Thanks for the recommendations. The Apollo seems to be the consensus here. There is one local to me that I will check out. The only tidbit I found regarding the Apollo is that it has a tendency to have a bright spot in the upper frequencies? If I increased my budget a little, would the Cambridge 840c be a contender? Or (and I know this is an older unit) what about a Linn Mimik? Or Naim CD5? The Rotel 990 (as Maritime51 recommended above) is a rare bird indeed. The RCD-991 is more common, and, from what I have found, the difference being the transport--which can change the impact of the sound? As for Rotel, another model I'm curious about is the RCD-1072? However, from what I have read, the Rotel may be too edgy in the upper range as well? I'm currently using (and comparing) my Pioneer PD-R509 cd player/recorder, as well as a Sony PS1. The 509 actually sound pretty darn good with the 300i. It's bold, energetic and dynamic. But, it can get a tad bright at times on the wrong CD. The PS1 though seems to balance (smoothen) everything out nicely. However, when going directly from the 509 to the PS1, the PS1 can sound almost veiled. From reading reviews (both user and magazine) the Cambridge 840c and Linn Mimik seem to be very neutral sounding players that lean towards being very smooth, yet have very good resolution and detail—particularly the 840c.
Ok, so I was able to audition the Apollo with my gear, and my assumptions were correct: Even though the Apollo sounded very good, it was too bass heavy on the low end, and a touch too bright on the top end (when using it with the 300i and 2c’s). These attributes caused the mids to seem laid back. I did like the soundstage and imaging though—wow!
That being said, I think I need a player (or DAC) that is dead-neutral in sound. Yet, at the same time is detailed, articulate and transparent—without being rolled off on the lows or highs. It all comes down to finding that right chemistry with the 300i and 2c's. From some of the reviews out there (and somewhat my budget) I keep thinking Cambridge 840c or Linn Mimik. Might have to try them out just to see for myself. As for DAC’s, I’m not certain what’s out there that would fit the description above—for the money. The only issue with a DAC would be a transport: all I have to use right now is a budget DVD player. But, I guess it will do the job for the time being.
I have a Krell KST 100 power amp and Vandersteen 2 speakers. What I have is a Rotel RCD 975 as a transport and I got a great deal on a Muse 2 dac. This is a nice combo for the money with no upper mid glare or brightness. A 975 isn't easy to find these days but Im sure other cd players ill work just as well.
You could use your Pioneer as a transport if it has digital out, best way to save $. This Tascam is nice for $300 too. https://www.amazon.com/Tascam-CD-200BT-Professional-Player-Bluetooth/dp/B008224WPM/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF...
OP- have you purchased yet? Curious what you're going to decide on. I was using a Krell s300-I with Vandy 2Cs and an Oppo103 and the sound was definitely bright, forward and analytical. Sold the amp, still have the Vandys and the Oppo. Also wanting to find a different CDP that's a touch warmer. Have had suggestions of looking at Marantz, Cambridge, Creek and Rega. Looking forward to hearing how your system is progressing...