Used Rega Planet 2000. Even better, a used Rega Jupiter 2000 may now be within that price limit
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Don't overlook the NAD C515BEE.$299.00 new.I bought one to use as a backup to my Cary.I foolishly sold it thinking I'd never need it again.I have owned a lot of $500.00 and below cdplayers and this one was by far the best.There are several NAD authorized online dealers.Some offer free shipping.Do not let the low price fool you,this is a great player.
Ok, my turn to recommend my favorite sub $500 player. A used Jolida JD100. There ya go......so far, five different players that all sound different :-)
Isn't it funny how the same players keep getting the same recommendations, from the same users, over and over again.
Now I'm waiting for the Playstation 1, with $450 in mods, to be mentioned.
Thanks for the reminder Rooski. Aside from being a tad light in the bass, the Playstation 1 - the one with the RCA outs - smoked my Rega Jupiter 2000. Picked it up used for $35. at a game store. Although it is kinda funky using the controller to play the thing. Check out the review in Stereophile online.
If you are interested in buying used, you will probably need to take what you can find. Here are some choices:
Cambridge Audio 640C (version 2) or 740C (both highly resolving, good bass for this price point)
NAD C542 (smooth, pleasant sounding)
Music Hall CD25.2 (well rounded)
Yes to the older Rega's
Yes to the Jolida if you like that warmer sound.
Yes to older Sony ES series
I don't think the redbook CD performance of the Oppo is up to these others, but its HD formats are very good.
Another option is to use whatever CD spinner you have on hand - even an old Toshiba DVD player from the Goodwill - and hook it up to a new Cambridge Audio DacMagic, which is essentially the DAC and upsampling electronics from their $1000 740C CD player, except without the transport and big transformer.
For $750 - try to find a used Cambridge 840C, Rega Apollo or Marantz SA8001, or discounted NAD C565BEE. There is an NAD M5 listed on Agon right now for $749.
For $1500 (assuming this is a separate deal and not 750 + 1500 = 2250) - try used Rega Saturn, Raysonic CD168, Marantz SA-11S1, Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista or A5, Naim CDx, or new Cambridge Audio 840C or Naim CD5i.