What makes certain cd players better than others?

Hi all,

Basically asked my question on the subject heading.

The digital to analogue converter (s) selected play a big role, the more accurate and less prone to inaccuracies the better; Crystal Semiconductor and Texas Instruments (bought Burr Brown a while back) make some of the better known and respected DACs.

The quality of the transport makes a difference as well. The transport motor needs to be accurate (think of variations in speed on a turntable, same thing), stable so there aren't unnecessary and unwanted vibrations, and of course a good quality laser mechanism.

Like all electronic equipment the power supplies make a big difference, filtering out the grunge and providing a pure, clean voltage reference to the inards of the player. Some of the better CDP's have seperate power supplies for the digital and analogue sections of the player.

Finally, keeping airborne nasties out by extensive shielding teechniques is the hallmark of a good design. Goes without saying the quality of the various external parts impact the sound as well; the RCA and/or balanced jacks, power cord, etc....

Once you take all these things into account it's easy to see how CDP's vary in sound from one design to the next. Equally important to note turntable designers face some of the same challenges (obviously no DACs to deal with though). If you can, buy a top notch vinyl rig as a reference to compare how well various CD players sound in your setup.
What separates the best from the rest is the quality of the analog and output sections. This is where the sound happens. Upgrading and modifying the analog and output sections of a CD player is mainly what Stan Warren, Dan Wright, Dusty Vawter, and others do when performing their magic.

The DAC chip while still important, is secondary. There are many high quality older 16, 18 and 20 bit players that will still sound a lot better than a cheap 24bit/192 DVD/CD player.

Jeff can probably tell you about the quality of the old 20 bit Burr Brown PCM-63K grade mono DAC chips.
Specs & measurements. I don't have a clue what i'm talking about but i hear this is very important. I heard about this from a guy who thinks he is a reviewer. Or i guess is one.
JA from audiophile. Wouldn't dare try listening to one unless it measured up to the required measurements.
A lot has to do with the DAC's used but also how they are implemented. Power supply isolation and capacity plays a big part. I personally think the jitter level is a very important factor. It seems to follow the other items listed and ultimately effects the sound you hear. There are a lot of reasons for difference. As this thread progresses, you should get the idea.

You're right, the PCM-63K's were some of the best DAC's I've played with. Damned expensive, I think they were around $60 a pop (the K version denotes military grade and were much tighter tolerances). Smooth, analog sounding and definately worth the price of admission. Sadly they were discontinued in favour of the PCM170x series. Crystal is making some fine stuff these days, showing up in most of the better units on the market. Advances for sure but still not the equal of my turntable...