Good Universal Player with Balanced Outs

I have been looking around for a while but I haven't seen any Universal players in the 2-5K range (roughly) that have balanced outs, at least one firewire port and are currently available. Can you suggest anything that would?

I tend to keep my equipment for a long time and I would like to get a player that I can be happy with for a number of years. Are the universal players at that stage yet or do they need a few more generations to improve their handling of the high-res formats and get most of what is possible out of SACD and DVD-Audio?
I think the Teac DV50 has a set of stereo balanced outputs. The Linn Unidisk does also, but it is much more expensive. Why are you stuck on the XLR connections? If you don't have a long cable run, and if all the equipment isn't of a fully balanced, differential design, there's probably no advantage to a balanced output.
SACD and redbook is about as universal as I care to go. For that, I would recommend the Sony SCD-1 or 777es cdp's.

As for the XLR outs, I wouldn't want it any other way. Every now and then a certain amp comes along that does fabulous things with those extra 2 volts from the XLR connections. Things that in comparison can make single-ended connections seem rather enemic, flat, and top-heavy. In other words, pretty lifeless.

Well, the full story is that I am having a builder make me a balanced headphone amplifier that requires balanced inputs for me to drive my balanced headphones. I would like to get a source to go along with this player, so I can go off and enjoy my music while the wife and kids are watching/listening to the main system evenings. I have been really excited by the new formats and have just been waiting for the players to improve enough that they are worthy long-tem investments. I tend to find equipment I really like and then hang on to it forever. I tried a stop-gap measure and picked up a Wadia 830, but unfortunately I find the sound quality isn't as good as my ModWrighted Pioneer 38a (which does not have balanced outputs). So the three alternatives I can see are:

1) Continue with the Wadia and then sell it in a year or two when newer generations of universal players come along with more mature implementations.

2) Have the Wadia modded by Great Northern Sound. I'm sure this would be a great setup for CDs, but it also means I'm putting 3K into a player that can't handle SACD/DVD-Audio.

3) Go for something like the Esoteric DV-50 you mention Thsalmon. My main concern here is whether or not the next couple of generations of universal players will be substantial improvements, much like with the early CD players, so in a couple of years I'll wind up replacing this player at a healthy loss. I went up to Teac's site yesterday, but they don't have any information about the DV-50 that I could find to determine the exact specs (and where'd find one).
BTW Thsalmon, you're right, the Esoteric does have balanced outs at least according to the Stereophile review.
Lexikon has a new universal player called the RT-10, supposed to list for $3500. Also, the Linn Unidisk 1.1 is hugely expensive, but Linn just came out with the Unidisk 2.1 which is somewhat less (I think in the 5k-7k range). I don't know the difference between the two models, but if you find out, let me know.

I am also in the market for a universal player in your price range. I am not into home theater. I just like 2 channel stereo. My question is: if a universal machine is also a multichannel and video player, am I paying a lot more for functionality that I don't want.

I took a look at the Linn and the Lexicon. They both look like very nice players from solid manufacturers. I do notice that both seem to be missing 1394 support. I am trying to get the firewire since I'm assuming that there will be improvements in the next generations and eventually there will be DACs for the DVD-Audio signal that will far outstrip the current crop.
Just noticed the Lexicon lacks the balanced outputs also.


I don't think you're paying a lot more for the funtionality, only because I don't think any manufacturer will be creating any new players that arent' multichannel with video. I suppose you could buy one of the earlier Sonys used, but I would think that is sort of a waste. I also think you're going to need the video, at least for the DVD-Audio discs. While the discs don't HAVE to be authored to require video, many of them I've had are much easier to access with video. Otherwise you blindly jump between groups until you hit the right one. Seems tedious after spending this much money!
Hi Gpalmer. I know Steve Huntley at Great Northern Sound makes something called a PASI, it will let you input a single ended source then output a "true" balanced signal, positive, negative, and ground.

This may work with you Mod Pioneer universal unit.

I do not know all the details but the main component is a 1 to 1 balanced transformer. It is my understanding this transformer coupling to the output of your source is a component in Great Northerns Reference level CD player upgrades, with this outboard unit, you can use these transformers with smaller boxed sources that a transformer will not fit inside.

Other manufacturer's may make something like this also. I think Audio Note's high end balanced DACS and others designers use transformer coupling at their outputs with their digital sources.

The only draw back is you may need another cable and a little shelf space for placement. I had a friend who set/coupled the PASI to the top of his player. Then used a short half meter cable from the source to the PASI unit.

Great Northern's website notes they have demo units to try out and Steve very easy to work with. Could be worth a try in your system. Give him a call.

Good Luck.
Huh, Linn may have come out with a Unidisk 2.1 since an $11,000 universal player is probably a tough sell in the current market.
Don't forget the Denon 5900, which will be out very soon. For more details, do a search on the "Hi Rez Highway" at
I have auditioned both the Linn Unidisk 1.1 and the Esoteric DV-50. Both have XLR balanced outputs. I bought the DV-50. The DV-50 outperforms the Linn at half the price ($5500.00), and the Linn I have listened to has a number of tracking problems including refusal to recognize discs, skipping etc. I previously owned the Sony SCD 777ES, and the Esoteric DV-50 outperforms the Sony on redbook CD's as well as the high resolution formats.
Gpalmer, I am in the same boat with you ,only choice at this
price range is Consonance Reference SACD 2,0 player from
Opera audio ( has balanced outs,tube output
and volume control too I think,but the only problem its photo
looks like a modified cheap Sony Sacd player 970or770..? dont know.
Hope this helps
Thanks for the feeedback! A lot of options for me to explore which is exactly what I was hoping for!


Can you tell me definitively if the DV-50 has IEEE-1394 output, i.e. firewire?
Another alternative is to run the digital output of your ModWrighted Pioneer 38a into a Benchmark DAC-1($850.Retail).

The DAC-1 has balanced outputs and can be connected directly to a power amp and has an excellent built-in head
phone amp.
Gpalmer: Neither the Linn Unidisk or the Esoteric DV-50 have firewire outputs. I think the new Sony and the new Denon 9000 do have this feature.
Thanks for all the responses. It's going to take me a while to dig through all the options you folks have given me, but I'm really glad you were nice enough to share your thoughts!