Consider the usual suspects:
- Playback Designs MPS-5
- DCS Puccini
- EMM Labs CDSA
- Playback Designs MPS-5
- DCS Puccini
- EMM Labs CDSA
Ayre does not belong with the above-mentioned players. Spent few hours with C5-Xe MP, EMM stack and Orpheus Labs OneSE, and it took all of 10min to decide Ayre should not be part of the comparison.
Add Esoteric K-03 and Klimax DS/1 to the list (although neither fits your exact requirement: no multi-format CDP)
Are there CD Players that retail for $15,000 ?? Good Lord. Even the gurus at Stereophile could not find anything negative to say about the Marantz SA8001, and it sold for $900. They also tested the Marantz CD 5004 and praised it, $349, of course with the obligatory caveats, i.e. the mid range, or the bass, or the treble, was not as good as their $270,000 dollar 'reference' player. Save your money, get the cheapest SACD capable player. They all fail sooner or later. No one talks about that.
With cd reproduction technology continuing to improve, why not buy an oppo bd-95 or sony 5400es both of which have reviewed well on audiogon and in the rags. They are multi format players so they do not fit your specification, but it is not clear why you have this requirement. You can add an external DAC to further improve the sound, but i have not bothered as i did not find them cost-perfpormance competitive over top notch players.
One trait i found in the better sounding players is upsampling vs a resistor ladder rack. I am not a technical expert on this; robert harley's guide to high end audio provides a good technical explanation.
Ditto on the Naim 555. Absolutely superb Redbook and Naim has an excellent rep for customer service. There is one up now for $10K. (No relation to the seller, of course). The only thing is - it is a top-loader and has a large separate power supply, which may be an issue in certain installations. But from a sonic standpoint, a no-brainer. Another choice might be a Linn CD-12. A very compelling redbook player that just unravels layer upon layer of music. I would check with Linn that they have the ability to service them. They generally go for about $8K used. Also, they are a compact front-loader, which works well if space is an issue.
If you can live without sacd, try Meridian. Owned the 808.2 happily for about a year, sold it with intentions to buy the newer 808.3 but ended up, believe it or not, with a Mcintosh 1100. Possibly your bad experience with Mcintosh could have had other causes as IME all gear has the potential to be less than underwhelming in the wrong application. OTOH I have had mediocre gear sound fantastic in the right room with good system implementation. IME its all in the matching and proper setup, just my 2 cents, enjoy your journey!
I am done with both Esoteric and McIntosh brands, atleast in their digital products. Was disappointed with the McIntosh MCD-500 and even more with the Esoteric K-01 player. The K01 is nice to look at but a dog of a player.
Back to square one for the digital search.
Keep on sending your suggestions. No agendas please.
I'm love my Esoteric X-03 SE sacd/cd player BUT I'm very interested in the Meridian 808.3 cdp. RH of TAS has called it the most significant product in the history of CD players due to its apodising filter that eliminates pre-ringing not only during playback but also pre-ringing already existing in the music signal.
Been through a number of players over the years. Currently (and for some time) been using the Cary Audio 306 PRO SACD/HDCD/CD/DAC.
The players high resolution with great bass and a hint of warmth which made it a far more attractive buy for me compared to options from EMM Labs, Esoteric and dCS which were great number crunches but I felt they presented the music in a somewhat detached, cool and sterile fashion. Further, the Cary is one of the few players out there that keeps SACD native AND supports HDCD which I rather like. Moreover, the Cary is one of the few players on the market that does true upsampling with multiple DAC's.
More details on my system and room here
Joefama - what is your beef with Mac brand? I've been kicking around idea of MC601s with either a C500 or C1000 pre. They're within my price point but it's the great customer service that Mac offers that is pushing me in that direction. Maybe I'm snake bit since I was using Rowland amps and pre and essentially there is NO customer service, with Jeff Rowland wearing all the hats and being stretched very thin.
I have heard the Esoteric K-05 but not in my own system - so it is not possible to arrive at any meaningful comparison. From what I heard (at an audio show) the K-05 seemed competent but of course I was listening to it as part of an unfamiliar system.
The K-05 does usefully sport a 192 kHz/24-bit asynchronous DAC via USB.
03-24-13: SyntaxA very impressive cd player indeed Syntax! Emm are not warm & sweet sounding like Ayon however, so for my taste I would want to be running warm amps & cables with a player like the CDSA-SE. That said, I think it would be worth building a system around that player..
I had an audio aero capitole se mk ii , an mbl 1621 plus dac, , Abington research, now have tried and kept audio horizon reference dac, with an esound e5 platinum ref cdp turned into transport only all modified with new caps ,and bybee music rails hooked to a battery powered supply, findings as follows , very very. Very low noise floor, weight in bottom ,tight strong ,forceful, timber on instruments ie acoustic guitar very scary ,harmonic textures likemthis never heard liquid musicality like this on other transports or cdp
Rok2id - Yes indeed such exist.
I use computer audio exclusively myself but the best actual player I have heard is a Playback Designs MPS-5. I also own the MPD-3 and IMHO it is very close to the MPS-5 - certainly not the price difference better. I would get the MPS-3 and put the difference towards getting better speakers.
Imho, cd drives (no matter how good) are going the way of the dodo and have now been superceded by high res music streamed from servers via AES3 and NAS over ethernet. For example, with proper buffering in the dac, streaming over ethernet does not simply 'tackle' jitter, by it's very nature it eliminates jitter altogether because the clock signal is non-existant and because the transfer method has no bandwidth problems and carries no ground. This means that the digital transmission arrives, is buffered and is converted with no jitter artifacts and no accumulated noise issues. It also means that there are essentially no limitations on the resolution of the digital file itself, at least as far as current file formats are concerned. Not even streaming via AES3 can achieve that since the clock is embedded in the digital audio data stream. Whenever it gets moved, goes through a connector, is exposed to low frequency noise or a million other things, it has the potential to induce or increase jitter.