Upgrade my CD player or futile effort?

I would appreciate you guys input. I listen to 90% vinyl  and 10% CDs due to a lot of new music I get into only comes out on CDs. My analog system sounds fantastic to my ears but unfortunately my digital falls short. My analog system consists of:
-VPI Classic 1 TT
-Lyra Kleos cart
-PS Audio Stellar phono preamp
-Prima Luna 100 preamp
-Parasound Halo A21+ amp
-PBN Montana XPS speakers
-Dual Rythmick
F-12 subs
My CD player is a Marantz CD6005 running through my analog system.
Compared to my vinyl, overall the sound from my CDs lacks the depth and definition in bass, comes short in the soundstage and overall space in presentation and does not have the
same clarity in treble.
If I rate my analog sound a 9, I would rate my digital CD a 7.
My question is, would I benefit from a better CD player, even so the CD6005 is no slouch, or am I gonna end up in a goose chase?
I realize my CDs may never sound as good as my vinyl, but I would try to improve it if you guys think it would be worth the effort. Are there really some outstanding CD players out there that can measure up to vinyl? Personal experiences only please, do not need sales pitches by equipment associations you may have never listened to. Also all my cabling and room setup is a 10 to me with the analog so I wouldn't change any of that for my CD player listening.  Thanks.

You do have a very nice Analog rig. I was always a pro analog guy till 2011 when I went digital. 

My only thought is that you might try a r2r DAC with a tube output stage. You could use your 6005 as a transport. Possible upgrade the transport later should  you find the DAC is taking you in the right direction. 

I own a Audio Mirror Tubadour III DAC, paring it with a CXC transport. The AM is r2r and has a tube output stage. It did much to improve the sonic qualities you are looking for. Can't say how it would compete against analog in your system.

+1 @mesch

Considering the limited choice of CDP's and the # of DACS now offered, this is the way to go for digital, unless you stream. Then too I have heard that often the cdp's sound better than streaming. I can tell you from experience that streaming in not as easy as it sounds unless you put a lot of $$$ into it and the software

Nice analog however digital is all about the DAC. Until you find one you like you are in the weeds.
Your analog components retail at approximately $6000 (TT, Cart, and phono pre), and you're comparing the sound to a $550 CD player. Assuming your analog equipment upgrade path resulted in better sound (a 9), why would your digital front end be any different? Would you say your analog path was futile?

What's your digital budget in order to reach a "9" to match your analog front end?
I much appreciate the input so far since my digital knowledge is limited. As I am unsure of the improvements a DAC will bring to my CDP, what about starting with the Denafrips Ares II? I am currently not interested about all the bells and whistles since my only concern is to improve the sound of the CDP. The CDP has an optical out, the dac an optical in and rca connects for my prima luna preamp. Simple enough. What do you think, would that be enough to upgrade my digital sound? I can always go more expensive later if this works.
If I rate my analog sound a 9, I would rate my digital CD a 7. My question is, would I benefit from a better CD player, even so CD6005 is no slouch, or am I gonna end up in a goose chase?
I’d rate your CD sound a generous 4 by today’s standards. My back-of-the-envelope calculations say you’ve got upwards of $10k invested in your vinyl front end versus $500 on a CD player. I mean, I understand when you say your digital knowledge is limited, but you’ve spent 20x more on your vinyl rig yet ask if trying to upgrade your $500 CD player is “futile?” Just how bad do you think digital sound is??? What the hell do you expect from a total investment of 500 bucks? How would a $500 vinyl rig including cartridge and phono pre compare to your current setup? Where does simple common sense kick in here man? C’mon.

Your CD player sucks. I’ve heard it, and it sounds exactly as you describe it. The good news is that at this low level even a relatively meager investment in a DAC will produce very meaningful improvements. Since you’re obviously a fan of vinyl I’d recommend an R2R DAC as they tend to have a more fluid sound that can appeal to (or at least not repel/offend) analog lovers. I’d recommend a Musician Pegasus over the Ares that you can get here for $1099...
or at least step up to a Denafrips Pontus ll that’ll also be a significant upgrade over the Ares. And PLEASE don’t use an optical connection. Here’s a very reasonable but still very good-sounding SPDIF cable you can use until you feel like an upgrade would be worthy...
You’ve got a nice system, so spending a few extra bucks on your digital setup will pay great dividends. Best of luck.
@soix , just the info I needed. Obviously now I know going with a better CDP without a DAC is worthless. I did not know that because I never cared to research it. Thanks for schooling me.
In today’s world digital can be very comparable and as satisfying as vinyl. In general, it will cost a little more to get digital to sound as good as analog but I would say it is very much worth the money. While you can go the CD route, it is rather a dead end. About ten years ago I bought a very good CD player (Sim Moon 650D) which was already marketed as a CD player / DAC. That can be a good way to go… at some point adding a high quality streamer to this you can have streamed music at CD quality or higher (much content like Qobuz is of higher resolution than CD. I ran a VPI Aries and Van den Hull Frog back then. If you make a good choice of streamer (think turntable) and DAC (think phono stage) and invest about the same amount as your TT/phono stage you will probably have a pretty satisfying digital end. If you invest 25% or more additional funds into your digital end can be equal. But you have access to nearly infinite music for $14.99 / month. This is clearly the way forward.

To do this you have to make smart choices in equipment like you have on your analog end. But it is absolutely worth it. You need to immerse yourself in understanding the sounds of different DACs and Streamers. Don’t worry about the technology, read lots of professional reviews and if you can listen to some. If you can go to a high end audio dealer and tell them you want to listen to their best digital system. Once you hear it is really achievable then you can comfortably start work.

I struggled with the deficiencies in digital for decades. And made strides, but not until the last few years finally realized what it took (for me buying a good streamer). You don’t have to get equipment as good as mine to achieve a satisfying digital end… you have a different system and budget. You can see mine by clicking on my user name.

Right now my analog end is about 25% less in cost than my digital end. My analog end has a bit better detail and air. But both are completely satisfying and I listen to 90% streaming as opposed to 75% vinyl. I have 2,000 CDs which I never touch… work well as sound diffusers.

Thoughtful post, thanks. A lot to digest since I am just debating going down the digital road. As far as streaming, even so it may be the way things are heading now, it isn't for me. I grew up reading every word of every vinyl cover I owned while listening to the album. Info about the musicians, engineers, mastering, location of recording, etc... Not to mention the lyrics. All that has always been a big part of my listening experience even if a little less now. 
However, after thinking it over, I may want a DAC that has more features than hooking up the CDP. One thing that would be helpful to me is having bluetooth since I use youtube on my cell to check out bands I may be interested in. So hearing them through my system would be very helpful as my phone sucks. So I am now looking at the Topping D70s DAC which does that and more while reportedly having a r2r type of sound. Any thoughts anyone?

As far as streaming, even so it may be the way things are heading now, it isn’t for me...One thing that would be helpful to me is having bluetooth since I use youtube on my cell to check out bands I may be interested in. So hearing them through my system would be very helpful as my phone sucks.
But, what you’re doing on YouTube is precisely what streaming offers (minus the crappy sound quality). You can check out almost any music imaginable (still using your phone if you want but just as an interface and not the actual source) except you get to hear the music in CD-or-better quality on/through your main system without using Bluetooth or then having to buy the CD. You just made the case yourself why streaming IS for you. I’ve never had more fun as an audiophile finding great new bands/music (much of it in hi-res BTW) to the point where, and as someone else mentioned earlier, I almost never listen to my own CDs anymore. My advice, buy a decent DAC and a Bluesound Node streamer and you may find yourself having more fun enjoying music than you ever have before.  FWIW.
My Hegel 590 has an excellent DAC built in.  It's one of the reason I choses Hegel.  My CD transport is a Audiolab 6000 CDT.  Retails in the U.S. for about $450.  Don't let anyone say you can't get quality at a low price.  The combination sounds fantastic.  Oh course, the heavy lifting is being done by the DAC.  If you are inclined to spend a bit of money, read the reviews on Hegel's Mohican CD player. 
I would consider something like a CEC CD5 player. It has basically the  guts of a TL5 and a DA5 in the same box with digital I/O. You can play your CD's and stream your digital collection to the DAC in the CD5. You can find more details here https://audio-union.com/product/cd5-cd-player/

I think it would be a good CD player to add to your system based on the equipment you have. You would enjoy the musicality of the CD5 in your system. See reviews.

PS CEC makes CD players and transports for other brands including your present CD player.
You might want to try the Rotel RCD-1572 Cd player for around 1k very good reviews, and i also own 2 of them along with a Simaudio moon 360 d which you might be able to find for just under 2k if you look.
With the rest of your gear I’m not sure why you think a Topping D70 would satisfy you. The Topping D90SE gets much better reviews and is still around $900. And there are SO many more but it sounds like you are just trying to “dip your toe in” to modern digital which may not satisfy you. But here is an option that would let you listen to your CDs, get a modern DAC and even dip your toe into streaming. Get yourself a Bluesound Vault 2i and each time you want to listen to a CD you rip it instead to the Vault’s hard drive. Then you get a Topping D90SE or equivalent as an external DAC for the Vault. Assume you have a WiFi connection the side benefit is you can try one of the “hi def” streaming services on a free trial (AmazonHD, Tidal, Spotify Premium when it comes out in CD quality later this year). Win, win and win from a tad over $2,000.  And there is a very active secondary market in these so if you don’t like it, you can sell it all and start over for not very much out of pocket. And if do like it but want more there are infinite upgrade paths from there. 
And I agree with an earlier post, don’t use the optical output of an old CD player and expect great sound even with a new DAC. You will be disappointed and think you made a mistake going down this path. 
I’ll chime in to.  Keep your CD player and get a better DAC. I’ve had great results with Schiit, Chord and Denofrips. I kept a Schiit Bifrost and got rid of others when I bought a Hegel H390 as it has a surprisingly good DAC in it.

All the best.

I’ll chime in to.  Keep your CD player and get a better DAC. I’ve had great results with Schiit, Chord and Denofrips. I kept a Schiit Bifrost and got rid of others when I bought a Hegel H390 as it has a surprisingly good DAC in it.

All the best.

You describe the sonic downfall of digital. First, I would use your current cd player as a transport for another DAC. Then, I would try another transport and maybe an R2R DAC. No reason to make any changes if you can't hear these changes.
Add a Luxman c-03x cd player. It has an excellent DAC. You should see a big improvement.
+1 for the Luxman D-03X. Great sounding CD player, excellent detail with a warm(ish) sound. Silent in operation too.
Bought a used Ayon CD-5s from an Audiogon member as was stunned by the difference between this unit and my Marantz.  Layers of music I've never heard before.  Depth, nuance, realism, silence. In many ways better or at least equal to vinyl without the pops.  If I was you, I'd seriously look at a quality tube CD player.  
Baylinor Writing from experience I can inform you that an external dac such as the Topping D90 or latest SE version will enhance your current cd player. An external dac at that price will defeat the ability of any internal cd dac to at least a $2000 + player.
Roon Rock in my experience sounds way way superior to the delivery of $2000 cd players and better than jriver etc. Use an intel nuc. See Darko Youtube channel for guidance.
To bring sound quality up your analogue TT level streaming from hard drive ie copying your own cds to become source will save you thousands.

baylinor OP
My question is, would I benefit from a better CD player, even so the CD6005 is no slouch, or am I gonna end up in a goose chase?

 Get yourself a decent R2R dac (eg Holo May) and a good CD transport, then only get the non compressed CD’s (usually the early ones) green is good yellow red bad, then you "may" convert from your vinyl!!

Only album they ever did.

And the Boss.


Cheers George

I have a Denifrips Aries 2 and am exceptionally happy with its performance. So much so I have ceased using my CA Blu Ray / SACD as a transport and bought an Audiolab 6000 CDT. A big improvement. I previously owned the Marantz CD 6004 and my new set up is much better. I agree with an earlier comment many vinyl fans have $5000+ vinyl set up and say it does not compare to a $500 CD, I should think that is likely to be the case. I gave up on my Garrard 401 / SME TT as I could not live with rumble and surface noise any longer. Of course CD is also light years ahead in convenience. I have tried streaming with Marantz NA 7004, not good, I loaned a CA 851 N a little better, eventually settled on a micro rendu / audirvana etc set up, a bit better but poor reliability and no better sound than CD. Hope my experience helps. BTW other components Vincent SA 31 MK / SP 331 MK, Audio Physic Sitara 25's and 2 Denfinitive Technology Supercubes, unfortunately squeezed in a 3.3 x 4.5 m Room. 2 subs help with bass more even and AP's are really good small floor standers for my size room.
I used a Marantz SA11S1 cd player for years but now use a Audiolab6000CDT cd transport into a Gustard X26pro DAC..Big improvement in every way.. much closer to my vinyl set-up sq wise (SL1200G/ART9/SPL Phonos)

As others have indicated, your problem is your lousy Marantz CD player.  A new DAC will make an enormous improvement.  You may want to consider a new CDP that allows for digital inputs-essentially these are DACs that spin CDs..  Then you can upgrade the transport at the same time and ditch the Marantz and not have another box and cabling issues.
  OP indicated that he uses digital to explore new artists.  Streaming would probably fit his needs better, since most services offer huge catalogs and also suggest new artists based on your previous selections.  I would also consider a DAC streamer and keep the Marantz for CD transport 
I had an Ares II and was happy with that but dove a little deeper and got the Pontus II; didn't see what your budget was (will assume you're "dipping your toe in"), so there's a lot of people here that will offer more expensive and better quality options here than what I'm suggesting.  There's a $1000 jump from the Ares II to the Pontus II but I felt it was worth it, but I stream heavily and use my CD transport when the mood strikes me (Cambridge Audio CXC V2; had the Audiolab one but preferred the CXC) .  I would second the suggestion that you get a DAC that works for you feature-wise and hook up your Marantz to that first - only change one thing at a time, and it might actually be the DAC in it that's poochy.  There's a bunch of good DACs out there for whatever price point you're at so it's unlikely you're going to get a dog.  Any Denafrips DAC are going to be the ones with the least B&W so no bluetooth, remote, or wireless capability, and if you buy directly from Vinshine there's no return policy if you don't like it.  I've had a number of Topping products and they've all measured well, were packed full of features and sounded good but never moved me enough to keep them.  I hear many raves for the Jay's Audio transport but we're talking about $2400 and it's a top loader so that has to be accommodated.  Alternative: the Bluesound products have an OK DAC built into them and allow you to get into streaming at a low cost; requires you install their BluOS software which works very well (I think) on either your smartphone or computer - no fees or subscription needed.  You can stream internet radio for free or play any flac files through it, and you can always bypass the DAC in it if you get a better one and use it only as a streamer.
OP, you stated "Obviously now I know going with a better CDP without a DAC is worthless." Not obvious, and not true.  I recently plugged my Oppo UDP205 into my den (main) system; it had been anchoring my home theater since purchased (ca 2017) on a system that was more pro and less audiophile.  My den system had been using either a Sony S9000ES SACD player or Pioneer Elite BDP05, both of which were about 20 years old (and consequently 20 year-old DAC technology). Holy smoke!  Soundstage, frequency range and dynamics galore!  I know a lot of A'goners bitch about the Oppo DAC, but the point is, a good quality CD/SACD player runs circles around older CDP's, and you shouldn't discount them.  Look at current models from Luxman, Marantz, and Technics, to name  few (which should set you back $3K-4K).  Or you can try the separate DAC route, but try to avoid the optical connection if you can help it.
FWIW I am waiting on Esoteric K-05XD and the K-07XD SACD players which should be released in a couple of months.  Rave reviews for the K-01XD and the K-03XD which have been out for a couple of years now.  All the Esoteric models have among the best tray mechanisms in the world, and the new "XD" versions have a much-improved DAC.  So you get a phenomenal transport and a fantastic DAC all in one.  They have all kinds of digital inputs to use the DAC in the player.  For me, it's a no-brainer upgrade.  But first I'd like to demo when they come out.  Guessing in the $7500-10K range, so not cheap.  But again, it's a player-- 2-in-1 transport and DAC that has USB input, among other inputs.  And they play SACD's.
Whether DAC or new player the question is what makes them sound better than your modest unit?
Answer: Internal analog amplification circuit, power supply and filtering capacitors. Look under the hood.
I have a Marantz SA8005 SACD player and if you look for online pics of the chassis you will see what I mean.
The analog amplification circuitry gives the sound its drive, dynamics and energy as well as freedom from noise. The SA8005 does this quite well but is out of production.
The newer Maranttz SACD players do this well too.
I also have a Luxman D05 which uses an R core transformer power supply, the best IMHO. Lower noise and improved dynamics.
As others have mentioned The D03X is an excellent sounding player.
I prefer a one box solution. However there are some excellent DACs with robust power supplies. Look under the hood at online pics.  Avoid DACs or players with empty chassis.  
The Ares is a nice DAC but I would stick with a chip based DAC. The R2R can sound a little warm or unresolved with your system. You might want to try the RME. The reason is you can set up the sound to your preferences. It will be slightly less musical than a Chord. But a good starting point into the DAC world. Plus it comes with a remote. If you feel this is for you they have a black version that steps it up a notch. I hope this helps. 
A dedicated CD transport and an external DAC is definitely the way to go.  I endorse the Audiolab 6000 CDT as a very good transport; there are lots of really excellent DACs.  You don't have to spend more than $2000-3000 total to have something approaching state-of-the-art CD reproduction (note that I said "approaching" - not "reaching").  I am sure you will be a lot happier with CD sound than you are now.
I went with the RME ADI-2-DAC fs that hshifi mentions and love it. It has more features surrounding the actual DAC than the competitors, but that might be more than you want to deal with. I am in total agreement with the above advice that you change one thing only to start with. That would be the DAC. Keep it separate from the transport player so you can upgrade either as you desire in the future. I even think the Topping Dx7 Pro would improve your system and it would cost a lot less to try. Buy from a place where you can return it, no questions asked, if you don't think it is a major improvement or to your liking. Plus, it comes with a nice headphone amp, so you can find more places to spend your money in the future. :)I have ripped all my CDs and find I rarely listen to either the actual CD or the ripped version. I started with Qobuz and thought it was great, then tried Amazon Music HD and never looked back. It sounds great and it probably has any CD you have plus tons more. It has a great interface to pick an artist and it lists all their hits to see if there are ones you like. It also has so much artist and album information to get lost in for...you pick the timeframe.  Don't get me wrong, I am not a Jeff Besos' fan, but there is a reason why they are the largest at what they choose to do. Just my opinion, but I chose to not buy into the MQA/artist platform (Tidal).Have fun!
@baylinor, I haven't read this entire thread. So, if someone else has already touched upon this or if you are already aware of this, I apologize for the redundancy.

Assuming you are using reasonably good interconnects with the CD6005 and using it as a player and not as a transport, do you have it switched to its "Audio EX 2" sound mode? This is covered in the manual and easy to do (i.e. the push of a button). "Audio EX 2" sound mode will give you the best audio the CD6005 is capable of. Will that be better than your vinyl play? Assuming reasonably good vinyl care and play habits... no. However, "Audio EX 2" sound mode will be a touch better than what you're getting now. It will be a subtle but noticeable improvement.

Another option is to use the CD6005 as a transport with a better DAC. However, the DAC in the CD6005 is pretty good. IMHO, it's on par with the MAC DA1. Will you find the audio produced by a better, high-end DAC better than what you're getting from your vinyl play now? Well, only your ears can decide that. Personally, pound for pound, dollar for dollar, I have yet to hear any digital media that sounds better than a good vinyl set-up.
You guys are the best! A lot of very good advice from many different directions. The one that resonate to me is do one improvement at a time. Been guilty of not doing that in the past. The other one that comes back most often is get an external DAC and keep the current  transport. I am totally in line with that. I spent quite a few hours now reviewing my options. It seems that the starting range that may please me in a DAC is $700. Of course it can get better from there, but that may be enough to get my toes wet. Anyhow, so far I am considering the following:
-Schiit Bifrost 2.
5 year warranty and 15 days return!
-Denafrips aresII
-Topping D70S, (the D90SE may be too revealing for my system)
-Musicians Pegasus, sounds like a winner, but reliability questions with a brand new company concern me. 
Some other DACs in that price range mentioned here include headphones preamps which I don't need since I have the Schiit Asgard 3. No sense paying for that. As I said earlier streaming won't be for me, I need the tactile part of my music collection. Over 2,000 vinyl and about 400 CDs. 
So just need a simple no bells and whistles straight DAC with RCA out and coaxial in (no optical, got it!) and will hook it up to my Prima Luna 100 tube preamp. I just have to decide between those based on sound characteristics which can get overwhelming in the many reviews. Please chime in some more if you experienced the sound of any of those. Thanks to all.

@oldaudiophile.Yes, I have it set to audio EX 2, always have. It still is not in the league of some of the new DACs from what I now understand.
Lumin U-1 mini = 2000.00

Your DAC of choice @ 1000.00

Synology NAS = 500.00

Rip all your seedees to the hard drive and enjoy. You can also stream Qobuz with this set up. Hands down better than any cdp you can buy at that price. But in the end, your vinyl rig will probably still win the day, just by not as much.


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As Yakbob has stated clearly, and others have said, you have a huge imbalance in your digital vs analog. Who do you think a $500 mediocre even at that CDP will compare with your TT costing > 10X that? I mean digital can be great, BTU its not magic....

So why do you believe it might be futile? share.

I wont repeat the pages and pages that i have posted on how to get digital to sing, nor can i quote all the others who have, in thread after thread given of their knowledge. But rather than ask a superficial question, I’d suggest reading that trove of info.

Bottom line, while the are different, i generally prefer great digital to great vinyl, in part because the great music may not be on audiophile vinyl, but it may well be remastered on digital. I’m talking 10s of 1000s of titles on, say Tidal or Qobuz.

While it is much more complicated, i can also say that without question, streaming can be superior to any CDP, **all other things held constant**. You know, one variable per equation.

You will spend vastly more money than you have so far on digital, and even more in terms of time and effort to get it right. yes, there are many ways to get digital wrong. But i can get truly great sound with <$1k DACs. Beware though, i may have that much or more in stream, network, bridges, and idolators before it hits the DAC (USB - SPDIF has issues).

Will digital sound like analog? Honestly no. In many ways it will be vastly better. In others it will fall short of some euphonics.

I was an analog bigot until a couple years back. No more!

Done deal!
Ordered the R2R Denafrips Ares II
Couldn't have done it without you guys input.
Luxman, Hegel, and Bryston all make superb one-box CDPs. Parasound used to make one, too, that might be found used. That is the “keep it simple” solution. Almost as simple, Black Ice makes a tube hybrid DAC with a built-in transport that you could try out that could be used later with a Node or Vault to get streaming into your life. 
I too have a great analog system and I listen mostly to vinyls, after doing my own research I ended buying a vintage Sony CD player with 19 bit dac and the oversampling it definitely  makes a difference. 
That CD player weighs about 50 lbs! but it has the magic for me

I would have to agree that you could upgrade to an improvement with almost any brand from a $600 Marantz CD player; however, I have heard some $25,000 CD players that sound worse than a $1,000 player. The sweet spot is probably somewhere in the $4,000-12,000 price range.  If you like Marantz, why not try their new SA-10 SACD player? 

I have the CD6006 and the Ares II is a very nice upgrade...there are so many options if after listening you decide to upgrade again...and the Ares II is easy to sell...
I have a Marantz 6006 that I use as transport in my system. I listen to LP, stream- Qubuz, and CD. I have an entry level system that to me sounds very satisfying. I was steared towards trying Nobsound springs and found a positive improvement as a result, 35$. Real good starting point to see what the Marantz can do, and anything after potentially.

happy listening 
Nice confirmation, thanks. I think it was a sensible step forward for me in digital.
you ought ot like the Densfrips.  But keep in mind that it you feed it dirty, jittery, input (its actually not digital, its semi analog due to timing, which is the problem) you can still get very mediocre sound.
You must pay attention to the front end, and SPDIF (the normal CD player digital out)  is not pick of the litter.