Audio Aero Prima. Make sure it is the latest model. At a cheaper price I would look at the Vincent (also available under the Kavent and Sheng Ya brands. Just replace the Chinese tubes with better ones. Don
22 responses Add your response
Find an older Balanced Audio Technology VK-D5(not the SE) and stuff it with six NOS Siemens CCa's(pre '68) or E188CC/7308's. You WON'T be gambling on chinese crapsmanship, and WILL be able to bathe in the sounds of accurate music reproduction. The SE version's no slouch. I just don't care for the 6H30 tube's presentation, and the inability to tube roll. Do yourself a favor and, at least, find somewhere to audition the SE. That will give you an idea of what the VK-D5 is capable (with good CDs). If I had the bucks right now(and didn't already own one), I'd buy this one today: (http://www.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/cls.pl?dgtlplay&1234795757&/BAT-VK-D5-NEW---in-box-+-extra) BTW: If you like the sound of music with added euphonics(the British sound), the Mullards the seller is offering would make you very happy.
Don't laught too quickly when I recommend an old California Audio DAC (with or without the Delta transport). I use mine specifically for jazz/vocals because it is a bit forward in the mid-range and if anything (compared to my other stuff) a bit compressed. The other stuff is the BAT VK5, a Wadia 302 and a Raysonic 128, all of which do much, much, better with big music, IMHO. You can take a digital out from your preferred CDP and if you don't like it re-sell it for little of no loss. Tube selection is, however, important - these are high gain DAC's. FWIW.
I own a Tube Technology Fusion CD64 and think it's one of the best cdp's out there for under $10K. The company went under but they come up occasionally in the $1500-$2000 range used, new they were $4K. The technology is the same dac as the famed Chord Dac64 combined with a discrete analog output stage with dual 6922's. There's a rave review in HiFi+ that is spot on. Happy listening!
I have to agree with Newbee on the CAL equipment. I owned a Delta/Sigma then Alpha before my VK-D5 and was very happy at the time. Telefunken ECC803S's Didn't hurt my enjoyment a bit(everything, included a transport, would still be within your budget. BUT: The only thing I would trade my BAT in for would be the right Lector, or a Linn CD-12(keep dreaming).
Count me in on the CAL tube DAC bandwagon. A mere $200-250 investment might surprise you as I was. I have a Sony DVD/SACD 9000 unit and hooking it up to a tube DAC made my regular red book CDs sound very good. I played my CAL DAC with cheaper CD players and the transports brought down the quality of sound which leads me to suggest if you have a good quality CD player, your transport could work well with a tube DAC. Also, use a digital cable (not fiber optic) between the CD transport and DAC. Spending big money for a tube CD player might not be necessary. I liked the CAL SIGMA so much I upgraded to the SIGMA II with a 3-6% improvement and moved SIGMA I to a second system. Finally, there's a SIGMA version with an upsample board and people like them. Me, I off the upgrade tredmill with my CDs as this combo is very pleasing.
Raysonic CD 128. Two friends have bought one after hearing (or hearing my raves about) mine. A superbly musical machine with the added benefit of XLR outputs (as well as RCAs). Sells new for $1850 or here on Audiogon for $1100-1200 used. I replaced a Sony XA777ES (MSRP $3K) after getting mine 18 month ago. The Raysonic sounds better playing the CD layer of hybrid SACDs than the Sony did playing the SACD layer, and for playing CDs there is NO comparison. Good luck, Dave