consider the cec line, especially the 51 series. probably will cost under $1200. consider the metronome players and an older audio aero capitole. there may be other tube players to consider as well.
how far back are you willing to go ? do you insist on current production players only ?
All the above are possibilities.
I have been very pleased with the Ayre CX7e. Very lively sounding player. I wouldn't say tipped up in the high frequencies but it's definitely not mellow. Solid bass is another strong point and I suspect that's partly attributed to its oversized power supply. Slightly forward of neutral in my system but not in your face. I'm seeing these sell for under 2k used.
Mr. Tennis, I would prefer to stay with newer technology due to the steady advances in digital playback, improvement in parts quality available to the designers, and potential for older transports to break or require repair. The first three listed are probably my top choices right now since they are all well-reviewed, from good companies, and all have balanced outputs (I am considering switching to an Atma-sphere preamp so the balanced outputs would be nice-but not absolutely necessary). The McCormack is another possibility, but would have to be the deluxe model. The Ayre worries me a little since it is sort of the "flavor of the month." I do like American built equipment for the ease of getting repairs or upgrades without shipping out of the country, but if the Meridian is as good as they say, it would still be a contender. I would appreciate any feedback from those who have tried a couple of these units head to head against each other. Thanks.
Over the course of four months this past spring, I auditioned some of the players on your list and bought the Cary 303/300, which continues to please me, though I think others are very good as well--BAT VK-D5, McCormack UDP-1 Deluxe, and Lector 7T. I have not heard the Resolution Audio Opus 21 or Meridian players.
I thought the Simaudio players were a bit etched for my taste in music (pretty much just classical and opera), though they may be fine for jazz, rock, pop, acoustic folk, etc.
I thought the Ayre C7Xe too "filtered" for my taste, suppressing the natural bloom of my Cary SLI-80 amp. I felt the same with the C5Xe as well. Not organic or lively enough for the music I play.
Electrocompaniet could be very, very good, depending on your system and taste in music. I liked it, though it seemed more laid back than the Cary 303/300.
There are a lot of used Cary 303/300 on A'gon right now for terrific prices--$2,000-$2,400. I bought mine new and these prices seem astonishingly low.
Used BAT VK-D5 also available. It's harmonically richer, to my ear, than the Cary 303/300. Both have balanced outs.
I get to listen to a lot of live music(acoustic and amplified) as a sound tech. I've been using a BAT VK-D5 for the last two years. I've found it a VERY musical/accurate player. It provides everything in the way of resolution/imaging/ambience info/pace/extention(bottom and top) that the rest of my system can convey. I've been bi-amping since 1980, and it has delivered the cleanest bottom of any source I've used. No problems telling the kick from the double bass, and great pitch articulation(providing the recording is good). It's the only piece in my system that I haven't had to mod. The only tweaks necessary: Isolation from vibration is essential(as with any other player), and find some NOS Siemens CCa's from the 60's for it. It also puts out over 2V at the balanced outs, which will drive most amps w/o a pre. I used it with a Placette Passive Linestage for awhile and OH, the transparency!
Here's a vote for an Exemplar modded Denon. Great Redbook.
I second the vote for the Cary 303/300. I had this and recently upgraded to the 306. If you like the Cary house sound (warm, organic midrange) go for the Cary.
coherent, natural sounding presentation and do not overemphasize any portion of the frequency spectrum -- I would say the Musical Fidelity A5 (not on your list obviously) fits this description. Very neutral and exceptionally balanced across the frequency spectrum. Offers deep clean bass as you also request, but I would not say the bass is excetionally prominent; if you like gut pounding bass, this is not the player for you. Clean dynamics. Oddly, it does not have the warmth you would expect from a tubed CD player; I wouldn't say its cold or clinical, but its not warm like many tube players I've heard. Although the A5 has gotten good reviews from the press, the audio forums have had more cautious comments; some really like it, some are indifferent. If you're looking for a natural, well balanced and musical player, the A5 warrants serious consideration. I have one and like it quite a bit, but do see how it would not be everyone's cup of tea. Hope that helps.
I just read this thread and see that you intend to go to a balanced preamp. Consider the Audio Research CD-3 or (CD-3 Mk. II). It is a truly differential-balanced design, and very "well-balanced" performer. The only warning is that it loads from the top. Here are reviews by Marc Mickelson and Wes Phillips (of Stereophile):
I am biased because I own one, but if you want a balanced CD player and don't want to spring for Meitner-level digital gear, it is a good option.
be careful about 24/192 upsampling players. i too have been looking for a cd player. ihave heard many. i bought a bat vk d5. it has 6 tubes. i intend to sell it shortly and am looking again fro a cd player. i would not buy any on your short list. i am considering a cec 51 xr.
most of the high resolution cd players are ruthless at revealing the flaws of a recording. i heard the ayre, the resolution audio and was not impressed.
i would just be very careful considering the cd players on your list, including the cary. my suggestion: audition before purchasing and have some soft sounding cables on hand in case you need them--perhaps, an equalizer too.
A Modwright Sony (get a copper umbilical from Dan if you buy a used one with the Revelation Audio Silver umbilical) would seem to meet your needs the best other than being single ended. Best value by far.
The Meridians and Sim Audios I've heard (don't remember which ones other than the Moon) have tended to be cool and analytical. Didn't care for the Cary 303-300 either: thought the Muscial Fidelity A5 was better.
Liked the Ayre CX7e and, as I only heard it in single ended mode, it could be very good indeed. Didn't find it uptilted.
As suggested above, an AR CD3 could be a very good choice also. I have yet to hear one but the reviews seem to match your criteria.
Thanks everyone so far, I do appreciate all the responses and the great suggestions and considerations you guys are coming up with. Since I plan to purchase used, I will not be able to hear he unit beforehand. Therefore, I have to do my best research and take my chances, as I have with the rest of my system. Based on the many happy owners, the Cary seems to be a strong choice. To Rodman99999 and Mrtennis, have you compared the VK D5 with the D5SE? I used to own the VK 500 amp, which was beat out in my system by the McCormack, although I always liked the BAT build quality and certainly can appreciate their approach to voicing their products, very musical. I definitely would consider the BAT players, although after owning the SF Line 3SE, I am not too fond of the 6922 tube, especially having to buy them. Does anyone know if the 6H30 super tube SE unit still provides the fully fleshed out midrange that BAT is known for? To Raquel, thanks for the review links, have you heard the differences between the CD3 and CD3MkII? Top loaders are ok and the CD3 uses one of the best. Has anyone done comparisons with the McCormack Deluxe or Electrocompaniet?
If you are looking to run your player balanced, I would think about going with the Ayre. The products that they produce sound much better when run with balanced cables since they put their money into designing fully balanced circuitry. If you are going to run single ended, I would audition the Modwright Platinum Truth Sony 999ES or the newer versions that Dan mods.
Hello Mitch- The CCa's I referred to are 10K hr tubes. They should out live the love affair I have with the VK-D5 and it's musicality. By the way- If you should pursue these excellent(and highly accurate)tubes: be certain to find the 60's(dark grey getter support), and not the 70's versions. The later tubes were terrible on top(pumped razor blades). I really don't want to be restricted to one tube selection either(as the SE/6H30 version is). The D5SE also provides less voltage at the outputs than the D5(about half). A serious consideration for me, as my Tact 2.2X doesn't provide much gain at it's outputs. For some of the CDs I own(recorded at lower levels)that can be a drawback to my listening pleasure(I like realistic DB levels). A used VK-D5 at about $1500.00 and six NOS CCa's at about $700.00 would fit your stated price goal nicely. You might have a harder time finding someone that wants to sell their BAT, than to find the tubes. Oh- with regards to bass response: My system is flat to 20hz through the VK-D5 player(Stereophile Test CD #2 for test signal). I forgot to mention that earlier. Bluebook CD repsonses are truncated at 20 and 20kHz of course. With the TacT's pink noise generator, I measure 3db down at 14hz. Like I said: the VK-D5 delivers the music. If you get one, and something's missing: It's either not on the CD, or the system/cables/interconnects are holding it back. The VK-D5 and Kimber Select 1130s are a match made in heaven, BTW.
If you care to research the CCa further:(https://www.tubeworld.com/6922.htm) has some good info at the bottom of the page. Further info on VK-D5 per Stereophile review:(http://www.stereophile.com/digitalsourcereviews/570/) I noticed that a couple of TAS writers/reviewers had VK-D5s in their reference systems until just last year. The TAS review belabored the point of the VK-D5SE's alledged, "dark" voicing, to the consternation of a number of BAT lovers. There were some humorous 'letters to the editor' in response.
Mitch2: No, I have not compared the CD-3 to the CD-3 Mk. II. The latter costs roughly 10% more than the former, and as audio occupies the same universe as everything else and you thus tend to get what you pay for, it surely must be better. And as your Aerials are very fine speakers, I would think that you would benefit from the Mk. II.
What did you end up with, Mitch? I recently purchased a 303/300 and am enjoying it's warm, natural sound, imaging, and frequency extension. I'm only familiar with the G08 from 15 and 20 minute in-store demos, which don't really mean anything, but at least I wasn't disappionted.
To obtain the Cary, I gave up my Meridian 508.24, which I'd owned for many, many years and can say was one of the very best cd players I've ever heard (for its ability to communicate the essence of music in an organic way). The Cary is surely quieter and cleaner, and perhaps a little better at this, a little better at that, but the 508.24 could still coexist with it. Easily. I am happy with the Cary, but because of that great, multi-year experience with the 508.24, I'm still intrigued to hear the G08 over a period of days or wks in my home system.
Hi Sundaycomix, I still haven't got things set to my satisfaction yet...what else is new? I have been revolving preamps lately. I went with the Ayre CX7e player based on its solid build quality, great reviews, excellent company reputation, and fully balanced circuitry. It is a nice player, but I am currently using it single-ended into a VTL 5.5, which is a very nice tube preamp but doesn't maximize the potential of the balanced circuitry of the Ayre player or my DNA 500 amp. I am awaiting the return of an Atma-Sphere MP-3 preamp that Ralph Karsten's crew is currently upgrading for me. I am a little limited in preamp choices by the lowish 10K ohm input impedance of the McCormack amp. I have considered the Calypso and Aesthetix says it will work with the McCormack but with an output impedance of near 4k ohm at 20Hz, I am concerned of a LF rolloff with that preamp. Anyway, the Ayre certainly sounds good (maybe not quite as good as the Muse Model 10 I recently parted with) but I will be able to comment more fully after I have had some time with it in a fully balanced set up. I should have the MP-3 back in a week or so, and I am looking forward to trying that combo. - Tim