Best budget CDP?

I'm putting together a small two channel system based around a pair of Zu Druids and small tube hybrid intgrated amp that I got as part of a HCT HMS-100 package (same as the Vuum Audio VTi-B1 or the Dared MP-5 without the USB port). Also considering upgrading to a Onix SP-3, but that's a differnt story.

I need to find a decent CDP that would be a nice match for this budget system. $1000 would be my max, but I would really like stay ~ $500 if possible, but not if I can't get a nice sounding unit at this price.

I'm also putting a small LCD or Plasma in this room so a nice univeral unit would be even better, but music performance in paramount. Another consideration which makes a univerval unit an attractive option is that I would still have a spare set of inputs to add a TT down the road if I decide to get back into LP's.

Thoughts/suggestions will be much appreciated.

BTW, I only have BB/CC in our town, so I really don't have the option to listen to much and this is why I must ask for help. Used is fine.

I am real happy with the Music Hall 25.2 i have hooked up to a Primaluna PL2. After about 75 hours it started to break in: richer, cleaner. The remote is not great but i rarely use it. I got mine from Underwood HiFi for close to $400.

You might want to check out an EVS mod'd Oppo Univeral player. Ric Shultze at EVS is one of the early mod'rs and has been doing it for years. He previously built the EVS Millenium DACs, but now only does mod-ing.

I haven't heard the mod'd unit personally, but I have been conversing with some extremely satisfied customers who have owned many dedicated CD players priced $2000-$10000+ and they are happy with this mod'd Oppo now. I'm not saying they think the Oppo is the complete equal of a $10000+ digital rig, but they did say they were happily living with the Oppo.

BTW, if you send a new Oppo player to Ric for mods, he will provide a complete money back offer in the event you are not satisifed.

I'm currently considering the EVS mod'd Oppo to use as the CD/SACD/DVD-A player for my 2-channel rig, connected direct to a power amp (using the Oppos built-in remote volume control), plus I would use it as the DVD player via HDMI output to my HT system which is in the same room.

The Oppo could cover all of your format needs for as little as about $500-600.

Check it out:


Way better value to spend that budget on a USB DAC.
If you want a new one, then consider the Cambridge Audio 740c Upsampling CD Player.

List is $1099, but places like Spearit Sound have it for $999 with free shipping.

So you are $1 below your budget...LOL!
"I'm also putting a small LCD or Plasma in this room so a nice univeral unit would be even better, but music performance in paramount."

Say no more, Squire, get thee to the Denon listing here on Audiogon and scoop up a gently used DVD 3910 for approx. $500. Here's a good example:

You'll not find a nicer player for the money anywhere. And, this unit is exceptionally versatile, it will playe EVERY shiny disc format except for the newest HD stuff (BluRay and HDDVD). I've had mine for almost a year and I enjoy it immensely...

All of the Denons are awesome for the money. Even a used 2200,2900,3900 would be great. The 2200 is perhaps the best deal of the three and not a comprimise at all.
A friend of mine got Oppo 970 + used Monarchy Audio 18 DAC for $500 total and is delighted (he is a former owner of a few Stereophile Class A and B $2-3,000 range CDPs). USB DAC great idea as well with a small PC-based "transport".
Thanks so much for the responses so far. Something I didn't mention, which is also important to me, is cosmetics.

The Music Hall seems to keep popping up in all kinds of forums as do the Denon's. The Muisc hall looks like a good match, finish wise, for the Onix.

Onix also sells a CD-5 (black only) which I think is the same as the Music Hall, but some say it's better. Not sure why though.

I also see the new Cambridge upsampler mentioned, but I've read a couple of reviews that reported a titled top end and some siblance issues on vocals. This scared me off of these units.

The Oppo is whithout a dobut major bang for the buck in the video department and I may end up with one for just this reason, but I'm not excited about using it for audio. Not to mention it looks cheap in the pictures I've seen.

Anyhow, thanks to everyone who resonded so far. Any more suggestions? Especially at the lower end of my budget. :0)
Oppo plus DAC may be the way to go. I'd hesitate to pay too much, or mod something like a DVD player that you may want to upgrade before you've really got your investment back. Personally I'm moving to using the computer as a transport with a Paradisea+ DAC (tube), while keeping my Nuforce AVP-16 for HT. Yes the Nuforce does have 2-ch bypass as well.

Though the Oppo mod straight to the amp sounds intriguing. The basic Oppos do indeed lack in SQ, but really what do you expect for a couple hundreds bucks.
Sugarbrie, the more I read the more I'm leaning toward a cambridge unit. However, on another thread I read that if one was to buy the 740 they should spend extra and get the 840.

However, it seems to me that both are practically the same operationally and differ only in features and DAC's, which I doubt will make that big of a difference.

Since you recommended the 740 I thought I'd also ask if you have any experience or thoughts about the 840.

Anyone else that has experience with either please chime in as well.
Jack, I agree with you that the 740C is a better fit for a second system. I'd pick the 840C for a main system so you'd have some growth potential.

Heck, I'm very happy with my 340C in my office system sourcing an ATI AT602 driving M&K pro monitors.
Used Arcam FMJ CD 23 around $ 750

My recommendation is based on compairing side by side, in my system, the FMJ 23 to three other more costly players.

Musical Fidelity A 308
McIntosh 205
Arcam FMJ CD 36

Compaired to the MF A 308 the FMJ sounded more rich and full with just as much detail ( if not a hair more ) and Just as good in the bass department with about the same depth and soundstage.

The McIntosh 205 had more emphasis in the upper freq. response with a wider soundstage however the FMJ 23 beat it in overall richness and slam. about the same detail yet the bass on the FMJ was a definate winner over the McIntosh.

Finally I have now the FMJ 36 . Compared to the 23 the 36 is more detailed , slightly better depth and bass notes are more tunefull and punchy. ( perhaps better timing and less mud between the notes). However the FMJ 23 still sounds richer/fuller and choosing between the two is difficult for me. The FMJ 23 also decodes HD CDs which to my suprise is a real plus as a good HD cd can open up the soundstage with detail and depth I would not have believed before listening.
that's my two cents
good luck
If it was me, I might consider the Underwood XCD-5 which is factory authoized modification of the Onix CD-5. I believe cost of the player with the mods + package is about $870. Btw, the Onix CD-5 is pretty much the same player as the Music Hall 25.2, except it has a three year warrenty instead of Music Hall one year warrenty.

Another interesting affordable source is some of the tube based CD players - the Bada HD22, for example retails for about $549, and even though there is not a lot information on this player, what is out there is pretty postive. Recently, talked to a gentlemen who has a modded version of this player and he compared it with a similarly modded version of a Jolida JD-100 players. And he and the technician who modded both players thought the Bada sounded much better, and this was before he had replaced the Chinese tube in the Bada. Also, he mentioned that the Bada was better built that the Jolida.

You might want to stop by the Pacific Valve and Electric site for some of their offerings such as the Bada.

Bottom line, there is quite a number of excellent CD players in the $500 to $1000 range, especially if you're willing to have some mods done on them to bring them up to their full potential. I know that's route I'm going to go when I buy my next CD player.
Many good recommendations here, but I'm still leaning toward the Cambridge units, although the Consonance CD-120 linear also has my interest peaked.

I would really like to hear from anyone that has made a direct comparison between the 740C and 840C. Not interested in the additional features, i.e. XLR's, only how they compare soundwise.

One thing I really like about the Camridge units is the digital inputs. Down the road I could rip my CD's to a squeeze box and run it through the Cambridge.

Cambride sound with a juke box for all my music. Sweet!

I realize the 840 is beyond my original budget, but if it sounds better than the 740 I'm worried I might regret that I didn't get it just to save a few hunderd bucks.

Just wish there was a Cambridge dealer in my area.
Pick up a Cambridge CD500 SE for $250 and if you are not fully happy with it, that leaves a lot of money to either buy a tube DAC (or a tube buffer)or upgrade something else.
Here's a set-up that gets the best of both worlds. My entire system is geared towards good HT, with excellent audio. My solution: an Oppo 970HD ($150) for video which also has good quality movie sound; and a Sony 2000ES ($400) for dedicated audio. You can have this particular CDP, or the Sony CE595 ($150) modified by Tube Research Labs (TRL). The mod is $750, so you could have a great player for as low as $900. This player has been compared to analog tape sound, and other CDP's costing nearly $20K. TRL can also do other mods (amps, DACS, etc) with excellent results. Check here on A-gon and other sites for reviews.

I too was leaning towards one of the Cambridge series players, but did not want to sacrifice multi-disc capability in favor of a single play machine. The modified Sony 2000ES was the perfect solution.
I ordered an Oppo 980H today. From numerous reports it's very good with video and it should do a respectable job with my SACD's and DVDA's. Certainly as good as the Pioneer LDP I'm using now.

According to the Oppo website the 980H was designed for improved audio. For two hundred bucks (2nd day air shipment included) I figure I can't go wrong and it will hold me over while I'm making up my mind on a permenant source.

My Onix SP-3 MKII arrived today so my two channel rig is starting to take shape.
I would have to mention the Onkyo DX7555 as a
great player for less than $500 shipped. Just recieved
it yesterday along with the Onkyo A-9555 digital
integrated and breaking them in. The Onkyo is better
than my Oppo 970 out of the box, especially in the
bass. I have never played SACD through the Oppo.
Will be keeping the Oppo though for video duty.
My 980 arrived today, but I wont get a chance to check it out until tomorrow.

I was very impressed by the packaging and overall feel and appearance of this unit, even with the plastic face. I read somewhere that it was aluminum, but it's not.

I'll let y'all know my thoughts after I get some time with it. Having just busted the tar out my budget buying a new Sony LCD today I might have to live with it for awhile.

Had to have something to test the video side of the Oppo with; not to mention needing another HD option when football is on and the wife decides she's going to watch dancing with the stars.

Should save me from a few fights. :0)
Jack and All,

I bought an EVS level 2 mod'd OPPO 970 today. I'll have it probably by week's end, so feel free to ping me if you want to hear my thoughts on the mod'd unit.


Jolida with tube swap. Used one for years, still using it. Sent back a Bel Canto Dac3 as it didn't really change anything.
I use a Playstation 1 Model SCPH-1001 as my CD player. I have an Onix XCD-88 CD player (virtually identical to Music Hall CD-25.1), but ever since I was given a Playstation 1, I haven't looked back. I added three Isonode feet for vibration isolation, a PS Audio XStream Power Punch C7 power cord and an Isoclean 5mm x 20mm fuse. Other audiophile friends have ditched their more expensive players for the Playstation 1 Model SCPH-1001. You'll need a high quality RCA interconnects to connect it to your system, but for $25 or less, I don't think you'll find a better bargain CD player. I added a Sony-brand PS2 DVD remote control with IR receiver for remote operation. The only drawback to using the Playstation 1 is that it doesn't have a display to indicate track number and time, although you can hook it up to your TV using the RCA composite video connector. It doesn't look hi fi, but the audio is great.
Reubent, you get your modded Oppo installed yet. I'm tickled pink with my stock 980 and am seriously considering getting the mod's.

Please share your thoughts when you have time.

I did get the EVS level 2 mod'd Oppo970. It is a really good sounding player! It is probably the most detailed, most resolving digital players I've ever heard. It also has really great bass definition and drive.

I would recommend it for anyone wanting a highly resolving source, but it could be too much of a good thing in an already analytical sounding system. I'm not saying its analytical sounding by itself, but is seems to be very accurate and highly resolving so it could possibly sound ruthless with poor recordings. But it really sings with good recordings.


Depends on what you like but, the Rega Planet or Jupiter can be had for around 400-600 and if you want to step up you can grab a Raysonic CPP 128 for about 1000 (you won't be disappointed. The original playstation with RCA outs works also. You can find a decent Denon, Onkyo, Sony, or Pioneer CDP in your price range on Audiogon. You just may have to read reviews or do a little research to find which ones are good. If you want a good universal you can get a nice Marantz or Denon.