Mid to High end CD player vs. universal plus DAC


I am considering upgrading my old Sony CD player, and am seeking input regarding whether to purchase a player such as an Arcam 82-92T, upgraded Jolida JD-100, etc... or purchase a lower quality "universal" such as a Sony 900V, Pioneer 45A, etc.. and use a DAC with it. I am trying to stay under $1500, and do not own a DVD player. My present system is 2 channel only, and do not have any burning desire to go multichannel.

Any and all advice is appreciated.

Thanks in advance.

Well, I don't have any first hand experience with the use of either the Arcam or the Jolida (although I've heard very good things about this one).

What I can say is, I own a Rotel RCD 971 and wanted to ugrade it. I was considering selling and buying a unit in the range of the Rega Planet 2000 (around that price point, which is about 1200 Canadian). I listened to it on a system comprised of a Classe CAP 151 integrated amp and NHT 2.5i speakers. I was not overly impressed with its performance versus the Rotel. Sure, it was different, but I found it to be sort of flat sounding and not particularly dynamic (not that the Rotel was any better, really).

I then listened to a universal player by pioneer - I'm talking a VERY CHEAP PLAYER ...one that is about 300-350 Canadian dollars ($5.38 US hahah), along with an external DAC (MSB Link DAC III).

Let me tell you, the difference was night and day!!! That combo was FAAAAAARRR better than the Planet 2000. FAR better. Depth of field was extremely good. Dimensionality, soundstaging, imaging - everything was significantly better. I mean unbelievably so!!. (originally , i had been auditioning the CAP 151, but realized that my source will come first).

I made a purchase of the MSB with the Half Nelson upgrade, the arrival of which I greatly anticipated (the upgrade had to be done by the manufacturer or authorized distributor). When I got it home, I had problems...but that's another story (READ this section, Link DAC III break in)

So, unless you're going with a super high end all in one, then I strongly feel that external DAC is the way to go.

Just my two cents...

Get off an extra $200 bucks and get a Sony XA777ES. Blows all of that stuff out of the water. Plus you get Sacd. The xa777es is as good as 99% of the red book players out there on red book and is as good as a top of the line TT on Sacd discs.
Hi Mike. I've heard a wide range of front ends on my system, including a few universals. The Pioneer Elite does a respectable job, and can play any digital disc. Some DVA cuts sound remarkable. However, the CD playback tends to be less refined than separates, and a bit bright. That is a flaw I can't live with.

For obtaining sheer musical bliss, using the predominate CD genre, I would never trade out my old tubed Jolida 100 for any player, especially a universal.

I agree with the approach you took. I had a Denon DCD-1650AR CD player that I was very happy with -- very well built, nice user interface, trouble-free, and played any CD loaded into it. In order to upgrade the sound, rather than get another player, I bought a Dodson Audio DA-217MKIID external DAC (here on AudiogoN, by the way), and hooked it up to the Denon with a Harmonic Tech Magic Digital One RCA cable (also purchased on AudiogoN). This made a remarkable improvement to the sound, so now I have the best of both worlds -- a solid, trouble-free transport, and a wonderful 24/768 up- and oversampling DAC!

Good luck!