Consider Upgrading the CD, DVD or Blu-Ray Player you
PLEASE NOTE FIRST:
We still do upgrades to disk players, but one should consider that optimum
value comes from players that can also play music files, such as
Flac and Wave files. For the last 4-5 years Oppo Digital has made a series
of BluRay Players that can both play CDs, SACD disks etc, but also at no
extra cost can also play Wave and Flac files with its internal integrated
music server. Naturally, when the same amount of money is paid to upgrade
an Oppo, clearly it gives you for more bang-for-your-dollar to consider an
Oppo player. Oppo has this market sown up and also have the greatest
potential to upgrade that we have seen so far.
The last few years has seen an amazing revolution.
We are now able to get digital sound right and that largely means not to
sound digital at all. What is more amazing is that the solutions to make
digital audio playback of CD and higher resolutions have all been
analogue. This may well explain why it has taken more than 25 years.
Anybody can make a player
sound better, easy. We could just as easily take your money and make
superficial changes such as Op-Amp upgrades and parts substitution.
Boring. Our aim is not a better player, but a great player. If your player
does not have that potential, then don't be surprised if you are advised
to hang on to your hard-earned money and given suggested alternative
digital clock is none of the sort. The oscillators used have been around a
lot longer before digital audio came around and used in all sorts of
non-digital applications. Clocks are analogue.
Noise is the
single biggest enemy of digital audio. But especially where in the chain
that it shows up. Again this can only be fixed by analogue means. The
current crop of "modders" are into all sorts of parts upgrading using
lower noise parts. This is often concentrating on the SMPS (Switch Mode
Power Supply) - which may not be a conventional linear power
supply but is nevertheless also of an analogue designation.
secondary noise created in the power supply often overlooks the
primary destructive noise that has little to do with the raw power supply,
indeed even the best power supply is vastly incapable of dealing with
these more series noise problems.
This takes real design rather than just paying for improved parts. Indeed improving the
raw power supply may actually make it worse. Yet a lot of
money get wasted in that direction. Be smart, be elegant, it is not enough
to throw expensive components at the problem - and that is not problem
solving, that is selling.
This kind of noise can be describes as "back-EMF" -
a kind on Einsteinian noise caused by digital switching. Noise even below
1 Hertz are problematic. This cannot be sorted in the typical 'active' way
and alternative ways need to be found. Such as our "Flywheeel" solution
that is not active but passive, storing a lot of energy close to where the
power supply interfaces with the digital circuitry, such as the DAC and
The best solution is the elegant
does not involve costly parts substitution. We don't make you pay for
expensive parts. We create a second order filter effect that attenuates HF power supply noise while also
reducing noise down to ultra-low frequencies via our "Flywheel" solution.
destructive source of noise is that which imbedded in the clock signal, I
am tempted to call this the source gremlin jitter as it is the
source of that which is most ugly in digital sound. This contamination is
singularly the one source of digital sound that is the hardest to
In fact, our target of decent digital sound cannot
be achieved without tackling this gremlin.
Other clocks may make some improvement but not in a
focused attempt that is needed. The sound can be improved (the sound can
always be improved, sometimes even with a magic wand) without it,
but a totally relaxed sound devoid of any vestiges of digititus is
impossible to achieve. Our solution to this is
Terra Firma - and there is quite a bit of info on this site.
More recently, this has been described as causing
Uncorrelated Noise-Like Jitter.
For more info on this topic, read here.
Player Types and DAC Types
Does the player you have now got suitable potential?
Or the player you have in mind to acquire? This is not possible to say
with certainty unless it is a player that has already passed
through our upgrade program. There is a near ninety percent probability
the answer is a positive yes.
Let us discuss what type of players that are
Some have said that a multi-player cannot sound as
good as a dedicated audio only player. This is an over-generalisation,
indeed I have heard multi-players like the Oppo Blu-Ray BDP-83 sound far
superior to most dedicated audio players.
There are two types of Digital-to-Analogue
Converters, or DACs.
The 'Current' Output DAC
The 'Voltage' Output DAC
There are really only these two types (although the
first generation Sony CD/SACD Players were unusual that the DSD signal
could be diverted from the Digital Filter VC24 chip and processed as a
Knowing the two types of DACs is important to
understand what is required by the post-DAC audio stages. Each will
have quite different optimum solutions and we shall discuss ours and why.
Current DAC: The
current has to be converted to voltage. This necessitates the use of an
I/V Converter, where I is current and V is voltage. This is
one of the great challenges in audio. Rarely is an audio stage put to the
sword as it is here. Again we have two different methods, Active
and Passive. The former uses a high feedback technique to create a
Virtual Earth. The reason is that our DAC likes to a dead short, but of
course how do you get a signal from a dead short. Well, you can't and
hence a Virtual Earth is used. This is a method that we are not keen on
and yet is used 99+% and chances are that it what your player uses if it
has a current DAC. The other method is Passive. Here the problem is that
the DAC will not see an ideal short and the voltage signal generated will
need to be buffered and amplified by audio stages that still sees a very
hot (lot of high frequency energy) signal that can cause Slew Rate Induced
Distortion, as in I/V Converters.
So what is the solution? Being flexible helps and
understanding that even Virtual Earths are not real earths anyway. Our
solution is Passive but at a much lower impedance level than usual and
fairly close to a short. We use our Moving Coil Phono Cartridge as a
model. These have very low impedance coils and we can simulate that
resistively. The small voltage signal generated now needs a lot more
amplification, but we already have the technology to do that as Moving
Coil Phono Preamplifier designers. The JLTi Phono Stage is adapted and the
source impedance is about 6 Ohm and simulates that of a high quality
Ortofon Moving Coil Cartridge.
What about the Slew Rate problem. Our JLTi Phono
Stage design is no negative feedback design, has huge bandwidth and entire
immune to high frequency overload. So here we have a solution that is both
simple and elegant. But the audio stage also needs a high quality power
supply to power it. We use a variation of our Constant Current SuperRegs.
The "Current" DAC Solution
Voltage DAC: The best
solution here is a 1:1 transformer. The key to this
type of DAC is to go entirely Passive, in this sense no active circuitry
after the DAC, no transistors or opamps etc, and be able to listen to the
DAC itself, but with some filtering perhaps added.
Summary: We now have
workable solutions with both
kinds of DACs. With current DACs we use Terra Firma Lite and our
I/V Converter, and with differential voltage DACs we use Terra
Firma Lite and 1:1 type transformer.
Are all players suitable?
A high percentage are eminently suitable. It
depends on the details such as layout and in some cases what data
is available for the player in tricky situations. What is certain
is this, if your player has certain fundamentals right (and there
is no way we can go into full depth on this page), the existing
sound may give no indication whatever of what the end result will
be. The total removal of cheap opamps (operational amplifiers) and
their attendant poor power supplies, poor noise management and
lack of clean clocking, all these can totally transform the
But please do not be surprised if by chance
your player is knocked back and you are told to save your money.
We have no intention of making a player sound better, only
In most cases for a full-out conversion is
between A$800 and A$1800. If Level 1 in voltage DAC player's is
$880. Usually the QuadFilar option can be made later at a nominal
A$550. Please note issues re Warranty with original manufacturer
is beyond us to comment on, but
our Warranty is 3 Years minimum.
Absolutely. The Green
option - at least $400 cash-back. Players only lasts so long, but the add-on
parts are as valuable as the player itself, often more. The Terra
Firma Lite module, the I/V Converter module and QuadFilar
transformers are all re-usable in your next player. You are truly
investing in the future with your first upgraded player. Good to
keep that in mind.