Changing equipment is part of the fun.
You appear to have a pretty good list although I'm dubious of the Cambridge Azure 840 improving upon the Apollo.
Of all of the players on your list, the Raysonic 128 will provide the biggest difference in sound, IMO.
Well I've been running a Raysonic 128 with a Cayin A100T. Up until recently I thought it a big, dynamic, and warm sound but not having as much resolution as I like. A simple change from 4ohm taps to 8 ohm taps on the Cayin was all it took to restore a much higher degree of resolution/speed needed for this unit (and not so much for my other stuff). I would recommend it in your price range, in fact I think it is a steal used. And, FWIW, tube rolling can be very productive and you can change its tone easily thru using different current production tubes as well as NOS. It is not terribly demanding, noise wise.
IMO, you will not improve significantly on the Apollo in that price range, unless you see a Saturn priced that low, which I never have yet. You will have to spend significantly more than that to get a real improvement. IMO, the Apollo bests players I have heard that cost five times it's price.
I will add to the others mentioning the Raysonic cd128 which is one of the players I own. And to add focus to an already very good player, purchase the inexpensive and I'm told, under-appreciated Jan Philps 6922 tubes to go in it. After being recommended by another cd128 owner, these tubes really surprised me and improved the performance of the cd128. This player is a great value at retail price and a steal at the used price.
the Apollo bests players I have heard that cost five times it's price.
I am not quite sure. One of my good friends has Apollo. His system is MC275, PrimaLuna Prolog 3, Apollo, and Klipsch LaScala and Valodyne subwoofer. Mine is Linn AV5105, Rogue Magnum 99, NAD C541i, and Tyler Taylo 7U. We tried Apollo and C541i in both systems. The only difference we both could recognize was that a little bit warmth on Apollo, but no audible difference on base, treble, mid, sound stage, detail, dynamics, ... on either system.
Anyway, he was rather disappointed even though he preferred warm sound of Apollo on his LaScala. On my system I preferred C541i.
I'd suggest a Cary 303/300 used CD player that has a SS and tube output section. You can fine tune the sound by tube rolling the tube section very easily.
It is a very musical player with good bass and detail but not any harshness at all. They can be had here on AG for about $2000.
A used Bryston BCD1 is in that range and will significantly outperform your Apollo.
Check the reviews and look for used or demo in AudioGon.
Check out Atoll,they have very nice players,and prices are pretty hard to beat right here.
check out cary, ayre, bryston,...they are much better than the apollo.
I've owned both the Apollo and the Cambridge 840, but none of the others you mention. I like the Apollo -- very musical for a CD player. But I kept (and still own) the 840. More solidity, more detail (but not etched or bright), more of a "you are there" sense to the midrange, and no annoying "initialization" of a CD.
A used Naim CD5X can be had in that price range.
Much better than the Rega Apollo, IMO.
I picked up a Raysonic 128 recently and couldn't be more pleased. My last digital rig was an APL Hi-Fi full blown Denon 3910 w/AKM DACs. Excellent sound but I dumped it two years ago and have been listening to vinyl exclusively ever since(Galibier,Tri-Planar,XV-1s).
Having a large collection of CDs and finding vinyl a pain to play when we had company, I figured I'd break down and buy a cheap one box player. Fortunately, I heard a friend's 128 before I'd pulled the trigger on anything and bought one for myself.
I've put approx. 300 hours on it since it arrived four weeks ago and find myself listening to my old CD's once again and actually enjoying them, quite a surprise!
Lest you think the 128 is just a "mid-fi" player and not capable of excellent sound with high resolution, mine feeds an Atma-Sphere MP-1 Mk III with all upgrades and MA-1 Mk III monos, again with all upgrades. Believe me when I tell you, if a source is not up to the task, those two components will let you know in a hurry.
One last thing, it sounds fine with the stock tubes but I replaced them with NOS Telefunkens after about 200 hours with great results. I intend to pick up some of those cheapie Philips to try as well. No, it's not an EMM Labs or some other mega buck player but it's close enough that I can easily live with it for the foreseeable future.
You don't care for the Benchmark?
I have a Rega Planet and I'm considering purchasing a Benchmark DAC-1 Pre. My system is already on the thin, dry, wiry side. I thought the Benchmark would help. Perhaps not?
Some reviews rave about its ability to reduce the digital nasties, others say it's a bit sterile. Are you considering selling yours? How does it sound compared to the Rega Apollo?
Sorry I'm not helping to answer your question, but your system is way ahead of mine already.
Obviously its system dependent but in my system, the Benchmark DAC1 PRE is not harsh, cold, lean or analytical. I like it better than the Rega Saturn (I own 2 Saturns). I use the Saturn as my transport for the DAC1 PRe. IMO, the DAC1 PRE is truthful and natural sounding whereas the Saturn and Apollo add some coloration. BTW, I used to own the Apollo before I upgraded to the Saturn. I couldn't be happier with the Benchmark. It's also a very good headphone amp. It drives my Ultrasone Edition 9 headphone very well. For reference, my system consists of the Harbeth Super HL-5, McIntosh MC275 power amp, Convergent Audio Technology SL1 Ultimate preamp, REL Strata III subwoofer and Running Springs Jaco power conditioner.
Have you listened to the latest generation Naim CD5i(italic)? It will be different than the Apollo - not necessarily more detailed or refined, but more bounce and rhythm and a little more musical. I have a soft spot for Naim gear and the house sound. A used CD5x and the Cambridge 840C are also good suggestions.
Can't say anything about the Raysonic - but a lot of people love them. If you could snag one of the PrimaLuna players used in your price range, that would be a great find.
Well I picked up a (used)Raysonic 128 for $1K and my immediate impression after all of 1 hour is that it is a step up from the Rega Apollo. To my ears a much more fuller sound with deeper and wider soundstage (the tubes?). Obviously I need to spend a lost more time with both units to confirm my intial thoughts.
What I don't understand is why a screwdriver was included in the box. Any ideas?
Mightyburner, the screw driver is for opening the back of the remote when the time comes for new batteries. In the Raysonic, you have an excellent high value player that will sound better with different tubes and cabling. Once you've listened to it for a while as is, installing the Jan Philips 6922 will really enhance the performance in my opinion. And they're inexpensive. I would also compare rca to xlr if your electronics allow. Good listening.
The Raysonic plays above its retail price and provides balanced performance. It has a little tube magic along with authoritative bass and a clear open sound. Based on the lack of acclaim, I'd say it's one of the underrated high end players on the market.
I have heard that the Raysonic needs several hours of usage each time it is turned on before sounding optimal. Have you noticed this?
I was in the same situation about 5 months ago and decided to go with the Bryston BDA-1. It has made a difference in soundstage width, depth, detail and the magical act of the speakers disappearing. I listened again to the Apollo by itself and man I preferred it with the BDA-1 without question. I'm sure technology has changed in the last few months and maybe you can find something in that price range that will beat out the BCD-1 which is very good.
Mst, No. My unit sounds fairly good after about 15 minutes. Good enuf that after that I'm just listening to the music.
I have a Cayin CDT-23 CDP. I recently purchased the new Rega DAC, and it is indeed a significant upgrade. Your solidly built Cayin would make a good transport.
lol. sorry about that--you have the apollo. People say the Rega DAC beats it hands down.
The Rega DAC is quite a bit better than the Apollo to my ears.
However, this thread is about 2 years old and hopefully the OP has figured out what he wants.