Great sound from CD Changer?

I am putting together my first "audiophile" system. I have a jolida tube amp and B&W Nautilus 804 speakers. But I am looking for a CD Changer. I realize that I just can't live with a single CD player...just too inconvenient for me. Are there are "audiophile" quality CD changers out there?
I'm in the same boat you are, and so far, this is what I've found. Keep in mind some of the models are discontinued so a used one might be an option. CAL CL-10 or CL-5 (keep in mind CAL also made a multidisk transport only); any of the various Sony models including the latest SACD models;NAD; Nakamichi; Sonic Frontiers Anthem (tube output stage I believe); ADCOM GCD-700; Arcam made one for a short period called the MSX or MDX;Rotel; and if memory serves, Parasound made a belt driven changer.

Keep in mind depending on you finances, you may wish to purchase an older used changer to act as a transport and then purchase a DAC. This will be the route I will most likely take, as I have found it a good compromise between the convenience of a changer and the sound quality of a higher end component.

One last thing. I have heard all of the CD changers I listed above except for the Arcam. As stand alone changers they all have their strengths and weaknesses, but when you add an outboard DAC, the variables multiply. Therefore, I'm not going to recommend any specific component, but instead I would encourage you to listen to as many as you can find and make up your own mind.
CAL made one (model CL-10) which is good as a stand alone but that can also be used with an external DAC. I just saw a used one listed at this site for a very fair price. Anthem (the budget Sonic Frontiers) made one that I am not familiar with. There is a cheap Aiwa model ($100.00) that is said to work very well as a transport with an external DAC (it can also be modified), and though I was tempted I never picked one up because I assume that the transport mechanism would not last long with the 8-10 hours a day that we listen to music. Quite a few SACD changers will also be hitting the market. Don't know how they will sound, but they will play standard CD's as well and should be worth a listen. Again you could always ad a DAC to improve standard CD playback.
Perhaps I can help. I have two CD changers - an Anthem CD-1 and a McIntosh 7008. Given the limitations of a changer mechanism compared to a good quality single disk player, both player sperform quite well. But, I have modified both untis. The Anthem was sent to Andy Bartha for extensive modifications($500) to the power supply and an upgrade of the internal signal path. I also upgraded to tube. It is a tube player and even without the modificatosn it was quite musical. With the modifications it has a much extendd depth and clarity. On the other had the McIntosh changer is much quieter and appears to be a better machine mechanically. It also is quite musical. I modified it by changing the factory power wire and plug to a removable connection to upgrade the power cable. Plus I added sound deadening material to every thing that could resonate on the case. Both of these changes were neglible costs but made quite a difference.
I understand your desire for a changer...I have both a specially modified transport for critical listening, and a 5 disc changer on my rack, both hooked up to an MSB Gold Link DAC. The two used as transports have distinctly different sounds. I wouldn't avoid a changer, but make sure it's one with a quality low jitter digital out.

I think Stereophile mentioned that the NAD changer has an excellent digital out for the price. The Marantz changers have terrific ergonomics (very fast and easy loading and changing). Though it doesn't match my single disc modified transport for sound, and it's what I use for my changer. Denon's have got to be the worst changers ergonimically and functionally, so I'd keep away from them.

Rotel makes a changer with a very solid changer mechanism that is not your normal carosel tray. It resembles Nakamichi's Music Bank, and mechanically is very solid. I believe the laser is mounted more in the manner a single disc player is. Rotel's have good sound too, if you don't go with an outboard DAC. The Rotel may be your best pick in a quality changer, either stand alone, or with an outboard DAC.

Changers generally seem to have less refinement in D/A conversion that single disc players, so the addition of an outboard DAC can really give you performance approaching a very fine stand alone CD player, and maybe bettering it, and offer excellent, rich sound. As Stereophile recommmends, look to MSB for some exceptional values in outboard DACs, though there are other good ones available as well, but very tough to match price to performance wise. I used to sell Perpetual Technologies DACs. At first enjoyed the punch and precise speed of delivery, but myself an other customers often found it lacking in richness and warmth--supposedly the $300 Dan Wright Mods help in this area. Ground loop problems were a frequent problem with the Perpetual Tech units, as well as incompatibility with some transports. I've yet to listen to a Birdland as I hear they are good, but so far it's been almost impossible to make communication with the company.

Full disclosure: I'm a dealer for MSB. I am not a dealer for NAD, Marantz, Denon, or Rotel.

Jeff Delman