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Multimedia Answers: Buy a new CD player rather than repair old one

Thursday, March 27, 2003

By Don Lindich

Q: I have an NAD CD player that I purchased along with an NAD receiver about 10 years ago, and it sounds great. Now the CD player needs to be repaired and I am having trouble finding a place to get it fixed. Can you recommend a repair station?

-- Mike Medwig, Green Tree

A: NAD makes some of the best equipment for getting high-end sound quality without breaking the bank. In particular, their older receivers are outstanding, delivering very clean, warm sound along with the ability to work with even the most power-hungry speakers. If you were writing to inquire about fixing the receiver, I would heartily recommend getting it repaired. However, repairing CD players is another story, even one from a premium manufacturer such as NAD. You are probably better off buying a new one.

CD players are largely digital components, almost like a computer. The computer chip that makes the sound in a CD player is called a digital-to-analog converter. This chip takes the ones and zeros coming from the laser reading the CD and converts them to an analog waveform that is sent to an electrical output stage. The output stage sends this analog signal to your receiver through the red and white output jacks on the back of your player. Though the output stage has an effect on sound quality, it is the converter chip that has the biggest effect on sound quality.

Now, consider this: What has happened to computer chips the past 10 years? Performance has gone up and price has come down. CD players are no different. It's quite probable that a popularly priced CD or DVD player of today will outperform more expensive, premium models made in the past because the newer one will have a more advanced digital-to-analog converter.

Bear in mind that differences in sound quality between CD and DVD players are small in any event; but if you own NAD, you care about your sound system. I'd recommend looking at an Onkyo or a new NAD model to replace your broken one.

Q:Why doesn't my DVD player recognize burned CDs or DVDs when the less expensive ones do?

-- R. Crutcher

A: Whether or not a DVD player can play or recognize burned DVDs and CDs depends on several factors: The laser used to read the disc, the software used by the chips in the DVD player, and other software and hardware design factors in the machine.

Compatibility with one media type does not guarantee compatibility with another media type. For instance, in my own system I use an Onkyo DVD player that can play burned DVDs, but not burned CDs. When you think about it, this is somewhat odd, as recordable CD-Rs predate recordable DVD-Rs by a number of years, and one would think that the engineers designing the player would design it to be backward-compatible with an older format. Conversely, some DVD players can play burned CDs but not burned DVDs.

Further complicating the problem, different brands of DVD media vary in their compatibility with home DVD players. Digital Video magazine recently tested many brands of DVD media and found some brands worked better than others in home players. Apple Computer DVD-R media was found to be the most compatible, with Pioneer also drawing high marks. Fortunately, blank CD-Rs do not exhibit the same kind of brand-to-brand compatibility problems as DVD-Rs.

If a DVD player's box says "CD, CD-RW, DVD-R compatible," you should be fine. Newer players are being produced with wide compatibility in mind, so this problem should disappear over time.

Visit Don's Web site, www.multimediaanswers.com, to submit your questions, view past columns and learn more about audio, video and digital photography.

Click here for an archive of previous Interact articles

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