The Adcom GCD-750 has a digital input, but no digital input. This is kind of a curious set-up, but it may work well for your specific needs and can be had for about $500 - $600 on Agon. Sean
I've owned several including the Musical Fidelity CD/Pre-24 and the Quad 99 CDP. The MF CD/pre-24 has a lot of additional functionality, including analog inputs, digital inputs and full blown pre-amp functionality. The Quad is sonically much better (IMHO) but has less functionality with only 6 digital inputs and remote controlled variable volume control.
So, in my book the Quad 99 CDP is King! It is sonically very good and it has digital inputs and variable volume control. If you only have digital sources, the Quad will allow you to get rid of a seperate pre-amp completely and connect the Quad directly to a power amp.
The Quad is $1495 new and sells for about $850-1050 used. Yes, it is outside of your price range, but if you also use it to replace an expensive pre-amp, it becomes a great value.
This really is a fantastic forum. Thank you so much for the suggestions to date. I am really new to this and am trying to feel my way toward assembling a decent system.
With respect to the Adcom, as far as I can tell it only has an RCA (coax) input. Would someone recommend a toslink to RCA converter? The CO2? Chris Own of Ack! suggested a Monarchy DIP. Would that make a real difference over using the CO2 (which costs approx. $150 less)? With respect to the output, there's one for sale on this site that says that it has a digital ouput(?) Must be a modification(?)
With respect to the Denon, the reviews are really all over the map, with suggestions about poor build quality. Have you had any problems in that regard?
With respect to the Musical Fidelity, this is a fascinating product, and may be just what I need, although it may also be just out of my price range.
Would any of you recommend pairing any of the foregoing with a Decware Zen Triode? I'm really intrigued by this product. Nonetheless, being so new to this, I wonder whether I would be better served trying out a few used integrated solid state amplifiers to see whether my ears are good enough to tell the difference (and maybe the Zen doesn't have the power I would need).
You might try a California Audio Labs Tercet, which has coax input and output (but you'd need a Toslink converter). What's your objection to simply buying a transport and DAC (separately) -- they can still be done under your price point, and done quite well by Bel Canto, CAL, or Audio Alchemy. Most DAC's have multiple digital inputs, so simply use the coax or balanced connection between the transport and DAC, and use the Toslink connection to the computer.
I know that's not exactly what you asked for, but I think it's a reasonable consideration.
The Zen Select can be a great amp with the right speakers, but I would caution you to make sure you have selected a speaker that is high efficiency and has a low nominal impedence. Actually, the Zen Select prefers to see a 2 ohm load at its output. There are not many highly efficient speakers that are also low impedence.
A friend of mine actually produces speakers designed to work with the Zen. They are called Parker Audio. Dave Dutill is a huge Zen fan and his speakers are used by many Zen owners. You can see his stuff at www.parkeraudio.net .
I tried a Zen Select with my (easy to drive) Reference 3A MM DeCapos and they actually "puked" at moderate volume.
I've spent a bit of time with a Zen Select driving a pair of speakers built by Dave Dutill and it was VERY good!
Thanks again for the great responses.
Michael: I'll look for the Tercet. As for just buying a separate transport and DAC, I guess that may be the way to go. I just thought I might be able to save some space (and interconnects when using the CD player) and perhaps some money by purchasing only one unit. I take your point that the cost may wind up being about the same, and flexibility may be gained by buying separate units.
TIC: Thanks very much for the advice regarding the Zen. I'll look for the Parker audio speakers and consider this issue carefully.
Buddha: Thanks also for the recommendation. The Stello looks fantastic, but at approx. $2000, definitely out of my price range.