I own a esoteric dv50s. I think it's pretty hard to beat...maybe do a search, lot's have been posted on this player.
I just bought a BN Parasound D-3 Universal player, and
love it for cd play back. I bought it mainly for that alone
as my local dealer heard it at the show and thought it
sounded really good.
Best of all, it's a $2500 player that Parasound is
selling out at $1095 due to Blu Ray.
I have not owned a $1k dedicated cd player that
sounds this good. Have not tried SACD yet, but
DVD video looks fantastic also so far.
What a deal!!!! And looks like a million to boot!
I have a Denon 3910 it is great for video and not bad for sound. I hear the 5910 series is even nicer but around $3800 new. Arcam makes some nice players as well. Very musical with great video. The DV137 is $2199 the DV139 is slightly higher than your price point at $3199 it is a great player in both aspects.
Since exceptional audio is your objective, you might want to consider getting a reasonably-priced universal (rated high for video output) to use as a transport and run it through an outboard DAC. PS Audio has a DAC (Digital Link III) that retails for $995 and has received exceptional reviews. I have personally heard this DAC and I am considering getting one to mate with my Rotel RDV-1092.
By the way, the Rotel unit, at $1500, does provide exceptional audio (but I can hear a difference when it is run through the DL-III).
Read up on this remarkable little DAC - for the money, it's very impressive.