The new Niagara - Power and Beauty on Blurb

Monday, March 5, 2012

Everything Matters and Nothing Matters - Part 2

In my previous post, I talked about how I’m moving to a fully digital music supply and how I am wondering if the sound is going to satisfy me.

So, tonight I sat down with copies of two good recordings that I happen to own in both CD and Vinyl formats and which I have also ripped in iTunes. I fed the NAD c541 CD directly into the NAD 355BEE Amplifier and also used the digital output to feed it to the c355BEEvia the TeraDak Chameleon DAC. The networked source from iTunes was via an Airport Express to theTeraDak Chameleon. The Vinyl went to the Amplifier via an NAD PP3 phonostage. (I recently refurbished the tone-arm and cartridge but that is another story) Everything was auditioned with the Summoner 3 way Floor Standers from Adelaide Speakers which I have reviewed previously. The room is long, with carpet and soft furnishings and the sound is generally spacious, full and reasonably smooth.

I spent quite a bit of time switching back and forth with the music from the different sources as closely in sync as possible. I immediately noticed there were differences in levels which were going to complicate my judgements. This was difficult to adjust for, but was needed.
Apart from this, it was clear the vinyl soundstage was more centrally biased and of course, there was more background noise, tape and surface noise. By contrast the CD / PP3 was more open and less contaminated by noise. Perhaps there was a little more detail also, but again levels....  The dynamic range sounded greater too, but yes levels. Which did I prefer. Well, I think the CD was better.  My aging ears could not pick a lot of difference in the general feel of the music nor in the sound of individual instruments. What I did notice particularly was the spaciousness and lack of intrusive noise, hiss, clicks pops etc. This is what we wanted from CDs after all. That and lack of deterioration with repeated plays and portability.
What about the Chameleon DAC? Well its light years ahead of the dull  standard analog output for the Airport Express  and it is brighter and more open than its cheaper cousin, the 3.1D. I think it is slightly less bright than the NAD c541’s DAC but I can’t say it is better or worse. (More recently - 2013 -  I have done the comparison again and I think the Chameleon is a little more detailed and less harsh in the upper fequencies than the now aged c541. I suspect it is less fatiguing to listen too as a result. I would be interested to hear the newer NAD CD players because I know NAD claim improved sound qualities.) Even when feeding the Airport Express signal from the network, the sound is dam close to the CD. So close that although I know  there are differences, I would have to say, I don’t think any of this matters enough for me to worry. There must be more important things to spend my money on... like medical or dental work.......
So now I think I can sleep a little easier, knowing that I will enjoy whichever system I play my music on.  These were good recordings in their respective formats and I know that  CDs, Vinyl  and mp3/4s are not always so similar in quality....

How much should I worry? To be continued.

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