Help Need to improve front end . . .


I'm looking to upgrade my front-end as it's clearly the weakest link in my system. I could really use some help.

I'm willing to spend up to $1,500 (slightly more if there's a compelling reason to do so). I want to stay with well-established companies and products. Obviously, my goal here is to get the most bang for my buck. Looking for comments about my current considerations as well as any additional suggestions.

Current considerations:
MSB Link DAC III Full Nelson w/ P100 Power Base
Sony SCD 777ES
Cary CD303

Thanks in advance.


My system -

CD Player: Sony DVP S7700 (DVD)
Interconnect: Home Grown Audio Silver Lace
Pre-Amp: AES (Cary) AE-3 DJH
Interconnect: Home Grown Audio Silver Lace
Amp: AES (Cary) SuperAmp DJH
Speaker Cable: Kimber 8TC
Speakers: Vandersteen 2Ce Signature
The Sony 777ES is supposedly a real gem if you can get one, and the SCD-1 even more so, even for regular CDs. Also check out Musical Fidelity A3CD (new), Arcam Alpha 9 (new), or a Meridian 506 (used). I own a Meridian 508.24, and can vouch for the brand, however, I would like to get my hands on a Sony SCD-1. Good luck.

At $1050 you can try the EVS Millennium DAC II risk free for 30 days. If it doesn't totally open up, flesh out, and transform your system you can send it back and you're only out about $15 shipping. Go to or call Ric Schultz directly--he knows his stuff and has been in business over 10 years(he used to modify MSB Link DACs), and at the very least you'll get some valuable information about front end design/performance. Talk about bang for your buck, this is the motherload. I've got one, and it's the best overall component in my system(and by far the cheapest)--check out what others say on where people compare it to MSB, Bel Canto, etc. Sorry to gush, but if you don't try this you're missing something special, especially with your system's ability to image and throw a stage. And by the way, it will be upgradeable to play the new formats(2 channel) whenever a digital connection becomes available. Best of luck.

I have the Cary 303. You should really try to hear this player.

When I was shopping last year, I compared the Cary to the Sony. All the Sonys I've heard were great on SACD but nowhere nearly as good with Redbook - I found their Redbook playback very one dimensional. As a matter of fact, I know a couple people who just replaced their Sony SACD players with Cary 303s or 306s.

The SACD fans don't like to hear this, but you lose body, tonal color and palpability the instant you switch from SACD to regular CD in the Sonys, and their Redbook playback, although far superior to budget players, can't hold a candle to the better one box players. I have 700 CDs, and when I looked at what was available on SACD, my path was clear.

I also listened to a Resolution Audio CD55, Linn Ikemi, Theta Miles, Wadia 830 & 860, Perpetual Tech, and several others. My favorites were the Meridian 508.24 and the Cary 303 by a pretty good margin. You couldn't go wrong with either. I had no desire to dance the DAC dance, for the money I was better off with the Cary plus I didn't need another damn set of cables. Some highly rated players - Metronome, Electrocompaniet, Audio Aero - weren't available in my area to audition.

The player I traded was the Arcam Alpha 9, which is no longer available new - only used - it was replaced in January by the DiVa CD92. The FMJ is essentially the same player as the 9 only in a prettier chassis with a couple ugrades. The Alpha 9 was a very fine player, and probably remains a best buy under $1000 used (especially for classical & jazz lovers), but frankly, the 303 is much better. More detail, more dynamics, more tonal color, more body, tighter bass, better soundstaging, and the Alpha 9 was no slouch in any of these areas.

Since you like the Cary "house sound", I would think the 303 might be a good fit. Go to and do a search in the digital forum, there are lots of posts from very happy Cary owners who did mucho shopping before they bought their 303s or 306s. You should be able to get a 3303 pretty close to your budget - there are some good discounts available on 303s with the new 200 chip, and there may be some used 303s popping up. You ought to try to audition the Cary.

Good luck - your own ears be the judge.
I have to agree with both Soix and Rackon on two different points that they made.

The EVS Millennium II is a fabulous buy for the money. How "great" it is in your system will depend on how good your transport and digital cable is along with other factors involved. I can unhesitatingly say that it would ABSOLUTELY stomp ANY stock or modified MSB or Perpetual into the ground. I liked this unit so much that i'm having Ric build me a "one off" specialty combination player. We're just waiting on some parts to show up.

As to going with the Cary, i think that there is something to be said for a system that has been "voiced" to operate together. Using complimentary products from within the same manufacturer's line can sometimes result in a special kind of "magic". While i don't think that ANY manufacturer makes the best components in every category, the synergy with your other Cary products may give them a slight edge. Sean