I owned a couple of ACT 3's over the years, and sold it on a retail level. I also had the Aragon Soundstage, which I sold in favor of the, yes, sonically excellent ACT 3! The Act 3's dynamics, lack of coloration, detail, soundstage, and just plain excellent digital sound sold me over the slightly soft Soundstage, wich was "not as dynamic"! The Soundstage did have about a 9 db lower Signal to noise however, which wasn't so much of an issue in my system, at the levels I listened to mostly. I did all my listening with the digital in connection for CD and DVD listening on the ACT 3. For over all sound, I would say there wasn't anything I heard on the planet that bested it for the money!...nothing! (haven't heard the Angstrom).
Still, and I did have the ABM models for $2200 retail, the act 3's ONLY real down fall for what it was(other than lack of analog direct pass-through, which you'd find on more expensive players) was the signal to noise level or "noise floor"! I could tell, at louder volumes with different systems, that it could slightly add noise to the system. In short, it was a tad noiser than many more expensive offerings out there. The Aragon, for one, was quieter, but more money, and not as exciting sounding to my ears! The Classe, Aragon, Krell, Theta's, and others I'd heard where indeed quieter. ONly the raved(someone got paid) Sony SDPEP9ES piece was louder, from what I've had in my system.And I couldn't live with the Sony. The ACt 3, in the right system, that I could definitely live with!
Still, the only thing, again that I was wanting for in that piece was perhaps a quieter processor. But, it was marginal there. I'm sure many wouldn't even peep about it.
As for that unit being "bright", no! It was not bright! It was very very well balaced. Infact, about perfect. Now the Acurus 200x5, that might be a little thin on top!...but not the ACt 3. It wasn't bright. Maybe something in Tootch's system was adding brightness. But it wasn't the ACt 3. I can tell you that right now.
Anyway, anyone wishing to give this unit a try for dirt cheep should do so! At the very very least, you will hear what a good pre pro can do sonically. I would say only the likes of the Krell HTS in it's day was superior for over all soncis for a pre/pro!! The piece was that good, for only having 20bit dac's! Just as pristine, clean, musical, detailed, uncolored, and dynamic as you could want from a digital processor for movies!..and not bad for PCM CD's either for what it was. Nice piece.
for the record, I do remember the Sig to Noise ratio for the digital input as around 90db, while the other Mondial offering in the Aragon line(soundstage), was I believe at least 10db better! The Classe SSP25, which was also a good piece was like 96db or 98. Anyway, this can make a difference in some systems. Try and find out, it's worth it.