Bang For Your Buck Best Value CD Transport

I don't want to know what is the very best CD transport to use with a DAC regardless of price.

I want to know what people think is a transport that works and sounds great, and is a good value for the money.

New and/or used, whatever you think....
I have always felt that the Theta Data Basic II transport was a great value. I think used they are going for about $600. Has both SPIDF and AES/EBU outputs.
I had the Northstar Model 192 DAC for about 1 year and never had any problems with it. It is an excellent performer and value. The used price varies but mine was around $950. It is extremely versatile with inputs and outputs.
I tried my cheap little Pioneer DVD 563A as a transport with my DAC...(just for the heck of it really). Strange when something so cheap does something so doesn't stand out at anything else it does?

I have tried using the Pioneer 563A as a transport and thought it was less than decent compared directly to a Panasonic RP91. Admittedly, the RP91 was a lot more expensive, but it wasn't even close.

If you are into modded stuff, I am a big fan of the Empirical Audio transport mods to the Sony S7700. I use this one as my reference transport with a Dodson DA-218 DAC. Have compared it to transports from Mark Levinson, 47 Labs, Esoteric, and have found it to be "in the ballpark" with all of these.
Proceed CDD, essentially a Mark Levinson No. 37, but go for around $1000 used if you can find one, to aprox. $2000 for the 37.
Hi Phil

Sure, it is very good at $150 retail least in my system. It beats a $1,200 retail and $500 retail units I tried before it IMO.

He did say...bang for buck. The Empirical audio mods plus the price of the Sony are what?.

Yeap the Pioneers are excellent transports. I use the 578A as a transport. Loads faster than any unit I've spent time with that includes the Quad 99 CDp,Arcam DV27,Meridan 500 something? Too many numbers to remember ;-). I would think the 563a should be the same. You'll find similar transport mechanisms in the Esoteric and Ayre players . They both use the Pioneer transports with some extra modifications. Bottom line the transports are very solid..the players aren't good for much else though unless modded to the hilt for analog out playback.

I do realize he did say bang-for-the-buck, but the original poster asked for "best transport regardless of price". And I did compare the Pioneer 563A against some other budget players (eg. Toshiba 3950, Panasonic RP56) and didn't find the Pioneer to be particularly better or worse as a transport compared to these others.

And yeah, the Empirical mods are expensive (with all the available mods for the S7700, it was about $1300). Still, I have yet to find anything that clearly beats it in any price category.

With the budget players, I'd strongly recommend making sure that you use a true 75ohm digital cable, and that the length be between 1.5m-2m....
Woops...I guess I read the original post wrong. He did say "I DON'T want to know"...I thought he said "I want to know".

Doh! Good thing my hearing still works... ;-)
There always seem to be a number of CAL Delta transports available here for $200-300. They are excellent transports.
I have a Pioneer DVD 563A modded by Modwright. I use it as a transport along with a Bel Canto DAC. It sounds better as it gets older. I don't think Modwright mods this unit any more. When Modwright sent it back I was told it would take about 200 hours before everything started sounding great and he was WRIGHT!!
Matchstikman, I actually had my Pioneer 563A modded by Audience...essentially changed all the caps with Auricaps and all the wiring with Audience hookup wire, and a few other parts replaced (no re-design of the player, just upgraded a variety of parts)...and the performance improved significantly. Still not up to where the Empirical S7700 is at, but it made a $150 player sound like a more expensive one, and the transport section was improved too.
I forgot to mention I also had a Sony DVP-S7000 at home. It was said to better it's successor the 7700.Only option the 7700 offered over the 7000 was DTS at the time. I listened to it only through it's audio outputs. Extremely unimpressive in this area.Cold,sterile with highs that could cut. I'm sure as a transport it was much better. Never got a chance to try it though. I sold the unit the following week.The expense of replacing the transport mechanism in this player is highway robbery.Sony really sticks it to ya! ;-)
I think that the Stello CDT-200 is a great value for its $1,500.00 list price. It was so much better than my Theta Data Basic II that I couldn't listen to it anymore and sold it.

I didn't buy the Stello though, because the ONE thing it didn't do as well as the Theta was throwing a deep soundstage, and I wanted that. If you look at my system, I have all of that now, but with a $5,300.00 transport.

Check out the reviews:

sony dvp-s7000 and dvp-s7700

excellent transports and can be had cheap

cal audio delta is a great unit for about 250/300 but you have to treat is as a consumable since the transport is proprietary and cal audio is long gone
I once owned the Audio Alchemy pro transport, I think the last one they made. It had a separate power supply and a Pioneer turntable. Sounded great with the DACs I paired it with. Only thing different was the CD was played shiney side up. If I were looking for a transport on a serious budget this would be my first choice. If you could fine in nice condition it would be a great value.
I have an older Sony X55ES weights in at 33lbs. copper chassis. separate Power supply for digitial and analog. built like a tank, makes a great transport.
I have the answer, but it would take too long to get.

The Aiwa XC-37M or 35M as modded by STan Warren, but will take probably 6 months to get done.

The unmodded aiwa was compared favorably to an $8k Wadia, so the mod is excellent in the way it takes the LED optical sender out of the unit and lets you connect it to the optical in of the DAC.
I've found the EAD cd players and dedicated transports to be very good. They are Pioneer-based transports.
I am familiar with the Aiwa. I've heard it is best for Delta/Sigma DACs like MSB and Bel Canto with a Toslink.
Here's one more to think about. I may try one myself down the road.This looks to be a serious transport!CD-Pro2M Complete Kit. It has a similar chassis to the Burmester Reference CD Transport 969.This is also the same chassis used by CEC players.I'm betting parts are much better in the kit by comparison to the CEC.You get high quality without spending the additional coins on hype.

Have fun!
With regards to the CD-PRO2M kit, there is a lot of discussion about it here:
My understanding is that the CD-PRO2M has been out of stock for some time. A nice kit if you can get it.
My understanding is that an off-shoot from Philips ( has some sort of arrangement where either they bought all the remaining stock from Philips and still have them, or maybe even have a license to continue making them.
They seem to be offering just the diy bare essentials, but no chassis, pre-assembled boards, caps, etc. as a kit. was offering a very nice kit that didn't require a degree in electrical engineering. Maybe possible to find a good thread at, though...
A Muse Model Five or Eight. Not many available used lately on the Gon, but nicely built (except for the clunky drawer sound)and sounding transports.
Babbabob...yes, Daisy Laser just offers the CD-PRO2M mechanism. It is where (and any other kit makers) get their transport parts...
JVC EXU-901A – OPTIMA-4 or JVC player with Optima 4s. Obviously the player must have digital out option. Optima is a super high quality with lots of metal. I believe laser is real glass. It reads everything. Very reliable.

Transport JVC EXU-901A with optima 4 was used in these models:
Victor XL-Z900
Victor XL-Z999
Reimyo CDP-777
Krell KPS 25s
Krell KPS 25sc
Phase Tech CT-1