Go for one with latest technology plus HDCD. I have an EAD 7000 Series III for sale.
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I agree with the Bel Canto suggestion, amazing sound for the dollar, however, they just took a big price increase, so not as good a deal as it was. Another choice that could be less expensive is the Audio Research DAC 120. It is several years old now and could possibly be bought for as little as $300.00. The ARC is VERY musical, and having been bought used, could probably be resold when upgrade time comes, and get all your money back.
I sell Theta, Krell, Audio Research, Bell canto, Wadia, Classe, Rega, Creek, Aragon/Acurus, and Sony (super Aud)where I currently work. There are a lot of very musical DAC's out there, but have you tried Some of the inexpensive DVD player's out there? Some of them are pretty darn good for the money! Dynamic contrast (parts quality) is a little lacking, but this can be cleaned up by using one of those "CD Blacklight's" from Audio Prisms! If that doesn't do it for you (and my DVD, in my oppinion, is better than some of the other CD players mentioned by others), try one of the Theta's (Pro Prime IIA or Pro Gen IIA) Have fun!
Although somewhat dated now I suppose, I can highly recommend the Muse Model Two. It can be had used for about $700. used, and was rated Stereophile high Class B for a long time. When new, it was an over achiever, and is still a darn good DAC. Very smooth, very neutral, very musical. It only has BNC inputs, but you can get high quality BNC to coaxial adapters from Muse. Also, this DAC can be upgraded to 24/96 (and some other options) if desired. It is very well built.
Strongly recommend the MSB Link w/ the Channel Islands Audio modification and the Monolithic Sounds HC2 power supply. Reviews on all three can be found at Soundstage.com. Complete set-up will only set you back $850.00 and leave you w/ $150.00 for a cable. Price is for new items not used. This is one phenomenal combination that should be given some serious consideration. Another review is available in Stereophile vol.22/1.
I love all Theta Digital products. I have a Progeny A, a Cobalt A, Basic IIIA and the TLC. I bought the Basic IIIA used for $1000. I think all of the Theta products are very clear, dynamic and lifelike. Do not skimp on digital cables, they make a big difference. Make sure that they are true 75 ohm and use BNC connections if possible. I am currently using D-110 and D-75 cables from D. H. Labs.
This might not be the BEST DAC for under $1000, but it's a heck of a bargain. Retailing for $399 (I have a couple brand new ones to sell for $359 incl. shipping), it gets you into Stereophile Class B $$$ (very high value) rating. who also co-named it "Budget Component of the Year". For just $539, you get a digital upsampling to 24/96. With an excellent DH Labs D-75 Digital cable, it only sets you back about $600. There are many upgrades available both through MSB and some very excellent tweakers of these units, and though the Bel Canto is superb out of the box, putting another $400 into modifications on the MSB might just beat it out.