I have a friend who owns a high-end store and I have owned, had in my home, or listened to the Naim, Electrocompanet (pre 192k version), Cary, Audio Aero, Wadia 860, and the Gamut - basically all the big names right now except the mephisto.
They all have slightly different characteristics but the differences in shear quality is very fine. However I will say the Electro is right up there but in the end the Audio Aero is the winner.
The pictures that you see online don't do it justice - the build quality doesn't show in pics but it is quite refined in person. Now the Electro and Mephisto have in the looks department - though most of us will not buy on looks alone (though I am often tempted).
But the two places where the Aero is superior:
1. A warmer more vinyl side which the Electro has also but it is slightly more refined
2. Not only does it have all the goods but it has volume control also which allows us not to have a pre-amp.
Now, I owned the Wadia and it had volume control also but it was digital which meant you lose digits when reducing volume. I tried it many times at my house and at my friends place and we always preferred it with a pre-amp, even an less expensive one.
The Aero's volume control is analog and does not lose anything in the translation so you can actually do without the pre-amp and save that money...or spend it on this one box instead.
8k is a lot of money but if you think about it as a world class CD and preamp it isn't bad. I mean the new Electro SE version is 6k, the Mephisto is 7k, and the Wadia is 8k...for the non SE version...and with each you still need a pre-amp.
Just an aside, in my opinion, the Gamut is best deal.
well, a lot of this is personal preference but this is my experience
enjoy the music (and equipment)