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Do power supplies actually affect sound quality of standalone CD players?

I'm a fan of CDs.  I like the format and I like owning physical media.

Recently I bought a used Magnavox CDB 482 CD Player, because I got it at a decent price.  But you can't have an online conversation about a piece of hardware without some placebophile showing up and telling you about how you need to spend more money to make things sound even better.

Do placebophiles ever sit and back and enjoy the music they own?

Yesterday's placebophile was a long detailed discussion about how the power supply in this CD player affects the sound quality and recommended all sorts of upgrades to the power supply to "optimize the sound."

Another placebophile recommended that I rip all my CDs and stick them on a Raspberry Pi and power it off a battery pack to take the power supply completely out of the equation.

How much can a power supply really affect sound quality of a CD players (or any other audio component?)

I'm sure a really bad power supply can add interference.  But there has to be a point where you're replacing expensive components to get things to measure better on some instrument, but the difference is inaudible.

Re: Do power supplies actually affect sound quality of standalone CD players?

Reply #1
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Yesterday's placebophile was a long detailed discussion about how the power supply in this CD player affects the sound quality and recommended all sorts of upgrades to the power supply to "optimize the sound."
CD drive, as a mechanical device, will usually make some sound when spinning the disc.
Replacing it with solid state memory (SD card, etc) will remove the need for spinning a disc, therefore eliminating this part of environment noise. (We can probably agree that removing part of environmental noise = better sound quality.)
It will of course only make meaningful difference if your surroundings are quiet enough to make it possible to hear movements in CD player.
Last time when I saw a CD reading device it indeed made some sound. I'm not sure if there are any newer CD reading devices that are completely silent for human ears.
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How much can a power supply really affect sound quality of a CD players (or any other audio component?)
Unless the device tries to draw more power than power supply can give, there's nothing besides some constant noise. It's pretty easy to check if this noise is loud enough to bother you. If it isn't, there's no need to change power supply.
Keep calm and opusenc --bitrate 128

Re: Do power supplies actually affect sound quality of standalone CD players?

Reply #2
A power supply produces DC, which has no sound at all. Inevitably, there's noise, as in all devices and it cannot be eliminated. It can be made inaudible though. If the designer is not incompetent and the power supply isn't faulty, it's highly unlikely you can make an audible improvement by any "upgrades". I'm sure there have been incompetently-designed power supplies but I'd rather hope they're a rarity.

Re: Do power supplies actually affect sound quality of standalone CD players?

Reply #3
Yeah.... As long as the power supply is not defective it's not an issue.    Power supply noise, either 50/60Hz hum from a linear power supply or higher-frequency noise from a switching supply, could be a problem.   Or there were not enough power to run the motor, that would be a BIG problem.   But if you're not hearing noise you don't have a problem and I've never heard noise from a CD player.

Like a lot of modern electronics, a power supply for a CD player is cheap & easy to build.

...If you're building a power supply for a phono preamp or microphone preamp, it needs to be better regulated/filtered because you are amplifying a few-millivolts to line level (about 1V) and a few millivolts of power supply noise can get-into the electronics and then you can hear the hum (or other noise).     But it's still not rocket science.   CD players operate at line level and everything is digital (and noise immune) up to the DAC and no amplification is needed so they are not as sensitive to power supply noise.

..If you are building a power supply for a power amplifier of course you need a beefier power supply for more voltage & current so it's not always cheap, but again with modern electronics it's no big deal, just more expensive than a power supply for a CD player.

One clue that you're reading "audiophile nonsense" is the terminology - You'll rarely hear well-defined scientific or engineering terminology/characteristics* like "noise", "distortion", or "frequency response".   These things are defined and can be measured.   You'll read nonsense like "clarity" or "depth"...  All kinds of words that seem to mean something but nothing that can really be defined or measured.    And, you'll rarely see blind testing...   There's always something "wrong" with the blind test when they can't hear a difference, or they'll say blind testing is always invalid, or more often they'll just say it's not necessary because the difference is obvious so blind listening is not necessary.  

* Ethan Winer has an article about the 4 characteristics that affect sound quality.

Re: Do power supplies actually affect sound quality of standalone CD players?

Reply #4
Audiophiles seems to suffer from FOTU (fear of the unknown).  When I mentioned I was going to blind test 2 CD players by using an Insignia 3 position AV switch, they immediately met it with disdain.  I was introducing something into the signal path that wasn't "audiophile grade" and that completely invalidated my test.  "you don't know what it's introducing into your test."  They're right.  I don't know.  And I don't care.  If it's going to do anythign "off"(which I doubt), it will do it equally to both CD players.

It's downright infuriating to try to have a normal discussion only to have some placebophile show up and start rattling off garbage.

I just read a thread on the Stereophile forums where a placebophile said that anyone that poo-poos expensive high end gear as unnecessary is just jealous that they can't afford it.

Now to route back on topic.  I have to assume if there was a power supply issue it would be something that was blatantly obvious and not something super subtle.   The audiophile in question wants me to replace to diodes with "faster ones."  And I found another thread that I am not part of that claims the op-amp in my CD player is "too slow" for the DAC in it and should be upgraded.  For only $200-$300 more, the CD player can be converted into "true audiophile gear."  But, of course, no one quantifies what objective sonic improvements will be created with these upgrades.

Re: Do power supplies actually affect sound quality of standalone CD players?

Reply #5
Now to route back on topic.  I have to assume if there was a power supply issue it would be something that was blatantly obvious and not something super subtle.   The audiophile in question wants me to replace to diodes with "faster ones."  And I found another thread that I am not part of that claims the op-amp in my CD player is "too slow" for the DAC in it and should be upgraded.  For only $200-$300 more, the CD player can be converted into "true audiophile gear."  But, of course, no one quantifies what objective sonic improvements will be created with these upgrades.
FWIW faster diodes will make a zero-to-negligible difference, it just shows that they're clueless. DC is DC and it has no sound, no matter how "fast" the diodes may be*. As for op-amps, you have to try very hard to find some that aren't fast enough for audio use. If the originals are totally unsuited if might be a problem but the truth is that even low-spec and cheap modern op-amps are usually at least an order of magnitude faster than any conceivable audio signal they'll ever handle. Save your money and enjoy the music.

It's hilarious that these people imagine the designers are always incompetent and they, usually with no real knowledge, actually know better. They also equate "expensive" with "better". In the case of op-amps, more expensive ones could actually be a worse choice. Op-amps are built with goals in mind and a specialist (expensive) device could optimise other parameters than noise (for example) because of the intended application.

If you want some research, you could do worse than head over to Rod Elliot's pages:
http://sound.whsites.net/index2.html
He's been designing audio gear for many years and is not taken in by the audiophool BS. If you hunt around, there are pages on power supply design and pages explaining op-amps and their variations.

* If the supply is a switchmode, it'll have fast diodes anyway

Re: Do power supplies actually affect sound quality of standalone CD players?

Reply #6
I push the open/close button, pop a CD in and enjoy the music.

It sounds good to me, and that's good enough.

Re: Do power supplies actually affect sound quality of standalone CD players?

Reply #7

* Ethan Winer has an article about the 4 characteristics that affect sound quality.

That Ethan Winer article is EXCELLENT and very informative.  Thank you for sharing it.

Re: Do power supplies actually affect sound quality of standalone CD players?

Reply #8
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When I mentioned I was going to blind test 2 CD players by using an Insignia 3 position AV switch, they immediately met it with disdain.  I was introducing something into the signal path that wasn't "audiophile grade" and that completely invalidated my test.  "you don't know what it's introducing into your test."
Well... You could plug-in one, then un-plug it and plug-in another.  

But it's also important that they be level-matched and since regular CD players don't have volume controls the "audiophile" might argue that the added volume control is affecting the quality sound.   There's always an excuse...   Maybe you are an untrained listener or you have "tin ears"...  And probably your speakers or amplifier or cables  are not good enough to reveal the differences, etc.

They'll have a different set of excuses if they "fail" an ABX test...    

It's "nice" to switch instantly between the two and it's easier to (reliably) hear a difference that's way, and and in a "normal" ABX test the listener can switch quickly & freely between A, B, and X.    The sounds/sources also have to be synchronized with a regular-fast ABX test or the delay is a give-away.

But, if you make an "upgrade" it's going to be about a day between "before and after" and it's really not worth doing if you can't hear a difference with a little delay while someone switches (or doesn't switch) the cables.

...You aren't going to convince the Stereophile types...   The important thing is not to fool yourself!   

There are things like speakers or equalization that CAN make a difference or improvement.  ;)  

P.S.
I've NEVER heard a "bad sounding" CD player...    And a DVD or Blu-Ray player can also play CDs, but they often don't have a display to show track number and my Blu-Ray player doesn't have analog outputs so it won't plug-into an analog stereo system.  

I grew-up with vinyl and a different phono cartridge could make a difference (although I never did any blind testing).   I was always upgrading or wanting to upgrade.   I've never felt the need to upgrade a CD player (unless it was broken).     

Over the years I have upgraded my overall system with home-theater surround sound and better-bigger speakers & subwoofers.   (And I have a shelf-full of DVD concerts and to me, some of those with 5.1 surround are the best sounding and most enjoyable music I have...)

Re: Do power supplies actually affect sound quality of standalone CD players?

Reply #9
My blind test involved me leaving 2 sets of RCA cables out and having my 18 year old plug them into the A/V Switch box.  Then I had him, switch back and forth between them.  The box had 3 positions.  So, he could go from 1 (CD Player 1), 2 (nothing connected), and 3 (CD Player #2).

Things were obviously not level matched, though line out should be line out.  In the end, I could reliably tell the difference between the two CD players, which I kind of expected to be able to.  Next step was to see which one I liked better.  So, we re-did the test and I picked switch position 1 as preferred over switch position 3.

But the thing is, both CD players sounded fantastic (It's hard to screw up digital).  And if I didn't have the two to compare, I would be VERY happy with either CD player.  I mean, I could tell a difference between then using headphones, a headphone amp and a LOT of critical listening.  In real life, no one listens to music that way.  They crank up the volume and rock on.

The current discussion in this thread has devolved to making sure you use linear power supplies instead of switching power supplies, because they introduce less sound.

I can see the power supply adding some kind of ambient noise to the room (maybe), but I don't see how it would affect the signal coming out of the RCA jack.

I love it when "Armchair engineers" claim they know more than well paid REAL engineers hired by Philips to design a CD player.

Then the claim was that a battery powered raspberry Pi based media player sounds "more transparent" than a CD player.

So I asked "Transparent compared to what source?"

They couldn't get the idea that when you say something is more transparent than something else you need to be comparing the two items to something.  What is that item you're comparing it against?  And, in my opinion, audio transparency is binary.  It either is or is not transparent.

Finally they say "the original sound in the studio, as the artist intended."  Which made me ask "So, you were in the studio while the album was being recorded and your Eidetic memory gives you perfect recall as what the studio sounded like that day?"

It's maddening.  And in the end there is always a picture posted of an insane amount of gear that costs almost as much as a house to somehow "prove" they are right.

I'll just crawl back in my corner and crank up my CD, which is obviously "inferior" to streaming FLAC files from a battery powered media device.


Re: Do power supplies actually affect sound quality of standalone CD players?

Reply #10
Things were obviously not level matched, though line out should be line out.

Not a safe assumption by a long shot and alone is sufficient to explain all the rest.
Creature of habit.

Re: Do power supplies actually affect sound quality of standalone CD players?

Reply #11
Things were obviously not level matched, though line out should be line out.

Not a safe assumption by a long shot and alone is sufficient to explain all the rest.


Well, I'm not writing a scientific journal, luckily.  I just want a CD player on my desk.  I picked one.  I did the best I could with the tools available to me.  I'm playing music and moving on with my life.

My interest in this Magnavox CD player was more the mechanism to load and play CDs, rather than its sound quality.  My research tells me:

1. The Philips mechanism lost out, ultimately to the Sony one, because the Sony one could be miniaturized and placed into car CD players and portable listening devices.
2. Supposedly the Philips one is better at reading scratched discs.  It will play discs that the Sony one will not. (I have yet to test this.)
3. From my observations, the Philips one is less prone to skipping than the Sony one, at least when comparing the two CD players that I have.

 

Re: Do power supplies actually affect sound quality of standalone CD players?

Reply #12
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I'm playing music and moving on with my life.
Good to hear!

Personally, I listen to a lot of MP3s and (lossy) Dolby AC3 concert DVDs.

Back in the vinyl days the "snap", "crackle", and "pop" was VERY annoying to me.  Especially if it was my record and I knew exactly-when that click was coming so it interfered with my enjoyment of the music.  But, it didn't seem to bother most people.   

There are lots of modern digital recordings that don't sound that good to me, but I don't blame the digital format...  It's the performance or the production or it's just a matter of personal taste.

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Things were obviously not level matched
That's OK for your personal casual listening tests...     You have not made any claims that violate the famous HydrogenAudio TOS #8.

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In the end, I could reliably tell the difference between the two CD players,
Of course if you can hear a volume difference, you can hear a difference, and that's the whole point of level-matching.   ;)

It's common for the louder source to be perceived as "better" and of course you can hear more detail with the volume turned-up.     If the volume difference is great enough, you'll perceive a boost in bass in addition to a boost in volume (Equal Loudness Curves).    

The idea of level matching and synchronization is to eliminate the irrelevant variables.    If you can't reliably identify "X" you've "statistically proven" that you can't hear a difference.    If you can identify X every time, you've proven that you can hear a difference.     If the experiment isn't done carefully, you may be hearing a volume difference, a timing difference, or a different sound of the A/B switch, etc.

Re: Do power supplies actually affect sound quality of standalone CD players?

Reply #13
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I'm playing music and moving on with my life.
Good to hear!

Personally, I listen to a lot of MP3s and (lossy) Dolby AC3 concert DVDs.

Back in the vinyl days the "snap", "crackle", and "pop" was VERY annoying to me.  Especially if it was my record and I knew exactly-when that click was coming so it interfered with my enjoyment of the music.  But, it didn't seem to bother most people.   

There are lots of modern digital recordings that don't sound that good to me, but I don't blame the digital format...  It's the performance or the production or it's just a matter of personal taste.

Quote
Things were obviously not level matched
That's OK for your personal casual listening tests...     You have not made any claims that violate the famous HydrogenAudio TOS #8.

Quote
In the end, I could reliably tell the difference between the two CD players,
Of course if you can hear a volume difference, you can hear a difference, and that's the whole point of level-matching.   ;)

It's common for the louder source to be perceived as "better" and of course you can hear more detail with the volume turned-up.     If the volume difference is great enough, you'll perceive a boost in bass in addition to a boost in volume (Equal Loudness Curves).    

The idea of level matching and synchronization is to eliminate the irrelevant variables.    If you can't reliably identify "X" you've "statistically proven" that you can't hear a difference.    If you can identify X every time, you've proven that you can hear a difference.     If the experiment isn't done carefully, you may be hearing a volume difference, a timing difference, or a different sound of the A/B switch, etc.

Who knows at this point?  I've moved on.  The CD Player fits the following subjective criteria for me:

1. It a Philips and has the Philips CD Mechanism (never had one before.  Thought it was cool to check it out.)
2. It's from the 80s.  (I wanted a vintage CD player)
3. It's not as tall as other CD players (I can keep it on my desk and put my laptop and dock on top, without it hitting my monitor.)
4. I like the way it looks.

It's on my desk.  I get to play CDs while I work.  Life is good.

But I do thank everyone for their input.  I learned stuff.  And that is a good thing.

Re: Do power supplies actually affect sound quality of standalone CD players?

Reply #14
<Snip>
I've NEVER heard a "bad sounding" CD player...    And a DVD or Blu-Ray player can also play CDs, but they often don't have a display to show track number and my Blu-Ray player doesn't have analog outputs so it won't plug-into an analog stereo system.  

I grew-up with vinyl and a different phono cartridge could make a difference (although I never did any blind testing).   I was always upgrading or wanting to upgrade.   I've never felt the need to upgrade a CD player (unless it was broken).     

Over the years I have upgraded my overall system with home-theater surround sound and better-bigger speakers & subwoofers.   (And I have a shelf-full of DVD concerts and to me, some of those with 5.1 surround are the best sounding and most enjoyable music I have...)


Many years ago I was running portable CD players in my car. I bought a cheapy Citizen player and there was something not right about it, slightly harsh and gritty. I didn't bother to figure it out, I just bought another player which solved the issue. I've heard lots of CD player in the past and haven't had any complaints except for that one.


Re: Do power supplies actually affect sound quality of standalone CD players?

Reply #15
Do placebophiles ever sit and back and enjoy the music they own?

This is an excellent question and I have no idea. I bought myself a new CD player last year. A used Technics SL-PG590, certainly not a top model when it was release or now but it does its job and plays CDs very well and it sounds good enough to me.

Re: Do power supplies actually affect sound quality of standalone CD players?

Reply #16
Why post the results of a botched listening test when they are completely unreliable?

Just as blatant a TOS8 violation, if not more so, is the harsh and gritty comment.
Is 24-bit/192kHz good enough for your lo-fi vinyl, or do you need 32/384?

Re: Do power supplies actually affect sound quality of standalone CD players?

Reply #17
I can give an unexpected response as an EE -- there CAN be noise introduced, even though the DC filtering   (and HF bypassing) is supurb -- if there is ground noise.  Sometimes grounding between components can be different, and depending on how they are connected -- there can be ground currents causing disruptions (mostly noise) in the signal.  If there are no mutual grounds, and the only other ground is the conductor between the  pieces equipment (e.g. no AC power supply), then the conductive ground noise is nil.  Two 'grounds' (e.g. power supply connected to mains & the connections between equipment.), then noise will be worse than perfect. (Unless balanced connections, of course.)

For ULTIMATE quality, proper grounding is essential -- OR, use well balanced connections.  Balanced connections have been used for broadcast purposes between buildings in NYC for many decades (since before I was born, for sure.)  An unbalanced connection would be worthless in that situation (might even burn the ground connection because of extreme currents.)
Why does this concern home 'power supplies'?  because 'power supplies' are one of the vulnerable spots for ground noise issues.

 
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