The NAD is a tad better. The AR CDP and tuner were kind of chincy compared to the integrated amp. I like the Cambridge Audio CDP's too.
I owned the C-541i and the Audio Refinement cdp a while back. I had been using the NAD and thought I'd try the AR. The NAD was much more alive to my ear, plus I got hooked on HDCD. Many more cds are HDCD encoded than you'd think. Many have no labeling but are HDCD encoded.
I sold the AR after about a month of comparing them. The NAD was in my systemm for two years without a glitch. Basically, the AR complete integrated was a much better product than the lack luster cdp.
Another piece I'd recommend you investigate is the Music Hall CD25.2. I owned the previous version, the CD25, for a couple of years and it was the best player I heard in that price range. The newer version is supposed to be even better. There are several reviews online, including one from Stereophile. List price is $599 but it's available for $540 from Audio Advisor and probably a bit cheaper from some other online dealers.
If you don't mind buying used, a CD25 with upgraded opamps is pretty spectacular and well within your budget.
you are the first to mention the power cord issues on the AR CDP. After extensive reserch I have decided to take Bignerd100s advice and go with the Cambridge Audio. Price was a big factor seeing that this a second system. I hope the quality issues don't come back to haunt me. Thank you all for your input.