CD Sound Quality -- please help educate me


I'm hoping for some help in learning more about CD sound quality. I enjoy listening to vocals / jazz / acoustics / classical (ie - Jane Monheit, Joe Pass, Kenny Burrell, Miles Davis, etc). Keep in mind that I'm not technical nor an audiophile. :)

Having recently improved my listening experience through the help of many members here in the Tech forum, I'm considering upgrading my CD player (Sony CDP-X111ES from about 1991). My other components include: Anthem AVM2, Adcom GFA-5400, KEF C75.

I'll post my questions in the next post -- I think the number of characters in the Question post is limited.
yes, you have a lot of questions arising/welling up. The more they get answered, the more they arise... ;-)
@bombaywalla -- much thanks for the synopsis. I'll need to read it more closely. But the quick gist I'm taking away is that the number of bits relates to a refinement of the original sound through noise (hopefully noise only, not actual sound - I don't understand how noise is relegated to the least sig bits) reduction and/or interpolation during playback.
glad that I could help. this is a complex subject that is taught in engineering school in digital signal processing & takes time to assimilate. Suffice it ot say that the noise power in the electronics is small compared to the power of the wanted music signal. Thus, noise power & the power of the signal in the least sig bits is of the same order of magnitude. That's why the least significant bits are corrupted by noise.

The benefit of non-44KHz sampling rates in the player still eludes me unless it's related to the interpolation of points from the data on the CD. But even then, it seems it would not necessarily make the sound 'better' only perhaps slightly different. It's filling in the gaps between data points for what may already be a practically smooth curve.

Putting all this together, it seems like, to me, this is all a matter of subtle refinement intended to better replicate the original sound, not necessarily to make larger, obvious improvements.
Some of your statements are true & others written out of naiveity. Yes, the process of resampling does create a smoothing function which can often merely change the sound without making it better/worse but equally often resampling can make the sound much better. It's hard to say which brand & model will make that impact on you - you'll have to try many of them before you declare success for yourself. ANd, these units are not always cheap.
I believe that the premise of this very high degree of resampling is based on the premise that if you resample at high enough frequency you can make the digital bitstream practically analog i.e. if you sample a signal at an infinite frequency, you'll get an analog waveform.

Taking for example the Cambridge DAC Magic box and their 540/640Cv2: Is the design and components in the DAC much better than what is in whole CDP? Or is it basically the same thing less the transport and the laser unit?
I find that a piece of electronics that is dedicated to performing only one function works better than another piece of electronics that is designed to do more than one function. in a 1-box CDP, one needs to pay attention to the laser drive unit, the associated receiver, the buffering of the DAC, the DAC, post DAC processing, the analog power supplies, the digital power supplies. So, a lot of things in 1 chassis. And, they have to built to a certain price point. There is bound to be a compromise or a major compromise in sonic performance. If you buy a dedicated DAC, then all the effort by the designer has gone into making the best DAC at that price point with no other consideration. You'll get a better DAC for the same money.

are transports significant in CD playback?
oh yes! search the digital archives here on A'gon. Use the words in your question as the key words in the search & you should find a thread from yester years that discussed this very topic. The topic ran into 100s of posts & a heated debate. You can learn much from that thread.
Depending upon how well the Sony is built it might suffice as a transport. DACs that asynchronously resample the date before converting tit to analog can undo some of the detrimental effects of weak transports.

"It's hard to say which brand & model will make that impact on you - you'll have to try many of them before you declare success for yourself. ANd, these units are not always cheap."

Given my constraints, perhaps ignorance is bliss in this case and I should just be happy with what I have. :)
Another way to answer the question is today's DAC is better than DAC 10 years ago NOT because today's DAC is capable of 24/192, but it's better in every way including the capability of handling 24 bits. Don't look at just bitrate spec. Today's DAC has lower noise floor, better handling of jitter, better noise shaping filter, and better time domain response.