You could try adding a Benchmark DAC to the CD or DVD player. I must emphasise that I have never heard the unit personally, but some people I know have done and have recommended it above the Rega and Arcam players.
At $1000 it might be worth seeking one out for a demo.
I have an ARC CD3 that goes for roughly $2,500 used.
It is very solidly built and is a sophisticated, balanced performer that forced me to sell a ML 39 tranport and 360s DAC combo. The only caveat is that it's a top-loader. I think it compares quite favorably to anything eles in that price range. In fact, it's the first CD player I've owned that is not just absolutely toasted by my analog rig -- I can happily listen to CD's all night long now.
Check out Musical Fidelity A5 - if you liked the Jolida, you should really like this CDP. Retails for $2500.
For much less money than your proposed budget, you can get a Quad 99 CDP. It is under $1500 new and sells for about $850-950 used. It is a really nice player that does nothing wrong. It has a really nice balance between musicality and detail. It has a high end that is smooth enough to not call attention to itself and it has an excellent bottom end IMHO.
I've owned lots of players priced $1200-3500 and although I don't think the Quad is the absolute best of them all, I do consider it the best value. BTW, I bought mine used, right here, for $850 and it is amazing at that price point.
I highly recommend the Resolution Audio Opus 21.
It has all the attributes you have mentioned.
Very smooth sound, no treble glare, almost analog sounding in terms of its musicality. You might want to check the reviews here and on Audio Asylum.
Used price is between $2,000 for the older units and $2,500 for the newer units. (The very first batch had some minor transport noise issues, as well as a remote that did not have direct track access. The later units have no such problems.)
My two cents worth anyway.
You might consider a used Sony 777es or Sony SCD-1 cdp. Both are excellent value for the money.
I've got an Audio Research CD 2 and it also might just be what you're looking for. With your digital glare you also might consider an IC change with the correted ICs your music can be the magic you're seeking. I've got aged ears also and Robert @ Ridge Street Audio put synergy in spades into my system with his help by changing IC.
Thanks for the recommendations! I've got a dealer about an hour and a half away who carries Simaudio, Quad, Musical Fidelity, and Audio Aero. I'm going to check and see if I can hear all of these on the same system.
I had a chance to listen to the Audio Research CD3 at a local dealer, but thought it was out of my price range. It had a very smooth organic sound.
Might also want to listen to the Ayre CX7e. The "E" players of recent vintage are a marked improvement over the original CX7. It really doesn't sound digital at all.
I would second Bigtee with the Ayre, I have about 100 hours on mine and it has improved steadily, and already posseses and excellent balance. Very refined and detailed without sounding etched. Gives you what is on the recording, nothing more or less. I also owned an Electrocompaniet EMC-1UP in the past, another great player that seems to make any system sound great, withness the number of manufacturers that use it for CES and other shows. It can make even a quickly set up system sound very smooth with great pace and soundstage. It has a little less sparkle than the Ayre, but sounds as close to vinyl as I have found without comparing the tubed players.
I own an Alesis ML9600 which I use as a transport with my Audio Mirror D-1 DAC. Cost me about $2200 for this set-up. Before that I too was impressed with the SimAudio Moon Equinox and nearly bought a new one for $1850 (Audiogon member, if you're interested email me for the name). I also was impressed with the Benchmark DAC paired with a CEC TLZ-51 transport ($2200 total).
Have fun auditioning.
If you want to reduce all digital glare to the point of it sounding much like LP I'd strongly consider a John Wright modded Museatex Bitstream DAC. Worst case scenerio is you don't like it, you could sell it within hours of posting it back on Audiogon. Most people that use them hold onto them for life...that's something special in this hobby.
You could easily pick up a used Meridian 508.24 which would be an enormous improement, really a wonderful cdp.
As per what you explained you really like a clean and detailed sound. I'd say go SimAudio, I've got their Nova for almost two years, and it's just a fantastic player. While there are many players with soft, velvety sound, if you're about cleaness - SimAudio is the one.
I too was changing CD players for treble glare. I have owned the ayre cx7 and the treble was so sharp that i can't stay in the room with violins. The solution was power filtration with hydra & elrod pc. Glare was actually subtle variations and texture in the music that was obscured by noise.
Erik - I purchased a dealer demo Equinox around November and love it. Its a very musical player - leans to the warm side and very easy to listen to for long periods of time.
Lately, I've found myself reaching for CD's and the Simaudio over playing my vinyl.
Players I listened to before it were few -- Music Hall's $1500 player, Naim's newer player, a Shanling Tube player, and maybe a couple of others.
For the $1300 demo price, I liked this player alot.
Thanks for all the responses. I haven't made my choice on the CD player yet. However, while the search continues, I've purchased a Sony DVPS-9000ES DVD/SACD player to improve my 2 channel SACD playback. If I don't find a CD player that completely scratches my itch, I'll send the 9000 off to TRL for modification and see if that does the trick.
i think the musical fidelity a308 is one of the best players made for the money.the way its build is awesome(save for cd drawer and remote). you can find good used one for around $1850.the sound is very sweet yet musical and lots of detail.i also have primare d30.2 running thru bryston b-60 to nht st4's.the primare is also very good but a bit analytical and laid back in the midrange.i haven't tried the balanced outputs on the primare since both my integrateds bryston b-60 and moon i-3
doesn't have bal inputs.the most expensive player i heard was a new mbl in an all mbl system . i compared a308 with the mbl in the same system and the mbl has bit more tigther bass , high frequency ext. sometimes less is more.
for the money cant beat the a308.
Thanks again for all the recommendations. To wrap up the thread, I wanted to let you know that I ended up buying a Naim CD5i. The two other players that really grabbed me were the Rega Jupiter and the Simaudio Equinox. Ultimately, the Rega players were too laid back. I really liked the Sim player, but I fell in love with the drive of the Naim player. I listen to a lot of metal, rock and jazz, which the Naim excels at. Even though it's still breaking in, I'm amazed at it's synergy with my Bryston/PMC rig.
As a side note, the Sony DVP-9000ES is proving to be quite a wonderful addition to the system, as well. It has been VERY slow to break in, but the SACD playback is beginning to really shine. At the $550 pricepoint on the NOS units popping up, I believe that this unit gives a taste of truly high end SACD playback for just a hair more than the current entry level ES changer.
You should hear what Dan at Modwright can do to your 9000ES with the addition of his mods and a tube output stage. If you think it's good now, you'll be floored. Simply outstanding!
I've been very tempted to send off the 9000ES to be modded. TRL and Modwright are the two that tempted me the most. However, I've read a number of older reviews that mention that the 9000ES doesn't show it's potential on either redbook or SACD until around 400 hours of use with that format. I've got around 150 hours of burn in on redbook and around 50 on SACD. Even my normally uninterested wife noticed a drastic improvement in sound after a few weeks of use. Before deciding if I want to mod, I want to let the plyer realize it's intrinsic potential. That may be all I need.