go to www.pacificvalve&electric you will fin it interesting and informative, no i am not a sellsman for them andhave several friends who have bought from them and love their product and info that they give out...dwhitt
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I would support the move to a DAC rather than an upgraded CD player. Much more flexibity for the future should you want to upgrade your transport or move to a server/pc based system. Personally I prefer the sound of NOS DACs and there are many good budget ones often named around here (MHDT Paradisea or Havana, Keces, Valab, etc.) You could also look at upsampling models such as the Cambridge DACMagic or one there seems to be a lot of noise about on Head-fi by Audio-gd or as Oddiofyl suggests, the CI Audio VDA 2.
I would have to also recommend going with a Channel Islands Audio VDA-2. That is what I ended up using with my Oppo DV-970 after trying several different DACs from MSB, DIYEDEN, California Audio Labs and Benchmark. The Oppo seems to need a high quality external DAC in order to hear an appreciable positive difference. Another thought is looking at one of the tube DACs by Pacific Valve & Electric Company at www.pacificvalve.us. Then you can tube roll to your liking. Or check out one of their less expensive solid state DACs that they rate well.
I went through the same process as you. I had a 970 and added a Bencmark DAC1 to it vs. modding the 970 or buying the Planet. The sound is beyond belief in presentation, musicality and involvement. My next step was to purchase a used original Planet to use as a transport, until hard times came and I was forced to sell the DAC. Incidentally, the 970 has a very good transport, one of its strengths.
To get the best sound from the 970 set the digital out to RAW (use PCM for movies), the speaker output to L&R (not stereo) and the upsampling to 96 khz (44 is to flat and forward and 192 has too much space with a light bass)and your good to go.