I picked up a Sony DVP-NC555ES off of ebay last month. They seem to be in abundant supply for buy it now pricing of $299 (mfg refurb) to $359 (new) - both with full Sony warranty (or so they advertise). This is an SACD player/changer, and the redbook quality blows away everything else I've tried, including away my NAD C-541i. Even on HDCD's (eg Neil Young Prairie Wind) it sounds better than the NAD, which possesses HDCD decoding, while the Sony does not.
Something in the Sony ES series would seem your best bet.
If you can stretch your budget, there's a guy selling new Cal Audio CL-10's here on Audiogon. This is a player that retailed for $2000 at one point. Since Cal Audio is belly up, you'll take your chances a bit, but Jim offers a 90 day warranty. I bought one and am very pleased with it. The build quality is outstanding. I took the cover off to check out the running gear. Cal used copper shielding throughout. Plus, it sounds great.
A few years ago, I used a Rotel RCC-1055 which retails for $799. The CL-10 is much better made, with a more precise disc tray, better features, and significantly better sounding.
I highly recommend looking into a Sony SCD - C333ES.
You can pick one up for $350 - $400, it plays CD/SACD, and is a 5 disk changer. Surprising sonics, to be frank. In my system last month, it embarrassed a very well regarded $2500 audiophile player in pretty obvious fashion. In fact, the owner of the other machine was astounded. No, it doesn't compete with my Granite 657, but it sure is really nice machine.
I bought a used CAL Audio CL-10 for around $400 on eBay two years ago and, as Sammie points out, the sound is terrific and the build quality is outstanding. It's used mostly for parties but it is just fine for critical listening too. Last month, I picked up a used CAL CL-5 for my home office (same form factor as the CL-10 but no HDCD decoding and a different internal DAC, I believe) and paid just $150 on eBay. Not as sweet sounding as the CL-10, but the detail and imaging are quite good and it too exhibits rock solid construction.
The CL-10 is a champ, that's for sure. You will probably pay more than $400, though. I love mine. There were QA/QC problems with early production, don't know if it was solved in later years.
Beside Agon and eBay, any idea on where to find a SCD-333ES? Thanks
Do they play CD-R/RW discs? Thanks
Hi, Hi_hifi. Audiogon and eBay seem to be the best place to look. I think you just need to be patient, and lay in wait. You could also post a "Want To Buy" ad here on Audiogon.
And, yes, the 333ES has played every CD variant I have tried in it without issue.
Thanks for the advice on the CL-10; it's a very good 5 disc CD player
Zinfan2, I also have a CL-5 that I bought almost 2 years ago as NOS still sealed in box from ebay. I love it, great player. My main complaint, aside from no digital output, is the disc numbers on the tray are simply molded into the black plastic and impossible to read in any but bright light. I am thinking of painting them white. Have you noticed the problem?
I too was a bit bummed to discover that the CL-5 had no digital out. I just assumed it would given that CAL made DACs and presumably would have liked to sell more of them. But the unit sounds good natively. The molded disc numbers haven't been a big issue for me because my office is well lit(it's more of an issue with my CL-10, which is in a low light area), but I really like your idea of painting them in with white.
I painted my C333ES tray numbers white. Be careful not to touch them afterwards cause the paint doesn't stick to that plastic very well. Probably needs primer but I didn't want to go through that much trouble.