Well I finally did it. After a lot of consideration, reading reviews and haggling people on this board I called Kevin at Upscale Audio and asked if I could audition the following two players.
Njoe Tjoeb 4000 with the Upsampler Kit and Tube Upgrade Cary Audio 308
My current setup is as follows
Vienna Acoustics Bach CJ Sonographe SA 400 CJ PV 10A NAD T-550
My current player is a NAD T-550 CD/DVD. Its a good CD player for the money but on certain CD's it sounded muffled. On older classical and rock CD's it sounded especially poor. Detail was good but not great. I wanted more a more detailed and muscial sound to my system.
I arrived at Kevins home and he had both systems setup. Both CD players were hooked up to a Cary CAD-805,Cary SLP 308 Pre-Amp and pair of large Coincident Total Victory speakers. Very nice equipment. To have complete disclosure here, I came in to this audition with heavy bias towards the Cary. The Cary costs $1500 and the Njoe Tjoeb costs about $1000 with the Upsampler kit and upgraded tubes. Given the cost difference I was sure that the Cary would outperform the Njoe Tjoeb.
The Cary was the first player I tried. Very musical, smooth and detailed. Build quality was excellent. It put out a large soundstage and bass was deep and tight. I ran it through its paces and was quite pleased with what I was hearing. It tends to have a warmer sound compared to my NAD. This is one very nice sound CD player.
Next came the Njoe Tjoeb. Mostly I was curious to hear what all the rave reviews were about. This unit did not have the case on. I think this actually helps. Not much to look at. Looks like your typical $100 Circuit City CD player. The remote is cheap as well. Kevin hooked it up and in went the CD's. WOW! It really does sound good. It had at least as much detail as the Cary. Not quite as warm but it did have a bit more sparkle. As I went through my CD's I was surprised at how much more "alive" the music was sounding on the NT. Open and airy is the best desciption I could give. Soundstage was as good if not a little better than the 308. Bass was excellent too. This was starting to get interesting.
To make sure I went back and heard the same track on the Cary. Good. Great even. But, on the NT the music was just more involving than the 308 to my ears. I was just having more fun with with NT than with the Cary. Even on some poorly recorded CD's the NT really made them shine. They did not sound as muffled or bland as I remembered. Amazing. For the rest of the audition I listened to the NT with a big silly grin on my face. This CD player is just plain fun!
As you can guess I ended up with the Njoe Tjoeb. The Cary 308 is a wonderful unit. I have nothing bad to say about it. For some, the Cary may be the better choice. I just feel the Njoe Tjoeb presentation is more involving and dynamic. I am in the process of breaking this unit in at home. Its a bit rough sounding now but I understand the break-in takes a while. Still though the Njoe Tjoeb is such a huge step up from my NAD that I can say with some certainty that this unit will be a keeper.
Last but not least I would like to thank Kevin at Upscale Audio and all the folks on this board who helped me with their advice and opinions.