Best Budget SCD-777ES DAC?

having read many of the posts in this category, I can see there are many recommendations for DAC's and also - and unrelated - many quibbles about how well the SCD-777 really plays normal CD's. A stereophile reviewer highly regarded a combo with the CAL Alpha tube DAC. There must be many others. Has anyone experimented? What works great, and what might be cheap?! Is it worth it? ( --My frame of reference for background/why I am asking -- I can tell you that I traded a Meridian 508.20 for the 777, and the Meridian to me sounded better. But just slightly; very slightly in fact. If a recommended DAC made up the difference between the two in sound, but cost a thousand bucks, it would not be worth it to me. Is there some "fantastic" upgrade out there?)
Get a Perpetual Technologies P3A on A-Gon. You should be able to get one for under a grand.
The SCD-777 has a reasonably good DAC. To beat it significantly you will need a really fine DAC and Digital Cable. My preference would be a used Muse Model two ninety six (you can find these for around $1400) - I have one and it is amazing only dCS and maybe Audio Aero Capitole (both bi bucks) beat it INMHO. There are other options though: the EVS Millenium II DAC is $1050 new and very impressive. The P-3A is also very good especially if you get the Modwright level 2 mods and the powersupply upgrade (but at that price you could get a used Muse 296 it seems to me). At any rate for under $1500 you can definately take your redbook playbacy up several notches.
I think it would be VERY difficult to beat without spending big dollas. I have heard my old xa-7ES (the 777's predecesor) against a levinson 36, and there was a very small improvement. I hear much more from a cable change. I was thinking of buying the 36 until I heard it and decided the difference was negligible.

Moving on to more current standards, I also loaned my new SCD-1 to a friend who has the levinson 360S. He said there was barely a difference with the levinson being 'maybe' a little better. I know in my own listening of other's systems that these sony's are 98% of anything out there. The only thing I have heard that is SIGNIFICANTLY better is the 192 mhz upsampling DCS/Delius upsamping Digital compuer/DAC.

If you are a tube guy, you might have a great preference for a tube driven output. That does change the character of the presentation fairly significantly.

Check out Dan Wright's website - His website has some comparison data. Dan himself gives some very honest opinions on upsamplers (he hotrods them) verses contemporary cd players.
Why spends extra $$$$ for an external DAC? My modified SCD777ES sounds more like a $5k outboard DAC. There are several folks out there who are willing to do the mods for less than $1k. Check on under hi-rez hiway thread, there are numerous debates and reviews on their mods.
Hey guys,
I put this out a while back, now I'm looking to solicit new input now that siginificant time (and products) have passed. You should answer simply because I've been steadfast all this time without any upgrades!
But this time let's not limit by "budget", but say under 3k new or used>