With those quality components I think system matching might be more important. Post your other stuff and preferences and see if experienced types respond.
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I have listened to all the units you have listed. Here is my take: Levinson, beautiful and smooth, but with a somewhat "darkish" nature which I feel almost adds a sort of smoky haze to the music (certain types of music for instance large orchestral pieces which do not lend themselves to the smoke filled nightclub venue don't sound right through the #39 to me). The Wadia 860 (no exp with the 850, but I am sure the sound is not too divergent from the 860 based on what I have read) sounds lighter on its feet than does the #39 in my opinion. I think the Wadia will play more music more accurately while the Levinson will make laid back Jazz ensembles more lovely (think of it this way, Diana Krall would probabaly be more seductive sounding through the Levinson while Patricia Barber would most likely sound more accurate from the 860). Now the Meridian unit is the unit I would buy if I were going to buy a 16/44.1 machine at this stage. It flat out sounds more beautiful than both units to me. Is has a freeness about it which causes me to not think about the hardware playing the plastic disc and just enjoy the music. Also you can find them in mint conditin pre-owned for about $2400-$2800. Now the big question. Why so late in the day for 16/44.1 are you thinking of investing a large sum in this technology? I would advise (if you don't want to go with SACD, DVD-A is a waste of effort and money (I have listened to DVD-A and it is an abomination) IMHO), something like the ARCAM 9 or believe it or not a DVD player with Dual laser pickups, they can sound quite fabulous (sony, philips) for under 3 bills. I sold my $7000.00 Esoteric P2S transport and Meitner Bidat while the market was still good enought to get a good return and bought the Sony SCD1 Super Audio CD Player. It is in another league. I don't sale audio gear so I will tell you strait, the std CD gear Leveinson, Wadia, Spectral, CEC TL0 can't approach SACD. It is the conclusion of many a reviewer and audiophile that SACD sounds better than the best LP systems. Also for the money you would spend on the cd machine you could by a Sony SCD-777ES on the web NEW. Remeber the more prevalent the new formats become (and they also play CD's) the faster the market value of std CD machines drop. This is why the guys which have Levinson or Wadia gear always try to come up with something to disuade you from buying a SACD player, they'd rather sale you a $8000.00 trasnport than a $3500.00 all in one player. I hope my humble insights have helped. Oh, Sony now sales SACD's on the sony site http://thestore.sonymusic.com/thestore/music.asp?viewby=conf&conf_cd=048&index=048#048 Telearc and DMP also have a range of SACDs. There are over 50 titles out now with about 10 more per month being added. Regards, Mike
Mike, I have a 508.24 and love it, so naturaslly I give credence to your comments! I'd also like your thoughts on a purchase. I will have two primary systems, one is two-channel and the other will be home theater/audio. TWO-CHANNEL:I want the two-channel system to have CD-playback capability at least equal to that of the 508.24. Given all the 16/44 CDs I own, I'm willing to spend a fair amount of money on a player just for old-fashioned discs. I'd be satisfied with a used 508.24, but if there's something noticeably better, I'd audition it. SACD or DVD-A capability is not a priority BUT if such a unit also excelled at playing 16/44 discs I'd want to consider it. I'd be happy just using my existing 508.24 in this system, but if I do, then I need help on the other system. HOME THEATER/AUDIO. I need DVD capability but until formats and technology settles down, I'd be happy with video performance equal to, say, a Pioneer 414. I also want audio performance on 16/44 discs that is at least 95% of that of a Meridian 508.24. I could buy one DVD/VD unit, or separate ones. Stereophile rates the CAL CL20 as Class A for video and not quite Class A for audio. I think I want better sound than that. (CAL will have a replacement model in the spring but I know nothing about it.)Ayre makea a combo unit but it's pricey. If I did separates, then maybe it makes sense to get a Pioneer 414 for DVDs and a used Meridian 508.24 for music. That's only about $3000. In that price range, though, you may convince me that I ought to consider a combo unit with new technology, like the SACD. Sorry for the amorphous questions, but I think you can help me.
I SAY THE RESOLUTION AUDIO CD-50 IS BETTER THAN ANY OF THESE. The Levinson is similar, but it costs too much. Wadia's filter rolls off the top octave 3 dB. You can't drive a power amp directly with the Meridian, so it's less transparent any way you slice it. GET A USED CD-50. Mine knocks on the door of my more expensive analog rig. The MIT Z-Cord 2 works best with it, and also the Chang Lightspeed 6400.