A Jolida JD100 with NOS tubes. It perfectly fits your criteria.
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The original Rega Planet or newer Rega Planet 2000 (I forget the price of this one; it might be out of your price range). Both offer supreme musicality and PRAT. Neither is the last word in resolution or dynamics, but for sheer enjoyability and ease on the ears, they're hard to beat in this price range.
I agree with Aball and others; the Jolida is a perfect match. This unit is a true pleasure; it really adds a dimension in terms of warmth and presence not found in sub $1500 player. (We feel very fortunate to be dealers for JoLida.) This unit competes well with a lot of the heavy hitters like Naim, Rega, Arcam, Etc. at a fraction of the price. Another neat thing about this unit is that if you ever become a tweaker you can simply change out the tubes in the future and adjust the sound to your listening preferences. But, out of the box it will sound fantastic and will only improve over the first 100 hours of break in. Please email me directly if you are interested in discussing this player further.
Good Luck and you cannot go wrong with the warmth and build quality of JoLida.
Tyler T. Mueller
Next Level Audio and Video-Account Manager
Take a look at my threads on the Jolida JD 100A. Ya think I may like the Jolida a little bit? ;)
Change out the stock tubes to some warm, yet nicely detailed Ei ECC-83 Gray Plates and add a good power cord upgrade and you have a superb, very analog like sounding player that many players going for $3-4K retail are pressed to sound better.
Readster-- sorry to be so long in answering your quest.
Yes, I tried the EH 12AX7's in the jolida.Also the Ei Elite gold pins. Both were more bright sounding than the stock tubes that Jolida supplied. These were the least favorite to my ears of all the tubes I rolled in and out.
I liked the Mullard CV4004 somewhat and Tungsrams were very "fast" sounding or zippy, but did not have much body.
The Amperex, Siemens and Brimars were not as good as the Ei's non cryo'd ECC-83 gray plate.
All of the 5751's I used RCA 3x BP--Raytheon 3x BP and Sylvania 3x JAN..GE 3x Gray Plates... were smooth, but just too closed in sounding and lacked openness and dynamics.
The Cryo Ei Gray plates are the winner for me.Smooth and warm like the standard Ei, but with better depth and transparency.Amazing tube!