe that
some systems do this better than others, but I'm also willing to believe
that the difference is slight.

But then there's what happens once the digital bits have been converted
to an analog signal. And here not all systems are equal; this is, after
all, why some amplifiers sound dramatically better than others (and why
those that do tend to cost a lot more).

The money has to go somewhere. In the case of the Squeezebox and other
inexpensive audio components (e.g., consumer grade CD players), you're
going to have a decent sounding audio stage that will produce decent
sounding audio on the RCA jacks.

I find that my Acurus does a much better job with audio (i.e., an analog
signal); thus I feed it a digital signal from my Squeezebox and let it
handle the audio stage. The Squeezebox does what it does best (receiving
a PCM stream and handing it off to my Acurus); the Acurus does what it
does best (the D->A conversion, but more important, all handling of the
analog audio that results); the overall result is much better sound.

(Keep in mind, if you're playing MP3s you've already lost a lot of audio
quality. At that point it may not much matter what else happens. Stream
uncompressed, though, and the difference is pretty obvious on any
reasonably high-end audio equipment vs. the analog RCA jacks on the
Squeezebox.)

This isn't voodoo; no green magic markers invovled. High end equipment
costs more for a reason, and to a large extent you get what you pay for.
Having said that I'd also agree with the person who wrote that the
Squeezebox sounds as good as any consumer grade audio equipment in the
same price range. All manufacturers of gear in this price range face the
same issues and limitations related to cost; all make similar
compromises. There's no free lunch in the audio world, no more so than
anywhere else.

> The same goes for interconnects and by logical
> extension, surely every other component in the path from CD to ear must
> have some bearing on what the listener hears?

Interconnects one can argue about. The differences, if any, are going to
be slight. The differences, on the other hand, between what a high-end
pre-amp and amplifier can do with a signal vs. what consumer grade
equipment can do -- well, anyone can hear the difference.

SBB



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