CD Player with volume or preamp

I am building a system for $10,000 for a friend. The only source will be a CD player. I was thinking of Wadia 830 or Cary 303/200 (not sure if it comes with a volume control) with remote volume control versus adding a preamp. He is not an audiophile and just wants a good sounding system. He is using a 25 year old Panasonic receiver today so that is where he is coming from now.

What do you suggest regrading CD with remote volume or adding a preamp. Also what other CD players should I consider.


I run my Wadia 830 direct into my amp....the way it's meant to be run...use a Shunyata Black Mamba power cord on it....those two units you mention give different sound...I'm a fan of a minimalist system and chose Wadia so I could eliminate the preamp and those extra interconnects...your friend would get the biggest bang for the buck with the Wadia set up.
The current single source in my system is the Granite Audio 657 cd player and I use the tube output stage with manual level control. The analog output is adjustable from 0-30v. The signal goes to a Placette Passive linestage. I have the output on the cd player set below 1/3. At that setting, most recordings are barely audible on the lowest linestage setting and loud before half. The beauty of this combination is the signal can be increased going into the passive to be attenuated for volume control to the amp. I think I'm getting the benefits of a passive transparency with no negatives and the volume control on the Placette is outstanding.

You should avoid any cd player that has a level control on the digital output.

The upside of cdp to amp is saving on one pair of interconnects, cord, and preamp. You could put more into the other components within your budget. What speakers are you considering for the system?
Ayre CX-7 CDP ($3k retail)
Ayre AX-7 Integrated amp ($3k retail)
Some nice relatively easy to drive speakers ($2-3K)
Rest of money spend on cables.

The above sound will be better than anything short of the Wadia 861 ($8k retail) pumped directly into an amp. Which would break your budget.

The Ayre CX-7 is really a nice player, especially when being put into Ayre preamplification. This combo also gives your friend the choice of adding future sources like a tuner or SACD player etc.

I can suggest an Ayre dealer if you do not have one locally to you.

KF has given you an excellent option. Proac 2.5's or Harbeth Compact 7's, I bet would work quite well with this setup. Others may argue that this would be the perfect setup for a Resolution Audio CDP. With only one source it would seem most reasonable to me to run the Opus player through tube amplification with what I suspect would be awesome results. Personally, I have Quicksilver Silver 60 monos which have a wonderful synergy with my Spendor Sp1/2's.
Another CD player to consider would be one from the Resolution Audio range. The CD-50 and CD-55 are absurd bargains in the $1,500 range s/h, and the newly released Opus 21 is an improvement over these and retails for $3,000. They have both balanced and unbalanced outputs and have a digital volume control that will drive directly into a power amp. Check out the reviews on any of these and you will be impressed with the loyal following these units have. I currently own the 50 and will shortly be upgrading to the Opus 21. I drive Plinius amps with mine.
Peter, are you considering not doing an active preamp for this guy, who's into loud rock??? The dynamics will suffer according via the PASSIVE ROUTE!!!! I'd do the preamp for him for sure...that's me however
The Resolution Audio Opus 21 is the best I've heard
I have owned the Cary 303/200 and found it to benefit from a good tube pre amp. The volume control on CD Players in the 3K price range don't do justice to a good pre amp. You will have to get the Audio Aero Capitole MK I or MK II or a Wadia 301 to go direct and get the most out of your music. If I were you, I would get one of the Audio Aero MK IIs on Audiogon right now which is about $5000 USD and forget the pre amp altogether. I promise you you will yield more benefit by putting this 5K into this player than any other upgrade that you can do. If you have any more questions please feel free to email me.
I have auditioned the Wadia 301, the Ayre cx7 and ended up buying the Resolution Audio Opus 21. It is the best in that price range IMHO. The Ayre does not have volume capability. I don't think the Opus 21 is a passive volume control and I can rarely drive mine over half its volume range. In addition, Jeff Kalt of Resolution Audio told me that you can drive both the balanced output and the unbalanced output at once with absolutely no problem (something the Ayre unit forbids in its manual). I use the balanced outs to run directly into my Krell amp, the unbalanced outs into my subwoofer, and I also use the digital input to input my front two channels of home theater to watch movies. I love it.