TheFlash

A surprise mini-CDP bake-off in Kendal: Arcam CD23T, DV139, Pioneer PD-91

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Super Wammer
37 minutes ago, eddie-baby said:

The battery power supply on the hugo is a bit of a cheat in some ways I think though. I've read a lot that a battery power supply can just provide a way better supply than a mains supply, especially with regards to hi-fi, so does this immediately put them at an advantage over other DACs?

I haven't read too much into yet either but the other thing I find odd about the hugo 2 is the filters! Do we have a product here which just doesn't sound great with everything or to everyone so what we'll do is add some eq settings to tick that box.

For a very long time, batteries have been how to get the smoothest, most noise-free DC supply to electronics. But my point is the noise (2.6uV) in the Qutest is the same as the Hugo 2 running off of LiPo batteries, so there'd (in theory) be no discernible difference. Noise floor refers to all sources of noise, which would include any from the supply.

In answer to the question on filters... I think it's a tick box exercise. A product is not immediately dismissed by a listener, if they can alter the sound to taste. In the Hugo 2, this is supposed to deal with how some people like headphone presentation to make it more stereo speaker like, while others prefer the in-the-head sound.

Edited by Metatron

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27 minutes ago, Metatron said:

In answer to the question on filters... I think it's a tick box exercise. A product is not immediately dismissed by a listener, if they can alter the sound to taste. In the Hugo 2, this is supposed to deal with how some people like headphone presentation to make it more stereo speaker like, while others prefer the in-the-head sound.

hmm, interesting.

Kind of makes you think though, just a cheap trick, well we'll get them to like it somehow.

Edited by eddie-baby

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Super Wammer
Just now, eddie-baby said:

hmm, interesting.

Kind of makes you think though, just a cheap trick, well we'll get them to like it somehow.

If they used an off-the-shelf DAC chip with inbuilt filters that were switchable through 2 pins on the chip (giving 4 filter choices), then I'd say it was cheap. But somebody (prob Rob Watts) had to design the filters and program them on the FPGA. I doubt that all the code was generic even though the core maths for each filter may be.

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Just now, Metatron said:

If they used an off-the-shelf DAC chip with inbuilt filters that were switchable through 2 pins on the chip (giving 4 filter choices), then I'd say it was cheap. But somebody (prob Rob Watts) had to design the filters and program them on the FPGA. I doubt that all the code was generic even though the core maths for each filter may be.

An EQ might have been more useful, as its all basically equalization at the end of the day, isn't it?

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Super Wammer
4 minutes ago, eddie-baby said:

An EQ might have been more useful, as its all basically equalization at the end of the day, isn't it?

Not really, there's a lot more to it, but I'm not a DAC filter expert... somebody who can actually design a DAC filter stage is better giving a layman synopsis than me.

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13 minutes ago, Metatron said:

Not really, there's a lot more to it, but I'm not a DAC filter expert... somebody who can actually design a DAC filter stage is better giving a layman synopsis than me.

Nah, cant be. It's just a tonal change I would have thought. But I'm no expert either! Perhaps somebody else could comment. I know that valve sound is achievable with a digital filter (eq) like that was available for winamp as a plug in one time, AST DSP or something the name escapes me now, I actually tried it and it did sound valve'y. They could have stuck one of these on in 'digital form'. And had a true bypass also, would have probably been more useful I reckon.   

39876952611_7d5863b0be_b.jpg

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I've found it, this was it!

https://winampheritage.com/plugin/izotope-ozone/79374

And don't knock it till you've tried it. I've owned many different valve offerings over the years and I know how amazing valves sound, and as much as I couldn't personally think anything digital will ever replace them, as I do like to hear those hot bits of glass tinkling and what they do to the sound going through them, but I have to say a similar effect can be done digitally.

I've used valve simulators myself with guitar modelling amplifiers, and they have been amazing when listened to in isolation, however in real-world use and direct comparison they can work out less than impressive. BUT, it does keep getting better all the time!

And I'm very glad I found this! (this was something very relevant I saw many years ago), didn't think I would ever see it again but through the magic of youtube, here it is! Clarkson does a review on two Hi-Fi's here which pretty much sums it up  :D

14:30 onwards is the intro to 15:37, Technics complexity vs Arcam simplicity! Britain vs Japan :D OK, Clarkson doesn't really know what he's talking about, but you'll get the idea!

And this video, well, every budding audiophile should watch it :)

Edited by eddie-baby
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Super Wammer
1 hour ago, eddie-baby said:

And I'm very glad I found this! (this was something very relevant I saw many years ago), didn't think I would ever see it again but through the magic of youtube, here it is! Clarkson does a review on two Hi-Fi's here which pretty much sums it up  :D

14:30 onwards is the intro to 15:37, Technics complexity vs Arcam simplicity! Britain vs Japan :D OK, Clarkson doesn't really know what he's talking about, but you'll get the idea!

And this video, well, every budding audiophile should watch it :)

IMHO, Clarkson nails it. This (14:30-15:40) is great; as you say, every budding audiophile should watch it!

As an owner of Arcam kit at the core of my system and a vintage Pioneer system for pure nostalgic buttons-and-lights joy, I have a foot in both camps. I of course do not use any of the additional buttons on the Pioneer kit but that's not what they're there for; they're there to impress with their technical sophistication and their configurability by the "discerning audiophile" owner. The sound is distinctly not "hifi" in any sense fellow wammers would recognise but it is engaging, enjoyable, and well "musical" and, far more often than a self-proclaimed audiophile should admit to, I find myself listening for longer to the non-hifi Pioneer than to the hifi Arcam and the latter is not your pure dry analytical kit.

The buttons-and-lights Pioneer setup is what I'll sharing in Kegworth. I expect many wammers to read the door sign and jog on; others to pop in on a "hey, I'm a broadminded guy, this could be fun" basis and then leave politely after a track; and maybe a handful of others to settle in with a smile on their faces. I'll need your shoe size Eddie so I can have your slippers warming... :)

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Super Wammer
21 hours ago, eddie-baby said:

Nah, cant be. It's just a tonal change I would have thought. But I'm no expert either! Perhaps somebody else could comment. I know that valve sound is achievable with a digital filter (eq) like that was available for winamp as a plug in one time, AST DSP or something the name escapes me now, I actually tried it and it did sound valve'y. They could have stuck one of these on in 'digital form'. And had a true bypass also, would have probably been more useful I reckon.   

39876952611_7d5863b0be_b.jpg

I bet certain purists (who happen to also be puritanical) are working out how to toss you out of the audiophile world for showing a Graphic Equalizer - such heresy :)

I found some 'OK' YT vids going from signals through to DSP in a more understandable way than some things which just throw maths at you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVOA8VtKLgk

Give them a go if you want to learn more about digital filters.

As far as analog EQ goes, you could use one of these if you want endless options and transparency.....

product_manley_massivepassivemastering.j

https://www.thomann.de/gb/manley_massiv_passiv_stereo_mastering.htm

15 hours ago, TheFlash said:

I'll need your shoe size Eddie so I can have your slippers warming... :)

Don't forget the pipe, The Times, and a Basset hound:

hB7jFbN.gif

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Super Wammer
On 22/01/2018 at 19:54, stylesound said:

I was the other member at this unscheduled mini bake-off and totally concur with the results as stated by Nigel.  The only problem was that the Arcam CD23T was streets ahead of the Pioneer PD91 and even further ahead of the Arcam DV139; normally when comparing high end CD players I hear very subtle differences only.  I am, therefore, not convinced that both the PD91 and DV139 did not have some electrical issues.  For example Nigel had only acquired the PD91 the day before prior to which it had been stood unplayed for many years, neither did it get any warm up immediately before we played just one track of the CD.  Furthermore  the transit bolts had not been freed. Components never got warmed up and old capacitors had no chance of reforming. Similarly the DV139 was turned on, played and assessed without any warm up after also being stood for a long long time.  Conversely the CD23T was being played on a regular basis and, as Nigel says, was played in conjunction with a subwoofer.

I suggest that final judgement be deferred until we know for sure that the PD91 and DV139 are performing at 100% and the tests are repeated.

For me three things were learnt;

1. The Arcam CD23T is a superb bit of kit.

2. The Pioneer PD91 is to drool over.

3.  I don't want to buy a DV139 anymore. 

Thanks Nigel for a very enjoyable Sunday afternoon.

An update. I have just had a repeat bake-off on my lonesome and thrown into the mix the Bluesound Node 2 in two guises - ripped lossless CD streamed from NAS and Spotify stream of same.

Pioneer PD-91: unfortunately I have to point out that Mike was right (I'm worried it will go to his head). At his subsequent suggestion I left the PD-91 switched on for 24 (actually it turned out to be 48) hours to let the capacitors reform if ever they were going to. Well it sounds like a diffrent player, much fuller and able to cope with the winding bass of Jamie Woon's Night Air with aplomb. A little fuller and less clear than the CD23 in the bass and a slightly flatter soundstage which robs the treble and mids of a bit of their sparkle but we are talking nuances here compared with the clear difference heard a week ago.

Would I be happy if the PD-91 were my only CD player; yes, as I have been in my all-Pioneer set-up: the direct comparison with the CD23 was an unfair one because unlike the resident PD-91 this one was not match fit, but it now is. My preference remains the CD23 - for me it is a fuller, richer, more alive sound but we are talking preferences and marginal differences here, not chalk and cheese.

Which is a relief as I have this PD-91 up for sale on a well-known auction site.

Arcam DV139: I'm not sure what was going on with this last week either. The resident one here in Leicestershire plays CD's very nicely indeed, and that is via HDMI into the TV and then on to the amp via 6m long interconnects. I suppose I should try direct out the back of the DV139 to see if it is better or worse but I can't be arsed as it is academic for me (I would never play a red book CD on it). I suspect that if Mike had heard in Kendal what I have heard tonight he would not so readily have crossed the DV139 off his list of possibles.

Bluesound Node 2/NAS: I would probably slot this in just, and I do mean just, above the PD-91 in my personal rankings. A slightly more open sound? Again, hair-splitting stuff, with a splash of wishful thinking thrown in and of course over 25 years of DAC development separating them (humour me, Serge).

Bluesound Node 2/Spotify: I warmed up my ears listening to this (and accidentally returnd to it later when I was trying to get to the NAS copy). 320kbps should not sound as good as this. The lower resolution shows of course but the difference in SQ between Spotify 320kbps and CD/lossless is much smaller than that between Spotify 320kbps and 128kbps AAC. I don't know what is in the magic Ogg Vorbis fairy dust but it is pretty magical. And allowing, nay encouraging , me to listen more broadly to playlists and the like and to discover new music.

Having said that, the sound is no match for the others - eminently listenable but flatter, leaner, drier by comparison. Whilst I can imagine how Tidal can convince people to start renting rather than buying their music, Spotify clearly isn't going to do that for most of us wammers.

Over and out.

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46 minutes ago, TheFlash said:

An update. I have just had a repeat bake-off on my lonesome and thrown into the mix the Bluesound Node 2 in two guises - ripped lossless CD streamed from NAS and Spotify stream of same.

Pioneer PD-91: unfortunately I have to point out that Mike was right (I'm worried it will go to his head). At his subsequent suggestion I left the PD-91 switched on for 24 (actually it turned out to be 48) hours to let the capacitors reform if ever they were going to. Well it sounds like a diffrent player, much fuller and able to cope with the winding bass of Jamie Woon's Night Air with aplomb. A little fuller and less clear than the CD23 in the bass and a slightly flatter soundstage which robs the treble and mids of a bit of their sparkle but we are talking nuances here compared with the clear difference heard a week ago.

Would I be happy if the PD-91 were my only CD player; yes, as I have been in my all-Pioneer set-up: the direct comparison with the CD23 was an unfair one because unlike the resident PD-91 this one was not match fit, but it now is. My preference remains the CD23 - for me it is a fuller, richer, more alive sound but we are talking preferences and marginal differences here, not chalk and cheese.

Which is a relief as I have this PD-91 up for sale on a well-known auction site.

Arcam DV139: I'm not sure what was going on with this last week either. The resident one here in Leicestershire plays CD's very nicely indeed, and that is via HDMI into the TV and then on to the amp via 6m long interconnects. I suppose I should try direct out the back of the DV139 to see if it is better or worse but I can't be arsed as it is academic for me (I would never play a red book CD on it). I suspect that if Mike had heard in Kendal what I have heard tonight he would not so readily have crossed the DV139 off his list of possibles.

Bluesound Node 2/NAS: I would probably slot this in just, and I do mean just, above the PD-91 in my personal rankings. A slightly more open sound? Again, hair-splitting stuff, with a splash of wishful thinking thrown in and of course over 25 years of DAC development separating them (humour me, Serge).

Bluesound Node 2/Spotify: I warmed up my ears listening to this (and accidentally returnd to it later when I was trying to get to the NAS copy). 320kbps should not sound as good as this. The lower resolution shows of course but the difference in SQ between Spotify 320kbps and CD/lossless is much smaller than that between Spotify 320kbps and 128kbps AAC. I don't know what is in the magic Ogg Vorbis fairy dust but it is pretty magical. And allowing, nay encouraging , me to listen more broadly to playlists and the like and to discover new music.

Having said that, the sound is no match for the others - eminently listenable but flatter, leaner, drier by comparison. Whilst I can imagine how Tidal can convince people to start renting rather than buying their music, Spotify clearly isn't going to do that for most of us wammers.

Over and out.

Very interesting Nigel! and I wish we lived nearer. 

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The bluenode 2 had a bit of a slating by the What hi-fi mafia. Well not an awful review but its hardly put it in a good light.

You should have put your rDAC in for good measure as well Nigel.

https://www.whathifi.com/bluesound/node-2/review

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Super Wammer
39 minutes ago, eddie-baby said:

Very interesting Nigel! and I wish we lived nearer. 

Surprise! I'm moving in next door to you Eddie. Keep the music down will you? ;)

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11 minutes ago, TheFlash said:

Surprise! I'm moving in next door to you Eddie. Keep the music down will you? ;)

If that were true it could turn into a rollercoaster of hi-fi purchases between us :D

Edited by eddie-baby

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