My opinion why spend that much on a cd player when you can purchase a great universal player and have the best of all worlds. But if you must have a cd only player buy a used JVC 1050 player great built player and sound just as close to the best and for a song of $150 to $175 you can save the rest for better speaker's.
I generally seek out units highly praised on Audiogon. This is how I found out about my Audio Aero Capitole.
CAL Icon player for me in 1989. Suddenly I realized that my CD's were actually pretty good!
Just to further clarify my question, I'm looking for recommendations of those players that gave you a "wow!" response that was significantly greater than your initial expectation on your first "out-of-the-box" listen. (Not like: "I listened to this for 100 hours and the soundstage really started to open up...,etc.)
I'll second the CAL Icon; I bought mine in 1990. I was using an inexpensive Sony player and the Icon was a revelation in comparison. It took all of about 15 seconds to decide I wanted it. (The rest of the system - Adcom GFP-565, NAD 2600a and Maggie MG-1.4.)
More recently, a Meridian 588 (took about 30 seconds to decide on this one!) This is a great player and can be had for under $2k.
Wow! was actually:"Oh-oh, I need a better turntable and cartridge. Immediate reaction, too.
have to say the Meridian 508/24....Still have it
Well, I was blown away by two players, out of the box without any prior listening experience. The first was a Nakamichi OMS-7 back in 1985-86 and the 2d was a Sonic Frontiers SFCD-1 Tubed unit bought a few years back (which replaced the Nakamichi unit). I was not expecting what I heard, especially from the SFCD-1 which I have a clearer recollection of than I do the Nak unit, of which I had for nearly 20 years (no repair work ever required/needed).
Three that caught my ear on first listen recently (I try and listen to a whole lot of equipment)...These were the Linn Mimik the Rega Planet 2000 and the McIntosh MVP-841...There is a Mimik on the gon for $350 right now...well below your asking price...the mac is a lot more and the Planet is in the middle. The only thing I can say is get something new, if it doesn't wow you in the first few minutes, box it up and sell it off and get something else to try!
You might also try working with DACs...A lot of great DACs out there...I have owned a few in the $500-1200 range that really were fantastic pieces and just require a so-so transport.
My Ayre CX7e. Blew me away, and still does.
I had a Roksan I thought was pretty good, I would buy another.
BAT VK-D5, 7 or 8 years ago. First time that a cd player 'stunned' me with it's performance.
Raysonic CD 128. A friend raved about it. I couldn't believe it sounded as good as he said it did. But he was right. Even sounds better to me playing the CD layer of SACDs than my Sony XA777ES did playing the SACD layer. Dave
The Resolution Audio CD-50 did exactly what you describe for me with the first cd. I distinctly remember thinking, this is what they mean when they say this "sounds like analog." After a couple of years it sounds just as good.
My Linn Genki has a similar quality but I was more prepared for it.
Music Hall CD25, especially in HDCD mode.
Your question should be which manufacturer breaks in their player 100 plus hours before selling.Electronics/parts have to break in before sounding their best.If you are Wowed in the beginning enjoy it briefly because the sound is going to change usually for the better.JD
Audio Aero Capitole 24/192
naim cdx was excellent and became better after 2 weeks or so.
My Tube Technology Fusion CD64, I read a rave review and thought, this can't possibly sound as good as this review says. Well when it showed up and I hooked it up, wow, it sounded even better! It's the one component that I may keep forever.