best digital set up 2006

After looking at so many posts that are old let's start fresh. There has been so many improvements in the recent years that I imagine that yesteryear products no longer can compete with what's new. What are the best players or dac / transport combos today. Regardless of price, this way no matter what your price point something can be found for all budgets. Ideally I want the best possible playback for under $2000. used.
If you are looking used, you probably aren't looking 2006.
On the contrary, there have not been huge improvements in digital...a tried and true CD player from ten years ago (using a format that is more than 25 years old) can still compete with the latest and greatest. SACD is not succesful as the improvement is minor.
my favorite digital set up exceeds your budget. it was the zanden dac and some transport which i heard at the stereophile show in nyc back in 2004.
for somewhat less money i would recommend the original cal tempest or aria.
NorthStar 192 DAC and transport would be near your price point used. It is very free of digital grit, dynamic and detailed
Buy a used Sony DVP-S7700 CD/DVD player for around $200 to use as transport. Put the remaining $1800 toward a DAC (or DAC/digital cable). You might be able to get a Dodson 217 mk. II in that range.

FWIW, I recently sold my Cary 303/200 as I found the sound to be "hard," and kind of uninviting. I bought a used Reimyo DAP-777 on A'gon (for more than your budget allows) and was very disappointed in its performance until I got the Sony DVP-S7700 as transport. Wow! Using an older Pioneer CDP with the Stable Platter mechanism, the Reimyo sounded no better than most CDP's. With the Sony, the music became alive, and I could "hear into" recordings like I was hoping to when I dropped the big coin on the Reimyo.

Regarding digital cables, a Nirvana TDI was marginally better than a no-name plastic toslink. For the extra $250 for the Nirvan, I was getting maybe 10% more musical cohesion, but it's worth it to me; you might want to go with a cheap toslink and put the extra $ toward the DAC. YMMV; good luck.
Shadhorne - I couldn't disagree more with you. cdp's have evolved in the past 10 years - most newer designs are using cd/rom drives and buffer memory, which eliminate jitter and sharply reduces read errors, providing the listener with better resolution, better dynamics, better low level detail, and more "air" in the presentation. Then there are the newer D/A chips from Burr/Brown, Cirus, and others, not to mention various software-engineered forms of upsampling. Compare a well engineered cd player (like any of the list below) from today to the very BEST designed cdp from 10 years ago and there is a huge difference in performance and it goes to today's gear.

For Pedrillo (who started this thread)- keep your eyes open for a used/bargain Cary 303/300, an Ayre cd7Xe, or a Resolution Audio(I forget the model) or an Audio Aero Prima for some great performance in your budget range.
Shandorne, one point about SACD and DVD-A for that matter: in terms of "purist" audio quality I agree that the improvement may be open to debate, and I know I wouldn't want to risk my life savings on a DBT. However, those 2 technologies DID bring along multi-channel audio for music reproduction, which is an improvement over stereo, if done right. Unfortunately in a world where most listening tales place in a car or via earbuds, the chance of commercial success for audio only surround sound was about as good as qudraphonic. But hey, someday I'll get to tell my kids about the format wars...
I own some duplicate titles on both redbook and DVD-A, and I listen exclusively in two channel. The DVD-A versions are significantly better in every regard than their redbook siblings. Whether this is due to the DVD-A format or more careful re-mastering is not clear, but I would wager it's a little of both.
Save yourself some space and grief with transport-to-DAC cabling. Try an NAD Master Series M55 Universal player. $1800 new and it's really that good. Redbook sound is way beyond its price range, SACD is what you would expect, DVD-Audio is remarkable. This unit is a new standard under $5,000.

For the best, especially under $2000. Forget about any transport. Start with a hard drive, cd players are for cars. It took a long time for people to get rid of their tape decks and switch to cd players. The same thing is going on with cd players v.s. hard drives.