I have been playing with CD transports for a while now, culminating with the really excellent CDPRO2, but with the advent of PC based music, and related media players like the Squeezebox, CDPs slowly lose out in favour.
And with media players, once you modify them ala Crazy DIYers, the gain in performance puts many esteemed CD transports to shame. What more, these media players are really cheap! I don't have to tell you how expensive it is to procure a CDPRO based transport. Go google yourself.
However, as much as I enjoyed my highly modified Squeezebox, CDPRO2 based transport still trumps. There just seems to be a glass ceiling where we are still trying to break.
But then when I heard of SD card players, I got interested. This got the makings of an ultimate digital source.
What's so great about it? Purportedly no moving parts, hence better reliability; less jitter, hence better sonics etc.
I consider prototyping one myself but the engineering efforts takes time but fortunately our Chinese brothers in Shenzhen QLS Hifi offers a built up WAV player for not a lot of moolah.
Actually, if you think about it, the Squeezebox works almost exactly like the SD card player. It streams digital data, then stores them on its internal flash drive, then buffers it out. This act alone eliminates any "movement related jitter", be it a spinning CD transport or a spinning hard disk. And the Squeezebox does a lot more stuffs like players multiple music file formats, streams Internet radio etc.
On the other hand, this WAV player ONLY plays 16-bit 44.1kHz WAV files. So no MP3, no FLACs, no 24-bit gizmo etc. No, nope, None, Nilch, Nada.
So what's so great about this WAV player? You just got to listen to it.
Easy. Just play music through it.
Feeding it WAV files and playing off stock, the first few hours was good but not great but after some hours of running in.... Wooooooooooowwwwwww!!!!!!
I was speechless.
I was stunned.
I was... dumb strucked.
Here is this humble looking fella (stock standard!), trouncing my highly modified Squeezebox with upgraded external Paul Hynes power supply.
And putting the CDPRO2 transport to shame.
What more does one want?
Being a greedy bastard, I opened it up and looked for modding potential.
There are Sanyo Oscons all around. Not exactly SA grade but still no slouch. There is a 7805V pre regulator followed by 3 LM1117 regulators. One for the DSP chip (this guy does all the hard work, reading off the SD card, updating the display and sending out I2S signal), one for the oscillator clocking this chip and another for the I2S-SPDIF generator. Impressive!
The pic below however, isn't stock standard anymore as itchy-fingered me just have to work on it. I swapped the pre pre-regulator cap with another Oscon and removed the SPDIF RCA and Toslink sockets. I replaced the SPDIF RCA with a BNC socket. This should be the way to go!
Also, I replaced the output pulse transformer (there's already one inside) with a Newava make.
These few mods squeezed a bit more juice out of this little player and I'm still using the stock power supply! So there's still room for improvement.
Note that there is I2S output available on this player. On another player, I tapped this out and fed to an I2S-EIAJ convertor to feed directly to mojo (which accepts EIAJ readily). This my bro, beats the SPDIF interface! But it took me a while to hear the difference while Gabriel (who has much better ears than me) detected the improvement right away. So if you can't hear any improvement, get a pair of better ears!
All in all, I'm so happy with this little guy, I use it as my reference these days. Yeah, the Squeezebox has a nice display and offers loads of convenience but the SD player gives the best sonics.
Sounds familiar? It's like the CDP offers lots of convenience but the turntable gives best sonics.
So what do I make out of it? This SD card WAV player is like a Digital Turntable.