Recommend analog sounding CDP with volume control.

I have been doing alot of research on this. Price range is $2500-$3500 for a used unit. This price range seems to provide alot of options, but based upon comments and reviews my main contenders are the Audio Aero Capitole Mk2 and the EAR Acute. You can view my system in virtual systems, but it is basically a Cary CD 303/200 with volume control fed directly into a Spectron Musician II amplifier and Totem Forest Speakers.

There is only one issue I am trying to fix, as I think the system is pretty amazing as it stands. The only problem is with vocal music (I listen mostly to rock, trip hop and vocal jazz). Many recordings get pretty sizzly with sibilance. I find that I would like to listen louder, but the aggressive sibilance causes me to reach for the "volume down" button. (And BTW, I don't listen very loud, usually sound pressure at the listening position is in the low to mid 80's dB).

I believe the amp and speakers are capable of faithful reproduction of whatever is fed to them, and I am starting to believe the sibilance comes from the CD player. The Cary has an oversampling button, which definitely changes the sound pretty dramatically. With oversampling "on" the sibilance recedes slightly, but overall it sounds like the engineer used excessive compression, i.e, instruments do not decay as naturally, and they do not have nearly the air around them. Bottom line - using the oversampling feature is an unacceptable (and incomplete) solution.

Because this change in CDP processing has such a dramatic impact on the sound, I am starting to believe that the digital source is the key to audio nirvana. I am therefore gravitating toward a higher end, more modern CDP with the latest processing technology. I am specifically inclined to try something with a tube stage.

I would appreciate any comments about the AA and the EAR, but also would love to hear other options that you know and love.
The 303/200 is a respected player and it would surprise me if the Cary was the source of the "aggressive" sibilance you describe. It has been my experience that sibilance is most often the result of speaker set up. Have you played around with your speaker toe-in, listening distance, etc. Try slightly tilting the speakers back, etc. Also, you may be better served running the Cary through a good preamp as opposed to going directly into the Spectron. I would at least rule out these potential causes of the sibilance before dropping a wad on a new CDP.
thanks, but I am convinced this issue is not a function of speaker placement. I have a dedicated room, and have had all this equipment for 6 months with ample opportunity to experiment with placement wherever I like. Just to be sure, after reading your thread I moved the speakers around with one of the discs known to sizzle at me (Bebel Gilberto eponymous). While moving the speakers impacts the bass, imaging and soundstage it has little impact on the sibilant treble.
146 views and only 1 response? Have I stumped A'gon?
You haven't stumped me! I use a 47 Labs shigaraki transport feeding a Haggerman Chime DAC with a volume control and sibilance is not a problem for me. Also, you should at least try the Ultra Bit Platinum CD treatment that the Horn Shop website has for sale,it might help and you'll never know until you try it. I do have one disclaimer, my system does have a little sibilance for about the first 20 min. after turn on and then goes away. I don't know why, but thought I'd mention it. Good luck with this!!
IMO, tubes are nearly a requirement for digital playback. My Audio Aero Prima mk2 is wonderful and never has sibilance (I am sensitive to that too). I have heard the 303/200 and I thought it was rather forward in balance and a slight analytical tendency that might be leading to the problems you describe. I am biased but I would go with a Capitole in a flash. Their 6021 tube stage is a fantastic design concept.

I can recommend both the Audio Aero Capitole II, which you already mentioned, and the Resolution Audio Opus 21, (which I own, btw.) Both are analog sounding cd players, IMHO. My friend owned the AA Capitole II, and he was going to sell it, as he had just upgraded. I thought about buying it from him, so I have compared the two, in my system, and believe that the AA Capitole II is very slightly better than the Opus 21.

(However, to be honest, it was not worth it to me to upgrade for two reasons:

First, I am heavily into analog, and while the Captitole II is slightly better than the Opus 21, it was not that much better. Nor was it worth (to me) diverting the $1,000 difference between the two, to put into my digital front end, when I felt it was better put into my continued upgrading of my analog system. (I feel that there is much more of an upgrade between my new Dynavector XV-1S cartridge, (that I bought from the same friend, btw!), and my old Shelter 90X cartridge, than there was between the Capitole II and the Opus 21.) So basically, it came down to the "most bang for a buck" way to spend my money.

Second, and this is more of a personal preference, I determined that I don't much like top loading cd players with pucks, (like the capitole II), and prefer front loading players (like the Opus 21).

So, my recommendation is if you use your cdp as your primary source, and/or if having the very best digital source is of paramount interest to you, than get the AA Captitole II. (Assuming you like the top loading (with a puck) system that it uses.)
If on the otherhand, you are on a tight budget and wish to save a bit of cash, get the Opus 21 and live with the fact that is just barely not as good as the Capitole II.

My two cents worth anyway.

Good Luck in your search!
Also consider the Quad 99 CDP with volume control.
Stumped, no. The issue may have nothing to do with the cdp.
It may be cables (very possible), and it may be the aluminum dome tweeter (also very possible). Of course, the cdp also might contribute.

Let's assume the speaker is not the issue, since you achieved some diminishment of the sibilance when using upsampling. If the sibilance went away but the clarity suffered then likely a good solution is available without touching speakers. Personally, I do not prefer aluminum dome tweeters as they sound harsher to my ear than cloth dome; I prefer ribbon tweeters the most. But, for the sake of argument, let's assume the speakers are ok.

There are three immediate considerations:
1. The CD Player is possibly the issue.
2. The amp is possibly the issue
3. The Cables are possibly the issue.

I'm not going to get into room tuning; I do not see that as the primary issue here based on your pics.

Solutions (some easy, some tougher):
1. roll the tubes in the cdp; see if changing them yields a substantively softer sound in the treble.
2. Change the ICs from cdp to amp. It's very possible that you can greatly diminish the sibilance. I'm familair with the Harmonic Tech cables. Try a Magnan Cable IC for a change. If you have a serious issue of sibilance, then get the Magnan speaker cables as well. It's going to be "softer" on the high end, a touch more laid back, amazingly like putting tubes in the rig. You may like it quite a bit.
4. Get a tube DAC and use the cdp as transport.

If the tube rolling/cable solutions don't work, then it's likely that you have to reconfigure the components. Big assumption again, but assume your amp is ok. (Frankly, that's not a perfect assumption as the amp is class D which I find can be a tad strident in the treble, but we'll give it the benefit of the doubt (especially if you have used it in other rigs and found it acceptable)

You then would need to try a preamp or a tube DAC. Yes, a pre, even though it may absolutely diminish clarity a hair. Disc player straight to amp for me the times I have tried has been harsher than with pre. The pre will condition the sound and usually "plump" it so as to make it more palatable. But, not all pre's are created equal...
-Of course this is adding another factor or two with a component and cables.

My guess: Tube rolling won't make enough of a difference, but ICs and speaker cables can. If that doesn't do it, then you're looking at changing your cdp, getting a pre, or getting a DAC.

You could add a Tube DAC and use the cdp for a transport. A sweet tube DAC will usually soften a tough transport's high end to some degree. Even cheap cdp's (i.e. Oppo) can sound ok with a good tube DAC. With a good transport a tube DAC will have a good chance of sounding lush.

If it were me, knowing how much cables can tune the sound, I'd do the cable exchange first (and if that doesn't do it, then rolling tubes likely wouldn't have either), then consider a tube DAC.

OR you could take a crap shoot by asking everyone else what cdp is mellower than the Cary. However, demanding that it have volume control will severely curtail your options, you must be aware. I asked that directly when I had the Ah! Njoe Tjoeb tube player and wanted the next step. I was told by several people that the Rega Planet 2000 was more tube-like, and it was. So, if you get several responses which confirm it, you could just swap cdp's like you're hoping to do.

But, watch out, you may be frustrated with a cdp which is warmer but not as detailed as you seem to want. Catch 22. That's why if it's a tonality thing, I'd work with cables first, as they would alter the electronics the least while still giving chance to lose the treble toughness.

BUT, that might not cure the problem. You may have to go through some of these other steps anyway.

Isn't solving sound issues FUN? ;)