for $700 - 1box or 2 box dgtl playback?

I have $700 to spend on a USED digital playback....I was thinking of getting a CAL Delta transport($300), MSB Link 3 dac or Assemblage DAC2(both selling for about $300 each), and a Monarchy DIP ($100)....then again, there is the option of spending all of the $700 on a single-box cd player. I have all the cables I would need on either set up.....comments??
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.
PS: Another auditioning trick that works well (if it is OK with the shop) is to take your amp and speakers along (if they do not allow home demos). This will allow you to listen to your gear with many players in the same room which will give you a better idea of how they will sound at home. I cannot lift a great deal of weight right now, but carried the gear in my large suitcase on wheels the last time I did this. The shop got a kick out of it and my equipment was well protected. It would not work with floorstanders though.
GEMINI, trust your own ears first and I think you will come to this conclusion...ONE BOX! I have never heard a transport, dac, "digital lens", sonic binary filtering resequencing turbocharged algebraic jitter reducing blah, blah, blah,.....combination that didn't sound worse than a good one box unit. When you start adding all of this stuff you are INCREASING the circuit path. Also, the achilles' heel of most digital playback is a crummy output stage. Yes, most folks spend all this time on upgrading to higher sampling rates, seventeen gillion 24 bit converters, etc. and THEN run it through a noisy, poorly powered output stage. Do what Dekay above says and audition. Would suggest starting with Arcam, Creek and Rega players. Keep it simple.
Don't mean to butt in but I have a similar budget for a cd player. I have heard the Adcom GCD 700 5 disk player which lists at $700.00. It had an open warm sound. Any input on this unit as compared to those mentioned above is appreciated
I am using an Assemblage DAC-2 with a Rotel transport (RDD 980) and am very happy with the combination. I originally bought the DAC 2 to upgrade some really crappy Aiwa CD Jukeboxes, which it did in spades. I added the Rotel when I decided to get back into this hobby and the combo has been the constant in a pretty decent evolving system (BAT Amps and Magneplanar speakers). At any rate, you can probably get both of these pieces within your budget, and be pretty pleased. BTW, I agree that output stages are very important, and the DAC-2 has a pretty strong one, plus it has HDCD, which to my ears makes a tremendous difference in likewise encoded discs. If you are still in the market in a month or so, let me know. I have been hunting around for a BAT VKD5 player, and might have my gear up for sale by then. Good luck!
Kweisner: How pronounced was the difference (when used as a transport) between the "crappy" and the Rotel player?
For $700, I would first focus on a high quality output stage, your DAC section second and your transport section third. I respectfully disagree with the other posts regarding the disadvantages of multiple chassis digital front ends. When properly partnered, a multi component solution offers the distinct advantage of truly discrete and optimised power supplies. However, at this price point your best value lies in a single box solution. I would give the new Ah! Tjoeb a close look, as it marries a relatively strong tubed analoge stage to a fairly current generation DAC at a fair price. Used, this model should sell well below $500. If you simply must have separates, then I would also consider the Delta with a used CAL Sigma II 24/96 - this pairing will likely run around $800, however. The upgraded Sigma II has a good tubed output stage and solid D2A performance.