Audiomeca Mephisto 11.x if you can audition is a excellent player. Canary Audio just realeased the CD-100 tube player that uses a Sony Transport and Sony's latest 24/192 dac. I borrowed this Canary unit from a friend and have been listening to it for a couple days and it is very impressive.
It is built solid and uses Hovland Musicaps.
I find the player has great sense of balance with great inner detail and nice highs without being forward or etched. Its a player that lets you just enjoy the music.
My second choice would be AR CD3. I think its a great player. It may err on the side of warmth, but its probably the most seductive player I have heard. Its a full sounding player that has great bass extension and clean highs. I am not sure why we never hear more about this player.
I also familar with the Cary 306/200 which I prefer over the 303/200. I think this player does a lot of things well, but lacks the clarity & upper-end detail of the Ayre. I have also heard the Wadia 301 & 302. I thought both were fine players, but analytical for my taste. Its not a player I would enjoy in my system. I have not heard the 861, though. I also agree with your comments on the Esoteric DV50.
I would recommend listening to the Ayre CX-7e as well as their new higher-end, CX5e. At this price range, most players do well. Its a matter of preference and system matching.
It looks like Cary Audio just released some new players so you may want to give them a look. I have not heard them so I can not comment. But they are a company with a good reputation for building solid equipment with good support. Before considering the wadia you may want to read previous threads concerning their service history. Just my thoughts.
It may be time to go the separate route with a Audio Lodic or Chord 64 DAC. I tried a bunch of CDPs Wadia 861B, Audiomeca 2X, extremely modified Shanling, Resolution Audio Opus 21, Accuphasse 77, Sony ES777 and found them all to have various strengths and weaknesses. I prefered the Wadia overall but at the askig price, I found better performance in going with separates. Check out the CEC T1 & T2 transports and the DACs I mention above. That combination bettered the CDPs that I compared it to. Another option is to get a CDP and have it modified, I know a local tech that modified the old Pioneer DP-65 and it is killer for about $1500.
I would recommend the Audio Aero Capitole II, if price is no object. (It retails for about $9500, with the Analouge inputs), but used can be found for about $5,500 with the inputs and about $4,500 wtihout.)
My friend and I heard the Capitole II at a dealers audition, (we were there to hear the Lamm amps, btw, which sounded great.) We were both impressed by this cdp.
I will admit that it sounds slightly better than my Resolution Audio Opus 21, although not by much. (If you want to save money, the Opus 21 is $3,500 new and around $2,500 new, and it has a volume control output also.)
My friend has had a Opus 21, and he agreed with me about the Capitole II also. He has owned the Esoteric DV50 and sold it as he preferred the Opus 21.
I have heard good things about the Ayre, but have not actually heard it.
My two cents worth. Good Luck in your search!
I would look at the Naim CDX2 or CDX3, The reimyo CDP-777, and the 47 labs flatfish/progression trans/DAC combo. My favorite CDP out there is the Reimyo. I think it kills everything else on the market althought the naim 3 is also amazing
Try a Linn Ikemi!
I agree with Kurt_tank. The Capitole MKII is an outstanding player. I owned the Opus 21, and believe the Capitole to be considerably better. More body to the music, and a far more seductive sound. Still, I would have a look at the modded players. The Modwright and Exemplar are said to be very good, though I've not heard them. We have an APL modded 3910 with the new AKM DAC chip, and frankly even the Capitole is not in the same league. As always, it's just my opinion.
I owned the Levinson 390S and Wadia 850 as well as Accuphase DP 65. All three of these were embarassed by the 47Labs Shigaraki Dac and Flatfish transport. Don't get me wrong, they are all fine players in their own right, but music is simply rendered in a more organic and human way with the non oversampling/filterless combo. Audio Note also has some exceptional DACS. BTW, the Levinson was not finicky.
Compare the more expensive units to a Vecteur L 4.2 which is something like 2500 new. You may be surprised.
At various times, I have owned the following CD players.
(1) Arcam FMJ - don't remember the number (32?)
(2) Arcam MCD (CD changer)
(3) Sony SCD-1
(4) EAD Ultradisc 2000
(5) Sony - some complete piece of crap!
(6) Audiomeca Keops
(7) SimAudio Nova (same as you)
(8) Electrocompaniet EMC-1 (UP) and/or (SE)
Not all of these are in your price range (most are, in fact, below your price range). There is no doubt which worked best for me for redbook CD's
It is a truly special CD player - the only annoying thing is how they keep "upgrading" the name. It is a truly special CD player. You can pick up one at Audiogon for somewhere in the neighborhood of 2.5 - 3K. I still have it and can't imagine ever disposing of it (I also like the EAD; it is extremely highly resolving and detailed and likely more "accurate" than the Electrocompaniet, which is just so much more "liquid").
I have also heard the Ayre - though not in my system and not for an extended period of time - and I quite liked what I was hearing.
Good luck in your decision
I owned the Ayre, Sony SCD-1, Resolution Audio Opus 21. But the best yet is my current player- the Exemplar 2900. Best digital I've ever heard.
You may want to look into the Exemplar or the APL players.
A great redbook CD player is the Edge Electronics G Series CD player. If you have a chance to listen to one, it will be well worth it.
I have owned
Eastern electric Minimax
APL SACD 1000
Musical Fidelity Tri-Vista
Audio Aero Capitole II
Talk Electronics 3.1
enjoy the journey, it is fun, email me if you would like my opinion
Thanks to all so far. No one has yet weighed in the eclipse, so maybe there are better picks out there afterall. Per your suggestions, my local dealer has Cary and Naim, so I will check them out. The same dealer used to carry Audio Aero, which is when I heard the Prima and bought the Nova - they claim high failure rates and no longer offer this product, so my chance to hear the Capitole is lost - any comments on reliability issues? Re the Edge stuff, always like the amps, though have yet to put one in my system, Guy from Placette recommended Edge to me years ago, but again, finding a dealer is next to impossible, same with the 47labs - how does this stuff enter the marketplace??? The Reimyo is way out of my price range. And, I am thinking that the 861 will probably be too analytical for me... I really like the idea of toploading transports, which is part of my attraction to the eclipse, which is probably why I should consider the CEC gear as well.
if you have been playing lots of music (and enjoying it) on the arcam, keep your money. except for esoteric design and/or build quality, the vast majority of improvements in digital sound have come from the software, not the hardware. an ancient mac,krell,classe,proceed,revox,arcam-delta,quad,linn or other comparable brand sounds outstanding with most newly mastered redbook cd's. any can be purchased for far less than today's so-called state of the art units. by the way, those players in the 4 to 8k range won't make those old, poorly mastered cd's sound any more satisfying than they already do. many of the complaints about digital playback in its first 20 years, were the by-product of rushing software into the marketplace before the industry's producers and sound engineers had mastered the technology. it was a painful learning curve. designers and engineers on the hardware side know that the differences in hardware performance are almost entirely determined by your listening room, your loudspeakers and certainly the quality of the cd itself. there are lots of great players today too, but not one of which is anywhere near this price range unless you are paying for a conversation piece.
Have you considered the $3,000. Consonance Audio Droplet CDP 5.0 ?
Six moons recently raved about it here:
You could add the ExactPower EP 15A power-conditioner ahead of it for ~$2,000. and have a 'killer' front end !!
Hope this helps !
The Krell SACD Standard is one-hell-of CD player. Killer looks (in Black), outstanding sonics, Stereophile A+ rating and built like a tank with 5-year warranty. It's the best CD Player I've heard priced south of the $12,000 Classe top-loader SACD/CD player. It's worth taking a listen to and hey it's made-in-the-USA!
A Stello CDT200 via a TacT S2150X or a LyngdorfAudio TDA2200 is in your price range, and would make an excellent redbook playback system. It would also give you more power, eliminate the need for a separate preamp & amp(less cables), plus give you digital EQ, crossovers and room correction.
Audtion the new "universal" player from Ayre (model # is 5x or something)...actually its only 2 channel and does not do DVD-A so the universal mkting ploy is a bit misleading: but great redbook performance (Ayre's DVD/CD players were always good) and you also get 2 channel SACD. Price should be within your range. A glowing (perhaps excessive) write up review in Sterophile. I have not auditioned it myself, but have had experience with Ayre CD players in general: the DVD/CD player (model was K1X or something) was really really good. Very true to the source, extended & smooth highs.
Henry, I don't thik it's a ploy -- the new Ayre is the c-5xe and it does cd, Sacd, DVD-AUDIO, dvd video(soundtrack only!) and mp-3