Need recommendation for new CD/SACD player


I bought an Oppo 981 secondhand a while back to test the waters of SACD/DVD-Audio. I will say that the SACD sounds pretty good on this player and of the two DVD-Audio discs I have the sound is ok. The redbook audio is absolutely terrible, which I am finding out is a major weakness of this player. My old Technics CD from 1992 sounded better.

I am now in the market for a new SACD/CD player. DVD-Audio is not important and in fact I would like to leave DVD out of the equation all together if possible. So I am here to ask what are users opinions on the best CD/SACD player for under $2000? I have been looking at the Marantz, Denon, and Sony ES models. Also, do you think if I get a model for $1000 that I should add an external DAC for the RBCD? Is there a model that would be great standalone (even if I need to spend a bit more money?). Lastly since I think the SACD and DVD-Audio of the Oppo is decent, should I just spend a grand on a decent DAC (like Benchmark) and use that setup for a while? My other equip for reference is an old Carver C-1 preamp (the next upgrade), a Macintosh MC 250 amp, and Klipsch Heresey speakers, I also have a modded Technics 1210 coming soon. Thanks for the advice.
jlc76
I have owned several upscale CD/SACD players. They all had problems, and all had inferior CD playback. I think the Oppo and a DAC is probably your best bet. Check out PS Audio DAC 3 moded by Cullen Circuits
Are you seeking 2-channel SACD playback only or multi-channel as well?
Great discussion thread, as I've been looking for something similar myself. I'd like to get a newer player that will handle Red Book CD as well as SACD. This would be for two channel in my case. I currently have a Sony NS999ES, which is a good player, just been wondering if anything newer may be an improvement. The idea of running an external DAC (like a PS Audio or Benchmark...) from one of the outputs of the Sony for RBCD is one I have considered.

The Marantz 8001 may fit the bill. The new Oppo 983 looks like it has promise and the NAD T585 is intriguing. One of the upsides to both the Oppo and NAD is that they also decode HDCD. Anyone have experiences with these? I know the NAD keeps the DSD stream in "native" mode, which should be a great improvement over most universal players. Anyone know of other players that do this?
I now have an Oppo 981 and an Oppo 983. The 983 replaced a Denon 3910, a very good unit itself. But I liked the look of the Oppo's blue lights in my system better. No kidding, that's how shallow I am [smile].

Anyway, the 983 sounds terrific to my ears. I have a large colection of 2 channel CDs (incl. a fair number of HDCDs) and an almost as large, and growing daily, collection of DTS/SACD/DVD-Audio discs.

I am really smitten by multi-channel (surround) sound. When it is done properly, it crushes 2 channel. It ain't even close. I have been able to find quite a few sources for this music: bit torrents, private hubs, trading groups, Half.com, Fleabay, Amazon, etc.

The Oppo 983 does a terrific job playing back this multi-channel music. It is fast, dynamic, clear, and sweet. The soundtstage can be incredible in both depth and width. I find it to be every bit as good as the Denon was, and the Denon was no slouch.

The 981 is doing duty in the bedroom, excellent unit for that job...

-RW-
Rotel? don't know the model, but it is 700$ and gets good HDCD reviews.
Contact Ric Schulz at EVS and ask him whats happening and mention your budget etc.He's easy to talk to and may answer all your questions.We aren't going to,YMMV,good luck,Bob
That unit has some updates from previous models that may make it attractive. Reports are good so far. I have 2 products of theirs and no trouble ever with either, plus great sound. CD1 is $1500.

Thanks

Bill
I would really rather keep it 2 ch for now, as I have about 1500 CDs, 500 LPs, 300 45s, and about 10 multichannel CDs. I have a cheaper setup for my home theater which will play multichannel and I will probably move the Oppo there if I get a dedicated CD/SACD.

I don't know much about HDCD, does the music have to be recorded with it? I bet most of what I listen to (indie, electronic, Texas country, and some jazz) isn't encoded this way.

I am hesistant to go with another Oppo, it seems they are great for DVD but I think they are just cramming too much in one box. There is a bug whereby the first second is cutoff of every song when you use the analog out but apparently not when you go digital, so I may just buy a cheaper DAC now and make due until I can upgrade to something really nice.
Jlc76 - SACD is not a PCM and it needs to be converted for use by DACs like Benchmark. I read somwhere on Audiogon that Oppo is outputing/converting SACD only at 48kHz while Benchmark is 192kHz capable. As for quality of the Oppo as a transport - it doesn't matter (according to Benchmark) as long as the player is "bit transparent" - doesn't have digital volume control etc. I use $69 Sony DVD player + coax + Benchmark DAC1. DVD players have poor analog outputs but very good tracking. Check its logic - people complained about Oppos menus and my Sony is completely ridiculous.
LIKE Kijanki & Tweak1 I'D JUST GET A DAC AND KEEP YOUR CHEAP PLAYER. I JUST COMPLETED AN A/B/C/ ANALYSIS OF BENCHMARK DAC1USB, PS AUDIO DIGILINK III AND THE MUSICAL FIDELITY X-DAC V8. ITS THE 3 BEARS STORY-PS AUDIO HAS GREAT LOW END BUT LACKS DETAIL, THE BENCHMARK WAS SO CRYSTAL CLEAR & FORWARD IT HURT AND THE MUSICAL FIDELITY WAS JUST RIGHT. NONE OF MY FINDINGS MEAN DIDDLELY HOWEVER....BOILS DOWN TO WHAT YOU HAVE FOR PROCESSING, POWER, SPEAKERS ETC., ETC. I CAN TELL YOU THIS, YOU WON'T BE UNHAPPY WITH ANY OF THE THREE & YOU WON'T BELIEVE HOW GREAT YOUR CD PLAYER WILL SOUND. I HAVE A $99 SONY THAT SOUNDS ALMOST AS GOOD AS MY CAMBRIDGE 840C.
The Oppo outputs 88.2kHz PCM from SACDs and, while it has a digital volume control and channel trims, you can zero them all in the setup menu.

Kal
Pick up a Sony 9100ES DVD player for SACD. You can find them in mint condition for $500 or less. The SACD is very good, but the CD is not the greatest. Then, pick up a decent dac for $750 or so - maybe a Bel Canto Dac2, or one of the Pacific Valve tube dacs and you've got a great rig. The Sony XA 9000ES has better SACD and CD, but still needs a dac if you really want excellent CD replay. Still, you can get the 9000 for about $1400 or so and the Bel Canto for around $700, so you would have some great sound, IMO, for about 2K. You might even be satisfied with the 9000 cd replay. It's pretty good.
Any of the Oppo players mod'd by Ric Shultz at EVS (www.tweakaudio.com) are very good CD, HDCD, SACD and DVD video players. I use an EVS level-2 mod'd Oppo 970 for both the DVD player in my HT system and also as the CD/SACD player in my 2 channel rig. It replaced a nice $3000+ dedicated cd player and gave up little/nothing in the sonic department. I'm not thrilled with the mid-fi looks (although the 970 is much better looking than the 980 and 981 IMHO), but it is a highly competent player in one slim-line package and it does everything well.

Enjoy,

TIC
Reubent, I checked out the link and am worried it would be like "putting lipstick on a pig" (I know, politcal ref but appropriate here). If the cost was half the $1100 I would seriously consider it. I am going to pick up a Sony 9100es as recommended by Chayro and I will do a side-by-side. If the Sony sounds decent I will just relegate the Oppo to my bedroom setup which consists of a cheap 720p 32" and HD cable box (it will probably only be used by the wife or visiting nieces though).

If the Sony isn't what I expected then I will buy an external DAC and see which is better. After that I may consider modding the winner (www.modwright.com for the Sony but it is a lot more money than the EVS). Anyway, thanks for the tip.
Jlc76 - using external DAC for SACD doesn't sound like a good plan. You will loose quality on translation to PCM, but if you decide to go that route anyway remember that for some DACs like Benchmark DAC1 quality of the transport does not make any difference - don't spend too much money. SACD might not last very long - most of BlueRay don't even support it (according to Stereophile).
No, I will feed the SACD through the analog out and the red book cd out digitally.
Jlc76 - Sounds good. SACD players reviewed by Stereophile had pretty poor redbook performance. There are other formats on the horizon. Some artists (Neil Young, Mellencap) are pushing new format CODE. It is 24bit/96kHz 2 channel recording on DVD media. New Mellencamps record was released in CODE. Prices should be same as standard CDs and you should be able to play it on any DVD player. 96kHz is a huge improvement making filtering much better.
You should check out the new Arcam cd37 from their FMJ line. It's a dedicated 2-channel CD/SACD player - no video. I haven't heard it yet, but if it's anywhere as good as their CD23 cd player (which I own) it should be on your short list of machines to consider. -jz
Thanks, jlc76, for this thread. If I may ask a tangential question? Is there any difference between any of the Oppos for RBCD playback if used only for a transport, in this case digital out to the PSA DLIII? Thanks!