Unfortunately, you have to go up the price scale to get analog type performance from CD. It is a sad fact of life that great sounding CD equipment costs more, unlike vinyl, where you can get great sounding stuff at modest prices. I am quite happy with my Sonic Frontiers Processor 3, Meridian 518 digital processor, and CEC T1x belt drive transport.
However, it still doesn't sound as good as vinyl. You probably will have trouble finding anything digital that does.
That being said, I am not disappointed when I listen to CD's now, and prefer CD's in my rig to two channel SACD. Some music is just not available on vinyl.
I have been told by those that have NOS (Non-upsampling) DACs, that these devices bridge the gap between analog sound and digital. I am considering trying it, as I recently had the experience of having a friend bring his analog rig into my all digital audio rig. I figured my Audiomeca Mephisto II.X would hold it's own quite nicely, but no, two different presentations were had, and I preferred what I heard on the much less expensive analog rig of my friend. I simply have too many CDs to consider switching to a new money pit :), so we shall see what a NOS DAC can provide. I'm going to try either the dACK or Nixon offerings to begin with.
Unfortunately, you may just have to reconcile yourself to the fact that digital hasn't equalled analog yet. In the meantime, get what you can on vinyl and, when you have to, go digital. If you have $ to burn, you can spend 1000's on digital gear (which will depreciate quite rapidly - think computers...) that will sound mighty good - but it will still lack that 'naturalness and presence'. Some insurance against this can be had by buying a good transport and accepting that you'll be replacing your DAC every 5 years or so. The really sad part is that there really isn't much popular demand for better-sounding digital. The good news is that vinyl is alive and well and you don't have to buy $40 'audiophile' lps to get that sound!
Another option is to send your 9000ES to Modwright for its "Absolute Truth" tube mods, which run about $1300. I have not heard these but people speak very highly them.
If you want to another unit consider the Ayre CX-7 or Audio Aero Prima -- both in the $2000 range used.
You can pay more and get more, but nothing is likely to impress like your analogue rig.
A friend went digital front-end only, after decades of analog, with a Wadia straight into B&K amps with Revel speakers and is thrilled.
Consensus is the last thing I expected to encounter in this forum, but the verdict seems to be that the gap between analog and digital is fundamental and part of our landscape. Your input reinforced my feeling. Thanks to the more experienced digital 'philes for sharing your experience.
Just for an experiment, I decided to obtain the Lavry and see what a SOTA D/A can do in my modest system. It should arrive next week, and I'll post results. I realize the Sony and the Lavry are in very different leagues, and not a perfect match, but the Sony should be sufficient for this experiment. My hypothesis is that overall sonics will improve tremendously, but the more important and desirable musical attributes that analog delivers, will still be missing.
I hope that I am wrong...
You could try the TRICHORD CLOCK 4 CD UPGRADE .
I would recommend that you replace the Sony completely, afterall digital technology has moved quite a bit since it was launched. Its like using Pentium II now.
Try out a universal player like the Denon A11/A5900. You won't be disappointed. As to whether it will get you any nearer to analog, I suppose only with good sources - SACD/DVDA or good PCM recordings, will the gap narrow. But if your analog playback is top notch, digital is a pale comparison.
Is it really accurate that digital processing technology is evoloving (depreciating) quickly? The economics of technology don't seem to support this.
Unlike computer hardware which benefits from Moore's Law, and can therefore process more software at a given price point due to falling prices of memory and processor power, DACs are still processing the same 44.1 kHz software that is over 20 years old (not talking about high-res formats like SACD and DVD-A). DACs are not challenged with processing bigger programs at faster speeds that need more computer memory. Aside from upsampling, are there really improvements in D/A algorithms or other techniques that benefit from Moore's Law economics?
If this is true, good DAC design should remain competitive over time. Aren't the "best" DACs (Meitner, DCS, Weiss, etc) still competitive years after release? What technology is evoloving so quickly in D/A conversion?
I really think it has moved. While it is true of most high end redbook playback systems that these are still competitive - I still like my CEC TL2/Meridien 566DAC(20 bit balanced DACs) for redbook, a newer and cheaper Universal Player like the Denon A11/5900 offers considerably more features and similar performance(on redbook) to the CEC/Meridien combo while costing a fraction of it when new.
Even if you take the DCS combos(1st gen), those need to be upgraded to the latest spec or they are obsolete.
The Sony DVP9000 was their flagship model in 2000, now its not even listed in the catalog. Its does not have :
b) HDCD/DVDA playback
c) progessive scan
and the SACD chipset comes from their first gen versions which take the DSD signal and down converts it to PCM bef the DAC gets it. I don't know if you notice this, but Sony digital machines have a certain signature sound, which as you correctly put it is "so lacking in soul, emotion and body compared to analog".
"Consensus is the last thing I expected to encounter in this forum, but the verdict seems to be that the gap between analog and digital is fundamental and part of our landscape."
That's because their goal--if any--hasn't been making their analog and digital rigs sound as close to each other as possible. In my system the goal has been to close the gap by working to improve on each format's weaknesses and not having my analog rig sounding 'analog'. I use a KAB modded Technics SL-1200MKII & Modwright modded Parasound CDB-2000 belt drive transport. The DAC & phonostage are by the same designers, thus having very similar sonic signatures.
Although I have way more LPs than CDs, I can honestly say that I immensely enjoy my digital setup and it has no glare, fatigue, edge nor any attribute characteristic of 'digital' sound.
It can be done...
I own the bidat. It is phenomenal. Unfortunately, hard to find. It will blow away any other dac, because of the unique adaptive algorithms it uses that keep frequency & time purity. Through my 45 SETs and to my home built speakers, it is bliss. If you can find a bidat, BUY it.
I really don't miss analog at all.