'Last CD Player' search

Has anyone else noticed how many new CD players there are? Now that we're supposedly in the new world of DSD and 24/192 and universal players, it seems that everyone's thrown one last hat into the upsampling cd player ring.

As it happens, I still have a fairly shitty digital source, and, unfortunately, a fairly revealing system. The time has come for me to drop some coin on my first (and hopefully last) Real CD Player. I am looking for a one-box solution that makes redbook sound like music; one I can use as a reference source and build a system around.

I am looking at the following players (in order of price):
- Naim CD5 - $?
- Primare D30.2 $?
- Classe CDP.10 - ca$3000
- Audio Aero Prima 24/192 - ca$3200
- Copland CDA-822 - ca$3500
- SimAudio Moon Nova - ca$3800
- Gamut CD 1 - ca$4000
- Cary CD-308T - roughly ca$4000
- Ayre CX-7 - us$3000

I have also listened to the Musical Fidelity 3.2 and 308; I find the 3.2 does weird things with dynamics, and the 308 is too expensive--it was not $1000 better than the Copland. I have tried to stay away from separates; but I have heard good things about the Audio Note DACs and the PerpTech P1a/P3a combo. Thoughts?

If you own or have experience with any of the above:
- Are you happy?
- How did the sound of your system change with the purchase?
- Do you feel like there's more to be had from redbook CD's?
- What was your previous source, and what was the difference?
- Any comparisons/contrasts between any of the above appreciated.

Also: How have other people approached this kind of buying situation? How do you audition all the possibles? Sometimes the logistics are dizzying.

My system:
Reference 3A MM De Capos
Acurus DIA-150
Van den Hul power, signal and bi-wire speaker cables
Lovan Reference racks and stands
AC regeneration by 2 APC UPS units in series w/ sinewave output
Persian rugs and bookshelves on absorbtion/diffusion duty
(Current digital source is a Pioneer DVD player and Audio Alchemy DDE)

Any thoughts or suggestions appreciated.

Chris Younkman

Hello...The Simaudio Moon Nova is VERY good. I have also heard great things about the Ayre CX-7 (definitely give it a listen if you get a chance). I realize you want a one-box solution, but don't rule out the Electrocompaniet ECD-1 DAC at $1995 retail (your Pioneer would work very well as a transport). The performance of this unit is VERY close to that of the $5500 EMC-1. Another player to keep in mind is the Xindak SCD-1/SCD-
2, also $1995 retail (fyi...the Xindak is also SACD).

Best Regards...Mike - Father & Son Audio
I don't think the Cary 308T is $4000--more like $2500 new I believe. The 306/200 is $5000, used for around $3000. I would choose a one box player if I were in your shoes. Any of those you are considering are excellent. If you buy used, you can save a lot of money. I would then look into applying anything I saved towards my "last" integrated amp. There are many many great integrateds out there now too. I would look at the new Ayre integrated, the ARC CA-50 (available used only, around $1500), the Unison Research, Mark Levinson ($$$), the Cairn, Myryad, Mistral, Creek, or Arcam. LOTS to choose from, and most available used at very good prices.
Sarah - note the prices have a currency notation - "ca" for our lowly Canadian bucks although $2500 US (MSRP of the 308T) equates to about $3750 Canadian at current exchange rates as opposed to $4000. I have to agree to add in Arcam, specifically the FMJ 23...
Thanks, all, for your responses. I have listened to several players since posting, most imprtantly the Ayre, which I found extremely detailed, a bit laid back, not lush, but definitely musically involving. I wasn't crazy about the system I auditioned it in, so take all of that with a grain (the dealer was driving 86 db 2-way Focus Audios in a large, damped room with the 60-watt Ayre integrated).
Rgd- I have heard FMJ 23 numerous times (in T and non-T form) and have come away respecting, but not loving, the player.
As it happens, that's been my response to a number of players, in other systems and in my own. I think I am more interested in _musical_ involvement than in absolute resolution. My current system is fast, light and lean -- and just needs some more ... balls ? warmth?
Also, my wife has this thing about going to Europe for a couple of months...
Yesterday I ran across an Audio Aero Prima (original) at a local dealer for c$1500. I bought it. It sounds great, although it's not fully warmed up (the dealer said to allow a couple days).
Doug Schneider, in his review of the new Prima 24/192, made mention of some tweaks to make the original Prima more dynamic. I wrote and asked him what they were, and he doesn't remember. Any ideas? Know any current or past Prima owners?
I'll post again with the results once the player is warmed up.
Thanks again for all your help.

Chris Younkman
Looks like I can be of serious help to you because I also own the decapo's but they are the new i iteration.The audio aero capitole mk1 is really in a class by itself and I've heard very good things about the mk2.You can grab a mk1 for 4k or so and thats what I would do.Theres a great synergy going on with the decapo's and the capitole,aliveness is the best way I can describe it,dynamics that make the hair on your neck stand up and a relaxed unforced feeling.As you already know the vocals have great natural in the room feeling on the decapo's and with the capitole you will not be disappointed.Hope this helps in your choices.You can't have mine for another ten years.
younkman, just curious, why have you NOT included the Jadis 3 (tube and ss versions) in your possibilities???

My choice would be: Audiomeca MephistoII Cd Player! If I could afford it, that is...
I have auditioned some of the players on your list, most notably the Ayre and the Naim. In head to head listening, I chose the Resolution Audio Opus 21. Beat everything in its range for my listening tastes. If you like to hear everything without the negative 'digital' sound this is it.
Despite my difficulties with the US distributor (see "Help Electrocompaniet Stole Christmas"), I'm still in awe of my system's sound with the EC EMC-1 MkII UP at the helm. The latest power supply mod DOES extend the top octave and increase the vividness of this player's portrayal.
$5500 new, $4000 street, $3300 gray (non-warranty).
Have fun in your search. I have no experience with the others on your list except the Naim CD-5, which isn't in the same league. I've also heard that the Aeros can be unreliable.
Resolution Audio Opus 21.
I'm surprised nobody mentioned the muse model 10 or the model nine signature used. Good value, great sound.
Chris - I too have the AA Prima but is the second generation, which doesn't have a digital volume control. As I had to wait months for the second generation model I got to use the first generation Prima for quite some time. I did hear a noticable improvement in the second generation model. So, if you have the first generation I'd suggest upgrading to the second generation. I'm in Toronto if you want to discuss further.