Most musical player or DAC?

Forgive up front if there is other(s) threads on this. Thanks in advance for posting links if you know of them. I'm looking for a "musical" CD player or DAC. I've been through 4 cd players so far, they were all nice in some respects, but none have really grabbed me by the heartstrings (or lapels) and stopped me in my tracks with musicality. Don't know if I should be looking for a tubed variety or not. All I know is I want something that moves me. A very 3D soundstage, unbelievable midrange, good extension at the extremes. I would rather have romantic over detailed and analytical, but transparency and a sense of air would I think be also in the mix. Nothing laid back either, I want something that engages.

My listening tastes are rock, Soul, acoustic w/vocals (male/female), blues, R&B, a bit of electronica.

Any thoughts and experiences are appreciated.

I'd say you want some sort of tube in your system. What are your amp and speakers now?

There are tons of threads here on this. My summary is that a basic CD player/transport with a DAC would the best value. That path also allows you to change DACs to get to the sound you want.

We have similar music taste. I have a tube pre-amp and tube DAC. Though it doesn't sound like vinyl its very engaging. As said here very often its about the synergy of the components in your system.

Best if you mention a budget to get more appropriate responses to your question.

Here is one thread that has been going for years:

When is digital going to get the soul of music?

cheers, ed
Thanks Ed. I have no doubt there are other threads on this topic but didn't find any with a browse or keyword search for 'musical'. The limited keyword search functionality on Agon makes it hard to find what you're looking for.

Shindo Aurieges L pre
Nuforce Ref 8 amps
Usher 6381 speakers
47 Labs OTA cabling

I don't want to spend more then a grand. Thought about going the DAC route, if I had more CD's i probably would have already but not opposed to it.
Hmm. $1k for a DAC and CD player seems tight. Looks like you put a great system together. I skimmed an old post and saw you are in SF. Me too, well close by. Did you get your shindo at PP? Matt carries the Wavelength DAC, at least you could listen to see if that is closer to the sound you want, even though over your budget- it could be worth saving up for ($1500?). BTW, I have a Brick DAC (with computer source).

A Non OverSampling DAC would be something to look into. Scott nixon DACs comes to mind in your budget.

The TADAC tube DAC is also over your budget(extremely-sorry), but gets positive reviews and comments inline with your goal. My other Monarchy DAC is around $1100 (less if used) also an NOS tube DAC.

I have nothing on CD plyers

Oh, I forgot to mention that Monarchy DACs can be picked up at mfgr. in South SF.

I know. I'd consider spending more if I was really convinced that doing so would get significantly more performance. More times then not it doesn't IME unless you spend A LOT more. Case in point -- my +$3k Musical Fidelity player isn't significantly better then the Sony PS1 I just picked up for $40. An extreme example, but true nonetheless.

I plan on picking up something here on the gon to cut costs. If i were to go the DAC route I might spend most or all on the DAC and use something like an Oppo as an interim until I could get a better transport.

I'm not in SF but am in CA on the central coast. I did not pick up my Shindo from Matt (again another purchase here on the gon) but have made contact with Matt regarding it and he's great, very helpful. When I visit my sis up there I would like to set up an audition with him.
Around $1K, with those requirements, I would recommend either of two components I myself own: the JAS Audio Musik 1.2 tubed CDP and the Apogee Mini-DAC.

A reminder BTW that any external DAC will need a cable. If it's S/PDIF cable it should in almost all cases be 1.5 meters long. That length will help with coherence, flow, transparency and definition.
I'd add a used Audio Logic 34 or 2400 DAC to the possible units you might want to consider. The older Audio Logics used an all tube output stage, and were excellent for tube rolling, and if you can find one they probably aren't that expensive in the used market, from what I've seen.
Tholt, what players have you owned (or presently own) besides the Musical Fidelity and PS-1.

IMO, the glaring, non-musical, weak link in your system is the NuForce Ref 8. I have auditioned them, and to be blunt, they are about as a-musical as any amp I have heard. On the other hand, the NuForce Ref 9VSE are pretty good, and would be a giant leap forward from the Ref 8.

I'd suggest changing your amps before changing your digital player. Your entire system will benefit.
I've had an older Onkyo carousel player from the early 90's, an Onkyo universal player, two Chinese tubed players (MHZS) before my present players.

Interesting thought Tvad, I remember your comments on the Nuforce thread a while back. I've also had a few amps, nothing very expensive, one was a chip-based amp with much more musicality then the one previous. But the Nuforce is the best of the bunch yet. Have never tried a tubed amp for the fact that Usher recommends against them (and to get one with close to the power rating would prob be more then I could afford). Also until recently I required a multi channel amp.

i don't feel there is a significant lack of musicality to the NF, esp paired with the Shindo. Then again, if I was to hear a significant and obvious improvement with another amp in my system, I would know different.
Tholt, you will hear a significant difference with the Ref 9V2SE. If you don't...well, then I'll know a little more about you.

You can audition them essentially for the cost of shipping if you go through the NuForce demo program.
Regarding a DAC, you might consider a MHDT Labs Paradisea+ or Havana DAC to run with either of your CD players.

I thought the Paradisea+ was very musical, and I used it with a c.1992 Sony CD changer.
Robertbrown, try pasting your link to see where it leads.

Is it what you intended?
Robertbrown your reply is very zen. Perhaps I need to 'search' for the answer. Tvad -- I should clarify, if it means anything to you, that my amps are technically 8.02, which Jason @ Nuforce has said over the 8 "The .02 version added a) overheat protection b) adjustment for more dynamic."
Whatever that means.
Tholt, thanks for the clarification. My opinion of the Ref 8 (or Ref 8.02) won't change.

Try the 9V2SE, or not. I've beaten the suggestion to death.

Good luck with your search.
You have and I appreciate your input, suggestions and well wishing.
If on a budget, Rega Planet, if you can spend more go for Audio Aero Capitole, the most analog, natural and musical player I know.
I've owned Wadias, Audio Aero Capitole, Ayre D1xe, Wavelength Cosecant, all pretty pricey players and DACs, some over 10K. My favorite digital gear of them all has been the 500 dollar MHDT Paradisea+ DAC. If you want a musical DAC under a grand you've got to try this one out.
I've heard about the MHDT. Did a little research based on another thread here. This may be inching closer to happening.
I'd second the MHDT Havana (and the paradisea if it's anything close in sound to the havana which I hear it is). I bought one a little over a month ago, feeding it via an Empirical Audio Turbo-3 USB converter. Very, very musical DAC after owning a Benchmark DAC1 for nearly a year. Though it's definitely not a cure-all if someone is unhappy with the overall sound of their system...
If you can barely hear the difference between a $3k+ CD player and a $40 PS 1, then I'm not sure you'll get value out of changing the CD player or getting a new DAC. If you are fixed on this idea, then I would take a look at one of the many NOS DACs out there. I have had great experience with the Audio Note DAC One Signature which is one of the lower models - extremely musical.
i think that's more a testament to how good the PS1 actually is in the right system. Differences are there, but as others have found, the PS1 is an odd gem. I'm not married to it -- bought it out of curiosity (and the perversity of it) but I can't deny the sound.

thanks for the AN tip. Nice gear
Fair enough Tholt! I've not heard a PS 1 - I have a PS-2 and it sounds only average to me - nowhere in the league of even an older Arcam Alpha 7SE player. Perhaps the PS-2 was not as good sonically as the PS-1, which is entirely possible. Good luck with your search.
The underground raves refer to the original PS1 model #SCPH-1001 only. Its worth trying for ~$40 or less used, if you can get over the goofiness of it.
I third the MHDT Labs Havana. Judging from the rest of your system, you would enjoy the sound of the Havana, or another non-oversampling filterless DAC. The Havana has good linearity through the frequencies, with a little more presence in the midrange than solid state I've tried, and does not mask low level details so timing and dynamics come through very nicely.

I'll vouch for the mhdt Paradisea especially with the NOS Tung Sol tube in place of the stock GE. It uses a Philips chip I believe. It sounds fantastically musical putting my digital in competition with analog as I think only a tube DAC can and I have no incentive to change.

mhdt Havana has a good rap also. I think it uses a different chip, the Burr Brown, but same tube.

The Paradisea + ARC tube pre + OHM Walsh speaker combo in my system is pure liquid and vibrant midrange heaven!