Although I have no direct experience with either, one of my customers recently traded his Wadia 581 on an Esoteric X-05 i think, and was very impressed by the Esoteric.
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Thanks for the very informative replies thus far. Based on what I've seen here, the 860 really isn't a good solution due to the fact that the drive is discontinued, and that a superior model (581) was bested by the X-05. Another possibility is the ARC CD3 MK2. I really need to keep the budget under 4k - particularly now.
Elberoth, absolutely agree - the ARC has a reputation as being a romantic sounding unit with the Esoteric being very accurate and detailed. Either way, both are excellent sounding players and each would provide sonic improvement over my current front end.
Another player I'm looking into for considerably less money is the Raysonic 128 which has been very well received in the audio press and throughout the agon forums.