Denon 3910, you can get it modded as you grow. That DAC's in it are already pretty good, you may not need/want your other.
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I second the 3910!! Got one and never looked back... the 2 best ones in this price range are teh 3910 and 59avi, with each having its pros/cons:
* Best Picture Quality south of the 5910
* Outstanding Build quality, heavy, excellent loading mechanism
* Superb Audio, only surpassed by the Onkyo SP1000 and Denon 5910
* Lots of audio control (Time delays, LFE control, etc) for SACD/ DVD-A...
* Costs more than the 59avi
* can produce Macroblocking in certain displays
* Excellent Picture Quality (almost as good as 3910)
* Can output 480i via HDMI, thus ability to use external scaler
* can be had for $300 or so less than 3910
* Build quality/Loading mechanism not as robust
* Audio slightly inferior to 3910
* Not as many audio setup options as 3910
Either way you go you will be happy, but I personally think the 3910 is the slightly better machine overall....
I should admit that I don't own a Denon. I paid up and bought the Onkyo DV SP1000 after auditioning the Denon, Marantz DV9500 and McCormack UDP-1. The Marantz and Onkyo tied, but the Onkyo had an IEEE-1394 interconnect, so I bought it. Used the best you will find is about $1300. Never looked at the Pioneer. They are all really good though, to be honest. Good luck.
I am not concerned with video or the internal DAC's b/c I will use it as a standalone transport. I am more concerned about the playback qualities, with my Parasound transport there is a smmother presentation that sounds more analog. I have often wondered if it is the transport or the belt drive but there is something distinct that I really love about it. I am looking to get the same sound but be able to play DVDA's.
I just dont know of any good universal transports. everything is still redbook (for a dedicated transport only) that I know of. Other than the big guns of EMM and the like...and those are CD/SACD transports.
I'm wondering if a hard drive based solution for high-res PCM is a better option. and if so...then what? someone needs to make a high-end HDD based, wireless audio appliance that will play 24bit files. again, trasnport ONLY.
I know of a bunch of 16bit things like this. I think I just read a review of 24bit model from someone..but it was not quite what i'm after either.
I think a cheap PC with a 24bit sound card (digi out) into a DIP box, or BIG BEN or something...would be the rig to beat.