Please, please, don't sink $1.5K, or even consider it, on this system. If you must, go get an older Cardas Golden Cross IC ($250/1M pr. used approx.)(not Golden Ref)
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Lorne I'm sure you realize that digital edginess has to be coming directly from that budget source player; the bettter part of your lineup is only reproducing what is input to it. My first thought is to put your $ into a better portable player (sorry I have no rec's on portables, but others might?) rather than trying to filter out the trash from your source. Otherwise if you're comitted to trying to make this setup play better for you, some cheap cables that kinda rolloff the higher frequencies might be helpful. A pair of MIT T-2 might be helpful? Whatever you do, certainly you'd want copper based interconnects vs. silver; silver would likely only accentuate the problem. I've no experience with Nordost, but I have read commentary from others who state that it's on the brighter side to begin with so I wouldn't think that that's your best solution.
Lorne: I would suggest the same as Bob and look into some inexpensive MIT T-2 interconnects. My experience with them is they they are pretty soft on the very top end, and fairly warm. They aren't fantastically resolving, but they're actually quite good for the $80 or so they cost retail. This might be just the trick for zipping down the highway (safely, of course) with the tunes cranked.
I've never listened to the Grado RA-1 but do use the HeadRoom Total AirHead for portable listening. The circuit they include to compensate for the fact that a pair of speakers would produce interference at each ear is intended to improve the spatial characteristics of headphones. The other effect is that it takes the edge off the top end since that is where the interference has its greatest effect. -- Though I used a tube headphone amp for a while (non-portable), I went back to the HeadRoom equipment (Little More Power Premium) because of much lower levels of listener fatique. -- I've also used the Senneheiser HDC451 active noise cancelling headphones in noisy settings. They don't have a lot of bass but avoid the difficulty of having to crank the volume to get a decent signal to noise ratio. -- Another, more costly alternative, is the Etymotic Research ER4P (louder than the ER4S with a roll off in the highs). Though they give you about 25dB noise reduction, they block outside sounds to a point that may not be appropriate for driving. -- Finally, having experienced the same effect with headphones when used with Silver Bullet interconnects, I have used inexpensive copper cables from bettercables.com ($60 for 1m). I agree that copper is your best choice.
-- Good listening.
I have the exact same portable set up, (Panasonic 580 and RA-1 amp,) as you except that I use Grado headphones with it. That is where I would start! (At least get some kind of decent headphones that the RA-1 can push.) I use both the Grado SR60 and just bought a pair of SR225, (to get better bass and a bit more refinement.) The SR60s are inexpensive and will be much, much better than the headphones you know use. I do not have any problem with edginess using the Grado phones. I am using [I think] a Wireworld interconnect that I bought from the good people at Headroom. Good luck. Charlie