CD vs CD/SACD Player – Tube-based or Not

Some of you might have read my previous threads asking for recommendations on CD/SACD player. That was roughly 6 months ago when I first started building my hi-fi system.
Now that I’ve settled on the back end of my system, I’ll finally select my digital source. My system consists of the following:

Harbeth C7-es3 on Sound Anchor (3-posts) speaker stands

Pass Labs XA30.5 – Power amp

Ayre K-1xe - Pre-amp

CD player – a modest 15-year old Philips CD player(the weakest link which I need to upgrade)

I want to get a CD or CD/SACD player that matches my system in terms of synergies, quality and performance. While I’ve done a lot of readings/research, it’s hard to narrow down on my selections before some fundamental questions are answered.

1. CD player vs CD/SACD player: my preference for music are vocal, some pop, classical (symphony, chamber), some rock, blue. I know the selection of musice in SACD is somehow limited.

2. Tube-based vs Solid State CD player: would my system benefit from tube-based CD player since both my pre- and power-amps are solid state? What’s the advantage and disadvantage of tube-based player? What’s the difference in sound?

3. So many choice in my price range (mostly used):

Ayon CD-5, CD-2s

Ayre C-7eMP, Ayre C-5eMP

Audio Research CD-7

BAK 51

Esoteric SA-50, X-05, X 03se, K-07

Luxman D06
SONY 5400ES, Sony 5400ES modified by Modwright (with tube output),

Oppo 95/105 modified by Modwright (with tube output)

4. I want to get a player with solid transport, digital output, balanced output(preferred); dynamic/solid bass, extended treble and most importantly fuller mid-range with great, accurate, lush presentation for vocal recordings.

What’re your recommendations and why? Thanks.
I can't help you with it except that I am happy with BOTH an Ayon CD5S and a Playback MPS-5 feeding the Ayon (acting as a tube preamp).

I feel the MPS-5's DSD DAC is far more resolving but the Ayon sounds very good with CD and RBCD computer audio.
Good to see you back Doggiehowser!, I have seen you on two different threads!, Glad to see you shake that crazy dude!,cheers!
if you go with Oppo Modwright , go with the 105.

I have both, with no mods, and the 105 is clearly better.

I can't speak to whether the 105 with Modwright is in the same league as the other higher end brands however.

I have compared my stock 105 to both my older Wadia 16i and my new Esoteric K01, and it is not anywhere close in either Redbook or SACD. Not a fair comparison from a price perspective, but it does show you get significant improvements as you move up in digital gear.

There are other reviews of the Modwright 105 in Positive Feedback that you might want to check out.

I have an all tube system so prefer the SS Esoteric to balance it out as tube based CD players seem to be reviewed as a bit slower/softer.
I am very happy with my Esoteric sound, and their history of support and reliability is well documented.

If you get the Oppo 105, you will also need a monitor to set it up from a menu perspective.
I keep the 105 in my system to play DVD audio,blue ray video music and stream Pandora. For it's price point, I think its a great value and I could happily live with it as my only 2 channel SACD and redbook player if I had to stay under $2K. ted.
Check out the Yamaha CD-S3000, see this thread on AA:

You have some decent ones on your list. I'd shy away from the modded ones, as resale value and repairability may come into question as the years go by. If it were me, the Audio Research would be tops on my list, followed by the offerings from Ayre & Esoteric.
I was going to recommend the Marantz SA-15S2b SACD player but the ones you mention are quite a bit more costly so it might be a step down for you. It fits your criteria as I like and want what you want and I feel I'm getting it. For me, it's the best thing to happen to me in a long while. The Marantz SA-11S3 could be the answer and although new, it would come in at around the prices of the Esoteric gear, used and it's gotten some great, though limited press.

As to whether to go CDP or SACD/CD player, go for the latter. I play almost entirely CDs and it's the way to go.

All the best,
You have too many variables!
From what I know, SACD technology has not changed a lot. It is still at 100hz, while cd players are easily at 24/192.
So, a high end older SACD would be fine, you have to use analog outputs on it any way. On the other hand, a new tube based cd could be tremendous.

What would I do in your shoes? Buy a really nice several year old SACD player for a really good price. Then, get a much newer tube based DAC to run the digital cd outputs to. You now have two completely different players with only 1 transport.

This is where you can save a small fortune on buying a modded SACD player...
Elevik - no matter how you slice and dice the byte stream in the player the CD only contains 2 channels of 16 bit audio sampled at 44.1 khz each.
I would suggest adding the Prima Luna CD player to your list.
I loved mine and regret selling it for a VSE modified SONY 5400ES.
I cannot hear the difference between redbook and SACD.
A good friend(gon member Jwm) had the Playback Design MPS-5 in his system a couple of years ago. I heard it many times with a variety of music. It was good sounding.Jwm`s Modwright-Oppo 105 is better souding across the board! more nautural,better tone,texture and timbre with excellent dynamics and resolution.The MPS-5 by comparison is not bad at all but is more analytical,lean and less organic.Acoustic instruments sound fuller,fleshed out and realistic via the Modwright. Jwm has a very high quality system(believe me)and differences are easy to discern.Higher cost is not 'always' a predictor of superior sound, it wasn`t in this particular case.
Can't help you specifically but a few thoughts on your quest. You mention a digital out but no mention of digital in?? Even if you have no plans for digital streaming/computer audio, a digital in is a must for resale or even better, you change your mind and decide to connect your stereo to the whole world of music (I mean that literally).

A few other thoughts: Oppo's resale values are right up there with McIntosh. I haven't heard em in my system but sure would like to give the Esoteric's k series a test drive (of the one's you listed).
Ok, here's how I handled this solution: I have an Oppo 103 for SACD/DVD-A. It replaced a Denon. The sound is very nice but not a huge increase over a 7 year old Denon. For 2 channel, I use digital out to an external DAC-this is much better than 2 channel out of the Oppo. Or, I will stream from my PC to the DAC. 1 transport, 2 completely different sounds.
If I want tubes in the system I switch amps...
The oppo's that are not modified hold their value very well. The modified versions depreciate alot and are harder to sell.
I would suggest you listen to the Auralic Vega DAC. I just bought one from Audio Doctor and we compared it with the Meitner MA-1. They were very close to my ears and the Vega was half the price.
> CD player vs CD/SACD player: my preference for music are vocal, some pop, classical (symphony, chamber), some rock, blue.

You would be nuts to buy a CD player when you can buy a SACD/CD player that can play hi-res content, as well as all your existing CDs. Even a mid-range SACD player will beat the pants off ANY CD player on the market, no matter how expensive the CD player, when playing a hi-res recording (i.e. the SACD player playing the hi-res layer on the SACD, and the CD player playing the CD).

> I know the selection of music in SACD is somehow limited.

Quite the oppositeL: the SACD player expands your options. You get to play ALL the hi-res content on SACD ... AND ... you get to play ALL the millions of CDs around too. That's more options .. not less.

Also, there is much more hi-rez content on SACD than in any other format, including DVD-A, Blu-ray, downloads or streaming.
> What’re your recommendations and why?

If I was in the market, I would say the most important criterioin is to make absolutely sure that the SACD player you are buying converts DSD natively to analog (not via PCM). If it was me, I'd probably go for the Luxman D06 (I took one for an audition and was quite impressed) or one of the Marantz models ... in particular, the brand new SA-11S3 or the SA-15S2 / KI Pearl etc. The SA-11S3 uses a new different D/A converter, so it would be interesting to compare. Also, the new Marantz lets you use the DAC to play your download files (if you have any), so it is not only a a standalone physical player, but also a hi-res network player.
I would pick one of the ModWright such as the Sony. Here is the website.

I think the recommendation for an Oppo (I'd go 105 for the Sabre DACs) and a tube-based DAC makes the most sense. An un-modified Oppo will hold it's value *very* well. And by having a separate tube DAC you will be able to enjoy both solid state and tube-based playback with one unit.

Plus the Oppos open up the whole world of streaming playback, Bluray playback, and DVD-Audio playback for you to explore...

The external DAC doesn't benefit the Oppo 105 much. BD audio is limited to 48kHz over SPDIF and SACD doesn't output over SPDIF.
> I want to get a CD or CD/SACD player

I'd certainly go for the CD/SACD player in preference to a CD only player. Given a modern hi-resolution recording ... even a mid-range SACD player (playing the hi-resolution SACD layer) will easily outperform any CD player playing the same information downsampled to 16bit 44.1 kHz ... no matter how expensive the CD player.

The SACD player will let you play all the millions of existing CDs, AND also the high-resolution SACDs. I think there over 8500 SACDs now, which is more hi-res content than any other hi-rez format (DVD-A, Blu-ray, downloads, streaming etc)
Batmobile, thanks for the detailed feedback. Also, thanks to others who posted their feedbacks.

As to Luxman, I thought if the unit needs service/repair, it will have to be sent back to Japan, which will take much longer time to turnaround and will be more expensive. Also, do you repair used ones not owned by the original owners? What's a fair price for a Luxman D06 players in excellent condition?

Would you take it over the Esoteric X03 SE SACD player? Thanks.
If the Luxman were bought stateside, it can be repaired, if under warranty. If not, i"d avoid it. Exoteric is nice but expensive. Like Batmobile says, you can try the Marantz SA-15S2b. I just got one and love it. Most of my listening so far is with CDs but having the option to play SACDs as well, and the robust build quality and power that the Marantz brings to the equation should win you over. I've never heard such resolution, layering and extension on CDs as with the Marantz.

Hope this helps.
All the best,
A number of comment on various forums support what you wrote about the upper level Marantz players. The Esoteric gets many raves but I find them to sound lean and clinical/analytical rather than natural/organic. Have you heard any Esoteric models, in particular the K series?
No, I haven't had the pleasure. For a long time I've read how wonderful they are and it's only been recently that the emperor shed some of his clothes. Some are now saying what you say about them: too clinical. It could very well be the context of the system or something as simple as cabling or preference, or just a house sound. A very expensive house sound.

All the best,