What do you have now? Maybe an $1100 DAC will get you more bang for the buck, if you currently have a decent CD or DVD player that can be used as a transport.
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Channel Islands new dac for only 600 bucks I'll bet is worth a look at. These have only been shipping for about a week but after discussing the design on the phone with Dusty 600 bucks is a bargain. The above poster makes a great point. There's a number of good dacs for less money than 1,00 that would be worth trying.
I had the Unico CDP for about 5 months and did not like it too much. I posted a couple of comments here (see response under restock). I would probably rather try a Jolida JD100, consider the new Rega Apollo, a Naim CD5i, or Arcam CDP.
I use a Krell kav-300 cd player it's a single unit. I paid $1175 for it on audiogon. It's the best superb player I ever owned. And the beauty of it all is the re-sale of Krell stuff, you get your money back and sometimes even more!!! providing the price you paid is right. Lots of 300's out there so take your time.
The Sony DVP-NS900V modified by TRL is a good option if you can find one. You may also want to call TRL and talk to them about modding your existing CDP, or perhaps let them recommend other CDPs that with mods would fit your budget. I know they have done a number of Sony players, notably the 595 and 777 (see 6moons reviews on these), that would probably get you farther along than any of the options you mentioned.
The DAC is a great suggestion as well. There are several great ones to choose from under $1000 and even at the $500 price point. If your existing CDP is up to being a transport and you splurge on an excellent digital cable this could provide great bang for the buck.
Bit perfect output from your PC to an exceptional DAC. Foobar as the front-end to catalog your collection. Free DB to tag the files. Hard drive based systems will rival any highend transport for a fraction of the cost. I have owned many transports/players and can attest to this fact.
Chaintec 710 sound card
TriVista 21 DAC
Custom built PC with Raid 5
Levinson 33H mono's
4 Bryston 7BST mono's
Tonyptony - There are several great threads here on PC audio. Also, Audioengr (Steve Nugent from Empirical Audio) is an expert in this area and has excellent information on his website. I suggest you check this out. I heard a couple of Squeezebox set-ups at RMAF and was impressed, but not enough to ditch my transport/dac. I believe the future of digital audio is going in this direction, but its not there yet. We're just at the tip of the ice berg.
Distortion - TRL charges a standard fee of $550 for their mods. Do not ask what they do, they won't tell. If you're one of those that needs to know everything that is done to a modified unit then TRL is not for you. They offer a money back guarantee if you're not satisfied with their work. Check out my review on the TRL Audio Mirror here and you'll get an idea of what type of improvements you can expect.
Clio09, I have read through many of the related threads here, on AA, and on AudioCircle. It also comes in handy that I am very knowledgable already about generic PC based media servers, networking, ripping, codecs, and all the other stuff that comes into play on that side of the world.
Regrading your comments, though, were you listening to the SB through its analog audio outs, or as a digital server to a high end D/A? Also, were they SB1s or SB2/SB3s? From what I've read there's a big difference between the SB1 and the newer units.
I listened to the SB2s as modified by Red Wine Audio and Bolder Cable. Analog to DAC and using the internal DAC. External DAC was best. I also listened to the Off Ramp Turbo from Emprical. I thought the Off Ramp Turbo was better than the SB2. That being said I still stand by my TRL modified transport and DAC. My transport is an Alesis ML9600 that is also a CDP and HD storage/player, as well as CDR.
One item that has recently caught my eye is the Grace M902 headphone amp that has an internal DAC. It also has a USB input and balanced and RCA outputs. I may give that a whirl soon.
"I listened to the SB2s as modified by Red Wine Audio and Bolder Cable. Analog to DAC"
Clio09, if you did listen to both of the moded units as a digital feed to an external DAC can you give me your impression as to which you preferred, and why? If you think we're getting too far OT please respond via email.