I've had a Van Alstine for about a week, and I'm very impressed with it so far. I have not listened to other dacs in the same price range, however.
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Haven't heard the Van Alstine, but I love my Cary 303. I'm really picky about my front end. The Electrocompaniet is a fine player, and so are others, such as models from Metronome. The Cary can be had for less money than the EMC-1, however, and there are dealers out there offfering good discounts on new 303s. Cary midrange magic with great bass??? Hard to pass up. Try one, be sure to break it in and use good cables.
It's done. I ordered a Cary 303 from Kevin Deal @ Upscale Audio a couple days ago, should be here within the week! Looking forward to hearing the diference compared to my Marantz cd63se 1 bit "MASH" player. I suppose now I'll need better wires, but maybe Ill be happy for a few months :-) Ill let you know how its going, Jay...
Congratulations, Jay. You're in for a treat. The Marantz was a very nice player in its day, but digital has come a long way in the last couple years. As we said above, be sure to let your 303 break in (90hrs) before critical evaluation. It's a wonderful cdp for the money. Kevin is rightly very high on this player. Don't know the rest of your system, but good ICs will reward you with this CDp in the mix. (I'm using Quattro Fil, had SPM. You don't have to go that expensive, a friend has had excellent results with Coincident IC.) Enjoy and report back!