"Best" of the "Universal" players ???.

For CD sound primarily.

I want "super" CD sound; but would much prefer the machine be universal.(I don't want to sacrifice much at all in CD sound to the very best CD only players. However I realize my isolation & conditioning technigues will enable my sound to surpass that of the finest CD player(Spectral?) in some other less refined system)
I tend to feel the Esoteric machines are likely 'best' and the "safest" bet for long term reliability or factory support with parts/upgradability.
Are there any other "universal" machines I should consider?
I'll vote for my Pioneer DV AX10, good luck at finding one here they usually are sold in minutes. I was lucky to get one. Otherwise I dunno what I would do. Check the stereophile review.
I bought the SA-60 Esoteric but the Arye Player has many of the same qualities. The SA-60 is extremely power cord sensitive. Currently I have a audio Tekne power cord which is quite magical. Lots of cheaper universal players out there however (and More expensive) good luck
I'm using the Ayre C5xe Universal player. I think it's wonderful, but there is a caution. It sounds its best using balanced mode.
The Bel Canto PL-1 or 1A is very nice.
Spend the extra on a good external DAC.
Best upsampling, good 1080p output and thoroughly upgradable.
Magfan, I appreciate your sense of humor.
Linn has a few options.

Here is their flagship model.
The Lindemann 820S seems to be the best, although it is too expensive for me.
Starcon you bought the SA-60 over the Ayre. Would you explain why? Thanks.
Well, Seriously.
I have been pretty much convinced that to optomize for video or audio but NOT both is possible.
The universal players, are to conventional wisdom, flawed in one way or another for audio.
So it was only partially with tongue in cheek that I suggest the OPPO. Terrific video performance and Toslink / SPDIF outputs for audio.
CD performance is only so so, however, by most accounts.

Tell me what single player can match the OPPO in video and my CA 840c in CD playback and can be had for the same total price? Don't forget, the CA also tosses in a 2 input DA converter, which I will use for OPPO sound and as the DA converter from my computer audio....FLAC Lossless output.

I won't catagorically say it CAN'T be done...to make a player which is optimum for both DVD and CD use, but if the same qualities can be had in a 2 box setup for less $$, I don't see why not. The exceptions would be if I were REALLY rich and REALLY space limited.
Thanks Magfan, but I'm not thinking quite that economically.
Ayre, Emm, Esoteric are some of my thoughts for best sound but I'm hoping to hear from some who have experience with the top units in excellent systems. As for Video it's my understanding the Lexicon RT-20 I now use is significantly better than the Oppo based on reviews I've seen.
It "may" well be that I will be keeping the RT-20 and buying a topnotch CD only player.
Sounds like a plan::
Happy listening.....and viewing.

My situation is that I can NOT afford multiple systems and don't have the space, even if I did.

I wouldn't even presume to give any advice on hi-end CD players. I believe my current system of 840c into PSAudio integrated driving Magnepans is quite enough! I could improve my current system by improving the listening area.
If you don't already own DVD-As and your planning on two-channel CD and SACD, then there are many more options that makes CDs sound competitive with SACDs. You've mentioned Esoteric. Playback Designs is another alternative at the high end of the price range and Denon is one of the better choice at a mid-range price. (Spectral as "the finest" CD player. Where'd that "finest CD player" come from?

Dcstep, Spectral as the finest is just a wild guess by a happy Spectral equipment owner who has confidence in Keith Johnson.
Oh!? Since you're the OP and you "know" the answer, then why are you asking the question? Is that Spectral owner a friend or yourself?

Spectral does not make a universal player-therefore Spectral is not on my radar.
IMHO, based on limited searching and listening to alternatives, there are several CD/SACD players that will likely top your Spectral, but no universal player. However, you can buy the Playback Designs MPS-5 and an Oppo or Pioneer DV-58AV to use as a transport through the PD's DAC and then you'll have it all. (In fact, that's what I've done). If you don't already own DVD-As, then I'd recommend against a universal for two-channel and just stick with CD/SACD.

So Dave, could you name the 'several' for me? Thanks
I owned the Linn Unidisk 1.1 and thought it was very good but not quite as detailed as I needed for the rest of my system. I ended up with an Esoteric DV-50 and am very happy with it.

I do not think it was nearly as well built as the Esoteric and did suffer from an occasional glitch.

If you like the Esoteric sound I'd stick with them.
Playback Designs, Emm, dCS, modded Esoteric and modded Denon come to mind.

APL NWO 3.0 GO is a true universal player based on the Esoteric X-01. I believe
it's $30k.

I own an APL Denon 3910, which offers much of the NWO 3.0 for significantly
less. Used examples can sometimes be found for under $4k. Have the laser
replaced (since this tends to be the most common problem with the 3910) and
you're good to go.
One more brand to add
Accustic Arts Universal Player
Specs at
A review at
Hmm, interesting, Hotbird.

Is the Accustic Arts available in the USA? If so, what's it's price in dollars? Have you heard one?

I don't stay in US but in the Far East. I have personally heard the Accustic Arts Surround/Universal Player against an Esoteric X03 and preferred the former.
Currently I own a Accustic Arts Reference DAC2 and a Drive1 Mk2, and I am looking forward to upgrade to their matching Reference Drive 2 when it starts shipping to the Far East.
I was spurred by Teajay's enthusiastic and detailed reviews of Accustic Arts equipment to consider their digital equipment when I was upgrading from decade old Meridian front ends. Thus I learn that previously Accustic Arts was distributed by AAudioImports until at around March or so it changed hands to
Musical Sounds
Actually the Audiogon guru for Accustic Arts is Teajay, from whom I learnt a lot about the brand. You can check out his many articulate reviews on Accustic Arts at
Teajay's Reviews
In the far east countries like JP, HK, TW, CN, SG etc, Accustic Arts has also garnered many rave reviews and awards in the local trade equivalents of Stereophile and TAS. Check out
Numerous Awards for Accustic Arts Surround/CD/DAC
I will second the APL Denon 3910. Plays all formats very, very well. The best bargain in high-end audio, IMHO, if you can find one used (they are not being made anymore).

I am also breaking in an Esoteric UX-1 (out of my system) that has just returned from the factory after having a double upgrade: "104 modifications" to the audio portion as well as the full video upgrade to 1080p including hdmi out. They have basically turned it into a UX-1P1 with the better UX-1 transport and supposedly amazing video. It should also play all formats very, very well (and better than the 3910, hopefully). In my system, the APL 3910 was more musical than the stock UX-1, hence the upgrades (plus the purchase of a used Esoteric G-0s rubidium clock)
I would suggest Playback Design player, and get a blueray, which just blows away the others.
Fplanner, very interested to hear further comments. Happy listening!!
Do Blue-Ray players play cds and sacds? I cannot imagine that there will be albums released on Blue-Ray as there is so much space on the disc.
Jim swantko, thanks for your input.
Ive never heard any Esoteric player, that's why I relate it to the Wadia 581 which I found had good detail. I am really hoping to confirm the Esoteric UX3-Pi has very, very close to "state of the art" CD playback.
Tbg, I was referring to blue ray being the best, for video, and cheap compared to anything else I have seen.
how did blu-ray get in here?
it's about "Univeresal" please.
Why would exclude blu-ray from "universal". It's a potential music format, just like DVD, CD, SACD, mp3, etc. I wouldn't be surprised if Oppo has a universal with blu-ray by the next CES.

They do. It is the BDP S83 Blue Ray player as shown at Cedia. See: http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1063625
Hah, I won my bet. Oh, I forgot to put money on it...darn.