For $2500 used you can buy a Theta Gen Va balanced, a Theta Data Basic II transport and a Genesis Digital Lens. This is what I'm using for a front end and it is wonderful. This rig retailed for $9400 new. The Digital Lens has 5 inputs, so I use AES/EBU for CD, BNC for DVD, Coax for laser disc player and Toslink for my HDTV set top box (with a glass cable). This makes for a convenient switcher with a remote. Many Gen Va DACs are advertized as balanced because they have balanced outputs but the true balanced units have the AES/EBU input as well, so be sure to ask if you decide to go that way.
Muse Model Two Plus, Model Two Ninety Six, or Model One Ninety Two. All fully balanced DACs.
As a thought, you might want to consider a used Resolution Audio Opus 21. (You can use it as a dac if you wish, but it is a fine stand alone cd player).
A friend has a Vecteur as well, and it is a good cd player. However, my Opus 21 betters it in my opinion.
The cost, used, is about $2,500. (I lucked out and got mine used for a few hundred less and another friend I have got his for just slightly more than I paid, so the price is in your range. BTW, he used to have a Theta, and preferred the Opus. I am not sure which model he had.)
Check out the reviews and discussions about it here and on Audio Asylum. I finally found the cd player I plan on having for a long time to come!
Couple of design points:
It is fully balanced, but the XLR outputs run through a volume control (as do the single ended outputs). There is a din output that is not run through the volume control, which is what I use, since I have a preamp. (I use a din-xlr Audience Au24 cable, and it sounds great.)
The first units came with a noisy transport and a remote that did not support direct track access. This has been rectified for some time now, but if you get a used one, make sure it has the upgraded transport and remote.
My two cents worth anyway. Good Luck in your search!
The last DAC Sonic Frontiers/Assemblage made, the Assemblage 3.1 with the Platinum parts upgrade is a superb unit and it's a fully balanced design as I recall. Good luck finding one though, they never seem to be offered for sale.
Here'a a thought, this is an oldie but a goodie if you can come across one, a Timbre TT-1 Balanced Dac. It's balanced from input to output and is great sounding. I once owned one and regret selling it to this day. If you do find one it will be well under you budget, probably in the $8-1200 range but it still competes with some of the best dacs on the market today and as an added bonus it is very distintictive and cool looking. In any case best of luck and happy listening!
Classe' DAC-1. Balanced or se output. Full range of input options. Probably about the same price as the Timbre above.
Pass D-1 is a truly balanced DAC that I really enjoy. I haven't found anything I like better. It can be had used for around $1500 and the 24/96 version for slightly more.
For way, way under the $2500 ceiling you might find an Apogee DA1000E-20 plus power supply.
Elgordo- one of my buddies has a Gen Va- it's ok, but his analog rig kills it! He is NOT using the digital lens though- curious if that would make a difference. I have a GW Labs DSP signal enhancer/jitter reducer that I find makes a small but noticeable difference, so I am also a believer in the '3-box' solution as well!
Timo- never tried the Muse stuff- worried though, as it's not selling like it used to used, and wouldnt' want to be stuck with something that might be tougher to re-sell. However the reviews are good on Muse- just wish there was a chance to try it!
Kurt- yes, have read great things about the Opus 21 and I know you are a fan, but the XLR output running through the volume control bugs me! I realize you haev had success with the workaround though, and that's cool. I am in Canada though, and I don't think we have a dealer up here for that line...
Photon- yes, good call on the Assemblage. Had one (the one model down from that one) and it was good, and better with the D2D upsampler, HOWEVER, I preferred the filterless Audio Note 3.1x Balanced though...
Jond- hey- that's a good idea on the TT- I am intrigued! Have always wondered how good that piece is, and at the used prices, perhaps worth a shot -I believe they are tough to find though...
The Chord DAC 64. Great sounding !
Rufusfolk- I don't know about the Pass D-1 @ $1,500. Check Audiogon- there is one there, but he's asking $4,200!!
Swamp- Classe stuff being local up here in Canuck land is popular- have never heard their dac although they seem to sell well when they do come up...
Tobias- never heard of Apogee digital...
Ljgj- Chord- hmmm.... it seems so small and unassuming, but hey, good things can come in small packages as they say!
The apogee is from the pro world and is very good. It retailed for around $3500 but can be had for no more than $800. Definately a giant killer.
Hey Kurt- Long time no speak- still have those Komura 845's?? thanks for chiming in on my thread- btw, what are YOU using for digital these days?
Mark Levinson 360 runs about that used. I've been using
one for several years and find it excellent: highly
resolving without being harsh, excellent bass, expansive
For less than $1000, you could try the Benchmark Dac-1. I have been impressed with mine, though have not AB'd it against much. It's got balanced outs and a volume control.
I would highly reccomend checking out the Electrocompaniet DAC. It doesn't get any more musical than that.
Apogee DA1000E-20 is Cello 8.1 with XLR outputs. If you're in the Montreal area you can drop by and listen to mine.
Lousyreeds1 is right. I second the Electrocompaniet ECD-1. Steve Nugent of Empirical Audio does mods for these dacs. His assesment of the stock units sound is highly complimentary and pulls no punches as to its sound. It compares in stock form to many reference DACs in the mids and low end, losing only in the high end extension to the better(and much more costly) DAC's. See his site at www.empiricalaudio.com for his assesment. This DAC is one that sounds like sonically everything is there and nothing is missing.That is until you Turbo Mod it..and then its unbelievable according to Steve.Im seriously thinking of it myself! Good Luck! :)
John Wright modded Bidat with Black Gates
Sutts, sorry for off-topic. You mentioned that Eclipse betters Capitoles. Not often it happened to me to see a direct comparison of AA against SimAudio. Sometime before I had a dilemma of Prima against Nova, and I'm very interested to know from what perspective Eclipse bettered: sound quality, or kind of sound ("house sound")?
I also would like to hear how Sim Audio Eclipse betters AA Capitole.
How about the Eclipse LE cd player?
Slingshot- didn't realize the Reimyo was under $2,500- hmmm...
Kehut- had a long talk with Steve Nugent a couple o' days ago. He likes the post-mod ECD-1, but his 'baby', or the one that REALLY floats his boat, is the post-mod Perpetual P3A
Loudandclear- never heard the Bidat (had the modded Bitstream/Data II), but thats' cool that the Biday has balanced outs. We took the modded Data II over to a buddys' place, and his Sim Audio Eclipse still killed it- the Data II sounded very dull in comparison
Dimitry/Devon- The Eclipse has a lower noise floor, due in part I am sure to the much more advanced power supply among other things. It has superior bass, tighter and more extended. It also has a wider soundstage than the Cap and superior low-level detail retrieval. The Cap has that nice midrange quality to it though (and I will admit the bass IS bettered in the MK II, but it's still not as good as the Eclipse's). These are both very good machines, and system synergy and sonic attribute-related user preferences will be the deciding factor. i.e. the Cap II allows you to eliminate a preamp and go direct- a crucial $$ factor for some. I could live with either one IN THE RIGHT ACCOMPANYING SYSTEM. The LE version modifies the analog output stage for apparently (haven't heard it yet) an aven smoother sound. Hope that helped.
Given what you said you HAVE owned, (some of the best stuff around) it looks like you're going backwards again. Maybe there's something else wrong in your system that you're blaming your CD player for?
SimAudio might give you detail and bass, but at the expense of harshness/digital sound that evetually wears on you and gives you a headache - typical EAD sound. It can't compete with EMM and A.A.
Golden Ears- have you heard the Audio Logic 24MXL?
How about the old world champ........
Sonic Frontiers sfd2 ....pick up mark 1 or 2 versions then send it to Sonic for Mark3 24/96 upgrade. Run signal from D2d upsampler jitter reducer using ISe cable and you will not believe the quality for a price of about $2500. A KILLER
I've had Electro ECD-1, Bel Canto DAC2, Perpetual Tech P-3A, Birdland Odeon-lite, Audionote DAC4, Classe' DAC1, MSB Gold and others I wont mention in my system. IMO, the only ones that sound good stock are: ECD-1 and Birdland. Even of these, the ECD-1 is a bit warm-sounding and the Birdland has the highest highs rolled-off, but both of these impressed me right out of the box.
John, I hope all is well. I have an Audio Logic 24 mxl. It is tremendous. Try to listen to one if you can find one nearby. - Brooks (email me if you want more detail)
I am currently auditioning the Audiologix 24 MXL and an Empirical Audio modified ECD-1.
They are both excellent dacs and significantly better than my stock ECD-1 in my system.
The Audiologic is more 3-D in its images and has a more laid back presentation (although it has very nice PRAT and good dynamics). The HF is very good and there is lots of detail without it seeming forced. I also really like the way voices sound - very seductive and intoxicating.
The EA ECD-1 is more agressive and dynamic. The leading edge is more prominent and there is even more detail than the Audiologic. HF extension and clarity is the best I have heard. If you want something that presents a totally clear window? This is it!!
My ideal dac would be a combination of both and still be "afforable".
I will hopefully be hearing a fully loaded (Platinum version) Sony 999 Modwright unit in the near future as well.
I know you said dac, but if it is better...
"Totally clear window". George, that's the best description of
my Empirical Audio modded EMC 1-UP that I've ever read. You nailed
the HF extension and clarity issues as well. I'd also add wide soundstage
to your comments. I'm certain the qualities you've noted transfer
equally from EMC 1-UP CD player to ECD-1 DAC as modded by Steve
Audioengr/Steve did an excellent job modding my ECD-1.Transformed it from a very good dac to an excellent dac.Before the mod I described the ECD-1 as mellow sounding. Now, after the mod, its more dynamic, airy, fuller sounding.Hearing more details in all the recordings.zybar/George is a tuff critic having owned many dac's.To hear that he is enjoying my EA ECD-1, is very good news.I'm very happy with the results that I heard - and thats what counts !!! There is a blow-by-blow thread concerning the mods that Audioengr/Steve did to the ECD-1 on audiocircle.com .
Thanks again to Chris for letting me "borrow" his EA ECD-1.
On Monday I will lose the Audiologic 24 MXL dac, so for the rest of the weekend I will be concentrating on this dac instead of Chris' EA ECD-1.
ordered the Audiologic 24MXL dac- thanks for all the responses guys.
I bought the Audiologic dac as well.
I am confident you will enjoy it.
I second the vote for the Levinson 360s. A truly superb unit, probably compares well with any of the listed units above, but of course this is all system dependent.
Congrats on the purchase. Let me know if you want to try the dsp.
Nutella- who are you? :-)
I bought your victories, etc..