The Gamut CD1R (S or MkII) is an excellent player via the Balanced outputs as it is a fully balanced design. (single ended is a waste on this component) Very natural, extremely great deal with a $4000 retail new and used prices.
Very very natural (not digital sounding or stressed like some of the upsampling players (DCS,etc) that I have heard) with huge bass (The newer models listed above have this quality as they fixed the bass issue of the first unit review by the TAS) and soundstaging.
Not the latest Fast Action flavor of the month but I haven't heard anything on else on redbook to make me want to upgrade and that is saying something (Universal players on redbook have be pretty unmusical in my listening)
Meridian 588 is worth considering as well.
Head-to-head, I actually preferred it to ML390S (Rowland/Mac/Dynaudio/Cardas Golden Ref system... can't remember the exact models, but it was very, very nice). I had every intention of purchasing the Levinson box, but ended up w/ the Meridian. To my ears, it had a more balanced, "natural" quality to its presentation. The ML was a bit more forward and had a very analytical quality.
Could be system dependant, but I've been very happy w/ the 588 in terms of musicality!
The Ayre CX-7 should fit the bill as well.
You should be able to find a ML 390S for about $4K used. This has been my primary source for years and it's awesome. It also has the added benefit of having its own volume control which means you can go direct into an amp.
Would highly recommend auditioning an Accuphase DP-75V in your system. One of the best redbook CDPs I've enjoyed in two different systems. Can be found used around your $4000 price. If using the XLR outputs remember to reverse the phase on your preamp or interconnects.
Thanks all for the good info.
Because I would like to take advantage of my BAT pre, I do not necessarily need a source that will channel directly into my amp.
I also have heard good feedback on the Ayre player that seems even more promising with their new "e" upgrade.
Efficacy what's this "e" upgrade you speak about with the CX-7?
I'm interested as I have a CX-7.
Electrocompaniet EMC 1-UP SE sounds great using the balanced outputs, and the players are readily available for $2200-$2500 used.
My understanding is that Ayre is offering this upgrade for a nominal fee ($500). I was informed the "e" stands for evolutionary, and should improve the overall sonics of their products.
I had the BAT VKD5SE player for quite a while. It's easy to live with and sounds good.
I'll second Beemer. I'm currently using a BAT VK-D5SE with my VK-31SE preamp and Tara Labs cables, and I'm very happy with it. It isn't the most transparent or revealing cd player I've ever heard, but ALWAYS musical. I'm an analog fan first, but I do listen to cd's. The VK-D5SE is one of the very few players that don't have me grinding my teeth together after an hour or so of listening. Not only does it have balanced outputs, but it's fully balanced inside as well, just like all BAT products. Should be able to get one for well under $4K used.
I'll second Hatfield's rec. of the Meridian 588.
I've had one in a Rowland/Wilson Benesch system for several months now and have been very pleased. (The interconnects between the Meridian and the Rowland Concentra are balanced Kimber Select 1130s.)
Outstanding with all sorts of music- very natural sounding on good recordings- balanced in the sense that it doesn't add or subtract from the recording. (Look out, though- it can be extremely revealing of poorly recorded/engineered CDs!)
Instrumental timbres sound both full and accurate across the frequency range. As much detail (both for individual instruments as well as larger ensembles) as you want is there if you listen for it, but isn't presented in an overly aggressive, analytical manner.
Outstanding image specificity and layering, also great image width, depth and height.
Ayre is offering the new "Evolution" upgrade in all of their products. It is reported to be quite an improvement to products that are excellent to begin with. It has to do with the power supply filtering, etc.
If you bought your product in the last 6 months, I understand it is a free upgrade. All of their current shipping products include the upgrade and the prices did not go up.
I'll be sending my V5x in after the first of the year.
Audio Aero Capitole has XLR outputs. I use these to run one apm in my office and I use the RCA outputs for another amp in my living room.
I also recommend the GamuT CD1R. I have enjoyed it for about 18 months. It seems to very accurately read and transmit the recordings. There is no digital grunge. The best recordings sound wonderful. As my other equipment gets better ie new deHavilland Mercury preamp, the music just gets more analog and realistic sounding. The GamuT is very refined and musical. It makes most red book CDs sound superb. I have no desire to replace it. The JVC XRCDs sound like a good vinyl reproduction. The XLR output has a different amp then the RCA output and is more open with better resolution on complex orhestration.
I failed to mention on my comments above regarding the GamuT, I use Cardas XLR RCA adapters to connect it to my deHavilland Mercury preamp, but still get the advantage of the amp used for the XLR output. I previously used the Pass X2.5 peamp totally balanced as is the GamuT which was an excellent combination.
Mark Levinson no 39 or 390,
How about auditioning Wadia's 302 player.
Thanks for all the feedback.
I decided on the Ayre Reedbook CDP with the new "e" upgrade. The unit is just know breaking in. So far, so good, with about 200 hours of play time.
I am thrilled with my Electrocompaniet EMC-1UP matched with my Nautilus 805s, powered with 34 Class A watts by Sugden. Just superb!
GNSC statement modified Wadia 861 se