Your auditions with Rega and Cambridge should have impressed you with their layed back sound . I think they are overly polite and have the British Sonic. Musical not digital and warm.
You should do yourself a favor and stick with vinyl.
Of the three you want to hear. The only one I owned was the Audio Aero which I thought did an oustanding job retriving detail and still not harsh. Very tube dependent the Sovtek it camw with time with was painfully bad but a few rolls later and advice from my tube Guru led me to a great tube fot it a CV2943.
I did not find Rega laid back. In fact, the images were all quite large...as if it was trying to big-up the sound. I actually preferred the old rega Jupiter 2000 to the new apollo.
Go straight to the Audio Aero. Capitole MKII and MKIIse preferred.
PrimaLuna Prologue 8 with the upgraded board. Tube roll until you find the sound you like. SeeReview in TAS.
i have the aa capitole classic se redbook cd player. it is extremely detailed and very easy to listen to. i'm big into vinyl, but this cd is so easy on the ears that sometimes i don't spin the vinyl. you can't roll the tubes if that's what you're looking to do.
I've had a Raysonic CD 128 for a couple of years and really like it. No "digititis" that I can detect. You can tube-roll to your heart's content. I'm currently using Amperex Bugle Boy 6DJ8s in mine. Good luck, Dave.
I have owned a Grant Fidelity CD427 for about six months.
Even though it is Chinese built, I have had no issues at all
with it. I replaced the stock Chinese tubes and could not be
The Lector 7T is one fine CD player especially when you roll some Telefunken 12at7s in. I bought one as a backup but it sounds so good that I use it most of the time.
In my experience, a tube output does nothing to make a CD player sound less "digital".
If you did not find the Rega Apollo to be laid back, you are definitely not going to find any of the three players on your list to be. They are all much more forward and engaging than the Rega.
I have two tube CDP's and while I prefer them to all solid state CDP's the difference, honestly, is pretty marginal. If you don't like digital sound the only solution that will guarantee a big difference is to go analog.
The best tubed CDPs I've heard (and owned) are the Shanling CD-T100 and the JAS Audio Musik 1.2. The JAS Audio unit is especially good value, with a good transport and a really nice sounding output stage.
All CD players I've had, tubed or ss, were improved with aftermarket power cords, antivibration footers and especially, isolation transformers on the AC supply. An iso tranny doesn't have to be expensive (see eBay) and it can remove considerable roughness from the player's sound, especially in the HF.
I tried a Jolida JD100 once (unmodified), long time ago, it sounded very natural...only criticism was it lacked a bit of detail. I simply assumed todays players would have improved on that. It was great on vocals. On the SS side I liked the Linn Majik cdp but it's 3k...ouch!!
You should also consider a Modwright tubed cdp, you can usually find them here used at a good price point.
I do think a tubed output sounds more "natural", to me anyway. YMMV as always.........
I also listen to a Jolida JD100...it has 2 sets of outputs from the tube, and I coax digital with no tube out. I enjoy both outputs. Listening to Morphine (band) is like being there. It isnt highly resolving...but that is not why I purchased it. The sound is wonderful in the mids...bass is tight but with a little bloom. Its inexpensive also btw. Try one used...then sell if it is not to your liking. Good luck.
Oh, btw, I also have a Denon cdr/cdp studio recorder and player that I have my TT directly connected to via XLR. It is plenty resolving for my tastes without any harshness. Though, I only use it mostly for recording directly from LP.
I owned an EAR Acute. Although a bit pricey, I thought it sounded excellent.