Please guide re: Sony CDPs

I have had the Sony SCD-C555ES for a few months and while I like it a lot, I wonder if I am getting that "high-end sound" from it. I do like the carousel feature but would give it up under the right circs.
BTW, Redbook CD excellence is what is being pursued here.
Liking the Sony sound, I am looking at other Sony players, but also at competitors. My list so far includes (for a budget of $1K or under):
Sony XA7ES (I understand this is not SACD; that's ok)
Sony DVP9000
Music Hall ?? 25
Bel Canto Dac 1, maybe 2

Or does stepping up to say, a used Meridian 508.24 really rake in the returns?

Another thing I think I should try (and will soon) is BDR cones under the Sony. Anyone have experience with this combo?

If you DO want the ability to play SACD, I would stick with the 555 and consider tweaking it with mods and cones and better powercords, etc., etc, to stay close to your budget and get the most out of redbook and SACD. They seem to do some inexpensive but worthwhile mods to the 555 at "" .If you don't care about SACD, and really just want great redbook, then for the price, you would be very pleased with a 508.24.

I owned a 333 and 555 and preferred the 555. It was rated Class A by stereophile and I think is the best SACD changer they have made - read the stereophile review - the 555 shares some of the same traits as the XA777ES. I now have an XA777ES and think it is excellent on both formats. Eventually, I will sell my XA777ES in favor of a good Universal player when one comes out that I can afford as I am starting to see some DVD-A titles that I would like to have (REM). Hope this helps,
Thanks, Pardales. I was at a dealer today and explained that I might be looking for more out of my CDP, and then told him what it was. He said (and this from a dealer!), that to better the 555 I would probably have to look at AR's CD3 or so, for $5K. I thought this was a bit of hyperbole, though. He sells Sony, and admitted under pressure that the XA777 sounds better than the 555. It should, for uh, how much more?
Anyway, found it strange that a dealer would not try to upsell me. Either he is totally honest and the 555 is that good, or he is totally out of touch. FWIW, he has been in business many, many years and carries some nice lines, like Magnepan, AR, Sony ES, Pass, Aragon, AI.
BTW, did TAS do a review on the 555? He seemed to recall one such review, a glowing one, preceding Stereophile's.