Cal-15 is a great player and sounds special with tubes.
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Just got an Arcam Alpha 9 about a month and a half ago and I'm still blown away by the improved sound. I also went from using Audioquest Turquoise to Synergistic Research Alpha Sterling interconnects. For the price, ($1600) it was well worth it. I should also mention that my previous CD player was a mass market JVC 6+1 unit, so it may not have taken to much to amaze me. (I'm still kind of new to this high-end stuff.)
All of the other posts have recommended exceptional components.Also possibly consider used CAl Alpha/Delta seperates from a reliable source.Then a $450. 24/96 CAL upgrade.I have a great sounding 15k system that I took a lot of time,through researching and in home auditioning to get to its current level.In just the last week my girl's just divorced brother moved in with his new modest priced H&K seperates($600.closeout)an old popular 11 yr.old Magnavox cdb650 that I previouly gave him and a pair of small German made Kirksaeter speakers on spiked stands.With him being low on funds we resorted to any low cost tweaks. With his 3 components at 1 ft. apart in a cheap rack we proceeded.He cut in half about a dozen solid pink rubber balls and isolated all components and speakers from stands.A dramatic improvement was heard.He also twisted 3 11 gauge speaker cables together and connected to banana plugs.This outperformed a pair of Kimber 4TCs.I also put my high end interconnects and cables in his system,and once again another big leap in performance.A thin version Marigo cd mat took the edge off the high frequencies.I am shocked how good a basic 11 year old CD player can sound by avoiding as many weak links as possible.I would be quite content to have this sound if I needed a 2nd system elsewhere.Possibly this just happens to be a a great synergy of good sounding low cost gear.What's the point?Unless your just eager to spend, you should first make sure that there are no weak links in your system,and try some low cost tweaks,you may be very surprised as I was.My entire belief system pertaining to hifi has taken a positive more open minded shift for the better.Hope that you were ready for this and that it has allowed for some food for thought.
You can't go wrong with any EAD, they are excellent units. However, for ease of use, longevity, and of course sonic excellence no one to date has yet equaled the specs of the Sony CDP-7xxES series (7, 77, 707, 777, etc). These units are sometimes available used, and would be a less expensive way to get into high-end CD players.
I have a EAD cd 1000, and love it. I've upgraded all other components, and it still impresses me. My neighbor even bought one. I have it hooked up to Sim Audio Moon equipment with Proac 1ses. My system blows most others away. I haven't heard better in any stores, and I have done a lot of listening. You can find one used for about $1000+ range. Bye the way, it is a HDCD and one of the Canadian magazines (Inner Ear or UHF) gave it a best component rating back when it was new. I have not seen a better jitter rating on any other player, and EAD has a fantastic reputation for building the best DAC's. Stereophile has listed their DACs,s many times in their awards class.