It's just a normal CD player with a tube buffer on the output.
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I've had a couple of tubed cd players and they sounded great. It's just that some people are too neurotic for tubes because they constantly obsess over whether the tubes are deteriorating or always thinking about rolling in new tubes. Same with vinyl. I've seen audiophiles so focused on cartridge alignment and VTA, VTF, antiskate, record cleaning, etc that they can't just enjoy playing a record. So decide what type of person you are before venturing into tubes.
I had a Luxman, which sounded ... ok, I guess. It cost 2-3x what any other CD players I've had and eventually devoted transport problems. It's only real virtues were two: (1) it looked REALLY cool, (2) it finally got me to buy tube amps, which (for my system and my ears and my music) finally did the trick.
I ran across a used Exemplar audio Denon 2900 tube CD player for $400 or $500 10 or so years ago it was so cheap I snatched it up knowing it retailed for over $4000. When it arrived I was shocked how enjoyable it was to listen to. It came with Mullards, Amprex SQ's, Brinmar's and others I can't remember. It really didn't matter which tubes were used they all sounded good but I ended up leaving SQ's in full time. For a good while my lp12 collected dust. The lazer went out and I bought one of eBay and it is still up and running. I did end up buying a used Exemplar Oppo 105 tube player in case denon died and run each in different rooms. The trick is the tubes must be matched or you can hear balance problems if tubes are way off.
Modwright used to do a tube-mod of the Oppo Disc Players. Sometimes you can find them used.There were 2 tubes sticking up on the top of the player and a new separate power supply box. I had one but sold it .
I have an Ah! Njoe Tjoeb, but the drawer of the transport started wearing out after 10+ years of heavy use. Gave up fighting with it years ago, but was never really satisfied with its replacement. I’ve recently been thinking about dusting it off to see how it compares to my current streaming setup which certainly seems better than I remember.
(Because you know I just couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it. Anyone have any experience replacing a transport?)
Once upon a time I had all tube systems, and in the early days of CD, tube dacs were a big help, but times change. For well over a decade my system has been 100% solid state
I had a Raysonic 168 which was excellent, BUT, moved up the 228, a 2 box which started glitching after maybe a year. I sent it back to the USD Quest4Sound right at the time that Raysonic was pulling the plug on the company, apparently leaving a lot of unpaid employees. Q4S and I got the runaround.
TMK, no one has manuals or parts to repair them, but they were magical
I listen mainly to vinyl. However, for the past two months, I have made a concerted effort to enhance my digital listening experience. I added a tube DAC to a vintage Wadia 16 CDP. The DAC is from Marvalve, a boutique maker from Taiwan.
See review here: https://www.head-fi.org/threads/review-marvalve-model-two-dac-vs-benchmark-dac2-hcg.884440/.
For the first time in a long while, I have spent considerable time listening to CD's. For the first time, vinyl sounds different but not better than digital. The soundstage is as wide and deep, pianos are played with more weight, and no audible drift from the Marvalve DAC2. It uses two 6922's in the gain stage with no feedback, very impressive!
My vinyl gear include a Verdier La Platine, Trans-Fi and ZYX Ultimate 100 combination.
Jolida, before it was Black Ice Audio, made a great sounding tube CD player. It took a pair of 12AX7's and rolling tubes really changed the sound to what you liked.
If I'm not mistaken, the Ah! Njoe Tjoeb mentioned above was designed by the people or person who does the Primaluna tube DAC and/or CD player. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong.
Another offering from Taiwan: The ARRIBA P-1008 and P-2008 with two 12AU7 tubes in each unit.
I auditioned the P-1008 three years ago. It's quite good.
The spec page is mandarin with no option to translate into English. http://www.kcr.com.tw/archive/image/edcontent2/editor/Spec9_P1008_2008.jpg
I have a California Audio Labs Alpha DAC that I used with computers. It uses two 12AX7. It's has a warm presentation. I bought it to take the edge on of those early CD's. I hooked it up not long ago and was surprised how well it performed, given it's age. If I were looking at tubes for digital I'd be searching for a Tube Buffer device.
I owned a tube ARC Ref CD-8 for about 9 years. It sounded ok to me, but I never compared it to anything else. I just stepped up to a new tube Ref CD-9SE, which should be delivered on Monday. Kinda' curious how the redbook CD side of the CD-9SE compares to my old Ref CD-8.
Of course, the CD-9SE has a DAC side that can be used for streaming. I guess I will learn how to stream now.
One good thing about ARC tube CD players is that they help to keep one's listening room warm in the winter. lol