How about Naim CDX2 or CDS3 with XPS. Will light up the CD5 flatcap combo.
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No issues at all with an aggressive of mechanical sound. I have read these reports from some people and have never experienced it. I do not have the external power supply, one can only spend so much money. I find the CDX2 very musical, I am currently listening to Starker, Bach suite for solo cello, I also have this on vinyl. I enjoy both. The CDX2 seems to highlite the music more, vinyl gives me a real sense of being in the room, perhaps a little more sense of the instrument being 3 dementional. I enjoy both. I listen to jazz, acoustic music, vocals up to heavy metal. I really enjoy the CDX2. I do have it on still points, a little more detail perhaps but not a lot of difference, I noticed more with the stillpoints on my Classe amp and belles preamp.
if I were getting back into digital at this stage I'd definitely be putting together a hard-drive based system. you'll be able to take advantage of the hi-rez stuff that's already coming out (as downloads). not only this, but if you use the right software to extract the info on CDs to your hard drive, it will actually sound better than using a CDP. the big high-end shop in town (definitive audio in seattle) did a demo a few months back which was revelatory and I think your budget is adequate to do it: HDs are cheap, the software is cheap - your big expenditure will be the hi-rez DAC (or whatever these things are called now...).
Interesting comments, Lokie and Musicslug. I take it that neither of you would recommend a player/DAC that does not have a USB input? Upon first glance, it seems the SA-50 offers everything including just regular 'ol put a cd in a tray method :-).
Forward looking solutions seem like a good idea but they hinge on whether these players/dacs sound good. If not, then all is moot.
with Mac's (and some PC's I imagine, you do not NEED a USB DAC or input on your CD player ... the Mac Mini provides digital output thru a mini optical jack. you just need a mini to toslink adapter or better yet a mini to optical cable like the Van Den Hul. Of course you need a DAC with toslink input but this is pretty easy to find. You could also use a USB to SPDIF converter like the Hagerman.
IMHO, nothing competes with a good vinyl front end. If you are looking to spend up to $5K used, you should be able to find an ARC CD7. That would be my first recommendation. Or you might want to try a Rega Saturn combined with a good DAC.
The best digital I have heard so far is Naim's new HDX but at $8300 that is outside of your stated price range. As much as I love vinyl and even though I really enjoy my ARC CD7, if I happened on a used Naim HDX in the $5K to $6K range, I would nab it. Extraordinary sound. The closest thing to vinyl I have ever heard. And the convenience features are numerous and user-friendly.
plinko: you posed the question as to whether the new USB DACs sound good. the demo I attended at definitive settled that question in my mind completely, which is why I said in my original post that I'd go the hard drive route if setting up a digital front end now (I already have a very nice CDP so I'll wait a bit before switching). I'd strongly urge you to try to audition a HD setup. I realize you said you don't have a dealer nearby, but remember: the HD is just a computer product ($500 or less) and the CD info extraction software is cheap. the only thing you'll need to buy from an audio dealer is the USB DAC. the nicest ones are pricey, but you'll get great sound from redbook as well as future-proofing (the ability to play hi-rez downloads) and you'll have the convenience of an ipod, with your entire collection accessible from a little hand-held device. I believe I heard them say you can get software that allows you to use your iphone to control HD systems. you might just call definitive and chat with them - they're very nice and professional (I have no interest involved here btw).
Musicslug, I have nothing against a HD solution but it would be a big change. I'm glad I started the thread because I never really considered.
Do these companies have a house sound or is generalizing going to mislead? Thinking of Wadia, Esoteric, Meridian, Marantz, etc....
I know that what I want is something Naim like. Extensiona and details are not important. Conveying the emotion of the music is what is important to me (dynamics, microdynamics,etc...).