Correction: Lakefrontroad's thread is on other kinds of CD players. It's another guy's thread on the Delta transport. Anyway, it's informative.
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I only have experience with the Icon MkII and can vouch for it as a pretty darn good player. Very solid, well built (like a rock almost) and quite nice sounding. At it's going used price, a very good deal. I have heard mixed things about the HDCD/Powerboss upgrade and have a hunch that, given this would be a secondary player, if you did go for a Icon you may want to save a few bucks and simply go for a standard Icon MKII. I just sold the one I had in storage, though I hung onto it for quite some time as I really didn't want to see it go, especially since it came in quite handy when my Densen CDP was in the shop for an extended visit at one point. Re-visiting the Icon for awhile reminded me that it's a damn good player. As they say, you could certainly do a lot worse. Good luck
I've had a lot of experience with Cal products and I'm sorry to see them going to much cheaper construction and even getting out of the single disc cd player mode that was their stronghold
I own an Icon MkII which I dac out to an EVS Millenium II.
I also own an Aria in my bedroom set which warms that up nicely. ONe of these days I'll part with it. The Icon is a little more resolving than the Aria but it's close. The Powerboss upgrade is a waste of time.
I have extensively auditioned (at home) the Delta, Sigma and Alpha and CL15, CL25 - very minor improvements from the Icon - it wasn't worth the extra money, then I put in the EVS dac - totally jaw dropping performance and all the functionability of the Icon's transport end. I'm planning to get a delta transport and use my icon elsewhere
evs website www.tweakaudio.com
at $1050 it will revolutionize your system
The Icon MkII is built like a tank and sounds very good in its class. I bought my Icon MkII as a dealer demo almost 8 years ago when I first got started in high end audio. I kept it for several years and finally sold it about two years ago. It never had a problem. Icon MkII's are outstanding values.
I doubt that there is anyone with respectable taste who will deny that the Icon was an excellent player new, and now, used, is still a very good value. I use mine as a transport to an Assemblage 3.1 DAC, and it fills that role very well. The digital side has advanced, and I spent a bunch more money, to the point where the DAC improves on the original Icon analog output, but not by a whole lot. It would make a superb player in a second system. I plan on keeping mine for that very purpose, even when I do get a better transport, such as a Sony 9000ES SACD/DVD/CD.
Thanks everyone for the thoughtful responses. I will keep watching the ads on this site for one of the many great CAL players. I am sort of tempted by an Aria Mk III for sale currently, because of how much I longed for it in the mid-80's. I guess this would be a "nostalgia" purchase. But I bought a Nak Dragon on this site a few months ago for the very same reason! I once so admired and longed for a tape deck of that quality, that I had to buy a good one for 1/4 the new price some 20 yrs later.
I didn't even listen to CD until a month ago. They all sounded crap compared to vinyl. No depth. Then I borrowed a friend CAL aria III and I couldn't believe how good the front-rear soundstage was. He wouldn't sell, so I tried a QUAD 77, which is a lot newer, but wasn't as good (although better than the stuff I'd tried before). I've just bought an ART DI/O dac. I'll try it out this weekend and let you know how it goes. If it has as much space around the inbstruments as the old CAL Aria III, I'll be happy. By the way, CAL them selves claim that the Sigma DACs are musch better than those in the Aria III. I still liked it, though.