Specification tables for hi-fi equipment can quickly and easily spiral into mass blurs of numbers, abbreviations, lists, symbols and terms only understood by the biggest of audiophiles. Rather than giving you an answer to your question, you might come away with more questions than before. But with added headache and a dash of confusion.
Just for you, we’ve jargon-busted the most common specifications provided for CD players to help you understand which figures matter and what to look for while you’re shopping:
This stands for Total Harmonic Distortion. This is a measure of how much distortion is added to the audio signal as it passes through the CD player. As you can imagine, the lower the number the better!
2. Signal to noise ratio
Also known as S/N ratio. We know you’d much rather hear the sound of Hendrix’s fingers flying up and down the guitar neck than the noise produced by electrons whizzing around and bumping into things. This specification measures the difference between the sound you want to hear and the noise you’re not interested in. Again, the lower this figure the better (-120dB is lower than -60dB)
A perfect example of digital to analogue conversion would treat each bit of data in exactly the same way and the relationship between each bit would be entirely equal in terms of the ‘space’ between them. This is measured in non-linearity - the deviation away from this perfect condition - and therefore some variation between individual bits. Here you want a number as low as possible.
4. Total correlated jitter
Jitter is gaps in playback caused by processing problems or the internal clocking of the digital to analogue converter. These gaps are measured in picoseconds and are far too small for the ear to hear. But we’re perfectionists and this can still lead to loss of accuracy, musicality and detail. And you guessed it, the lower the number the better.
5. Stop-band rejection
Our products have filters which remove from the signal any frequencies which are outside of the bounds of normal human hearing. This provides a better, more enjoyable sound. Of course, no filter is 100% accurate and this figure measures the filters efficiency. The lower this number, the less extra sound is getting through (-120dB is lower than -60dB)
The Ultimate Test
The above measures the electronic performance of a CD player and can help guide you to an effective system that will transfer data from the disc to the amplifier or speakers without adding unwanted distortion and sound.
Without sounding TOO big headed, we’ve become experts at optimizing these circuits to minimise distortion, jitter and other detrimental audio effects. However as always at Cambridge Audio, we simply listen to our products to make sure they sound damn good!
Comment below and tell us what’s the best CD player you’ve ever heard?