Portable CD player (Walkman-style) with good audio quality?

Discussion in 'Pro Audio' started by David Satz, Aug 26, 2003.

  1. David Satz

    David Satz Guest

    This may seem slightly off-topic, or else not.

    I recently misplaced (!) the trusty old Sony Walkman CD player that
    I've used for the past 10+ years. Looking at the newer models, I see
    mostly units that offer powerful anti-skipping circuitry.

    Those circuits buffer the sample data in RAM, and the last I read,
    the Big New Thing was to use data compression on that data so as to
    tolerate nearly constant physical movement (jogging, etc.) without
    raising the cost of the hardware too much.

    I'd like to know whether anyone here can recommend a current-model,
    relatively inexpensive "Walkman"-style CD player that offers high
    quality audio outputs without that sort of data compression. Must
    be small, have a headphone output and be able to run on batteries.
    If there are any sonic special features such as "Mega Bass," they
    need to be fully defeatable.

    Many thanks.
     
    David Satz, Aug 26, 2003
    #1
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  2. David Satz

    Arny Krueger Guest

    Why not cut to the chase and try a Creative Labs Nomad Jukebox 3? Without
    any kind of data compression it holds the contents of something like 30-50
    CDs. You can also use it for recording like you would use a DAT recorder if
    you can line up some mic preamps.

    One advantage for production folks is that you can load it with tracks you
    are working on, listen to them, carry them around, and download them to any
    USB or Firewire-capable computer someplace else.

    OK, a NJB3 is going to cost maybe three times the price of a mid-end
    portable CD player, but I can pretty well guarantee it will be at least
    three times more fun. If money is a issue, try eBay - right now CL is
    auctioning off some 20 GB refurbs for $179 "buy it now".

    The hot tip for earphones to use with it are Sony EX-70s - another $40. Oh,
    and if you are going to do portable recording or play lots of uncompressed
    wav files, let me recommend getting a second rechargeable battery, which
    neatly fits inside along with the first one. I picked mine up from eCost.com
    for $35.50, delivered.
     
    Arny Krueger, Aug 26, 2003
    #2
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  3. David Satz

    Rob Adelman Guest

    What if one has a stack of CD's sitting there and just want to grab one
    and play it?
     
    Rob Adelman, Aug 26, 2003
    #3
  4. David Satz

    Guest Guest

    Hey Arny,

    Is there a Spdif in on this to use it with an Apogee MiniMe?


    ZZ
     
    Guest, Aug 27, 2003
    #4
  5. David Satz

    Les Cargill Guest

    Nah. The design most certainly would be more complicated that way,
    and I mean complicated in very likely costly ways. It's
    pretty cheap buffering audio in RAM, which is all them
    skip buffers do. But Sony gets unbeleiveable economy
    of scale...

    Sony's been selling ATRAC enabled Disc(person)s for a while now, but
    I doubt they'd bother with ATRAC just to implement a skip buffer.
    RAM is stupid cheap, now. The ATRAC encoded discs just puts more
    stuff on the disc, for longer running time, ala MP3. Sonys owns
    the IP for it, and no longer has Minidisc to amortize said IP.

    Forever, I kept hearing "new eight-track Discman" on commercials,
    until I saw a print ad. ATRAC sounds a lot like "eight track"...

    All the MegaBass stuff is usually switchable against the
    headphone out, or at least used to be,
     
    Les Cargill, Aug 27, 2003
    #5
  6. David Satz

    Arny Krueger Guest

    Rip it on your PC and download it to the NJB3 via firewire. Takes about 5
    minutes.

    Not ideal, but pretty workable. Been doing it.
     
    Arny Krueger, Aug 27, 2003
    #6
  7. David Satz

    Arny Krueger Guest

    It's a matter of fact that it is easy to find portable CD players that take
    a big performance hit when you turn on the skip resistance. Here are some
    examples:

    http://www.pcavtech.com/play-rec/Sony_D-828k/index.htm

    http://www.pcavtech.com/play-rec/Sony_D-247/index.htm

    http://www.pcavtech.com/play-rec/Pan_SL-S220/index.htm

    Now these tests are a few years old, and new product might perform better.
    No comment.
     
    Arny Krueger, Aug 27, 2003
    #7
  8. David Satz

    Monroe Guest

    Check this link out. More than you will want to know and straight
    discussion on new and old tech:

    http://www4.head-fi.org/forums/

    I'm pretty satisfied with a Panasonic model (SL-CT570); I believe it
    is discontinued, but I see them popping up new every now and then.
    Reasonable line out's, defeatable feature set. Nice.
     
    Monroe, Aug 27, 2003
    #8
  9. David Satz

    David Satz Guest

    Thanks, but I really need a CD player, because, well--it's to play CDs.

    --best regards
     
    David Satz, Aug 27, 2003
    #9
  10. David Satz

    Arny Krueger Guest

    Here's an independent reference that ties what David said, and the evidence
    I presented together:

    http://www.sonysemiconductor.co.uk/pdfs/cxnews/CX17 New Products CXD30
    27R-1.pdf
    Please see paragraph on page one entitled "High-Functionality Memory
    Controller Function"

    "CXD3027R-1 supports DRAM capacities of 4M or 16M bits, and supports
    compression/expansion for handling the stored audio data."

    Modern CD players have up to 60 seconds of shock protection. We all know
    that 60 seconds of 44/16 data is about 10.8 megabytes. However, the
    reference says that CD players are being implemented with no more than 2
    megabytes (16 megabits) of RAM for this purpose. The reference specifically
    says that compression/expansion is used to accomplish this. Figure 2 shows
    this function in a block diagram of the chip and Table 1 documents some
    details of its operation.

    The reduced performance I measured with shock protection turned on, is no
    doubt due to artifacts of the compression/expansion process that Sony (and
    others) document.
     
    Arny Krueger, Aug 27, 2003
    #10
  11. David Satz

    Arny Krueger Guest

    The problem there is exactly relates to a point you raised quite
    explicitly - shock resistance and quality compromises.

    I don't know of any CD players that don't use data compression when their
    electronic shock resistance feature is turned on. I don't know of any CD
    players that have shock resistance that is NJB3 perfect, without turning on
    their electronic shock resistance.

    My NJB3 seems to be shock resistant in the extreme without any technical
    compromises. For example I've dropped it several feet onto a carpeted floor
    without it missing a beat. I can't shake it hard enough in my hand to make
    it skip.

    As I pointed out, hard drive players are very convenient and effective means
    to play CDs. OK, it takes a little planning and forethought. I know of no
    way to carry more CD music in less space and play it in more different
    contexts without compromising sound quality.
     
    Arny Krueger, Aug 27, 2003
    #11
  12. David Satz

    Mike Rivers Guest

    Then one buys what one really wants. Depends on the application.

    When I LISTEN to a CD, I don't do it on my portable player. I do it in
    the living room and put it in the tabletop player. When I'm using my
    portable, I want backgrond music that I'm not going to be devoting
    very much attention to, and it's almost always something (like a
    cross-country flight or a long drive in the car) that's longer than
    one CD's worth of time. I used to carry a portable player and a case
    of CDs on a flight, but now in just a little more time than it takes
    to remove CDs from their jewel cases and insert them in the portable
    sleeve case, I can load them on the Nomad Jukebox (admittedly it
    requires being near the computer and plugging in) and have enough
    music to carry me there and back in one package. And if I remember to
    bring the USB cable with me, if I get a new CD while I'm on a trip, I
    can load it on to the Jukebox from my laptop computer and listen to it
    on the way home.

    I paid $300 for my new 20 GB Jukebox. $179 for a factory refurbished
    (and I assume warranteed) one is a great bargain. I've never run out
    of battery, but if I picked up one of those $33 battiers that Arny
    pointed out, I wouldn't have to carry the wall wart on a trip to
    charge it up before the flight home.
     
    Mike Rivers, Aug 27, 2003
    #12
  13. David Satz

    Mike Rivers Guest

    There's an optical S/PDIF input (but no digital output other than file
    transfer via Firewire or USB. The MiniMe has only a coax S/PDIF so
    you'd need a converter to use them together.
     
    Mike Rivers, Aug 27, 2003
    #13
  14. David Satz

    David Satz Guest

    Hi, Bill. Your first statement is perfectly true, but the players I'm
    talking about have two buffers "in series." The first buffer follows the
    logic of every other CD player ever made, which is what you're defending
    here. But once the usual anti-skip (relocating/splicing) logic has been
    applied and the buffer is full of contiguous, uncompressed samples, its
    contents are compressed and copied into a segment of a second buffer.

    This allows the secondary buffer to hold many seconds' worth of audio.
    The player magically acquires a new specification value, plus the amusing
    ability to continue playing a track from RAM for some time after the disc
    has been stopped or even removed from the player.

    Such players have been around for several years now. I don't want to buy
    one of those unless it's clear that the compression can be turned all the
    way off.

    --Folks, this thread is mimicking that well-known parody of R.A.P.; I asked
    for specific information that I really need, and the 12 responses so far
    have [a] extolled the virtues of HD players over CD players or else they've
    argued about the existence or non-existence of data compression. And
    oh, yes, there's been a bit of name-calling, or nearly so.

    I don't want to diminish the interesting discussion, but strangely I would
    _also_ really like to have some recommendations for a low-cost portable CD
    player that is known to have relatively high-quality audio ... if possible.

    --best regards
     
    David Satz, Aug 27, 2003
    #14
  15. David Satz

    Chip Gallo Guest

    iRiver SlimX 350, available for $99 at Best Buy with a coupon.
    http://www.iriveramerica.com/products/iMP-350.asp

    That's what I listen to my rap cds on. (Smoked two Sonys in the last year so
    I'm off of them).

    Chip Gallo
     
    Chip Gallo, Aug 27, 2003
    #15
  16. David Satz

    Mike Rivers Guest

    Do you know for sure that the anti-skip (16 minute!!!) doesn't involve
    data compression? And how do you know? This isn't commonly published
    information.

    And who the heck is iRiver? No relation to me, I hope?
     
    Mike Rivers, Aug 28, 2003
    #16
  17. David Satz

    Carey Carlan Guest

    Do you know for sure that the anti-skip (16 minute!!!) doesn't involve
    data compression? And how do you know? This isn't commonly published
    information.[/QUOTE]

    16 minutes at full CD quality is about 170meg of RAM.
     
    Carey Carlan, Aug 28, 2003
    #17
  18. David Satz

    Arny Krueger Guest

    You beat me to it!

    And the chances of a $100 CD player having a 170 megs of RAM this year is
    zero.

    However, this does look like a nice player on paper.
     
    Arny Krueger, Aug 28, 2003
    #18
  19. David Satz

    Frank Vuotto Guest

    I have a Sony S2 D-SJ301 that I'm having a love/hate with. It's
    impossible to make it skip, I often use it as a tambourine on my
    morning walks. It's decently built and the sound is much better than
    any of the others I have tried.

    The hate part comes from the phones. The ones that come with it sound
    ok but I don't like the style. The problem is that I can't find
    replacements that work without occasional distortion (garble on one
    side). I think it's an impedance problem but I don't have hi-z phones
    to check it out.

    Anyhow, the carry them at WalWarts so you can check one out for a few
    days.


    Frank /~ http://newmex.com/f10
    @/
     
    Frank Vuotto, Aug 28, 2003
    #19
  20. David Satz

    Chip Gallo Guest

    It sounds good through the headphone amp and Senn 280 headphones. Amp spec
    is stated to be 20-20KHz +/-2db. It plays mp3, wma and asf files and
    supports the WINAMP play list. You can flash the firmware as needed (update
    codecs). Downside is that the line out is affected by the eq so the output
    stage is more complicated than some engineers would like. I'll ask them
    about the anti-skip compression. You have a choice of 45 seconds (for
    maximum sound quality) or 180 seconds (maximum skip protection).

    Chip Gallo
     
    Chip Gallo, Aug 28, 2003
    #20
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