Best CD player under 5000

I am in the process of replacing my 10year old phillips CD-80 with a new player. What are your recommendations I prefer tube but am looking at all. Thanks
Meridian 508.24 -- Stereophile Class A ($3995)
Sony SCD-1 -- Stereophile Class A+ ($5000)

I've listened to both. I own the Meridian. They are spectacular. I'm not sure if Sony is selling the SCD-1 anymore. It plays SACDs and normal CDs. SACD may not make it, but for normal CD playback it is phenominal as well. I'd check them both out. Neither are tube, but I think you will be impressed. DVD-Audio is another option for you. I have not heard any of the players, but I recommend you check them out. Hope this helps.
interesting, that you asked,easy the Cary CD 306 upsampling CD player. I have one that I bought a month ago for $5000.00, but I am selling for $3500.00. This is the best CD player I have ever heard totally beats the Meridian and Sony's Cd section on their top of the line SACD player. Please call me if you are interested at (916)361-3805 or e-mail me at This unit is perfectly new, only played for about 20 hours. Only reason why I am selling is because I have a lot more analog software that cd's and I want to get an analog set-up. You will ot find a better more realistic sounding cd player, and you will not find a dealer or private party sell this player for less.
well I have a theta miles cd player that is awesome in everyway. It is 1.5 years old it is still under warrenty new retail is 2,850 iam selling it for 1,650 firm plus shipping. If you dont want that then you need to buy a mark levinson 39 cd player it is one of the best units available today. It retails for 6,000 new you can buy a used one for 3,500 it is the best player money can buy. if interested in my player call me at 203-776-8243 Dan good luck
Hi, Czbbcl: I know your question is sincere and asked in good faith, so my response is NOT intended as an attack on your judgement. However, when I see a question like yours posted regarding very expensive CD players, I really have to ask: Why? CD technology is about to leap-frogged by DVD-A and SACD, and DVD players are now adding stiff competition to the CD-only unit. Spending up to $5K on a beautiful piece of "audio jewelry" that is becoming obsolescent strikes me as questionable. (Again, let me say that this is NOT an attack on you personally.) You can get more for your money by waiting as little as six months until units are available that play CD, DVD-A, and maybe SACD as well. I recently sold my Rega Planet CD player and replaced with it with a high-end DVD/CD player that I think outperforms the Rega by a substantial margin. I know nothing of your financial situation (nor am I am inquiring), but the whole recording technology scene is undergoing such a change right now that I suggest you wait unless you have an immediate need for a CD-only unit. Just my opinion, for what it's worth. (As a side note, I've been an audiophile for nearly 40 years, have sold high-end audio gear, etc., and I've seen a lot of people that invested a large amount of money in a changing technology who wished they had waited.)
Sdcampbell makes an interesting point. I am in the same position as you, (although my budget was a lot more modest!) Have you considered the DVD/CD player combined with an outboard DAC that "upsamples" like the Bel Canto DAC1.1? It seems to be the direction a lot of people are looking to go, based on reviews and other comments. It's claimed that these outperform units costing many times the price, with the added benefit of having one component (eg. less cables) that performs several taskes, and is able to handle future formats like DVD-A. (with the right DVD player like the Pioneers) I have decided to postpone just a little while, to see how this is going to shake out.
As a note to all waiting for the new format to take off. well it wont last and I dont really care how long people have been in audio its a no brainer. The amount of people involved in high end audio compared to those who arent is so lopsided. They are trying to target such a small amount of people with these new formats. Here a note they came out with hdcd which is not an exspensive format to use but it does sound better and that format wouldnt even take off and the cds were the same price with it. It wouldnt cost to much to allow HDCD to be the standard format for cds but they didnt even do that because us audiophiles are out numbered by casual listners who think that there 150.00 sony cd player is top shelf.( no offense to anyone ) but alot of people dont even know what high end is. When people ask me what kind of stereo I own I tell them Mark Levinson and they say who? What the hell is that? See what I mean. well all I can say is worry about today. Iam sure you have many cds to listen to? Good Luck
Thank you all for your input. I have considered waiting as I am in no hurry. However as Lev335 points out I do have alot of cd's to listen to and who knows which format will ultimately win out over the intermediate near term (1-6) years. Again Thanks
czbbcl, DO NOT WAIT!!!! people who keep talking about multiple players forgot why they purchased seperates. I like to keep things simple. I am hedging on the Levinson #39 because it has a built in pre-amp. I don't need a pre-amp so I don't want to pay for one. I am looking at the Electrocompaniet EMC1. AS far as I know it's a killer CD player. No volume control, no pre-amp, just one great CD player. A good CD player with up to the minute electronics is as good as any DAC/transport out there. People will through high dollar names at you but unless you are a dog you will not hear the differance. Linn sondek CD12 vs the world. Stay within your buget. Buy the best CD player now. When the new format takes hold a true high end player will surface that will do one thing and one thing only, play the music!!! Leave the home theater stuff for those who like toys. Find your player now and enjoy. Peace and good listening.
I agree with Psjulian. Waiting at this point only reduces your enjoyment. The "format wars" will continue for a couple of years at least, and I suspect with no clear winner. The only loser (in terms of musical enjoyment) will be you if you decide to wait for the smoke to clear. Get the Electrocompaniet EMC-1 and enjoy the music. I'm sure that you can find a good condition used one for about half your stated budget. The Cary is another excellent unit though I preferred the EMC-1. If you happen to stumble across the Gryphon cdp at a good price, it too is outstanding. In any case, I've yet to hear a DVD/SACD player sound as good as any of the CD-only players I've mentioned when it comes to CD playback. Just one man's opinion. Good luck.
I love my new NAIM Audio CD5. Simple and to the point with a price tag of only $2,250. Read the reviews at or in the December 2000 issue of What Hi-Fi? or Hi-Fi News. Beautiful sound.
Can anyone send opinions, comments or recommandations(for
OR against ) CD player CARY 303 for players around
USD 3000?
USD 3000
I bought the cary 303 after trying the rega planet and rotel 991. The rega was a big dissapointment -- mainly in myself for getting caught up in the hype. The rotel was a pretty nice player esp. at its new list price of $1000 -- non fatiguing . The cary was a little more extended than the rotel at both ends -- and very smooth. If it has a fault it may not be as dynamic as some big dollar players but it is good enough for me. I listen to all types of music and it does a good job with any source.
Hi in the interest of diplomacy may I suggest the Marantz SA-1? It plays CD's as well as any high end dedicated CD player, while SACD performance is superb. You can also try the Sony SCD-1, which is more punchy but less transparent, and also plays both SACD's and CD's. I myself have more than 500 CD's that I have collected over the years, the vast majority of which have not been released in SACD format (it's not just for fun that manufacturers have made all the new format players backward compatible with CD's). SACD and DVD-A recording/playback formats are superior to that of CDs, but a top notch CD player (and I don't consider a Rega Planet a top CD player, unless you scale for value, which is pointless if you are looking for absolute performance at a price point) will sound better than all but the top of the range SACD/DVD-A players.
czbbcl, what kinda preamp do ya have? i, too, was innerested in better cd-sound, but i listen to fm & analog more than cd, so i *really* wanted to upgrade my preamp. in the process, i found that a killer toob preamp (mite be true w/killer s/s preamps, too - i dunno), besides greatly improving my winyl & fm, pretty-much leveled the playing field w/cd-players, at least w/those under ~$3000. an $1800 alchemist cd-player & a $3000 resolution-audio cd-50 offered no meaningful improvements over my retail $500 nad cd-changer when run thru a cary slp98, a rogue 99, & a melos music-director preamp. (i ended up w/the melos). & it's not like my system isn't revealing - my meret re monitors, w/wery detailed focal inwerted-dome tweets & eton carbon-fibre woofs, are wertically biamped w/a pair of electrocompaniet amps, & i run a subwoofer system below 60hz, w/a pair of vmps larger subs. i own the the alchemist, btw, & it's in the basement, awaiting its place in a second system i'm gonna set-up in the compootah room. the nad, w/its 5-disc conwenience, remains in the main rig.

so, if ya got $5k burning a hole in yer pocket, ewe mite wanna consider splurging on a gnu top-line preamp, & spending only $500 or so, on a decent modern cd-player, like an ah-tjoeb or a cambridge audio, or...? that way, yule improve all yer other sources, & if/when the digital format wars are ever decided, yule be ready to buy, awreddy having a great preamp!

one person's opinion, doug s.

Buy the Marantz SA-1 player. I've had mine for about a month now, and it sounds better everyday. There is a definite break in period. I've had a lot of different and even more expensive players in my day. You will not be sorry with the Marantz. And no need for an outboard dac because it plays regular CDs the best I've heard. Thank you Marantz for making a superb product.
Listen to the Capitole CD player, this is the best player I
have heard.
having been thru a lot of high end digital gears, i'd say the Naim cdx, Audio Note Tube Dacs, and the latest CD5 by Naim are among the best I've heard.

But again, it depends what the rest of your system is composed of.
I am thrilled with my new Cary 303. Does require warmup and breakin.
marantz sa-1
I just heard another members set-up which sounded quite good, he had new Sony DVP S9000es which can play SACD/DVD/CD
formats and can be purchased on the internet for $1200 or
less. For superior CD playback he connected outboard DAC which is currently Perpetual P1A/P3A with Monolithlic power supply.

In the future he can update his outboard DAC as needed.
Seems like a good flexible approach as new formats are
evolving. Sony DVP looks super sweet also, front loading,
fast track access (unlike first Sony SACD player)
Marantz SA-1 without question. MSRP is $7500 but street price is about $5000.
I listened to a buch of different players before buying a Cary 303, used, for a very nice price. I'm not going to say that it's the BEST CDp on the market, but I think it's a wonderful player for the money - warm, detailed, harmonically accurate and dynamic. It needs a LOT of break-in, and good cabling, to show what it can do. If I had the scratch, a 306 would be in my system right now.

I would liked to have auditioned an Electrocompaniet, but there isn't a dealer in my area. I prefered the 303 over Resolution Audio CD55, Theta Miles and some other well known players.

I agree with Doug, you get a lot of mileage from a good tube pre...but digits aren't digits, the digital front end is crucial to the sound of your system.

BTW, the Carys are frequently discounted new. Check 'em out.
I listened to a friend's system while travelling, and could not believe how terrific his CD player was. I think it was a Resolution Audio. He really knew his stuff on room setup, also. My own Sony ES 777 definitely did not measure up when playing the CD's that I had with me then, but I still like being able to play SACD's at home. I'm not sure I like the fact that everyone is embracing another Sony owned format, though.
Spend the money on the source.Dont take bad advice from Sedond.He is out of his league to suggest there is no difference between a 500 cdplayer and a 5K player.Tone deaf doug or what.
ya, sure leafs, whatever... don't knock it 'til yuve tried it. no, i dint try a $5k cd player. i *did* try i highly respected $3k cd player, tho, & the results were as reported above. sure, perhaps spending $5k or more *will* get ya more resolution w/a better cd source, but i don't tink cd hardware is worth spending lotsa money on rite now, w/the current state of flux over future software standards. or, perhaps, as ya say i'm tone-deaf.

me, i tink it's a matter of priority tho, cuz getting a premier-quality pre-amp made a *huge* difference in the sound of *all* my sources - vinyl *and* fm, as well as cd. and, these sources *are* worth upgrading, cuz improvements *can* be heard when doing so.

since most of my listening is to winyl or fm anyway, i don't need that nth degree of whatever musical walue cd has to offer. even the best cd rig can't compete w/a good winyl set-up - the most expensive cd-players can only do so much. i got 95% of what *any* top-line cd-format source hardware has to offer, yust by using a great preamp & a decent source. mebbe i'm tone-deaf cuz i've never heard *any* s.o.t.a. cd set-up sound as good as a well set-up $3k analog rig, but i don't tink so. ;~)

doug s.

ps - please find someone else to pick on - don't ewe tink this is gettin' old, yet? better still, try not picking on anybody.

Why spend money on trying to reshape a single.If more Cd player had Volume controls a preamp could be eliminated.Garbage in Garbage out.Garbage in to good preamp =junk still coming out not as bad but still not perfect.You are just adding another coloration.You might as well put Tone controls on.
You make a good point on the Analog.The only Cd set up I heard that approaches is 3K anolog rig is a 9K Canadian $ Audio Aero Capitole.
3K cd players do sound better than 500 dollor ones,in most cases.

what's with the funky spelling and jive talk in your posts? are we to think that this denotes a tongue-in-cheek wink wink response that combined with your pre-supposed accepted audio acumen will evoke a pre-determined acceptance of your posts? i don't think so. give it another (a better) shot.

leafs, as far as abandoning a preamp goes, even w/the resolution audio cd-50, known as being one of the best to use, run straight-in to an amp, i tink its' better to run it thru a preamp. so what if it *is* a tone control? if it sounds better, it sounds better.

i agree w/yer gigo theory - it's yust that, w/cd, i tink the 95% level of the best of what's out there, starts at ~$500, and the *best* of what's out there is still behind good winyl. believe me, i *wanted* someting like a res/audio cd50 to make a big difference in my system's sound - i'd have bought a used one, or someting similar, if it helped. but, mebbe i *am* tone-deaf, as ewe say - i yust happen to tink it's my nice toobed preamp. ;~)

and gregg, sorry ewe don't like my funky-jive - it's only cuz i like to have fun w/language that i do it, it has nuttin' to do w/tryin' to get *any* type of response. i have no pre-supposed accepted audio accumen, nor am i looking for any pre-determined acceptance of my posts. all i am is someone who likes to listen to music, interested in bettering the experience, & interested in discussing what i've heard w/others also interested in a better listening experience. sometimes, i agree w/other info here, sometimes not. sometimes i try tings suggested here, sometimes not. some folks style i like, others not. oh *well*...

re: the topic at hand - being as the pursuit of this hobby is, in many cases, influenced by budgetary considerations, i'd rather listen to a $500 cd-player thru a $4500 preamp than a $2500 cd player thru a $2500 preamp, or a $5k cd-player run straight into an amp, etc. yust my opinion, ewe & anyone else are free to disagree w/me, & please do so, & post yer experiences, equipment inwolved, etc. i'm always up for learning, & improving the sound of my stereo...

doug *tone-deaf, pre-supposed audio-guru* sedon

Sedond you all wrong.Also the res 50 Player is not god.Everyone knows that so pick a good palyer and make you comparison.My god a certin Eber uses a CD 50 that should tell you its a piece of yunk.

my apologies. don't know what got into me last night. i guess i had a bad day and took it out in the post i sent in. i feel pretty embarassed today about sending it (boy, once you hit that send button you can't get it back, no matter how hard you try!). in the future i'll stick to putting in my .02 strictly about the music and the equipment.

It isnt funk or jive. It's Doug's own original method of annoying people. I've gotten used to it, so it doesnt bother me.

Interesting opinion Doug. I have listened to a lot of cd players and quite a few preamps, and come to the opposite conclusion. I'd rather hear a good $3000 to $5000 cd player through, for example, the op amp preamp of a NAD integrated than a $500 Cal changer or any other $500 player through a $5k preamp and $5k amp. I use a meridian 508.24, which I like a lot and would recommend for consideration in this thread, but it's discontinued. I also liked an expensive Linn model that I heard once and, though I generally don't like Sony anything, their xa7es (is that the right name?).

I think maybe you just prefer the sound of vinyl and that's your point. There's a world of difference in cd players.
While some folks are on the subject of Resolution Audio... I know I'm marching to the beat of a drummer's beat that most people won't hear but here's my next digital upgrade, nonetheless.

I have a Quantum DAC which gives the current Resolution products a run for their money even though it is based on the Ultra Analog chips (no longer around) rather than the Burr Brown's.

These can be had for less than a grand these days (originally sold for $3200). I plan to pick up a second Quantum and a Resolution Cesium transport and run in a balanced format. One DAC per channel. Takes lots of PC's since the Quantum has separate power supplies and cords for analogue and digital sections. Less than 3 grand and it slays.

Now I'll add that I am really re-focusing on analogue and my priority is upgrading my nearly new (but used) Oracle table to full Mk V specs and spending real money on a great cartridge.
I Love Viynl it cant be beat.But I can also appriciate what a good Cd player can do.
gregg, tanks for yer apology - it was unexpected & most appreciated. :>)

leafs, while i know i'm not the only one who thought a certain mr. eber could be uncivil at times, i don't condemn a product yust cuz some yerk thinks it's the holy grail. i've heard the cd-50 & i tink it's a nice player; lotsa other folks much more reasonable than a certain mr. eber *also* tink it's a benchmark at its price-point.

paul, i don't bother ewe any more? jeez, now isle have to come up w/someting else! damn!!! ;~)

paul & leafs, i *do* like winyl much better than cd. cd is ok, but i don't have the budget to pursue further improvements - at least i *tink* i don't: the alchemist & resolution audio players dint offer further improvements for me. but, i *am* all for improving the sound of my digital playback; tho i have less than 100 cd's, i tink the redbook cd format will be w/us a while longer, as the format wars continue. so, i am up for suggestions for a used cd system in the $1-1.5k range that y'all (or anyone else) tink mite give me better redbook cd sound.

regards, doug s.

Cary 303, but listen to resolution audio 55 and electrocompaniet to, for different takes on what you want. Theres no such thing as best at this level, just different. Depends what you want. I listen to classical (especially voice) acoustic, world music, and rock in that order. Would have been really happy with all of them. Went for the cary in the end and really pleased with it. Was going to build up my analogue collection but dont think i need to now.
as i've seen emc-1's for as little as $2k brand-gnu, perhaps when the 24-192 wersions come out, the 24-96 wersions will meet my cheapskate approval guide, & isle czech one out. at least, it'll match my electro amps! ;~)

doug s.

My new Cary CD 303 says on the back panel that "ASSEMBLLED
IN HONG KONG". I was surprised to find that out as I thought
that all CARY products were fully manufactured in USA.
Does your CD 303 say "ASSEMBELLED IN HONG KONG" ?
radni, i dunno fer sure, but i'd bet that the cary cd-player is some yapanese player (originally assembled in h-k), that cary buys, then modifies in the usa. this is common w/lotsa hi-end players. call dennis had & ask him - i've found him to be quite cordial & frank...

doug s.

Hi Leafs, I had a chance to hear a properly setup Meridian 508.24 and the new 588 (I preferred the 508.24). My experience at Alternative Audio in Dundas was far different then any other Toronto dealer so far. Equipment was properly set up with Symposium Rollerblocks, Golden Reference Cables, Blue Circle Amps and preamps and some real nice sounding Merlins. I auditoned three rooms at Altenrative Audio and the Meridian, Blue Circle, Cardas, Merlin synergy was among the best I have heard in a sub $50K systems, bettering my Sony SCD-1 on Redbook.

Now that I've said all that, here's my question: I have a chance to purchase a used Meridian 508.24 for $3K CDN ($2K US). Have you compared the Meridian to the Audio Aero you were previously recommending that I audition? Is the AA THAT much better? -- (I have trouble justifying $9K on any CD player.) Let me know what you think. And anyone else out there with 508.24 who has compared it to the EMC-1 and Audio Aero or Mephisto II, I would like to know if you'd think the older Meridian (508.24) is still competitive to the better players under $6K US.
I would add the Ayre D-1 to your list of cd players to look at. Although it is also a DVD player, several American and European highend reviewers have called it's cd performance the best they have ever heard.
That darn EMC-1 just keeps coming back -- so many of you think its the best under $5K, I'm beginning to believe you. Where in the Toronto area can I hear one so I can finally justify the purchase and finally compare it with the Meridian, which I have heard and liked?
Don't know where to hear it in Canada but I second the opinion that it is fabulous. Demoed a 508 and the EMC head to head in a variety of setups (all EC and Mark Levinson kits) and the EMC1 was the clear champ to my ears.
I bought it (replaced an Arcam FMJ23, great player but the EC is better) and have never wanted for another format or upgrade. Any of the older EMC's can be upgraded to the new version (I have heard from several sources that the upgrade puts it into a league of possibly worlds best cdp contender) for around $1000. A used model at under $2500 would be a great value.

My two cents
I haven't seen any reviews in the hardcopy magazines but I can tell you that there are a number of Cary owners out there that just love their Cary 303 or 306.

I just got the new Cary 306/200 ($5000 LIST but you can get them for much less). It uses 8 Burr Brown DAC chips plus the new Pacific Microsonics PMD-200 digital filter with HDCD decoding. It's an outstanding CD player with or without the 24/192KHz upsampling enabled. The 306 can also be used as an outboard DAC for other gear. I sometimes run my Adcom GCD-700 5-disc changer through it to take advantage of the Cary DAC chips.

Audition either Cary if you get a chance. You might like them.
Sorry it has taken me so long to respond to this thread. I appreciate all the feedback, although I have as of yet not purchased a new cd player. Someone asked about the other components in my system. I have a CJ Premiere 17ls pre-amp with a MF-2500 amp and audioquest cables, viper interconnects and bedrock speaker cables; Thiel 3.6 speakers.