Best Tube CDP for $2000 Budget

Want to try a tube CDP in my system, have always owned solid state and currently have Rega Saturn and Meridian G08.
Looking for that smooth relaxed sound that minimizes any faults/digital hardness in average recordings while still preserving decent detail. I know this is the paradox of an audiophile, but I want to relax and feel the music and not worry about maximum detail presentation.

Am looking at Raysonic CD 128 and Cayin CD 17T, can anyone comment on these or have any other favorites?

Also please compare them to other CDPs you have heard, thanks.
My Favorite CDP is the Audio Aero Prima - smooth, detailed, with the most realistice portrayal of instruments I have heard to this point. I left some more detailed comments here:
Audio Aero Prima 24/192 Mk II cd player......
My impression since then has not changed. The Prima is still difficult to beat at this pricepoint for a CDP (compared to the Linn Genki, Unison Unico CDP, and even my previous favorite the Planet). Also, I was never very impressed with the Cayin CDPs that I listened to.

Finally one more alternative: Have you considered a PC based system? Computer audio has come a long way and there are excellent dedicated USB DACs available. I currently use the Wavelength Brick and althought the sound is a bit different with the right tubes it does offer an improvement in most areas over the Prima.

Your best bet is to listen for yourself...
I'll second the Prima and it can be had for a lot less than $2k. Also it's characteristics sound even better when isolated on a Silent Running Audio VR stand
Ditto on the on the Audio Aero Prima a very smooth sounding yet detailed player. You can also buy the Audio Aero DAC. Another choice which is more revealing but superbly built in your price range is a bit more difficult to find. The Granite Audio CD 657. It is a tube variable output CD player which sounds great, if you can find one used it will likely be a steal, because most people are unfamiliar with it. Finally if you are thinking of an inexpensive player the Easter Electric Mini Max is very musical whether it has tubes or not. Given yor preferences the Rega is a perectly fine choice why switch?
i like the audio aero as well also the cary 303/300 is nice used can be had in your price. just make sure you upgrade the stock tubes retail is 4k used around 2k. audio new is 2500 used around 1200
good luck
Used Metronome should be on your list. Cheers,
I second the Granite 657 , better PRaT and detail than the Prima . But , tough to find used !
Be aware , some the MKII Prima's have problematic transports .
I have owned both .
I'd like to know why the Meridian isn't satisfactory? Have heard nothing but great things about Meridian.
Doge 6 from Pacific Valve. Spend an additional $100 for upgraded tubes and your total is $1500 plus shipping and it will blow away any of the players that have been listed in this thread.
I auditioned the Audio Aero Prima last year when I replaced my CDP. I thought it was beautiful and rich, but kinda laid back. So if your system is fast and bright it might be a great match.

My system is all-tube, so the Audio Aero seemed to be too much of a good thing. I've been happier with the Musical Fidelity A5 CD player I bought. Not fatiguing, and a lot more life in my system.

Don't overlook the Jolida JD 100. I have several cdps. I have a Level l mod (Underwood) that I've had for a few years and it continues to hang on in my system though I've purchased other quality and more expensive players. I can recommended the modded unit but have never heard a stock one. It's smooth yet has good clarity, midrange, and bass. There's one in the classifieds well under your budget. No knock on Audio Aero but as already mentioned, I've seen plenty of information from owners of the AA Prima Mk2 about transport problems with the unit. Most seem to love it's sonics however.
Raysonic CD 128 hands down nothing else comes close. The Doge 6 as mentioned above is not a bad suggestion, and you can get it cheaper, but I live 5 miles from pacific valve and have tried many of their units, this one is nice, but nowhere near the build quality and parts(although pretty good), and not as versatile DAC convertor in the unit as the raysonic.. The Raysonic has Upsampling optional via button, so your not stuck and can hear HDCD also, which is worth it over the Doge.

The raysonic is Superior to almost all machines in build, it has Balanced XLR which is not on the Doge,
It only takes 4 tubes opposed to having to get 6 like the doge, also the 4 tubes are all accessable without opening up the unit... user ergonomics far better

The Raysonic is a Top load vs. drawer, less mechanical parts, making its operation quieter and of course more reliable in the end....

Raysonic, Also has american Dealer Quest for sound which does warranty work, and Canada is the origin of the machine and easy to get customer support on it, the Doge is chinese, and anything thru pacific valve they do not support direct, and offer very short warranty time 90 days I believe, and all stuff has to go back to china. I say this out of personal experience with them.

Also anything from the pacific valve chinese knockoffs are totally unknown brands and suffer badly from this on the used market... Raysonic holds high value.

Take a look at raysonic here, you will be very intrigued to try this machine before you go to look any further. see link
For 6 moons endorsment, and very detailed review, features, with value on this machine.
>>The raysonic is Superior to almost all machines in build<<

What are the other machines?

>>The Raysonic is a Top load vs. drawer, less mechanical parts, making its operation quieter and of course more reliable in the end<<

Wadia and Esoteric among others are front loaders. Do you believe the Raysonic is more reliable than those brands?

>>It only takes 4 tubes opposed to having to get 6 like the doge<<


>>Canada is the origin of the machine<<

Not true. The machine is built in China and you've already been corrected in another thread regarding this.

>>Also anything from the pacific valve chinese knockoffs are totally unknown brands and suffer badly from this on the used market<<

Show us your data on this.
First i will appoligize if that post seemed to be far beyond driven.
What I mean by origin is you have local support, thats all and its fact.. Both quest for sound, and in canada where the company is based can be repaired..

The FACTS or data you wish to have on Chinese brands, nobody has heard of Doge, or Lite audio, okay some have and the ones that have know that USED value suffers.. ANd yes I owned SEVERAL of the units which I have sold here, but for less than you will get for name brand. Mainly this statement was about if you end up not liking it, maybe invest in a decent name to get some money back.

These were not statements made to discount others at all, they are facts.. Have you heard of or care to put 1800 dollars into a unit called " Doge " and re-sell for possibly 600 bucks? vs. something that is recognized as the Raysonic which will get back about everything but 500 bucks if you don't like it? It was just a broad stroke statement, which was meant to prove a point.. Kinda like buying a Carver amp for 3000 vs. a Mcintosh amp for 3000, whos gonna win the used value contest?

By the way I was not saying Wadia or any drawers are bad at all, That DRAWER mechanics statement was made as a follow up to stating since if SOMETHING happens in the Doge or Pacific Valve Distributed machines which I have owned, you will be forced to let them deal with sending in and out of China for any support, if a Wadia goes well you have local support.. Their might be another dealer for these brands I am not aware of that can repair in the states, so I will not say I am 100% on that, but I was specifically pointing out the statements made about Pacific valves Doge machine...

This is not a hit at the companies involved, they got some cool products, just the way it works, and with being you save some money with them great, However I was pointing out at the 2000 price range you can do a little better than if you look at the Raysonic and its features, and Support...
Oh sorry another clarification, Superior in build to most of these machines, meaning in that PRICE range… yes Wadias, TEAC, ETC.. we can go on for days about at 7000 to 40000 dollars.. that was not my intended post however.. Sorry again, it was best for the money and I will be more careful firing off quick posts.
Audiofeil, by the way, no big deal but you did pull out all direct downside points, without the body of my reasoning as to why to look at the slight negative against the positive.. Such as support if you have a mechanical problem at least you have a chance better with the top load and even if it does have issue can be corrected here, over shipping a unit back to china for support… And like the DAC flexability in a 1800 dollar raysonic with XLR outs, HDCD, and Upsampling options vs. NO options on the other units in question for the same pricing. Please realize I am trying to help with solid points, not general "Audioworld is just like this period knowledge"..  Only as we are all not lucky to find every good piece for the applications we seek, some have run the gamut quite a bit and like to pass on some good things to chew over before making a decision.    
>>no big deal but you did pull out all direct downside points<<

Many readers depend on these threads for good information not paragraphs of unsupported generalizations.

Your post was mostly a piece of fiction.

Good luck with your Raysonic which is built in China not Canada or did you miss that point?

I have both the Musical Fidelity A5 tube CD player and the Cayin CDT-17A. I think the MF is the more transparent of the two and also outshines the Cayin with smoother highs and tighter bass. That's not to say the Cayin is not a very good sounding CDP. It is, but it is definitely a little more euphonic (warm) and if your system leans this way already, I would not go this way. If you're looking for a bit of warmth, it's a very good bet.

I've not heard the Raysonic, sorry.


there seems to be a "buzz" about the doge and raysonic players.

can someone address the issue of sonics ?

do either of them have a euphonic, i.e.,pleasant coloration, which takes the edge off poor recordings.

has anyone owned one long enough to address the issue of reliability ?

thanks for your feedback.

Perhaps you've already done so, but you may want to check out the review from 6moons on the Raysonic CDP. I thought it gave a fairly good idea of its sonics and has been consistent with some of the comments posted on the forums from those who tried the Raysonic. Has for reliability, that question seems unanswered, but there haven't been any posts reporting problems. I've (tried) to post the link of the review for you below. I personally gave some consideration to trying the Raysonic, but instead think I'm going to go with a used Lector 7t when the opportunity arises.

By the way, are you a tennis player and/or teacher?
Once Again

Undertow is completely out of it.

The Raysonic is built in China by Shanling.

I know for a fact the Pacific Valve services its products out of Illinois. I sent a DAC that I bought 1 year ago for service and they turned it around in 2 weeks. Hardly a trip to China.

He also fails to mention the tube based filtering (don't know much about it) that goes into the Doge. This is what I would like to hear but don't have the $$$ right now.
I Stated ORIGIN of the company designing the Unit that speaks english and handles the main support on the unit, is U.S. and Canada based... I simply said DOGE does not seem to have this, and pacific valve does not repair them, and if you call them with an issue they would probably have no idea what your talking about accept to send the unit elsewhere... Please re-read post and read the line "FROM MY EXPERIENCE" With a couple units I owned... Yes the All the units from just about every company are Assembled in China including raysonic, I simply said in a previous thread my unit stated Made in canada on the back and that was my mistake.. Excuse me for not having the crystal ball on the product originally. Thank you

I went to the PV web site and here is what I found:

We have technicians on staff, repair in the USA and stock parts. Our turn around times on repairs
have averaged around 15 days door to door.

Like I said, I sent it on the 15th and it was at my door on the 27th. So my repair experience has been OK.

But, I have never heard the Raysonic, so I will not comment on it. Now for the 65K question, have you heard the Doge 6? If not, then how can you comment that the Raysonic is "better"?

Saying things like the Raysonic uses less tubes does not help - as its filtering and amplification is done by tubes? Do you know that?
I contacted Pacific Valve about the Doge 6 and got this response:

The player is designed by Dr. Lua and made by Jolida which is made by Shenda. The Doge 6 is the same as the LUA Apassionato that is sold in Germany by LUA Audio. If you visit the LUA web site, you can find more information about it there.

Here is a pdf. on the LUA Apassionato:

I would like to hear impressions from Audiogon members who actually own the Doge 6.
Thae descrip of the Doge 6 with 6 out tubes single ended triode makes me think twice about the wonderful Cayin 17 with its 4 tube 6922 output..... I have pre comming from pacific in a few weeks, may have to do other business with them..
I just looked at the guts of the Doge 6. For me there is no choice, staying with my Cayin 17.
John Tuckers Exemplar Denon 2900
Should fit the bill nicely
hi bartokfan:

i just completed my review of the melody cd m10. go to the website to read it.

i am still looking for a cd player. i was considering the cayin. i heard the sacd player and was told by a salesman from acoustic sounds that the two were very close sonically. you may be in for an unpleasant surprise.
please keep me informed about the cayin.

right now, i would like to hear the 4 tube prima luna, which is due out later this month.

have you heard the unison players ??
have not heard the Unison. look forward to the 4 tube prima luna. I thought the cayin SACD and the Cayin 17 were built on close specs. So i figured they would sound 'similiar". I had the stock chinese 6922's rolled to Sovtek ( $150/quad)and made a nice tweak + the 4 opamps(labor + parts $200 I think) changed, which gave me another nice improvement. I'll lookmat your review of the Melody. I'm sure its a fine player, as is all their gear. As a audio reviewer you should consider the Cayin 17 in your next review. There may be better out there for same $, but I'm happy and will upgrade the caps to Mundorf's Silver in oil ($300+)
Have we come to a point where most of the CDP's all sound somewhat the same, just picking a certain aspect that one likes over the other in their particular system? Or do we have to spend a small fortune to get what we want?
have you heard the unison players ??

I have - it is probably some of the most awful sounding gear out there (even my Wife thought so). Slow, lifless, with tonal balance that was always off in one way or another even for different tubes: Exaggerated midbass and lower midrange, grainy highs. The Audio Aero Prima is much more well balanced, detailed and resolving with better instrument separation and more realistic portrayal of instruments. Of course only my own experience, and your might vary, but I could not get it to work with several different amps (amongst other the Unico integrated).
Mrtennis, why even mention Primaluna when they do not even have a web site????????????? Just forget it. "all players sound about the same"....Not true. Also reliability is of extreme importantce in cdp's.
05-06-07: Bartokfan
Mrtennis, why even mention Primaluna when they do not even have a web site?
PrimaLuna is pretty well known to be distributed by Kevin Deal of Upscale Audio. The brand is featured every month in a big glossy Stereophile ad. This is not a brand that's hard to miss.

The upcoming CD player is getting strong industry buzz.

Also reliability is of extreme importantce in cdp's.
Bartokfan (Threads | Answers)
This quote is from the Upscale website regarding PrimaLuna products:
Dependability. PrimaLuna sells—worldwide, not just in the United States—and we have almost zero repairs. Service issues can make a line unprofitable very quickly. In our roughly three years, we simply haven’t experienced that problem.

let me ask some of you guys, does a photo of the guts of a player mean anything important to you?
I realize its not possible to tell exactly how a player will sound from a photo, but you at least see some of the build quality.
How do you define build quality? Parts manufacture? Neatness of the installation?

I have owned a couple of really excellent sounding components that had rats nest installations, so neatness of the installation wouldn't apply to the quality of the component in this case.

I assume parts are selected for how they sound together. I know of a few builders who use parts that are not the most expensive available because they prefer how the parts contribute to the sound of the unit as a whole. So, looking at the parts content of these components would not tell the story of how the component sounds.

IMO, laymen looking under the hood is fairly useless, and having a surface knowledge of "high end" audiophile parts can be just enough knowledge to get someone into trouble by incorrectly prejudging a component's sound.

I can see how someone who has first hand experience building gear would have an advantage judging a component based on a photo of the guts. However, that's still no guarantee.

So, seeing a photo of the insides of a component means little to me because I've heard great gear that looked like crap on the inside, and I've heard not-so-great gear that would have received an A+ for neatness.

hi bartokfan:

i saw and heard the prima luna cd player at the 2007 ces. it will be available towards the end of may, so i have been told.

as for the cayin. i have requested a review sample of this player several times. he tells me that he hasn't any in stock and when they arrive from china, they are sold.
acoustic sounds informed me that the sacd player and the the cd player sound almost the same. i wasn't impressed with the sacd player using stock tubes, so i'm not sure that i would want to pursue the cd player.
Well don't then. "almost the same" but indeed they are NOT EXACTLY THE SAME PLAYER. Stock tubes its a great sound, Sovtek tubes even better. Prima Luna is the lower end line of cayin, ASFAIK. The only other player that interests me is the Melody, which i hope to own one day, in spite of the fact that a guy in HK told me he's heard both and prefered the Cayin.
Raed the specs on the dealer's web page here on audiogon. The 17 are SACD 50 do in fact have more than one component difference. Your "i've heard the SACD 50 and was not impressed' holds little value. The quad of Sovtek 6922' s only cost me $150 and suggest you roll the stock chinese tubes when ever you do eventually get the 17. Then post a comment. the 4 opamps pop out easily, but hold off on that tweak as you critque the 17.

05-08-07: Bartokfan
Prima Luna is the lower end line of cayin, ASFAIK.
I had the same impression, but some homework revealed that this is not true. Different parts content: PrimaLuna specifies parts and closely monitors assembly to prevent parts substitution and therefore has superior quality control. Cayin allows for parts substitution in their components.

Also, different designs.

They are assembled in the same Chinese plant.
look at the german web site for Cayin. trust me all their designs are top notch. The guts of the 17 are stunning!!!!
Prima Luna is NOT Cayin. dream on.

05-08-07: Bartokfan
look at the german web site for Cayin. trust me all their designs are top notch. The guts of the 17 are stunning!!!!
Prima Luna is NOT Cayin. dream on.
I never wrote that PrimaLuna IS Cayin. YOU were the one you said PrimaLuna is the lower end line of Cayin. It is not. The two companies are not related, nor are Cayin products German owned or designed according to the owner of Upscale Audio in his post dated 5/08/07.
05-08-07: Upscaleaudio
I would like to address Sonic Beauty. The guy that sells Cayin in germany is just an importer that has done a good job of promoting and getting large retail for them. There is zero....and I mean zero....German history in the ownership or design of Cayin.

As far as comparisons of the quality of components made by each company, this is subjective and it's clear where your allegiance lies.

I have no opinion whatsoever regarding the design, or quality, or sound of PrimaLuna products versus the design, or quality, or sound of Cayin products.
05-08-07: Bartokfan
trust me.........

Based on your prior posts?

You're a funny guy!!!
"you are a funny guy bartokfan",, yes I am a bit odd. Never followed the crowd, and enjoy voicing my opinion.
can you help me out with my dilema with the Defy 6550 tubes, trying to locate the KT90 tubes Ei/czech. Post on my topic.
Megasam, I recently purchased a Lector 0.6t tube CD player for my secondary system (I have modified components in my primary system). I love it! Sounds like music. Full-bodied & detailed. It does have a forward presentation; not laid back. I primarily listen to Rock 'n Roll. I'm afraid it doesn't mask the digital hardness of a poor sounding recordings. It pretty much gives you what is on the CD, good or bad. However, when putting on a great sounding CD, it really sounds effortless & musical! I purchased the unit for $2190.00 thru Music Direct. It is connected via Paul Speltz anti-cable IC's to a Portal Panache solid state integrated amp which is connected via Paul Speltz speaker cable to a pair of Paradigm Studio 20, v.3 bookshelf speakers. I couldn't be happier right now. Hope this helps!
i will be receiving the vincent cd 6 hybrid next week.
i will give a brief overview sometime thereafter if anyone is interested.

i recently reviewed the lector .6 mark 2. i am in partial agreement with routeman21's findings. it is close to neutral with minor shortcomings in frequency response. it is not full bodied and detailed. it leans more to a resolving presentation and less toward a full bodied sound, from what i heard.
Mrtennis: yes - I've seen very little on the Vincent players. Please post your impressions. TIA.