Modwright modded OPPO 95 - Sunning!
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Krell Evolution is a great sounding CD and SACD player though I did find it sounded its best in an all-CAST system; 2nd up was XLR outputs. Esoteric K-03 or if you can find it, K-01 on the used/demo unit market both come in close to your price range. A unit I've only heard once, the Ayre C-5xe MP is also something you should seek out and listen to (IMHO) though for me, the Esoteric K-01 unit would be the ultimate 1-box player. You mention Classe above; the Classe Omega SACD player still holds it own after all these years though you'd have to find it on the used market I believe. Jfrech mentioned dCS puccini; log a 2nd vote for that player!
James6462, you say that the K-03 is very close to the K-01. I assume you've had a chance to compare. Could you elaborate further? There have been a lot of responses on this comparison with many assuming a step down for the K-03 and in some instances a substantial step down according to some listeners. I'm curious though to hear more of your thoughts on this.
Second Zephyr's recommendation to at least check out the Ayre C-5xeMP. Very happy with mine. Only caveat is that it is a more up-front and detailed player than some others, so it will work best for you if that's the kind of sound you want to emphasize. Just wondering if it would be too much of a good thing with your B&Ws that also tend in that direction.
An early review by Mark Mickelson pretty much nailed the difference between the punchier Ayre C-5xe and smoother Esoteric X-01 in a review several years ago. Since his review, Ayre has added the MP filters that have relaxed the sound quite a bit, but not so much that its essential up-front character was altered. You can read his review here:
tsk tsk...still pushing it, Doggie?
At this rate, I may end up owning a Playback Design rather than an EMM Labs. Noticed that there are NO pre-owned Playback Design units for sale here while thre's plently of EMM Labs around?
By the way, how is the 115VAC vs 220VAC situation with the Playback Design unit? Switchable? Unlike the EMM Labs that is very inflexiable with international voltages, you need to get them to change the input voltage at their Canadian factory?
I have no idea. There is no switch at the back and it uses a linear PSU rather than a switched mode like the EMM.
Having been A:B-ing on discs, I still think the XDS1 sounds a tad more resolving. The Playback sounds a bit richer but it's at the expense of the last smidgeon of detail. But for the most part, it's very enjoyable because there's more emphasis on the vocals and strings/instruments in that range. The XDS1 allows more of the background instruments to be discernible and it is impressive in that way. Both are smooth and grain free, very analog sounding.
BTW, I thought the USB-X with AudirvanaPlus reduced that midrange emphasis a bit which made it sound more like the XDS1. Odd, huh?
Have you considered a moderate player (e.g. The newest Oppo) that outputs USB into a killer DAC of your chosing instead of a single CD/SACS player? Or are you looking for a player that accepts asynchronous USB digital inputs or better yet FireWire inputs? With the DAC acting as the master clock to the standalone player, I think it reduces the dependency for a high-end player, hence the suggestion of a moderately priced player. You might also wish to consider Pro gear like Metric Studio, Prism And DAD that offer FireWire inputs and offer much better value than over priced audiophile gear.
Just another option to consider . . . .