I would suggest an unmodded Jolida JD 100. I had a Cary 303/200 before my Jolida. The Jolida is just as nice as the Cary, and about a third of the cost.
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I know how you feel! I have a Jolida CD player and a Cairn Fog v.2 with upsampling and have been looking to upgrade. Had a chance to audition the Arcam FMJ 33 last week and was impressed at the over-all quality of sound. Very difficult to make a choice considering it's all going to sound different when you get it home.
Maybe a dac is a good idea
Hi: I'm biased toward the Jolida since I own one with the Level 1 mod (Parts Connexion). I use a Flavor 4 PC and Tungsol tubes- Herbies halo tube dampers. With this the Jolida is excellent. (after all that it should be!) I've also owned a $3k player here (Simaudio Nova) that was also excellent but could not displace the Jolida; of course, comparing a "detail" Player like the Nova to the "smooth operator" Jolida is like comparing apples to oranges. That being said I have a new Sony 999ES sitting here waiting to be shipped to Modwright. I'm just waiting until my McIntosh MA6900 sells and then I ship the Sony to be modded. Practically everything I've read and heard about the Modwright Sony 999ES has been incredible. I can't wait until I can get the mod completed. You have a lot of excellent choices on your list; though I can't yet speak from experience, I would say you should also consider the Modwright Sony 999ES. From all reports it's a huge bang for your buck and will compete with higher dollar players in redbook perfomance. I got a new unit on the internet for a little over $500 shipping included. The mods at Modwright are not that expensive depending on which one you get. Dan Wright's reputation in the audiophile community is stellar. So consider the Jolida or step up to the Modwright Sony or not. By the way, any post like yours is going to elicit plenty of various opinions from everyone. Your ears will be the final arbiter of what you ultimately choose. Also, I've never used separates before so I can't comment on what you currently have. Good luck.
I owned the Sony XA-777es for around a year...good CD player but not outstanding. Now on well recorded SACD's it is outstanding...not sure how many of those there are though because I sold it a couple years ago.
I did just pick up an old DAC though...Counterpoint DA-10A ($3,700) in 1996 that I'm using with a cheap Pioneer 563A DVD player as transport....Blown away at around $500 investment for the DAC and every bit as good as the Sony was ...and I'm talking SACD's.
Grab an old top of the line DAC and be happy at a cheap price IMO...grab the Pioneer for around $100 while your at it.