Gemini: In your price range you should be able to get a used or even new all in one player that will out perform the new entry level MSB DAC. The MSB would however allow you to upgrade in the future, but for now you would not have the best sound for your money. I am not familiar with the Assemblage DAC though. Players that I would recommend are: CAL Icon MKII or the same with the Power Boss upgrade (neither are new models but they are very musical players), the Audio Refinement Complete CD player or the Arcam 8SE. If you can wait, a member here is breaking in the new Cambridge 500SE and you will be able to read his review soon. There are also many users of the Rega Planet and the Ah! Tjoeb players that speak highly of their units, the Tjoeb now has a new model available and has a tube output or buffer section from what I understand. another thing about a DAC/transport combo is that you will need to purchase a quality digital cable as well, unless you go the DVD/Tos link route and I would expect to spend at least $100.00 to $150.00 for anything that I would consider good. I use and old CAL Icon MKII/Bel Canto DAC combo mainly because I already owned and liked the sound and reliability of the CAL and the DAC was only $800.00 used. Additional expenses have and will be the digital cable (that I mentioned), isolation components and an upgraded power cord for the DAC (the player has already had the PC updated). These little additions run around $400.00 and I do not buy expensive tweaks. They (the tweaks) also greatly improve the performance of the gear that I have owned. Go to the search bar at the first forum screen and try searching under "cd", "digital", "player", "dac", etc. and you will find a lot of info on inexpensive but high quality players, many of which I did not mention. And last but most important, you really need to audition the players yourself and select the one that is the most pleasing to you. This is a lot more work than reading reviews and opinions unless you like hanging around crowded audio stores. Even the ones by appointment bother me a bit as the audition time is usually too short.
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