Please recommend CD player w/volume under $5500

I'd like to get rid of my preamp and go straight from source to amp.

Seeking recommendations on such a player with quality sound.

Rest of my system consists of the new ESP Concert Grand SI speakers, and (currently) a Butler TBD-2250 (but I'm thinking about going for a Conrad Johnson 140 or similar).

Thanks very much!
I'll probably get bashed for this but........... Every CD player I have ever heard (with a built in pre-amp/volume control) sounded better through a preamp. I have heard/done comparisons with the Wadia seperates, DCS stack, and my own Theta Miles. With a preamp in the system I noticed, across the board, a large increased in dynamics, soundstage depth/width and tone color. Preamps thet were included were CJ ART, Aesthetix Callisto sig, and ARC LS25II.

Hope this helps

Chris is right on! Don't do it.
Chris aka CMO reflects my experience also. I have an Audio Aero Capitole 24/192 MK II with volume control (passive preamp) and it always sounds better through a preamp regardless of which of my systms I use it in.

Just curious, which pre do you like the most?


I can really only compare the ARC LS25II (which I used to own) and the Aesthetix Callisto that I have now........ Well, I guess I just answered which of those two I prefer. The CJ was in a different system, so I can't really compare it to my preamps.

I'm on the keep the preamp wagon... You will lose something without it, mainly the full body sound.. a lot of the hiend cd players are a little lite on the bass as well, and with no pre it could be very anemic, and you have a tube amp I believe so you will have possibility of very soft bass.
any wadia: new or used, good luck...
I always prefer a good tubed preamp in the system.
On the other side of the coin, there are plenty of threads in which folks describe no audible differences when comparing certain CDP's direct to amp/s vs. going the traditional preamp route.

I would suggest doing a search on the most popular CDP's that have volume control....namely, Resolution Audio Opus 21 (GNSC modification recommended), Audio Aero Capitole, ML 390s, and others. All can be had for under $5k used, or in the case of the GNSC RA Opus 21, 5K new. Also, there is the EMM Labs DAC, which I understand has a very good analog volume control, but that may be too much of a stretch $ wise.

The thing is, it may make some sense to go without a preamp -at least initially- as it will allow for more $$$$ to go to a very high quality CDP. And, some argue you won't lose a thing.
I run a Granite tube CDP direct to a Spectron Musician III amp to Von Schweikert VR5-HSEs and I just sold a Supratek Syrah tube pre. I tested the system with and without the pre for a good while. I decided to sell the pre because I preferred the simpler system, could not detect a significant improvement with the Supratek (which BTW has a wonderful sound) and soon will have a toddler who no doubt would have been even more fascinated than I was with the tiny illuminated city created by the Supratek.

Anyway, I used to own a Meridian 508.24 and compared it extensively to the Granite. Absent the tube stage of the Granite, I don't think I could go without a tube pre.

Good luck with your decision.
I don't doubt that some CD driect to amp systems can sound great, but in my experience I have always preferred a quality preamp in the chain.
APL Denon 3910. Awesome sound.
I also run a Granite tube output CDP directly into my amplifiers (AtmaSphere M60s).

Now, I have to say that I consider the tube output section of the Granite to actually BE a preamp, so that must be taken into account of my opinion. But, it also has a more traditional fixed, solid state RCA line level output as well. In the latter instance, I still run directly into the Atmas, and use a pair of Endler Attenuators to back off the volume. Depending on the music, my mood, etc., I will use the sunnier, more open tube output, or the more relaxed, liquid, weighty, and full bodied solid state - the ability to switch is a very nice feature of this player.

In no instance, of the preamps I have tried (ARC, Blue Circle BC3, Cary, Joule LA150, and some others), was I ever able to match the purity of running direct. The preamps always changed the sound, and I can see where some of the things they did could be welcome to some, but I never was able to match the resolution, detail, clarity, dynamics, slam, etc., but I without fail noticed more noise, haze, and grunge.

I will say the Behringer DEQ2496 unit I am playing around with now that Eldartford recommended to me has come the closest, by far, to having nothing in the audio chain. And, the ability to compensate for the frequency anomalies my room presents means it probably will be a long term fixture in my system.
If you can find one used a Conrad Johnson DV2B is a fantastic cdp for the money, is tubed and has a volume control via the remote.
The archives have a number of threads on the subject. While the idea of going direct from source to amp is pleasing from a conceptual standpoint, it is a matter of execution, and I have yet to find one I prefer without preamp. Personally, I have found that dynamics are almost always better with a preamp in the chain. CDPs using a digital volume control can be weak at low volumes. With an analog output stage, the question is one of power supply (if done well, it becomes a straightwire to preamp, as if you hardwired the output stage of your CD player to the input stage of a preamp). So far, the best CDP w/ volume control I have found is the EMM DAC6e/CDSD combo (but I have by no means tried everything). While very transparent, I still prefer my preamp in the chain... but I guess with all these types of decisions, in the end it is a matter of taste, and perhaps I just enjoy the colorations provided by the preamp :^)
Owned the Wadia (briefly due to reliability issues) and tried the direct connection to my Lamm M2.1 amps bypassing my Lamm LL2 Deluxe Preamp. The sound seem very good initially but somewhat mechanica on some sourcesl. Also I kept feeling I was missing something after prolonged listening. Reconnected the LL2 and everything was more musical instead of the mechanical presentation previously. By the way, I'm using Concert Grand SI as well. Now running with Lamm L2 reference, M1.2 reference, Siltech Cables and Esoteric X-01 Limited SACD/CD. I may try the Dodson or Weiss DAC in the future. I suggest you try the Esoteric X-03 and a good tube/hybrid Pre. Otherwise my vote... keep the Preamp!
Oops. I meant to say DCC2/CDSD. I have not tried the DAC6e/CDSD and cannot imagine why I wrote that - could be that I had recently read Oneobgyn's review...