I've had an Ikemi, and I don't think there's any one box player less or equally expensive that will better it. I did find that the Chord DAC64 was a considerable improvement over the Ikemi, but you will have to have some sort of transport.
When I auditioned CDP's 2 years ago, I listened to seven or eight. Although I ended up getting a great deal on the Ikemi, I almost went for the the Arcam FMJ CD23. It was, to my ears, a very close competitor to the Ikemi. If I hadn't got the great deal on the Ikemi, I'm sure I would have been very happy with the FMJ (about $2000 retail?)
Thsalmon offers good advice and Gboren offers a good tip, IMO. Later (i.e. 2002) models are slightly better than the originals. Cheers
I still own a ikemi,and love it,I also owned a genki,which is not at the level of the ikemi.I do not know if you have listend to a genki, but for the price used around 1000.00 it might be worth a listen. Hope this might help.
I have a Shanling CD-T100 with NOS WE 396 tubes in the analog output section. US$ 1995 on AudiogoN, NOS tubes extra. I posted a review here.
Before buying the Shanling I auditioned the Ikemi and I loved it--the Ikemi, that is. But I bought a Shanling because it was a lot less and came so very close to what I wanted, perhaps even outdoing the Ikemi in one or two characteristics.
But the two players don't sound the same at all. If I remember correctly the Ikemi is more laid back than the Shanling. The Shanling does timbres and harmonies beautifully. Both players have a very coherent sound. I'd give the Shanling a listen, remembering that it needs 200 to 300 hours to sound its best.
Obviously the Ikemi is a great player, but at this level it becomes almost more a question of taste. If it were me I'd at least take a look at the Electrocompaniet EMC-1 MkII, which is also a smooth and highly-regarded player at about half the price of the Linn -- I think. I find it hard to believe a Wadia player sounded bright. No idea about the Meridian. Best of luck.
Others to consider:
I have listened to the Naim CD5. This is a wonderful player. I personally decided on the Audio Note CD3.1x. It had wonderful compatability with my tube based system. I mention this only as I am personally a fan of these British products. It seems that you also like this approach.
Also, The Arye player is receiving rave reviews at the Audioasylum site.
Audition and decide for yourself.
I agree with Soix, it is a matter of taste, and how the sound from the CDP is treated by the downstream components. I had an original Rega Planet, and upgraded to an ARC CD-2. (a Class A CDP and recognized as one of the best out at that time.) Though the ARC sounded beautiful in every way, it failed to communicate, to my ears, the emotion of the music. In auditioning, all the audiophile virtures were there, but it just wasn't as satisfying. As a consequence, I ended up with a Jupiter and am very happy with it. As the TAS review of the Jupiter says (paraphrasing): It has some deficiencies, ones that will hurt it in an AB listening session, but it also has a magic, that in long term listening is rewarding.
What are your sonic values? What will deliver those to you in the long term? It is much cheaper to spend too much, than too little and have to upgrade again later.
I have never seriously auditioned Linn players so take this for what it's worth... I have auditioned several players including the Wadia 301, the Naim, the Sim Moon Eclipse, the new Ayre cx7, and the Resolution Audio Opus 21. I finally decided on the Resolution Audio Opus 21 for its absolute clarity and precision. In this regard it easily beat out the others. I also really liked the Ayre player. I found that generally speaking newer was better. FRom what you said about the Wadia being too bright, I'm not sure your tastes would be for the Resolution Audio player, but if I were you I would not buy a player until you compared it to the Ayre and the Res. Audio.
PS: The store that had the Ayre also had the real expensive Linn player (I forget the model. Something like $10,000) and it sounded way too dark and slow for me.
I also recently auditioned several players before deciding on the Ikemi. If you are patient you may be able to find a used/demo unit close to your price. I was able to get a demo unit for $2200 and I notice that someone is asking $2900 on Audiogon. They don't appear often, which tells you something about them. BTW, I compared it to the Cary 303 and 306, Meridian 588, FMJ23, Krell and Marantz sa-1. For me, the Ikemi was the clear choice both in build quality and sound.
Have you considered a "modded" Sony XA-777ES or Philips SACD 1000? You can get the base CD players for about $2000 and $800 (mail order), respectively, and the mods can cost anywhere from $500 to about $3000. These players will play all formats. The basic modded Philips at a price of about $1300 is a terrific deal (Reference Audio Mods) and you probably would have a difficult time finding a better player (at any price!) than the fully modded Sony XA-777ES (EVS or others).
For the mods, you might try Rick at Electronic Visonary Systems (EVS): tweakaudio.com, or Kyle at Reference Audio Mods: referenceaudiomods.com.
I have the Linn Genki now and recently compared it to the Shanling. I also heard the Electrocompaniet and Gamut CD1 through quad speaker. The Genki was very close to the Shanling through a Hovland line stage and AR tube amp. The Gamut was a very good sounding unit with no harshness good bass and very open fast sound. It seemed to bring out details very will. Some have criticized it's lack of timbre on acoustic recordings. I may wait for Linn to come out with it's universal players later this year.
Thanks for the above info. Do you have more info on Linn's universal players scheduled for later this year?
I have bought a "used" Cary 303 player from audiogon. I listened to the Linn Ikemi, Rega Planet and the top of the line Rotel and thought the Cary was superior. More open and had a bigger sound stage than the Rotel. The lower end was better than the Ikemi. Just my opinion.
Linn has announced two models one less than $5k and one less than $10k. Due out later this year. They had a static display at one of the shows earlier this year but that's about it.
I have had no luck selling my Meridian 508.20 and I was not willing to give the unit away. So, I decided to upgrade my Meridian 508.20 to 24 bit status. The unit was shipped to Meridian for the upgrade and the expected turn around time is 4 weeks (including the shipping time). Thanks again for all your above comments.