I have one of Stan's machines and feel it was worth every penny. His mods are $267 which includes return shipping, so depending on what player, you can keep it under $500 easy. Stan sticks to Pioneer and Onkyo players.
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The Sony DVP 9000es sounds really good on sacd and redbook. It is sellind at JandR for $829 down from it's orginal $1499. Excellent build quality. My unit has some mods thar really make it shine, which is something you could do down the road I think Dan Wright's mods for this machine start around $250.
I also would think that a modified Pioneer would sound much better than the NAD.
I have the NAD and it sounds fine. It is no great shakes. My problems, however, are many. It has great difficulty with the second layer on many WB DVDs. It is noisy (at low listening volume, I can easily hear the mechanism from 10 ft. away). You cannot turn off "helpful" popup menus, so every time you watch a movie with multiple angles, a window (on top of the movie) tells you where they are. Presets for sound and subtitles work only sporadically. IT DOES NOT PLAY CDRs. You cannot replace the power cord. The RCA jacks are very short. I have to stop now.