I have owned a Cal Delta and have also owned or tried a few different, low cost ($1k<)transports.
The Theta Data Basic is an excellent transport, but I would check on service before you buy.
Newer Theta's are probably very good.
My personal favorite is a Parasound CBT2000, which I have owned for about 3 yrs and have no plans to sell. I also have a modified Aiwa XC37M changer, which gets frequently recommended. While I prefer the Parasound to the Aiwa, it is not bad for little money spent.
I have also tried several digital cables for less than $200 and my favorite is the Harmonic Tech Copper link.
I've been using a Pioneer DVD player as a transport into my Millennium DAC 1 with excellent results. The ability to play the 24/96 DADs has also been fun and very instructive into what we can expect from the new formats, which I'm not venturing into until things shake out a bit and there's a digital connection available. It might be worth going to your local Best Buy and picking up something like a Pioneer 440 for $150 and see what happens, and you can always return it(minus a minor restocking fee if there is one). Many "experts" say very good things about Pioneer DVD players as transports, and given my experience I tend to agree. It obviously won't blow away something like a CEC transport, but it might be an improvement over the Cal and that's what you're looking for, right?
I'm using an Apogee Wyde Eye digital cable, which is very cheap(about $30 at Guitar Center for 0.5m) and compared very favorably with other more expensive cables. Also heard good things about DH labs and Zcable(Ric at EVS sells these, so might be good with Millennium DAC and there's a 30-day money-back guarantee), but haven't heard them. If I were spending more I'd look at Acoustic Zen(see review on Enjoythemusic.com).
As for DVD-A/CD and/or SACD transports, I wouldn't hold my breath--there are lawyers involved you know. This is another reason why, if it works for you, spending $150 on a DVD player for a transport might make a lot of sense. At that price you could even have Ric, Stan Warren, or Dan Wright modify it into a monster transport and still be within your budget. Hope this helps and best of luck.
While the Pioneer DVD 440 might work fine as a transport, this is one of the newer units that supposedly has the "bad dac's" in it. As such, you might want to shop around for another model that would offer slightly greater versatility as an "all in one" type of player. Should your external DAC ever go down, you would at least have a decent standby player without having "earbleeds" to worry about that way.
If it is still available, i would check into the Teac VRDS model that is currently listed for $450. I was thinking about buying it myself for one of my systems, but if another "needy soul" was to snag it first... : )
If that one is gone, go to www.yahooshopping.com and do a search for a Parasound CBD-2000. Some place has factory refurbs for $500, which is a phenomenal deal. This is a belt drive top loading player, but also makes for a great transport. As mentioned, this would also give you a pretty reasonable "one box" to use in an emergency. I just ordered one of these for my brother to feed his Millennium with. We will play around with cables when it shows up.
Out of curiosity, what digital cable are you using ? Sean
thanks for all the input
Sean, I am currently using the Z cable that Ric sells with the milleniums but was looking to upgrade (Acoustic Zen, Cardas, Straight Wire)
NOTE - Ric posted a news release on his sight yesterday and is now NO LONGER making the MILLENIUM II. He will only be doing onboard mods to players. I was hoping for balanced outputs for my dac so that I could go into an ARC LS5 without cheater plugs, oh well.
so tell me more about the teac
I may hold off for an affordable DVD/DVD-A/Cd that actually outputs 24/96 from DVDA. Ric told me none of the current ones do that.
thanks for the heads up on the teac/wadia piece
that's awful nice giving me the nod on that one
I may snag it if it's still available
I sent a note into the owner already, thanks
I can't believe Ric has discontinued his Milleniums,
but then being the tweek he is, he felt more comfortable doing full unit mods. I'll keep my dac and it will be the center of my digital playback system for years
wasn't it you who had a slight hum in your evs and had ric look at it? I still can't get rid of my slight hum, I loosened nut holding the power supply and still get a subtle hum.
I'm curious what coax cable you are using
or would I be better sending my unit back and going to balanced inputs (I have the option)
I tried pairing several transports with my Bel Canto Dac, and found that a DVD player, while good, was not nearly as good in my system as a dedicated redbook transport. I settled on a used Proceed CDD, which is a little out of the price range you mention, but also tried and liked the Theta Pearl quite a bit, which is in your range if you can find a lightly used model. Also, the Pioneer 525 I used sounded distinctly better through coax (Acoustic Zen Photon, with which I am very happy) than through any of several Toslink cables in 1 or 2 meters. Hope this helps.
Tom, i also liked the Pearl with the Mill II. It is also a decent cosmetic match if things of that nature matter to you or your "better half".
In terms of having a hum, yes, that was me. I ended up sending that DAC back to Ric as an outright return because of it. After trying a few other dac's, i ended up buying another Millennium II. This one is slightly different in that it i can run it directly courtesy of his built in attenuators with their own output jacks or run it into the preamp via the standard line level outputs. I've never run it direct though, as i have other sources in that system and can't spare the versatility of a preamp.
As it is, I think that there is some kind of "problem" between the preamp that i'm running and the Mill II, but it still sounds better than all of the other combo's that i tried. If i can find something that reduces or removes the hum, i'll let you know.
As to the Teac, is it still available or gone ? As mentioned in the original ad, it uses a mechanism that is highly respected and the basis for machines that cost THOUSANDS of dollars. As such, it would make for a great transport at a reasonable price. Sean
I jumped on that transport! thanks for the tip!
I used to sell Wadia's moonlighting in my friend's shop, so I am well aware of their sonic characteristics. Didn't think I'd ever be able to afford one.
The person with the teac had a few standing offers for $50 less so I took his initial price and ran with it. Now just need to settle up, thanks.
I'll let you know how I make out
My EVS's hum is not that noticeable, but I still wish it wasn't there. I have not tried grounding it yet.
I also have the attenuators although I always use the dac straight into the preamp. I can toggle switch on the back of my Audio Research D200 amp between balanced and single ended input, so I could set it up that way, but I don't. One day though this may make it to my bedroom system then I wouldn't need a preamp.
I am a bit miffed that Ric is no longer making the millenium, but then again he seems to want to work strictly on straight mods. I auditioned the Millenium against an Audio Research Dac 3 and a Sonic Frontiers CDP1 and the Millenium was so much more revealing.
I asked Ric a number of times if he would produce a balanced output version of his dac, but he isn't interested. Anyone know of someone who might be able to do this? I am purchasing an Audio Research LS 5, which is all balanced inputs, so it looks like I'll be buying a lot of single ended to balanced cheater plugs.
I have been interested in the low end toshiba DVD/CD/DVD-A machines (4700, 5700) which can be purchased for $270-$400, but not sure if they truly output a DVD-A 24/96 signal.
Sean, what coax cable are you using from transport to dac?
Glad that you were able to snag that piece. Now i just hope that you like it : )
I hear where you are coming from about Ric discontinuing production on these pieces. As it is, i currently have a Mill II, my brother is running a Mill 1A and i'm looking for another Mill 1A or 1B for my Father's system. As good as the Mill II is, the Mill 1A or 1B is not that far behind overall and is a REAL bargain in my mind.
As to digital cables, i'm currently "sperimentin" quite a bit. I've got an FMS Digital Data, a Tara Labs cable, a McCormack Wonderlink, a Canare with "true 75 ohm" connectors, etc... I'm waiting on the arrival of a Kimber Illuminations D-60 that should be here tomorrow. I've never "burned" any of these on my Mobie, but i really should. I think that doing such would level the playing field out somewhat. The McCormack needs it the most, as it is the brightest.
As it is, i currently prefer the Tara out of those mentioned. The D-60 is silver, so i want to see what that does to the system before i burn it in. Albert is sending up a couple of low cost cables for me to burn for him, so we'll see how those stack up also.
In terms of converting the DAC to balanced, i would not attempt it. Not only would this alter the sonics of the DAC, it would probably not be monetarily worthwhile. I'm sure that you can find someone to do it for you though, so long as you have the cash to wave in front of their face.
Can't help you with the Panasonic units, as i know nothing about them.
I still have to play with the system that the Mill II is in in terms of the grounding scheme. While what i have in mind might not solve the problem, i think it might help lower the noise floor of the system overall. Sean
Sean and Fly Fish
thanks for the insights
yes, I'll leave the EVS unbalanced
I have a few friends that have heard mine and want one, now I have to tell them no can do and to buy a new dvd and let ric gut it out
I think I will enjoy the teac transport, if it's anything like the wadias, should be an upgrade from the cal icon which will now go in my bedroom system (that remote will be nice over an old aria without one).
I plan on letting the universal transports market play out over time and maybe score a DVD/CD/DVD-A transport in a year or so. Not hip to 5 channel DVD output but the industry seems to be swaying that way, and some of the dvds I heard sounded much better in two channel (Steely Dan Two Against Nature plush video comes to mind)
I'm still clueless why cal audio is so into preamps and dvds now and has abandoned their single disc cd players and transports, why ruin your strong suite?
curious more about the coax digital cables - looking for something warm, neutral and revealing - tonal balance is my biggest concern
Thanks again to all
I would contact Tara and see what they have to say about the subject. Drop me an email and i'll try to take a look and see exactly what model i'm using. I think that it is long out of production, but maybe not. Sometimes manufacturers have some "new old stock" laying around. I was able to snag the very last pair of Magnan III's that David Magnan had this way ( courtesy of Duke at Audiokinesis ). The Tara is definitely more focused sounding than the more expensive FMS. As you might have also guessed, Tara is also known for making "smooth" i.e. "non-glaring" cables and that is how this one sounds.
I'll hook up the Illuminations D-60 tonight and see how that sounds. I have the feeling that it will need burning to "mellow" things out though. It is a silver cable with teflon jacket. Construction is different from most other cables though as it somewhat resembles the Magnan III's that i mentioned earlier. Sean
I'm using that z cable that Ric Shultz sells
I can only comment on my other cables in my system
I use Harmonic Technology Pro SIlway II and Cardas Golden Cross. The Cross are very neutral and revealing, the pro silway just slightly less so. I have tried silver single ended interconnects and they were too bright with my arc ls 2 mk ii. I am selling it and moving up to an Arc ls 5 which is much warmer. So maybe silver is back in the cards