One suggestion is a used California Audio Labs (CAL) Sigma. Typically, these can be found on Audiogon for your price range.
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Ditto on the Cal Sigma.I have a Cal Alpha dac(same electronics as the Sigma but with balanced capability) and Cal Delta transport in my 20 k system ,and am quite pleased.I did upgrade the tubes and also had the Cal 24/96 upgrade(which improves the sound of standard cd's),use added isolation and sand bags.You cant go wrong for the very modest used price.This may not be the total answer to your system but will be a very good start and the next place to look would be for speaker and interconnect upgrades,providing that yiour sprakers are decent..Good luck!
Meridian 263 - it precedes the 563 and the current 566 model. It is a bitstream and mates very well with inexpensive players used as transports, especially in the midrange area where the most help is needed. Make sure you get an excellent digital cable like the illuminati D60 or your wasting you time going with an outboard DAC.
Parasound DAC 1000. You can pick it up used for approx. $250. Killer sound and very well built. It has Dual push-pull, Burr-Brown PCM 63K chips with 20 bit res per channel and a CS 8412 clock for low-jitter. Outputs 1 toslink, 1 coax and 1 ST (AT&T). I have recently upgraded but owned this same model DAC since 1994 with great satisfaction. While I am NOT selling mine (sorry), I highly recommend you consider one. I found the sound to be very detailed with great channel seperation and a more focused stage. This is compared to what I had before (an Audio Alchemy DAC-in the-box). Good luck in your quest!
I agree with Fasca, in fact it's my D2Amk2 that he's talking about. It is however rather sensitive to transport and cable used. We have gotten AWESOME results with an MIT Digital reference cable and my Sonic Frontiers SFT-1 transport, but, as he pointed out it became positively stunning with the Levinson transport. Make sure you get the enhanced IPS power supply (large triangle case). It may seem like old technology by current standards, but, make no mistake, the analog section was designed by Krell, and the digital board was a Theta design, and together it makes music. Find one used, use it, and wait for the dust to settle in the format wars. You will enjoy all your current CD's with little cash outlay.