My latest upgrade

I have an old Denon CD player that is really showing its weakness now that I've gone through the process of upgrading my other components. I need some ideas on what would go well with this setup. I'd like to spend between $500 and $1,000. The closer to $500 the better. Any ideas?

Here's my setup.

Manley Stingray
Audio Magic Interconnects
AP Oval 9's
Harbeth Compact 7's.


Whenever I go into my local shop and they have a rega planet in, it always sounds better than with any of the others that usually end up in the demo system. I am never familiar with the system because it changes every time I go in, but it impresses me that I can hear a positve difference (three + occasions) and identify it as a certain component.
I don't know how it would stack up to something else to the full 1000 you would spend on something used, but I think it would be a safe bet that you could'nt find something close to it for the 500 bones you could get a used one for. For sure you couldn't go wrong with a planet.
One of the reasons I noticed it was the depth and smoothness it had. Rare for a cd player. (unless you spend more). That should mate well with your tubes.
And actually, one of the systems I heard it with was a cr developments romulas, a 50 watt tube integrated, with monitors of some sort. I was impressed.
NAD 514. Resolution is low compared to what I have come to appreciate, but it's sunny disposition was always appreciated. Available used for about $200.

The Bel Canto DAC/Pioneer DVD transport could be a good option. Used $1,000.

One I have never heard, but always heard good things about is the Resolution Audio CD50.

Not that you asked, but if a high resolution CD source is not super important to you, I think your $1,000 budget spent on the NAD 514, Zero autoformers between amp and speakers, and Ganymede VCS roller bearings under your source, would produce SERIOUSLY good results.
Rega Planet - we are a lot like the store Basement goes into. We have several other CD players in the same price range as the Planet but the Planet seems to outsell the others quite substantially and ends up in most of the demo systems we put together for the listening rooms. I think it's a serious bargain.
Add some ACME Audio cryo treated power outlets to my last recommendation for even better results and still stay under a $1,000. The NAD has a coaxial output for use with a stand alone DAC down the road.
If you spend less than 50% of what the Manley cost you your not getting the sound the Manleys can deliver. Garbage in garbage out.
Sorry people but a NAD 514 is like buying a porchse and putting a Volks engine in it.
I'm about to try an NAD C541i in a friend's entry-level ARC Integrated and Spendor SP3/1P system ($3k total). Hope it's successful. Several dealers have suggested that this $400 street price CDP is the clear winner under $1k. We'll see.
Which is precisely what Porsche did with the 914, right?
Natalie, are you confident my suggestions would not net better sound than Steve spending his entire budget on a CDP?
Sub the 541 is more like it. Still feel based on his other nice gear a Better source is required.

I am from the school of Source being the most important part in the chain.

No amp Speaker or pre can change the original signle.
Thanks for everyone's help. I actually decided to go with the Ah! Njoe Tjoeb. It sounds like a very nice tube CDR with lots of future tweaking opportunities.

I'll let everyone know how it sounds after I've had a chance to break it in.

Sounds like you made a great choice Steve. Natalie, I agree, the source is ultimately the most important part of the equation, but exceptional sound requires that a number of elements be optimized. The suggestions I made are applicable regardless of which source is chosen. The NAD 514 was a good choice simply because it is a really good performer at a very low price, allowing other beneficial systems components to be purchased within the given budget. I am fully pursuaded, from personal experience, that a $1,000 spent as I have suggested would yield superior results to spending the entire budget on the CDP.
I got the Ah! Njoe Tjoeb in yesterday and I have to say already I'm very happy. I was a little worried that all the positive feedback for Kevin at Upscale Audio was bogus feeds from friends of Kevin. I can happily report that that's not the case. I've been extremely pleased. He threw in an extra set of Rocket Logo tubes I'm playing with them right now. I haven't tried out the stock Phillips tubes, only because I heard that they were not the smoothest sound.

I can say that out of the box this CDR sounds great! Really smoothed out the sound in my room and took away the harshness and brightness. I still have some room tweaks to do but this source upgrade has made a HUGE difference.

Thanks again to all!

Steve, I'm glad to hear the Ah! unit turned out to be a good choice. It's a great feeling when things come together. I'd encourage you to try some roller bearings underneath the player sometime. Perhaps Kevin Deal has tried this and could let you know what to expect.