Why do most of my cd's sound terrible

I really don’t see the issue. Any gain stage is going to have a spot where there’s a unity gain, and then beyond additional gain. . . that doesn’t make it, or the ZROCK2, a buffer amp.

Though I do have a wait still I’m eager to hear the ZROCK3 I have on order. Being able to adjust the gain separately from the “effect” will be a very interesting change to experiment with.

I think my answer to onehorse’s question is: your system is sufficiently transparent that you hear the mastering, A/D conversion, etc. of your cds. Some do sound fantastic, many mediocre, and too many not so good.

Given that it does something at unity gain and without the EQ switch in I suspect it is also a buffer. A tubed buffer changes the sound, adding weight and richness (which is why they became popular some years after CD’s were originally released). Knowing the output impedance would be a clue.

Being able to adjust the gain alone will be nice I am sure.

I’d like that you can change the tube from the front easily. A great design.

Please let us know what you think when your new unit gets in and you have a chance to work with it.


Be great to hear how it works in your system. Im curious to. I doubt ill ever see one used and im not much for waiting six months for anything. Too old, i dont even buy green bananas.

Well, when I have the 3 one of my 2s will be up for sale. :slight_smile:


A buffer does not have to add color to the music, even if it is a tube buffer. A buffer is supposed to be used for impedance matching, the biggest reason tube buffers are frowned upon is the cheap ones sold on eBay, I mean what do you expect for $30.

Please let me know if you remember. By then ill no more on how my recent change affects my system and what may be an adavantage to try.


Sounds like my first car, an old junker that I would never put more than 10 bucks of gas in at a time fearing it would die at any moment. :smile:

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So I’ve got a ton of hi res music. I also have plain old cd ripped to hard drive.

I’ve got some great sounding cds and typically it’s by artist. Any Jack Johnson cd / Dave Matthews cd / the first norah jones cd… there are plenty of others I won’t bore you with. But if these sound like junk - I would think something else is going on.

Last night - for whatever reason - I’ve had Strawberry Fields in my head - and I have 3 or 4 recordings of it. The first one I put on sounded a bit shrill … and the second was the 24/48 apple stick remaster. What a stark difference. Way better.
Has anyone heard the Giles Martin remaster of this on the 67-70 compilation ?

Jack Johnson CDs are great reference CDs, always well recorded and well mastered. His vinyl pressings are outstanding too.

dchang05- Thanks for the comment on good sounding CDs. I retired and moved from Ohio to Colorado in 2008 and decided to leave all my vinyl behind. I went to all CDs. In 2009, I decided to put all my CD players in storage and use some media management software instead. I chose iTunes and began ripping CDs. Initially I used lossy AAC compression and, with larger hard drives, started using lossless (ALAC) compression, which clearly sounded better, and re-did all the old CDs. Today I have about 1,700 CDs ripped (about 19,000 tracks) which I still play using iTunes on a Windows 11 laptop. Currently, about 98% of the music is ALAC encoded, with the other 2% being MP3, which I can’t find on CD (yet). I stream to one of two Streamer/DACs which both utilize the ESS Sabre ES9028 chips (-PRO and -Q2M). They both sound nice. Very musical and natural. Why I have two Streamer/DACs is a story for another day, but suffice it to say, I have two. I also occasionally stream internet radio or Spotify and have about 200 hi-res tracks (96KHz, 24bit AIFF), stored on the Streamer/DACs (Airplay doesn’t work), which I occasionally listen to. The usual preamp, amp, and speakers follow the Streamer/DACs. The ripped CDs sound great. I have heard Diana Krall live and when I play one of her ripped CDs, or better yet a home-made playlist, she sounds like she’s in the room. There may be a handful of these CDs (usually rock music) where the mixing engineer turned up the base slider to “11”, but the vast majority sound great. More importantly, my wife and I are enjoying our music collection more than we ever have.


So when I first started I was using ALAC all the time. Does anyone think their ALACs sound better than FLACs? I keep scratching my head on it.

I listen to mostly CDs when I have an enjoyable listening session. I listen to LPs too, but not at the frequency I do CDs. I stream Qobuz most days in the house for music while I’m doing other things. I embraced CDs when they first came out and like LP pressings, some are better than others. Labels in the early days rushed many CDs to market without any care for proper digital prep. Some turned out ok, some didn’t. Then came the loudness war that made many great CD albums— old and new— a train wreck. Similarly, I’ve seen some trashy LP pressings come out lately in the new vinyl boom. However, I’ve always been a beleiver that for the good CDs out there, getting good sound comes down to gear— player, cables, isolation feet, &c. I’m not saying anything that hasn’t been said in this thread already, but rather affirming it. Good luck with finding the problem in your system, which I think is the root of the issue with your CDs.

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Correct, a buffer does not necessarily add color.

But there are units designed specifically to add warmth to harsh sounding digital sources. These are typically tube based

The Zrock appears to be one of these. It changes the sound even without dialing in EQ and the sound changes with one’s choice of tube. That is, a classic tube buffer.

I am sorry I did not make this clear.

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The 2016 SHM-SACD (Polydor UIGY-15030) is the best version of Layla I have heard. It is a single-layer SACD that was DSD flat-transferred from the analog master tapes by Seth Foster at Sterling Sound, New York, in 2013. (Note: I have not heard the MoFi SACD.)


I too, got rid of my LP collection years ago. I ripped most of my CDs (1500?) into AIFF files and listen to them more often than CDs. When I played discs, they are usually SACDs or good recording CDs.

The “bad” CDs sounded fine in my system more than ever before, but I listen to streaming more for sure.

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Me, too. If I could find even a decent recorded version of Layla by Derek and the Dominoes, I’d listen even more. My lament.

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As mentioned by others, CD pressings are like vinyl pressings. There are good and there are bad, finding good ones involves some research and some hunting. For me, part of the joy of audiophilia is the hunt. When digital is done right, it can sound really good so it is worth the effort. Unfortunately some artists have never been done right digitally, so vinyl is required.

Several CD pressings of Layla I can recommend. There is an early West German RSO with no mastering credits, really nice. https://www.discogs.com/release/1573053-Derek-The-Dominos-Layla-And-Other-Assorted-Love-Songs

There is a US Polydor pressing mastered by Dennis Drake, also very nice. https://www.discogs.com/release/3891360-Derek-The-Dominos-Layla-And-Other-Assorted-Love-Songs