The Music Hall players, either the original CD25 or the CD25.2, sound wonderful and hold their value well. They're also easy to upgrade with plug-in opamps.
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If you have room for a top loader I see a Rega Planet 2000 for 350.00 listed. Veryy good sounding player I had one for about a year or so and it also makes a great transport should you decided to use an DAC later. Save the 150.00 and
buy some cables or new cd's. Also as Arni mentioned there are a few universal players I saw denon 3910 that makes a great player as well. The adcom is a good player but I bought the Planet when I heard the two in a AB comp.
A poor man is what many divorced men become. However, there is hope in a Sony 595 often available from SonyStyle as a refurb for $60, shipped. Hey if you don't like it they come get it for free with credit for the full price paid including shipping. Don't be fooled, it is better then some $1,000 players.
I agree about the Music Halls, which are rebadged or BTO Shanlings. So add Shanling to your list. At their different price points their models were the ones to beat for years. I've owned three.
Another one to look for is the Hong Kong-based JAS Audio player. The company is better known for speakers and amps but they make one tubed CD player. I own one of these.
An alternative approach is what Arni suggests. A used Oppo would cost around a C-note and that leaves some over for a DAC (maybe a Valab) and a cable. A cable 1.5m in length, of course. Joe Mazzaglia makes a good inexpensive one.
Enjoy your new system!
Have to disagree with the tqo preceding posts. I've owned the Music Hall cdp and one of the clones and was not impressed at all.
As for the Oppo, if you want an inexpensive universal player it may be ok. But as a cdo it is just plain ordinary.
I'd look at the Rotel or NAD 542 suggested above.
Isn't this hobby funny? We can all own the same piece and come away with totally different views.
Real lesson, try whatever and see if it suits your taste.
I would agree with the Rotel , but a CD player is a unitasker as Alton Brown would say.
I would go with a good dvd player and have a multitasker, who knows this may turn into a HT/2 Ch system at some point.
The Rotel 1093 has been an excellent player for me 24/96, and offers outstanding video to boot!
I think the power supply has alot to do with its sound and picture quality.
"Joe Mazzaglia makes a good inexpensive one".
ABSOLUTELY agree with this statement!
About a year ago, I bought an MHZS CD33F on ebay for $280.00. I don't think you could buy one now for under $400.00 (G version) It was very good. I went on line and found maybe 20 or 25 mods that could be done. They were straight forward most even had fairly good directions posted. I did 9 parts switch outs that anyone with a soldering iron could do for around $60.00 in parts.
It is shockingly good. If you are competent at all with a soldering iron, I encourage you to at least look into this piece. It is far better than its price paid in its stock form. It now competes at a very high level. The link below is where is started on finding its mods. Its worth checking out. If you go this way, email, I even have a mod kit put together that I would send your way for less than I have in it. Tim
Everyone's tastes vary. I find Music Hall players very dull and boring. I've heard them suck the life out of many very good systems.
For about $500, it doesn't get better than a Rega Apollo IMO. They were going for around that price a month or two ago, but have been creeping up for some some reason. Maybe the economy really is getting better? The Planet 2000 is an excellent player as well.
To be honest, I'd go with an inexpensive transport and a DAC. The universals like an Oppo aren't a bad idea, but I haven't heard them. Connect them to a good DAC, and you've got music and movies sounding great.
There are a tone of DACs out ther that'll fit your budget, new and used. I got into the music server thing last year and bought an Apple TV and Theta Cobalt 307. Sounds great to my ears. No looking for discs, changing discs because I want to hear one song, etc. In some ways, it sounds better than my Apollo. My Apollo has a better toe tapping quality to it, but its not that far behind. Last I looked, there was a Theta Cobalt 307 listed for $150 with everything included. Add an Apple TV (with internal hard drive, not the new one) and an iPod Touch to use as a remote (if you don't want to use the Apple TV's remote and your TV), and you should come in right at your $500 budget.
Just to add...
I compared my Cobalt 307 to a bunch of the current budget DACs on the market like the V-DAC and DAC Magic. The Cobalt 307 is about 15 years old and still beat them all in sound quality. While the DAC chip may be out dated, the torroidal power supply and discrete analog output stages aren't. Its not just the chip that you hear in a DAC.
I'm waiting on Rega to release a DAC before I'll upgrade. The Arcam rDAC at $479 looks very interesting too, but I haven't heard it. My dealer carries both brands, so I'll hear them head to head when Rega's come out (supposed to be $995).
I disagree with the anti Music Hall posts. I find it to be a very detailed clarion player that is a true giant killer. It is not the last word in CDPs I have since found fuller sounding players that image better but keep it for a second system. It is very hard to find one that can compete with it in that price category.
I have just found over the last couple of years if you are not in the 24/96hz (at least) game then you may be left behind.
My Atoll preamp has Burr Brown 24/96 dacs in it, and my B&k Ref 30 can hold its own in todays bits wars.
I have had a few stand alone Dacs in the past and they cannot compare.
Power supply or not.
Most top line DVD players now have excellent power supplies, Rotel especially.
20 bit is great (as some of the dacs mentioned above), but its not 24 or even 32 bit thats now offered.
Let alone 192hz.
And 48hz is on its way out the door!
You think new artists are going to record in 20bit/48hz?
I can say that if you are not on the 24 or 32 bit bandwagon now, you may be left behind in the next year or so.
Your going to be a few bits behind!
Looking ahead now may save you some money in the near future, both HT and 2ch, SACD, DVDA, Computer based, ect, ect,!
They are all moving in that direction.
I really have not noticed any manufacturer, recording artist, recording studio, microphones, pre-amps, amps, hometheater receivers, cd players, dvd players, processors, ect, moving back to 16-20 bits.
I have a feeling I know why though.
Just my 2 cents.
I'd love it if high res became the standard. I doubt it'll happen soon though. The loudness wars aren't over. Recording and production techniques need to improve before high res goes mainsteam IMO. What's worse than a brickwalled redbook CD? A brickwalled 24/192 download.
It may soon become the standard in Classical and the like, but not mainstream music IMO.
I can't think of anything digital that has stepped back in processing.
It would seem that if the earlier formats were the way to go, then all manufacturers would be stepping back.
Remember Windows 95?
I can remeber when AC-3 was the BOMB.
Everyone wanted it, and manufactures scrambled to get it.
Don't ever hear about it anymore.
Unless you have a laserdisc player.
I wish I had all my laserdiscs back, as I have seen what they sell for now!
No steps back in digital that I can think of.
The numbers get higher, along with the price tag!
Anywho, I have had all the digital fads, and it seems to me, digital is comparable to computers.
The minute you buy one, its out of date.
Just try to buy one that is a multitasker atleast, that way you can have a good 6 months before it is out of date.
IMHO, 24/96 trumps 16-20 bit,44,48hz, and 192hz goes a step further.
The question is "What is inexpensive"
My tubed beauty just went down, I picked up a NAD C515BEE used and cheap until I get her going again. It uses a 24/96 DAC. You can get one of these for around $175.00 and all said and done, its quite good. A little thin and a touch less dynamic than I would like, BUT musical, after being on a couple of days, Smooth, Good bottom, nice sound stage... Can you beat it? sure, but this little guy can sit in any system at any price and not be embarrassed. This is hard to beat at this price and I would suspect most under $500.00. Good Luck, Tim