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.
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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.
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....
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:
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 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.
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.
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:
Krell KPS 25s
Krell KPS 25sc
Phase Tech CT-1