Bob_reynolds: Except for reducing some hum issues, I have yet to clearly hear cable differences in my rig. I am not denying that cables can sound different (so please hold off on the flames), but IMO, my system does not resolve enough to allow cable sonic signatures to become apparent. There are retailers who sell the Benchmark with a generous return policy, so that's now a serious contender, even though it is bit beyond the original budget (since I can't sell my current CDP - I need it as transport).
Sbrtoy: Good point about tube sound. I am somewhat glass-infatuated right now, since I so thoroughly enjoy my C-J PV11 preamp (an a'gon purchase, BTW). But you make some excellent points about the Benchmark. Besides, what other Stereophile Class A Product of the Year can you get for under a grand? I'll certainly try it out.
I agree that 30 days isn't a very long time, especially for gear known to benefit from being run in. However, I've rarely heard of gear that sounds worse when run in, so if I can hear the benefits when new, it should only get better. If I can't, then I doubt the differences will be so huge once run in. What was your experience with the Benchmark as it broke in?
NOTE: The good news is I just picked up a second Vandy sub to match my first (I love what this sub does, and doesn't do). This blows my toy budget for the fall, so I am postponing this face-off until the Spring of '07. Sorry about that, but funds for this hobby are limited. I will post updates.
Thanks again to all.