Replace Cambridge Audio D500 or add DAC?

I have $1000-$1500 to upgrade my system, and one of the components I'm considering to upgrade is my CD Player. Currently I have a Cambridge Audio D500, Audio Refinement Complete Amp, and Monitor Audio 5i speakers. I'm using Transparent Audio Music Link SuperXL RCA interconnect, Transparent Audio MusicWave speaker cables, and stock power cords. I'm looking for a little more detail, more airy sound, and better seperation/distinction between instruments. I'm wondering whether adding an upgraded power cord and the Cambridge Audio S700 DAC would give me these qualities, and would it give me approximately the same sound quality as a $1000-$1500 CD Player.

With 1500 to spend get away from Cambridge.Nice but not really a high end product.
The AudioNote 1.2 Dac is a great choice for around 1200.00 Get it assembeled.From Mike Kerster at Audio Note North America
You could keep the Cambridge as the transport for the DAC. It has a decent Sony transport mechanism.
I would consider finding a sony scd 9000es and having the modwright mods done $400 - $800 the 9000es has been coming around used $750-$850 or new right around $1100. With the mods this is a monster player with the bonus of sacd and dvd playback and without the added expense of a digital cable. The sure thing is to not spend that kind of money with Cambridge.
The same Money spent on a good DAC will do REDBOOK way better than the Sony will ever dream of.If you want SACD DVD at the expense of REDBOOK then go for it.If its a REDBOOK player your after stear clear of the SONY even with MODS.
Get a DAC. Easier to upgrade in the future. If you need air and detail get an EVS, if you need liquidity and musicality get a Bel Canto 1.1. Don't go for just the Bel C 1.0 however.
Gil, I faced the same question with my Cambridge cd4se. I purchased one of Sonic Frontiers Assemblage 2.7 platinum dacs ($1298.00) and have been very satisfied with the upgrade. It took the player to an entirely different level of refinement. Good luck, Will.
Natalie, i have to wonder what would make you state the comments that you did ? Are speaking from experience after using a modified Sony, know others that have gone that route, etc ??? If so, who performed the mods and what did they consist of ? I've been told by several well respected folks in the industry that this is a VERY viable alternative, especially given the prices that one can now snag the Sony's at. Just curious.... Sean
Sean - I am also interested in Natalie's source of info. My 333ES is in for mods and the only other Canadian that I know of that has either expressed a desire or stated that he is having his sacd player modded is Lorne Cherry (who has the new XA777) and his mods will be much more extensive than mine. While it is common knowledge that we "Canucks" are a quiet breed I can't see Canadian posters here who own sacd players not either discussing potential mods or canvassing opinions from those members here that have had the mods done on their gear such as I did. Can't remember seeing anything from a Canuck owner of a sacd player, other than Lorne...

So Natalie, whose modded unit have you listened to generate that statement????
Poor_airman, perhaps my experience can lend some helpful input. I was just recently in exactly the same general situation. I'd saved up about $1500 for an upgrade, and my current system pointed strongly towards upgrading the front end. For years I'd been reticent to do because digital technology changes so fast that I'd always been reluctant to pop for anything special fearing that it would be too quickly outdated. Nevertheless, the time had come. I did what I usually do: with a $1500 budget I spent $1750 on a balanced Theta DS Pro Gen Va with 24/96 upgrade and several optional optical inputs. My suggestion is to give a careful listen to DS Pro Gen Va w/24/96 upgrade. For those who want to know why I made my decision, read on. I came to this purchase after a long journey of listening and speculating.

I compared an Assemblage 3.3 to an Accuphase setup at a friend’s, and while the Assemblage was awfully good for the $’s it still wasn’t competitive with the much pricier, and much older, Accuphase. Based on the same logic, I believe that the Theta, which I was never able to compare directly to the Assemblage or other similar high performance mid-highend pieces, was the way to go. I realize the Theta may not deliver the performance of the Accuphase, but in my experience with both I don’t believe it will be too far off the mark if it falls short at all. The used Theta, BTW—even with 24/96 upgrade—is a lot cheaper than a new 3.3. I also included in my decision the speculation that when the 3.3’s successor was available the used retail of the 3.3 would be much lower than that of the Theta (i.e. I believe the Theta is a much better store of financial value). Of course, it’s only the sound that matters. If after a comparison you were to prefer the 3.3 to the Theta, buy the 3.3 and forget about my speculation of its used retail value. I believe I will prefer the Theta, so the resale thing just helps resolve the any remaining cognitive dissonance. Another thing I should make you aware of is that I’ve heard the Theta many times and have always been stunned by its spectacular musicality. This also reveals a “prejudice,” if you will, on my part in that I have always loved the Theta DS Pro Gen X (no pun intended) sound.

The Theta is upgradeable, and its build and parts quality far surpass pieces in the $2 to $3 thousand range. With the 3.3 experience in mind, and after hearing an unmodified S9000 ES, which IMHO was un-involving on Red Book (i.e. my entire present 500+ CD music library), and other single boxes at a similar price point over the preceding year, I was able to unequivocally decide on the Theta. If you ditch the balanced outputs and optional optical inputs a 24/96 DS Pro Gen Va should be had for $1500 or less.

I was reluctant to make the 3.3 comparison, but it was part of my (possibly flawed) decision process. I would like to say that the 3.3 is a truly excellent sounding piece, and maybe in a different system my impressions would have been different. I used it as a benchmark for what I consider to be the new class of over-performers and to that extent I used it as the representative for the whole class/group. I have not heard all in this class, and it’s possible that I would have made a different decision if I had a chance to do so.
Suggest you keep the Cambridge as a transport. Add a jitter reduction device (used Audio Alchemy, etc) and dac. For a dac, I would suggest either the Bel Canto, or if you want to save money, find a used Micromega dac. Get some Apogee Digital cables to start with or Harmonic Tech if you want to spend more. If you still feel the need to spend money, suggest you look into different speakers. I have an Audio Refinement Complete amp and I did not find it to be a good match for my Monitor 2.5 speakers. These are older and smaller than your Monitors. My Monitors work better with an NAD receiver and I am using B&W DM 602s2 with the ARC.
In response to the above posts concering the sony sacd players and mods, the mods on my 333es are wonderful and the REDBOOK sound exceeds that of many dacs in the $1500 dollar range. If you have not specifically heard one of the sony's modded then I think you can't have any idea at the level of improvement. This isn't just putting fancy feet under the thing it is dramatically upgrading the power supply, analog out etc.. with parts of much higher quality found in the dacs mentioned in previous posts.
My mods were done by Dan Wright of Modwright his website will give you the technical details and his chatboard as many responses, thoughts and comparisons worth reading. I would hope that before someone would voice such strong opinions and use of the caps lock fee that a brief education or listen would be in order.
Hey, I'm happy for everyone who loves their S9000ES, other Sony, or any other player/dac. I didn't care for the unmodified S9000ES. I made made no comments about any modified derivatives. Regardless, the guy asked for opinions, and I gave mine.

Frankly, I believe your comment, "...before someone would voice such strong opinions... a brief education or listen would be in order," is out of order and an overeaction. Have you heard a balanced Theta DS Pro Gen Va with the 24/96 upsampling upgrade? If not, take your own advice. On what basis do you found your assertion that I lack listening experience or education? Last but not least, my only comment, "IMHO it was univolving," is far from strongly worded.

As far as the assertion that the Modright versions have, "parts of much higher quality [than] found in the dacs mentioned in previous posts," I wonder if you're serious? It certainly appears those Modwright mods are some worthwhile & legitimate upgrades. It's great to see someone reputable offering that service. What information did you base that assertion on with regard to the upgraded balanced Theta DS Pro Gen Va's parts quality? I'd really like to know.

P.S. what were you trying to say with "...and use of the caps lock fee...?"
Hey Cuz, the post was directed to one of the other posters who advised against getting any Sony modded or not. I too questioned this advice as I am sure that the poster had not heard a modded Sony given his geographical location and the lack of Canadian members who have sacd players much less those who own a modded version. To my knowledge there are none, modded units that is, here in Canada, mine (333ES)will be the first and Lorne Cherry's the second (XA777ES), neither of which has been touched by Richard Kern as of yet(awaiting parts from the UK).

So Cuz, Chellingsworth was not taking issue with your particular post about the Theta and I have no opinion on the "caps" issue.
"I would hope that before someone would voice such strong opinions and abuse the caps lock key that a brief education or listen would be in order"

My post was indeed posted prior to the post concerning the Theta gear came out, I have not heard the Theta and wouldn't be able to comment on it. I have decided to start proofreading. The above is a correction of the confusing sentance referenced on an above post.

The point that I was trying to get across is that the modded Sony's share very little with their stock companions. I definately do not care for the stock 333es and bought for sacd only and to use as a transport for my Bel Canto 1.1. When it returned from Dan Wright the transformation was stunning and far beyond what I had thought was possible. I is therefor easy to believe as Natalie did that it would still be substandard on Redbook and did so in a way (CAPITOLS ET ALL) that made it sound like someone would be crazy to go this route. I found it to be extremely cost efeective and of such high performance that I sold my 1.1. Thus started my rant on such heated critisism of my very reasonable suggestion. I apologise if the mistiming of the posting made it seem like it was directed at the Theta post which O feel was well written and backed by experience.
Cheers !
Cool. Sounds good. I have to admit I read it several times and was never positive whether it was partially directed at me.

I have no doubt that those mods would make a real big improvement. I have a Cary Audio cd player that is nothing but a Rotel 955 with a totally replaced analog section. Come to think of it, I need to sell that thing. Anyway, the replacement tube output section was quite impressive. It's also good to know that others are aware that the analog section can make a huge difference in the sound of the front end. On one hand this last statement might sound ridiculously apparent. However, how often do you see a manufacturer advertising anything other than what type of processing some of the chips do? Almost never. Happy listening.
I had the Levinson 31.5 so I speak from experience, I also own the Cambridge D500SE. I don't care if this is AudioPhile Anethema, the Cambridge is a far better transport. It beat the big Levinson up so badly, I called the factory because I thought the unit must be defective. Well it wasn't and I no longer have the 31.5. I got rid of the Levinson and have a CEC TL0 on order, but I am not parting with my Cambridge. People see a price point and just assume the more expesive stuff is better. It all warrants listening. As for the first post, if it is not of Audiophile quality then the Levinson must be what? complete CACA?


The EVS Millennium DAC II may also be a good choice(read reviews on and a review of the previous DAC 1 on as well as past posts on Audiogon). It's $1050 from and you can return it in 30 days if you don't absolutely love what it does for your system. My understanding is that the Cambridge will actually make a decent transport, so I'd go the DAC route and wait till the current format wars work themselves out, and you still may want to use this combo for redbook CDs. I've got an EVS DAC 1 and it's like the Roto Rooter man came in and did a number on my system--and the DAC II is supposed to be "way better," according to Ric at EVS. Tons of detail, huge soundstage with palpable space and air around and between performers, dead silent backdrop, and dynamics that will floor you. Brings every performance to life. Best audio purchase I've made. Best of luck.