The ARC CD2 is a great player, what kind of improvements are you looking for? I believe all the modded players that would beat the CD2 are way over 1k.
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I have an ARC-CD2 and I recently purchased and then sold a well known 'value priced' CD Player. The ARC 2 once again held it's ground. I know that the CD-2 is an older design, but it is so very musical. If you have some money to put into your system, upgrade anything/everything else before messing with the CD-2. Or at least wait until you can upgrade to a CD-3 II would be my (humble) advice.
I had ARC CD2 for 5 years.Bought right after review in Stereophile.Get a new DAC.CD2 is an amazing transport that will give you a reference quality for years to come.For 3 years i was using it strictly as a transport with multiple DACs and every time i was amazed by it.Best digital cable match-Kimber AGDL ($150 i think)
Tubemiser, I recently substituted an upgraded meridian 508.24 and was struck by a naturalness in the upper mids and highs that I perceive to be lacking in the ARC. Also, the meridian seemed to dig deeper in the lows. However, the meridian also seemed to have a much warmer sound, almost a glow in the mids that I perceived to interfere with the transparency I was accustomed to with the ARC. I realize I am splitting hairs here, but I guess what I am after is a more balanced sound, natural timber, extended on the extremes, and no compromises in transparency and clarity. Does this help? Maybe you are correct in that what I am after can't be had at this point in time for under a grand. I am still amazed at how wonderfully natural analogue sounds in comparison (aside from the pops, clicks and noise floor).
I agree with above...the cd2 makes a great transport...
keep in mind when running a dac a extra shelf, power cord, damping, and digital cable is needed (this adds quite a bit to the price depending on where your system is at.....digital seperates are very sensitive in this regard imo.
in regards to dac's the electrocompinent is very good and is about $1k used (awesome dac if you run all balanced)..if you can jump up to $2500 then the audio aero prima dac 2 or the reimyo are world class dacs (i have owned the electro and now own the aa prima 2)...
are you running CD2 balanced into your preamp? ARC usually sounds best balanced. I compared it directly with the Bel Canto DAC2 and even single-ended I preffered ARC. It layers the soundstage better and overall was more refined. The CD3MkII is an upgrade though if you want more clarity, better definition.
And I highly doubt that for less than $1k you will make any improvement. It will be at best a step sideways and if that will be the case, consider it an achievement.