I've had an Esoteric DV-50 for 5-6 months. There is absolutely nothing cold or lean about it, at least after 200-300 hours use. I have balanced Purist Dominus on it and on my Classe Omega, and they sound very close in SACD--and no one has ever suggested the Omega was cold or lean.
What you're describing sounds like the what the reviews of the Musical Fidelity Tri Vista CD/SACD player describe -- you might want to check it out.
There's also the modded Shanling T-200. Both of these players employ tubes. Haven't heard either one of these, but they sound like something
that should be on your list of players to check out.
I am using a Xindak SCD-2 with NOS tubes and a special mod. Contact me if you are interested.
You might consider a Sony player with Modwright Signature Truth mods. This includes a tube output stage that some might describe as "warm". I like to call it neutral because warm implies rolled off highs. While this is not a cheap option, it can be less expensive than some of the other choices.
I just purchased a Sony 9000ES with this mod and am very pleased. I plan to publish a review as soon as I get a better handle on the sound and have time to put my thoughts into the computer.
I would check out the Marantz SA14. A new mk2 has been out for about six months. It has balanced outputs and I would discribe its sound as more warm or laid back as far as CD players go. Its redbook performance is outstanding. List price is $3000. I love mine.
Save yourself some money and time. Life is good with a Consonance Reference SACD 2.0. I was going to have my SCD-1 tricked out the rest of the way by Modwright when I looked at the cost. I sold the Sony, bought a Consonance (it has a tube output) and pocketed the change. This also helped to fund my daughter's wedding. I have not looked over my shoulder since. Quest for Sound also says the unit has many reviewers clamouring for it and 2 of those soon-to-be-published reviews by well regarded on-line magazines kept the unit it is so good.
I have not missed the Sony at all!!
imo, the Esoteric and the MF Tri Vista are very nice musical players. no lean/cold sound from these players. an even better player would be the classe sacd player but at twice the price of the above units. all sony's (imo) tend to have a lean sound (especially in cd playback) but with the right mods/dac, can sound very good. i am using an external tube dac with my sony 9000es (for cd playback) and has opened up the sound and tamed the harshness that the sony exhibited before. it comes close to my $3000 cd only player, plus it has sacd plyback. the sacd playback from the esoteric and mf players sound more musical than the sony's i have auditioned (scd-1, 777es, 9000es). my opinion of course. you would need to audition for yourself because only you can determine what sounds good to you. I have auditioned several modwrights modified players and he does an excellent job at bringing out the best in sony players.
I'm going to expand the scope of the commentary by addressing combination players that have exceptional performance with SACD or DVD-A disks. Not everyone has the budget or shelf space for separate audio and video players, and thus must consider combination machines.
The current issue of "The Perfect Vision" (sister publication of TAS) has a review of DVD/SACD/DVD-A players, and they made very positive comments about the following machines which did a first-rate job with both DVD and SACD or DVD-A. I've listed the machines in order of increasing price, and indicated if the machine's performance was best with SACD or DVD-A.
1. Sony DVP-NS999ES (MSRP: $999) (DVD + SACD). Rating comment: "a killer player at a killer price".
2. Arcam FMJ DV27A (MSRP: $2999) (DVD + DVD-A). Rating comment: "reference-quality performer with all three of its formats: DVD, DVD-A, and CD".
3. Esoteric DV-50 (MSRP: $5500) (DVD + SACD + CD). Rating comment: "The Esoteric's sound is at once lively and detailed, and remarkably relaxed and easy with CD and SACD -- an addictive combination that reminds one of of vacuum-tube components. The only CD or SACD players I've heard that better the Esoteric sonically with either format are audio-only players that cost more. And we're talking slim margins, at that. At this point, I have seen or heard a better DVD player, period."
TAS also rated CD players in their Oct-Nov 2003 issue. Some of the units also handle SACD, and might be worthy of your consideration. The machines they listed in their "Recommended Products" review included:
1. Naim CD 5 (MSRP: $2300)
2. Ayre CX-7 (MSRP: $2950)
3. Gamut CD-1 (MSRP: $2950)
4. Meridian 588 (MSRP: $3895)
5. Simaudio Moon Stellar ($3950)
6. Musial Fidelity Tri-Vista (MSRP: $6500)
Marantz SA-14 placed atop the Neuance platform. A reference combination IMHO.
I'm looking for an esoteric Dealer in my area to audition the DV-50, from what you are all saying, and the folks I've spoken to (Was looking for another player...contacted the dealer who told me to stay away from and and then proceeded to rave over the DV50, which he didn't even sell!!!)
As soon as I get one and burn it in I'll let you know what I think.
I've been in cricket, rugby, various photo and other forums and I must say I've never seen a group like this - helpful, informed, passionate - I'm new to the group but am overwhelmed by the quality of input!! Thank you, all. I have decided to audition the DV-50 for myself, in my sytem and if I dont like it, will try the Marantz. After all, I cant ignore someone who has the Classe Omega and says it (Esoteric)sounds similar. I will try it with Purist, Nirvana, XLO Limited and Synergistic i/cs.
Why not get the Audio Research CD-3 II and forget the
Kennyt: Galen Carol Audio will send you a DV-50, and will allow you to audition it for a week. You can contact him at www.gcaudio.com or (210) 805-9927. He is very honest, and a nice person to deal with.
The Cable Company will also send you one to audition for 2 weekends(fatwyre.com)- but I think you have to go by their Lending library rules - 5% charge - credit at the store.
Thanks guys, hadn't checked out this post in a while, and in the meantime found a dealer who got me mine two weeks ago. Pretty sweet player!!!
Now I'm in the hunt for the money for the new pre/pro....
Take a serious look at the Muse 11. It is 4K so you have lots of leeway.