Music Hall CD25, Onix XCD-88, Rega Planet; Others?

I'm in the slow process of upgrading all of my components, and am fairly new to the audio hi-fi world, although I really love music. My old Adcom GCD-575 CD player is slowly giving out, and replacing it has become the obvious next step.

I've spent some time browsing over Audiogon, and other audio websites searching for a replacement, and have somewhat narrowed it down to the Music Hall CD25, the Onix XCD-88, and the Rega Planet original. As you can tell by my selections, I dont mind used, and dont have much of a budget either. I've read many good things about all three, but would like other people's opinions.

A little about my listening experience: I have had a Sony 508ES player, as well as the Adcom. I also have heard the Naim player (which was fantastic), and the Eastern Electric MiniMax (which would be ideal, but out of my price range). I love the sound of vinyl, the visceral feeling and "roundness" is wonderful for me, so I do enjoy the natural sound of music (if that makes any sense at all). Ideally, I want a player, and entire system that is very musical. I listen to my system for hours on end, so the imaging, etc would be secondary.

My current system is a Qinpu Integrated A1.0x, PSB Alphas, and the Adcom GCD-575. The Qinpu is new, and has a slightly warmer tone to it, with excellent mid-range. The PSBs will also be replaced at some point down the line, perhaps with Paradigm Studio 20s.

So I'm really open to your suggestions, either for the above 3 options, or any others as well. Also, what is the relationship btw Music Hall, Onix and Shanling?

The Rega Planet is a full/warm sounding CD player and nicely musical in my experience...
I have owned the XCD-88, which is the same player as the CD25, both being made by Shanling in China and just rebadged, and still own the Planet. I have also tried several NAD players, as well as the excellent Rotel RCD-1072. I had all but the NADs at the same time and was able to make direct comparisons in a somewhat different rig than your own.

The ONIX has excellent detail retrival and exceeds the other players in this aspect. Bass is somewhat dry and does not have the power of the Rega or Rotel. It sounds more forward in the midrange with a bit less forward treble than the Rega. Some of that detail reveals digital artifacts in the upper midrange, grain and etch. In the end, this player tends to pull the music apart rather than putting it together into an organic whole.

The Rega, has less detail and is more laid back sounding. After listing to the ONIX the Rega sounds like there is a blanket over the upper midrange. Less information and less detail. Multiple instrumental lines run together and are not separated as readily as on the other players. Without hearing this in comparison, it is not as evident, and the midrange lacks the artifacts of many other players. The treble is a bit forward, crisp if you will and the bass is just great. Excellent pace, good weight and a natural sense of the music moving forward. It is a very organic player that makes all of the music sound connected as a single whole. Many complain that it is boring, and the lack of midrange snap can give that impression in some systems.

The Rotel treads the middle ground, more balanced than the ONIX, with greater detail than the Rega, it isn't quite of one piece like the Rega, nor is the bass as naturally propulsive, but many will prefer it.

A word on ergonomics. The logic on the ONIX is not good, the Philips transport is slow to respond to commands and this becomes more irksome as time goes on. But build quality is excellent. The blue display can be dimmed, but not completele turned off. The op amps are socketed and you can switch these out if you wish to tweek.

The Rotel has good contol features, the blue display can be dimmed, but not completely turned off.

The Rega has good control features and the red display can be completely turned off.

Players tend to be so flawed at this price point that the distinctions are more finely drawn than with more expensive players. It may have no bearing on a differnt system but I kept the Rega and have never looked back; it has satisfied over the long hall and is one of the few digital classics out there. That said, I am more a music collector than an audiophile and tend to play a lot of older music that is not well recorded, and the Rega suits this type of stuff quite well. Audiophiles may prefer one of the other players.
Viridian, Philojet, thanks for your opinions, it does help. For both of you, is the Planet that you have the original, or the 2000? Viridian, your post was great; I've also read some others that I believe were yours on this topic. One of the problems I've had with the Adcom is it plays older CDs that have less than great recording quite badly. The sound is similar to what you've described, etch and grain. A lot of the CDs I have tend to be of older vintage, 70s rock, pop etc., not audiophile level, but music that I really enjoy. The cohesiveness that you describe with the Planet sounds nice, but yet, I love to have the natural tones of the midrange (my favorite is female vocals) reproduced well. How does that work with either player?

Any others?
I have read the op amps on the Onix and the Music Hall are different. That is irrelevant since you seek a laid back "musical sonics" the Music Hall and Onix are both built by Shanling and both exhibit the house sound so I am told. I own the Music Hall and think it is an absolute giant killer, I don't see the bass as relaxed it's just well defined, it has a great deal of midrange presence and detail but it will not appeal to you in any event. For the money its cleaner, not thinner than most players 3Xs as expensive.
You would want the Rega which is not my cup of tea, but as my friend Joe always says that is why they make vanilla and chocolate..... and Marshmellow fudge caramel swirl with bits of raw Linzer tarts in it. Seriously you would probably like the Rega if you loved the Naim. I am not at all sure the Minimax is sweet enough for you either competes on a level with the MH somewhat more balanced but not cleaner. I have a Jolida for a softer sound and once had an Audio Aero Prima which was more laid back. I currently use a Granite CDP which is completely different, more defined than a Jolida or Rega but heavier bodied than a lot of players. Check one out if you can find it used, it sells for a fraction of MSRP not well known I guess.
Mechans, very well put. Autre, I was speaking of the orginal Planet, but have had a listen to the Planet 2000 and Jupiter 2000 as well and they hew pretty closely to the Rega house sound. For female vocal, you may very well prefer the ONIX or Rotel players. The truth is, players at this price point are so flawed that you may need to spend quite a bit more money if you want to fulfill your requirements.
Mechans, thank you kindly for your food-laced reply, I know my wife would be drooling right now if she read it. I definitely appreciate your honest opinion on the Rega and the Music Hall. I've also gone over some of Trelja's old threads on players, and I see that he definitely is a wealth of information.

Choices, choices... Well, since I have not been able to audition any of the players yet, thats definitely the next step, if possible. There is a dealer here that hopefully has one or more of these units available for listening. It sounds like I may enjoy the sound of the Planet more, but I am very intrigued by the MMF 25, and the Onix, especially in light of all the high praise. I'd also love to listen to the Granite, but that may be almost impossible to demo here. The good thing is, it seems the 3 or 4 I've selected aren't bad choices at all.
Autre, may as well throw my two cents in. Keeping within my budget I also looked at Rotel, Music Hall, and the Onix. I also thought about an AH and Jolida but decided against the additional $300+. Also considered the CAmbridge Audio but in the end went with the Onix Music Hall clone. I can't really describe it but the Rotel for all the info coming thru it semed cold, very nice sounding but analytical. I bought the Onix-88 and upgraded the op amp. A couple of hundred less then the MH. For the price I am extremely satisfied. Detailed but musical also. I play mostly Jazz and Standards. It does pull the mid range forward but sounds balanced. One complaint that I have is that it takes its very long time spinning up burned CDs, they play well but takes up to 60 seconds to que them. Hope this helps and all have a great 4th!!
Autre, like you I owned the GCD-575. Last year, after many moves, the transport finally gave out. I listened to the Rega and loved it, but it was also in a much higher end system than I owned, and even the used ones were more than I wanted to spend. The MH 25 and the Onix are identical and I was able to buy the Onix new for half the cost of the MH. It gives up only a little to the Rega and fits my needs perfectly, as CDs are secondary to vinyl for me. When I get the bug, the Onix is very tweakable, and can be greatly improved with a little work.

Viridian and Italian are correct about the quirks of the Onix transport - it can be pretty slow. However, it will read anything I put in it, which more than I can say for the Adcom.

Whatever you decide, you'll be amazed at the improvement you'll hear. The GCD was a nice piece in its day, but the Onix or any of your other choices will be a big upgrade.
Hi Italian Dave,
Thanks for your info too. You basically were looking at the same models I'm considering, so I'm glad you threw your 2 cents in! Did you change the op amps yourself, if not, can you tell me where you got it done?
Wow, posting the question here is paying off far better than I thought it would. Thanks to all of you! If you have any other ideas, please let me know.

Happy 4th!
Thanks for the info Armstrod. Sounds like the same thing is happening with my Adcom. Hopefully I can pick something up before it completely gives out. Well, now there are 3 reccomendations for the Onix. Its sounding pretty good. I auditioned a Music Hall 25.2 yesterday, and although it sounded great, there was simply no point of reference since the components used were quite different from mine. I've been waiting for an XCD-88 to come up here, but I havent seen one yet, although that CD25.2 for $350 sounds awfully tempting.

If any of you are selling any of these, let me know. I also have an Adcom GFA-555 that I'm willing to trade for, as well as other components.

You might call AV123 and see if they have any B stock XCD-88/99s. That's how I got my 88 - it was never listed on their Web site. Their B stock stuff comes with full warranty. Good luck.
Autre. sorry for not getting back. I'm on vacation and PC access is limited. A guy in Indy made it up and I plugged it in. Cost $120. Two types of the 627, A & B if I remember. Bought the $10.00 more expensive, don't know if there is a real diff. But the op amp I beleive made a good cdp sound better. Op Amps and the adaptor, which you will need, are easy to purchase and possibly cheaper then what I paid. But when you put it in, you have to bend a capacitor slightly so it will fit. Not a problem. Hope this helps. Dave
Thanks Dave, glad you're on vacation, hope you're having a nice time. Thanks for the information. Now all I have to do is go out and actually purchase a player! Clint.
I just found out from the Rega repair tech in Cal that Sony no longer makes the laser units for CD players, which means that ends supply for a huge amount of older players of numerous brands. He advised me to stay away from older players (that use Sony lasers) for that reason. I thought that was quite candid of that Rega tech to share that bit of information; of course that did mean he tried to steer me towards purchasing the Apollo or the Saturn. Anyway, perhaps you all knew this already, but I thought I'd share this with all of you.
This is really old news, the Philips transports are being phased out as well. Fortunately, the strange logic of the Philips not withstanding, they are both very reliable with many, many units in service. Why loose sleep over this kind of thing? If you purchased a used player for $300.00 and the transport went bad, would you really want to pay $150.00 for a replacement anyway? At a certain cost, it probably does make economic sense, which is why some of the higher ticket manufacturers, like Ayre, backstock sufficient quantities of transports to support the units in service for the forseeable future. Then again, the cost is built in to the purchase price.
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True, true. Good point Viridian, and thanks for mentioning the Philips info; I really didnt know about either, so its all new to me. You are correct about weighing the cost of repairs with the cost of another unit, after all that is the impetus for this purchase. Again, thank you all for your input.
I have a Shanling S-100 Mk II and feel it is a good match with the Qinpu.
I thought I would update this post since I've finally made a purchase. After going through numerous reviews, forum discussion posts, and emails to owners of each, I laid the cash down for an Onix XCD-88. The warmth and top-loading of the Rega really appealed to me, but several factors swayed me to the Onix:

1)The ease of upgrade capability, which I've read results in a significant improvement in quality.
2) Very few negative comments about the unit.
3) I was able to pick up a B-stock unit from av123 for only $219, which included a 3yr warranty.
4) The production quantity is very small (500 per year), hopefully giving more care to build quality, and according to the owner (see below), each is hand-built.
5) I was able to speak directly with Mark Schifter about his product lines, and came away with the impression that he really is commited to the quality of his components, and service to his customers. Of course it may just be rhetoric, but it was much more reassuring (and pleasant) than getting the information from a salesperson with no first hand knowledge about the products.

The caveat of this post is, as I have mentioned before, I'm pretty much a novice in the audiophile world, and of course that does equate with naitivity. Hopefully the Onix will be all that I have been told, and all that I hope it to be. I'll post a review after a good listening session.

For all the reasons you list above, and based on my ownership and listening experience, I think you've made a fine choice, and you got an even better deal than I did! ;-)

As I continue to upgrade the rest of my system, I appreciate the qualities of the XCD-88 even more. Enjoy!
Used Arcam cd 23 or 92,these just are not your ordinary cd players they are outstanding,if you never heard one it would be worth it just as a way to judge other players,starting to see fewer and fewer of these for sale,I wouldnt put it past myself to buy a extra one when and if my 92 ever goes.You can buy all the 300 400 500 dollar players you want they wont come close to one of those Arcams.