What do you do when you $300 CD player sounds better?

I feel like I’m starting all over. I have a PS Audio Stellar S300 Amp, and Stellar GCD, Audioquest interconnects, NAD 516 BEE CD Player, and Kef LS 50 speakers. I set up server using an Acer Tower, and ripped all my CDs, AIFF, Installed Roon, I purchased a Sonore Microrendu a Sonore ultraDigital is a USB digital converter with SPDIF output via BNC and a LVDS i2s output. I also purchased from Small Green Computer the Linear Power Supplies. I’m streaming to my Stellar GCD using i2s. From when I set this all up a year ago, I was mesmerized by Roon, TIdal, streaming, and the convenience of it all. Today I had some down time, trying to relax before going on a grueling business trip, and for whatever reason, I decided to listen to some CDs. They sound AMAZING! Even with my modist $300 CD player. I then had my wife site next to me and we went through a series of AB testing and always the CD sounded like as my wife would say less fuzzy, like the glass is clean. I’m not sure what to do with my file based system. Does anyone know know what the next step would be? Would the Optical Rendu make a big difference?

Well the Acer tower could be an issue if not audio optimized. What cables from CD player vs from Ultradigital?

Why does there need to be a next step? Use the computer audio for convenience when you want convenience. Use the CD player when you want a critical listening session.


I have AudioQuest Cinnamon Digital Coax going from the CD Player. I use an AudioQuest Cinnamon going to from the Ultra Digital to the Stellar GCD.

Both coax?

The 2nd one is HDMI to the i2S port on my Stellar GCD

Many seem to like the Audioquest but I’ve tried a number of their offerings over the past 20 yrs and never stuck with one. I’d suggest trying a Wireworld HDMI in one of the Starlight series. But if the PC isn’t dedicated to audio then it may not make much difference. I feel that whenever using a PC as source it is imperative to have it dedicated and optimized or else it’s like running in sand.

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You need the DSD dac. The Direct Stream Dac blew away my $4000 Marantz SACD player. Not even in the same ball park.

Brodric hit the nail on the head. My MControl/NAS or Tidal to Bridge II does not match the sound quality of CD’s through the PerfectWave Transport HDMI to DSD, which has even better sound quality playing DVD audio discs. So my truism to live by: streaming is comfort music to read by, relaxing with a drink, or napping and CD’s or DVD A’s for pure or critical listening enjoyment. It is what it is.


I would try the CD player to a dac and hear the results.

As far as B2 - Perhaps some galvanic isolation between the Ethernet cable and the B2 would help. It definitely helped my system and for around $70.

Ummmm…so not true. It’s just that most streaming implementations just aren’t optimized. I’ve been into this since the mid 70’s and have tweaked to no end and my final implementation has been a streaming one for absolutely, insanely critical, listening.


The NAD CD uses Cirrus Logic chipset. The Stellar GCD uses an ESS Sabre chipset. It could simply be that you prefer the Cirrus sound over the Sabre sound.


Sounds like there must be something wrong. I could imagine a similarly priced CD player might sound better (not guaranteed though) but one that costs $300 definitely shouldn’t. I’m wondering if this is a power supply issue somewhere. Does everything that needs DC use a LPS?

Is your computer connected to the system using USB - if so I would suggest at the very least using a networked connection via an audiophile switch/optical switches. If you have the money a stripped down audiophile server might also be of help.

My streaming set up now sounds better than my CD playback but I spent a lot of time and money tidying up the power (probably a lot more than the cost of the CD transport) but before I did anything it was only slightly worse than the CD.

This is not true. If you do streaming right it can sound as good if not better but simply connecting up a regular PC is not going to do it. A little bit of extra work (or money) can make the Bridge sound as good as the DMP. A high quality external render can sound even better.

My DMP sounds awesome, about the same as streaming through my Aries G2. Aries sounds as good, plus, easy to surf my local server, Tidal, and, Qobuz.

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I think the problem is most people don’t have experience with an optimised streaming set up. I’ve spent the last six months putting mine together and it wipes the floor with the DMP now. The sound is just so much cleaner and clearer. That said it did cost a fair bit.

Where can you buy a Direct Stream DAC for US$ 4000? Here in Europe it costs EUR 7500 list price, currently a limited time special sale EUR 6900, that is for the limited time offer a whopping US$ 7800. So not US$ 4000.

But even if it were US$ 4000.

There is a reason why people buy Stellar equipment instead of a Direct Stream DAC. For those US$ 4000 jfeighny got an I2S DAC, pre Amp and stereo power amp an still had money left for all cables including his CD player. And like other Stellar owners he is probably very proud of it.

I agree with Brodric, keep the convenience of the library and enjoy that CD player for critical listening.

And try to crank the SQ up by different solutions, simple is very often better.

What audiophile switch/optical switches would you recommend? I have seen some, but many venture into the $1,000 price range…

Simpler is often better. Extra boxes are not always better, even on this forum I see them for sale and DARKO did also in his English way not notice much improvements, even with the ifi galvanic Isolator on a raspberry pi.

I did not want to invest in more cables and extra boxes an being advised by my dealer he promised me that solely a good cable sounds the best. So upon his advise I play from my iTunes (BitPerfect) library on my iMac through a 5 m audiophile USB cable, Atlas Element USB SC, even for the 5 m it cost EUR 129. No box nothing else, no bank robbery required either, pure fun.

The trick is, the longer the USB cable, the less noise makes it from the computer to your SGCD (which I also use). Even with volume fully cranked up, without music or a silent file playing, no noise. Silent. With music it sounds awesome. I spin my Technics decades old CD player through optical cable, I am equally satisfied. I loved how the Stellar Gain Cell DAC and the Atlas Element Optical cable provides the Technics (a capital investment when I studied) a second life and lots of enjoyment.

I have no liaison with Atlas Cables at all, am just very happy with the performance of their cables in combination with the SQ of the Stellar Gain Cell DAC.

In the US. Snowmass sale price was $4K. I think some of the International distributors also did special sale pricing on it.