hi-end universal players?

Linn's Unidisk, Goldmund, the new Theta Compli, MSB Platinum Universal, Bell Canto, Esoteric etc etc...

How do they compare?

How do they compare on CDs with the better CD players?

Which one the best in terms of CD? SACD? DVD-A?

Given the age of uncertainty, but a personal interest in high-rez, I am tempted to just go with an universal player, though concerned all that circuity, especially for video, will degrade the quality...how about you?
Esoteric DV-50 is a superb player. Compares very favorably to the Classe Omega in SACD, dCS Purcell/Elgar in CD-doesn't quite match either, but comes very, very close for a fraction of the money. You can turn off the video circuitry on playback, but it doesn't seem to make much, if any, difference.
I had the same concerns and so went with the Marantz SA-14 ver. 2 because not only is it not cluttered with video circuitry, it's only 2 channel, which avoids more clutter. That said, the multi-channel players I've heard on even modest players and systems are very compelling given a good surround sound SACD. Maybe keep your good CD player and add an SACD player? If you have a stellar two-channel set up, you can add an amp to power the sub, center, and rears without "tainting" your current set up. : ) There *are* expensive high-end universals available now, as you've noticed, but why not wait for someone to come out with a really clean dedicated SACD player that's less cluttered and less expensive? I'm sure the people over at Musical Fidelity are working on something like that right now. It's my humble opinion that a good SACD player may not have to be as expensive as a good CD player, as CD players need a lot of band-aid technology, to flesh out CD sound, that SACD players don't.
I am thinking the same way, going with a universal player, mostly to save real estate on the rack, my main concern is for regular CD playback. I too was thinking Esoteric DV-50, or even Linn unidisk.

From what I've read if you can handle the price you can't go to wrong with the Meridian 800, it's supposed to be incredible with regular CD as well as the other formats. It's just too much dough for me, but that's the one I'd go for if price were not a concern.
I had considered several high end players, including the DV-50, Unidisk, Compli and RT-10, but the route that I am giving a go is to have Dan Wright modify a Denon 5900 for me. The stock 5900 is a respectable machine (especially after the latest firmware upgrade), and Dan's mods have had rave reviews here on Audiogon and elsewhere. While I am a bit nervous about purchasing a product and having it extensively modified without first having heard a similarly modded player, from all I have read, and from my communications with Dan, I feel very optimistic.

It'll be a while before it comes in, but I'll be sure to share my results.

Few more to put on your list:

Primare DVD30 MSRP $3,995?
Luxman DU-10 MSRP $8,999
Luxman DU-7 MSRP $3,499
Integra Research RDV 1.1 MSRP $4,000
Another link to Integra Research RDV 1.1
the key question for me is how good is it playing CDs which is by far prevalent software I use

the secondly SACD

then actually it would be picture quality, then finally DVD-A, given the lack of software

so by just judging by CD, which player is the best?

I briefly tested the unidisk and found it a bit disappointing, though perhaps it was I ABed ti against the Linn CD12.
i recently purchased a bel canto player to replace an scd-1. i am more than satisfied. absolutely incredible on all formats. far superior to the esoteric in every way...
The Lexicon. A company with a history. It works all the time and sounds great.
dear ryoung...how does the bel canto compare to the Esoteric in more specific terms? do u have it hooked up as a DVD player as well? how is its video quality?
I just made a purchase of the Bel Canto PL-1, I'll let you know what I think when I get it up and running.
I'll second the Lexicon RT-10. Price is right, too.
I'd be happy with an EMM labs universal dac. But I can't afford it!
Re mainstream players, I heard a Denon multiplayer (211?? something like that) that was reasonably good on cd -- that is, it offers detail but is a bit compressed dynamically compared to my stand-alone, but not annoyingly so.

Mass market products always raise the question of suitable mods, don't they. I.e., who is it that offers the best tweak that brings the Denon/Sony/Teac etc to the sonic level of a specialist cdp...
I'm getting the EMM Labs new transport + DCC2.

But that doesn't play DVD-A. I am not sure about the format so what is US$5000 and below player that is exceptional for DVD-A, to be hooked via analogue inter-connects to the DCC2 which also acts as a pre-amp?

Note given I am set w/ CD and SACD, I just need a player that does well on DVD-A, CD quality ain't an issue.

One of the Arcam players?
Has any actually heard the Primare DVD30 yet?
I remember that yet recent and most common advice was to leave CDP alone, and to stick to Philips 963sa for SACD until the universals improve in quality/price ratio. My try with Marantz 8400 confirmed it for me, as its CD quality caused me to return it back ASAP. I didn't look on Lexicon as many were saying that it too resembles the same Marantz.
Just curious if that rule is still correct?..
The Linn Unidisk 1.1 is a stunning piece sonically.
I'll second the Lexicon.
I am using Halcro's and Sound Lab A-1's and the Lexicon is definitely worth the askance.
Plus, Theaudiotweek, a long time friend came over today. He placed the Sistrum SP-1 under the Lexicon, and wow!!!!
I had never heard it before. I don't mean it was one of those, gee maybe it's better if you face west and squint. It WAS BETTER by such a margin as to be unbelieveable.
I imediately bought it.
The bass was about a full octave of articulation, better, staging, clarity, focus. Wow. If all upgrades were this easy, and this cheap!!!!
Kudo's to them!!
Some months ago, I spoke of my own Platform, home brew as being good. But I must say with all homage to Sistrum, they are in another world from other devices.
I have the Marantz, on CD 1 out , which you use for High res , there is their HDAM output device, on CD 2 out, its a cheap op amp. Solution, listen to redbook on the High Res output {same input as you would use for a 2 channel SACD for example}. Big Difference , I discovered this by accident, and I understand the original Phillips machine is built the same way. Also like many high rez players , especially for SACD, insane amount of break in time is required.
Esoteric, Primare, Theta, Bel Canto, Linn, Denon (?), Lexicon, Integra, Marantz, ...what have I left out?

Among these,

Theta I hear is great with their new DAC but then that adds substanital cost
Linn is too expensive when the incremental sound quality compared to others is questionable in my opinion: its just their way of trying to recoup development costs of their chip set which they did alone....not a good reason
Denon, Integra, Lexicon all good value, but probably lacks true hi end quaility (perhaps not the Lexicon)
Bel Canto similiar in price to Linns
Thus Esoteric if u are considering a budget of US$5000 or lower?
To ryoung: Could you please be specific about the ways the Bel Canto universal player beats the Esosteric DV-50? Is it better than the Linn Unidisk (the best universal I've heard so far)? Exactly what makes it so special? Thanks!
Has anyone heard the new MCormack universal player?
I was wondering the same as Pardales. I have a McCormack MAP-1 pre-amp and love it. I figured the UDP-1 player would be real good. HOWEVER, let me get on my soap box. I truly believe that the best bet in the long run is to find a player that does ONE THING VERY WELL. If you want great redbook play, get a great redbook player, etc.


I currently own the Bel Canto PL-1, the Arcam FMJ DV27A and the Ayre D1-x. The Bel Canto and Arcam are very close in performance, I could happily live with either, they both have a big robust sound and wide soundstage, they are both tonally excellent are really pretty hard to fault. The Ayre player takes it up a notch, it has a more natural tone and the lower mids are noticably less clouded sounding than the other two. The Ayre is also significantly better on video too. I did not get a chance to use the PL-1 with the progressive outs since that is on a RGB connector so it may not be a fair comparison. The Ayre will only play DVD and CD, so it is not a universal player as is not the Arcam (it will play DVD audio). I did listen to a few SACDs on the Bel Canto and wasn't all that impressed, I much prefer certain regular CD recordings to the SACDs I had on hand. The Ayre retails at 11,750.00 and the Arcam at 3000.00 with the Bel Canto comming in at 9000.00. The Arcam is the obvious best deal of the bunch, in my opinion it offers state of the art CD playback plus DVD at a very reasonable price. If you want one of the best out there check out the Ayre D1-x.
MY ears tell me that the UDP-1 is first and foremost, a CD player that happens to be capable of DVDA/SACD. For that reason, I sold my Levinson #36/Sonic Frontiers transport. The UDP-1 blows them away on redbook CD. The fact that is sounds great on DVD/DVDA/SACD is a bonus.
Question for Chickdishong. What is the picture like, on the UPD 1, when playing a DVD-V? Thanks
High End? How about the new Goldmund Eidos Reference? They're only going to make 50 of 'em so hurry up!!

Goldmund Eidos Reference webpage

I can't imagine what this thing costs.
How about the new Immersive Simmetry DVP Universal DVD Player/Video Processor with 1400 x 1050 Output?
The Immersive Simmetry DVP Brochure.
Does anyone know anything at all about Immersive? How long have they been around, any reputation regarding audio, is the audio an OEM kit etc?
Now that I have had time to set up the UDP-1 correctly, the picture to me seems to be VERY good, certainly better than the Toshiba SD 9200 it replaced. I have not yet taken time to run a test disk to check for some of the more objective results, but my eyes say GREAT.
The UDP-1 does red book CD as well as anything I have heard, and that is why I bought it. Paired with the MAP-1, which is also what I have, it really shines. The SACD/DVDA/DVDV options were secondary considerations at the time of purchase, but it does those formats well too.
I just heard the McCormack UDP-1 universal player while auditioning loudspeakers. The sound was incredible on CD and SACD (I did not have any DVD-A disks with me at the time). It seemed almost liquid smooth, yet detailed through Audio Refinement amplification and Analysis Plus cables.

I think the time has passed for buying single format players, or even dual format digital disc players. If I were buying today I would only consider a universal player. When I find software I want to be able to play it regardless of digital format, and I can only afford to have one player in my system. Some enlightened hi-end companies realize this trend and are stepping up to offer some truly excellent universal players.
I was interested in some of the answers provided in this forum, but no one seems to have mentioned the McIntosh's? Has anyone had any experince with the MVP-851 or 861? The 861 has all the formats. I heard briefly the 851 it sounded great to me. Thanks!