DAC or new player ?

I am in a quandry. I need to upgrade my player and wondered if I should seriously consider the Benchmark DAC or save a little more and take a look at the Cambridge 840.Can anyone out there give me a little guidance? Thanks
What is your present player?
sony cd/sacd single disc NS 500
In this situation, my choice would depend on whether I eventually wanted to go for a computer-based source or not. If not, I would save for a better Redbook player, the Cambridge for example. If I did want a computer as my transport and music library, I would get an external DAC with USB or Firewire, and use it with the Sony and S/PDIF for now.

I've heard the Cambridge 840 and preferred my present transport/DAC's sound although the 840 was impressive. However a good dedicated transport is hard to find for little money.
Here's a suggestion... the CA 840c can operate as either a DAC or CDP. Get one on 30 day eval and compare standalone versus as a DAC to your Sony. Of course, the DAC won't help the SACD output of your Sony so you need to decide how important SACD is to you.
Thanks guys, you are all awesome with your insight! AS TIME GOES BY THE sacd is less important to me.Much to think about.I bought the Sony after reading a good review on it.......but now SACD is pulling a dissapearing act(for the most part).
I have considered analog but the material seems to all be(most) re-issues and that does not excite me. And not even considering the prices of required equipment.It is not out of the running though.
I did study Absolute Sound's piece on hard-drive record/playback and found it VERY interesting.
Tobias, what transport are you using?
Loads of thanks!!!
Along the lines of this thread, can someone explain to me why stand-alone DAC's are so much more expensive than some of the great-sounding integrated CD players? Given the high quality DAC's already built-in to many modern CD players, I can't get my head around the insane prices some separate DAC's sell for, especially when the chips are mass-produced in the same factories these days.
Are they that much better, or is it more related to low production volume or being hand-made that artificially pushes the prices up so high?
CARL,I think that stand alone DAC's maybe start out as higher grade units(usually) that have key components that are of better quality than players like caps and resistors
and the really good ones are very expensive. I really don't understand it well either but it could have a lot to do with production but on the other hand a lot of stuff is being produced in China.So go figure........I just wish decent components were less expensive.
I originally started this thread because I wanted to embrace the digital way and was confused about the directions to choose from.I'm still up in the air about it all.
"I wanted to embrace the digital way"... me too! That's why I found your thread interesting. I wanted to buy a good CD player, but was told I might be better off buying a separate DAC for my Denon DVD player, until I saw how expensive they are.
Now I'm not sure what to do, as I just don't have the time nor experienced ear to spend hours doing listening comparisons.
Given that most DAC chips only cost a few dollars and only come out of a handful of IC manufacturers, and the associated components are even cheaper, I'd love to know how they end up retailing for so much more than some of the really nice integrated CD players, especially the sub $1000 category (Marantz, Cambridge, Rotel etc.)
Konky, check my system and you'll see what I'm using. Yes there are some really expensive DACs around--some expensive transports too--but never mind them. Lots of folks are very happy at the $1K level, less if you buy second-hand. I'm thinking of Apogee, Benchmark, Bel Canto. Tweak them with an isolation transformer or battery power, antivibration footers and a premium digital cable 1.5 meters long... see what you get.

A good transport at that price level is a bit harder to find. Some like TEAC VRDS, some like the Pioneer stable platter mechanism, some like CEC. For $500 - $1K you would have to buy used, and they are likely to be older units.
Tobias - Nice setup. Do you have a view on the Apogee mini dac versus the Benchmark? I'm thinking of going with the USB version of one of these.
DAC with computer as a transport. The Paradisea from MHDT Labs sells for under $500, nice tube buffer DAC. I'll probably never buy another CD player.
Tobias is right. We are at the beginning of a new era of digital music and it is nonsense to buy a dedicated cd-player. Get one good dac (actually, such like an apogee mini dac, or even at half price of that a TC konnekt 8 or Edirol UA 101) allows you to have a very well balanced dac, adc (dont forget: these are studio gears and not voiced to be a coloured niche products for serving one particular taste packed into a nice box to please your eye. A TEAC VRDS and old Sony ES player as transport would nicely complement such a gear.
Dokosan, thank you for the kind word. I didn't audition the Benchmark before choosing the Apogee because I was replacing an older and much-enjoyed Apogee model, the DA-1000E-20. As you very likely know, there are reviews on the Net but I've found only one head-to-head listening comparison of Mini-DAC and Benchmark and it's in a link on the Apogee site. So many people would like to have another one available that for purely altruistic reasons ;) I am tempted to do it myself.
Ahaju, I am sure I must be right--thank you--but I did not say it was nonsense to buy a dedicated CD player. I have not compared my setup with an equivalently-priced CD player of recent design (I would be interested in the latest TOTL Shanling, for example). Nor have I subbed my computer into my system to compare it with my transport. So I can't say which setup produces the best sound, and I would need to know that in order to make my choice.

What I did say was that you don't need to spend multiple thousands to get a very satisfying DAC these days, especially if you tweak it nicely. OTOH if you have the bucks you can do better sound-wise. You have a very nice DAC and I would love to compare your source with my own.
Thanks for all that input but can someone tell me where I can find exactly what you are discribing;make,model #,approx price? And also where they can be found?
Konky, we're mentioning a lot of things : one-box players, external DACs, transports. You will have to do most of your own leg work searching.

If you're interested in a transport like mine, there's one up for sale (with a matching DAC) here now. Enter "Esoteric" in the search field on the AudiogoN home page and you'll find it in the list. Please don't think that just because I use one, that's what you should get! Remember this is older gear. It will need maintenance and repair sooner than new stuff, and sometimes parts are not available.

Search the archives here and at Audio Asylum for transports and DACs that people think well of. An Apogee Mini-DAC with USB will cost from $600 used. Keep watching here and on eBay for availability and pricing info. Also, frankly, the Cambridge 840 is a good player. You could do a lot worse than just get that. Get a listen to it! Mdconnelly has a good suggestion up there.
Thanks Tobias!I will heed all advice before my purchase. I am leaning towards a DAC as the transport would not be such an expensive problem.Nowhere around here close to listen to an 840. Oh well!
You may want to invest only to a relatively cheap teac vrds cd-palyer and use it as a transport instead of a more expensive dedicated transport. I use vrds 10SE, and that is just fine. It may lacks the refinement of many highend transports, but it has a very dynamic and full bandwith soundprint. Surely, better than (for me) than a ML39 as transport.
Has anybody listened to the modded Pioneer players by Music Concepts? Are they worth $1500? The web site says it plays them all cd,sacd,dvd-a and is a 24bit/96 unit.
I couldn't stand the suspense so I purchased Musical Fidelity's V-DAC unit and so far, for the money,I am pleased. It sure has "opened" up some of my favorite cd's. I don't know how bass could be any more defined but it is. I "see" more into the music. It gived clearly defined mids and highs.
I am working on interconnects now in hopes of even more exciting results.