Need advice! Do I upgrade DAC or buy a new player?


Hello all...I have been heavily back into analog for the past 3 years however I have come to cycle in my audiophilia that I am listening to a lot of CDs again.  I have about 300 mostly from '98 and back.  Don't get me wrong I am vinyl through and through but there are a lot of CDs I have that are shall we say casual listeners.  I have no desire to replace them with there vinyl brethren but I know many are very, very good and well recorded.  My dilemma is this I have a fairly decent system and a CD player that I think is "ok" but I want better sound and seeing as there are 10-30k CD players there must be a better option problem is I am not gonna spend that kind of money (even if I could).  So the question is do I upgrade my DAC and use my current CD Player or do I just get a "better" player?  Oh here are the system dynamics:  I use an Audio Research SP20 pre amp mated to a Bryston  14B SST2 speakers are Def Tec 7000sc's I don't think my vinyl preamps matter nor do the tables so I will omit them....
The CD player is an Emotiva ERC-3, I like the player but want a better soundstage a bit deeper and dare I say more analog sounding.  I am a huge soundstage freak so if a sacrifice were to be made it would not be there.  I am running balanced out of the Emotiva.  I don't need SACD but ok if it's there.  I don't have a problem with pre-owned I don't need a DAC that downloads FLAC or can be hooked up to any other sources other than the Emotiva being used as a transport.  As for budget I would say $1,500 to $2,000 if it makes sense.  Any advice would help thanks!  
rikintpa
I think an Electocompaniet ECD-1 would be to your liking. Basic dac like you wanted,it upsamples everything to 24/192. Use the aes/ebu digital output from your Emotiva with a Kimber Orchid cable into the dac nets a very analog sound. Also has balanced outs into your preamp. Read the great reviews on this unit. One currently for sale here. I also am selling one on USA Audiomart that has been modded by Steve Nugent of Empirical Audio fame. His mods take the already excellent stock unit to a whole new level.
                                       Cheers,
                                          Den
I've been out of the CD game for years, so I really have no skin in the game when it comes to CD players..or whether you should upgrade it.  I will say, if you upgrade the DAC, if you opt to venture out towards other sources, you'll be able to use the DAC in those situations.  Where as, just upgrading the CD player, that's all it would be leveraged for.  Maybe that's what you want, but really nice DAC's can be had in your budget.  

I have 2 DACs, the Ayre QB9 and the PS Audio Direct Stream Junior.  The DSJ, I believe I've seen them used for around $2500ish, a little bit out of your price range.  The upside with that DAC, not only does it put to shame some DACs that cost 2x as much, they're constantly fiddling/upgrading their code; which can be upgraded to or you're able to switch back to earlier versions.  The Ayre QB9, I pick up for $1200 and it sounds incredible.  

Going a little above and beyond what your original request was:

I sold off my entire vinyl collection about a year ago.  I found myself reverting to hi res files for listening vs. listening to vinyl.  If you ever want to step forward with your vinyl preamp, PS Audio's Nuwave phono preamp sounds majestic.  It sounds even better when you connect it to the DSJ over I2S.  I had always ran Moon phono preamps, the PS Audio setup was unbelievable sounding.  It was like when you first heard a CD vs. tape.  

Happy hunting!

Frankly, I would not waste any real money on a Transport, only on a CD player that you use the analog outs for DSD. I do think you should improve the transport jitter though, by adding a reclocker to the digital cable as well as a better digital cable. The soundstage/imaging problems you are describing are likely jitter related. To get the jitter levels you can get from a $599 Synchro-Mesh reclocker and a $499 Reference BNC cable (20psec), you would need to spend at least $20K on a new Transport IME. You can make the reclocker even better by upgrading the power supply. I would do this first before you consider a new DAC. 30-day money-back, less shipping.

As for the DAC, I can highly recommend changing to a DAC with balanced outputs if you don’t have that already. This will usually give you a lower noise floor and better soundstage as well.

First, just try the new cable and reclocker and see if this does not satisfy you. It also provides galvanic isolation, eliminating a ground-loop that you have now.

BTW, if you also have a home theater with SS processor, I can highly recommend the iFi SPDIF Purifier for $149 driving my Standard BNC S/PDIF cable to reduce jitter for Dolby Digital and DTS.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

I would look for a DAC and use the player as a transport. As you don't need USB input, you could purchase a high quality older DAC for a fraction of the original price. 
Looks like the DAC may be the way to go...any suggestions?
I own a Sony SCD777ES, and a DAC, and a couple of $40 used 5 disc changers I enjoy to the DAC.
(I also own a Audio Research SP-15 I use just for the great 3 tube PHONO section just mentioning it 'cuz the SP-20 n the op header)

Anyway, I would not buy a DAC as the first thing..
Do you (the op) use a powerline conditioner? or aftermarket powercords
I would do something with a conditioner before buying a DAC.
A DAC for the op is going to be a useless lateral move, Unless you are spending dCS money, not a few grand.
I find digital does benefit from power conditioning for HF clarity and smoothness.

Also the interconnects from the CD player.. How good are they?
I totally love a pair of Cardas Parsec XLR from my Sp-15. They have a great sound.