The Best of the Best Well sort of - CD players



I am researching a new digital source that is in the middle of the 'REAL' high-end range and need some advice choosing.

Here are the units I am looking at:
Esoteric DV-60 combo,
Denon 5910ci combo,
Sony SCD-1 with almost all possible mods,
Rega Saturn,

Ayre cx7e,

Oracle 2500, (this player is gorgeous)
Simaudio Moon Eclipse LE, (this player is pretty)
Wadia 861, (this player looks serious about digital as do the Meridians)

DCS (oooops can't afford this one, strike it off my list)

The top 4 are my finalist, the Ayre is not out of the game based on what I have heard and the last 3 players may me out of my price range but, I havent totaly ruled them out yet. Cosmetics and CD sound quality are important to me. Being a combo player is a nice plus- (but not the end all factor in my decision) -if you look at my current gear as I do not have an upscaling DVD player and do own loooots of DVDs and hi-res audio disc ie: SACD & DVD-A but I mainly listen to CDs on my system.)

In my player I am looking for beauty, build quality, somewhat neutral, even tonal balance, bass weight and control, detail without being to bright or clinical, PRAT, less fatigue for long listening is nice but, not a top concern, I am not super concerned with soundstage or exact imaging just so the player is not too forward or lacking in width.

I mainly listen to electronic and underground tracks from the UK, Germany, and the Netherlands
Aphex Twin, Download, Orb, Massive Attack, Kid 606, Meat Beat Manifesto, Kraftwerk, Enon, Goldfrapp, Royksopp, DJ Shadow, UNKLE, Dead Can Dance, etc. I do listen to other stuff but, this is my main gig.

Below is my current equipment:
Parasound C2
Rotel 1075 (Soon to be replaced with Parasound A-51)
- Rega Jupiter
- Marantz 8400 combo hi res
Onkyo m501 amp for rear channels
Camelot Lancelot phono stage
Music Hall MF7
Monster Hts 5600 (Looking at Shunyata Research Hydra 8)

Infinity Prelude HTS fronts and center
Artisitc Audio Mobius rears
Velodyne CHT-10 for sub (soon to be replaced with Martin Logan or JL Audio)
Polk back rear channels, I dont use these except for 7.1 movies

PS3 bluray
360 hd-dvd
Wii

Sony wega 50" A2000 sxrd 1080p

cables are audioquest, kimber, harmonic technology, jps, ixos, voodoo, etc.

Sorry this is soooo long but, I wanted to be detailed before letting this loose. So ANY suggestions would be welcome from those with similar music taste or have auditioned one or more of these players or even want to sell one. I excluded stuff from MF, Classe, Cary, Krell, Levinson, Lexicon, Meridian (The last omission is for cost mainly because I only like the expensive 808i)

THX
optitron
I am somewhat biased, having owned (and been thoroughly delighted with) several Denon players, so keep that in mind when reading this.

The Denon 5910 is the most versatile of the units listed, it will play any shiny disc except the new HD formats. This means that it can "hold down the fort" if any of your other players needs to go in the shop. In addition, it is *very* well-built and has every bell and whistle you could ask for. Also, good deals can be found on these if you don't mind buying used. It is also a darling of the hot-rod modifiers, you can mod that thing to kick ass on ANY other player out there.

Finally, it will be easy to re-sell it when the time comes. If I was in your shoes, I'd buy the Denon...

-RW-
Thanks Rlwainwright for your response. I agree with everything you said about the Denon from previous experience with their AVR products (very well built, all the bells, very upradeable, etc.)

I'm sure it prob. outperforms the Esoteric in the video department with its Realta T2™ HQV chip by Teranex and cost alot less. The Denon is not quite as sexy and prob. is 1 notch below the DV-60 in the audio department. I am speaking from a specs comparison not personal experience which can be jaded anyway.

THX
I recently sold a Linn Unidisk 1.1 and replaced it with an Esoteric DV-50 and am very happy. I'd say the Linn is a touch more musical at the expense of detail - but the DV-50 is very good.

I was not expecting it to be as good as it is for the price they can be had on here.

My vote is skip the DV-60 and pick up a DV-50. My local Esoteric dealer still uses a DV-50 in his display as he thinks it sounds better than the 60.

Good luck whatever you decide!
I can think of 2 not on your list, I might have considered first, particularly if you want dace and musicality;
Resolution Opus 21
Audio research CD3

The resolution in particular punches well above its weight and you have the option of a tried and tested mod from Great northern Sound later. My GNSC modded Opus 21, should be with me next week
I think the players you listed:
Resolution Opus 21
and Audio Resarch CD3
are ugly so I don’t care how they sound, just personal taste as a designer

but your feedback about the Esoteric sounds about right to me, combo players can be problem prone compared to just a plain CDP, cause there is so much more stuff in their

and I still believe a CD only format sounds better than most universal players yet I could move my Marantz and Jupiter into a different system which adds huge convenience to me. its all a crazy game

PS I may be considered a blasphemous but I think my Marantz sounds about as good if not better in some areas than the Linn

thanks so much for your input

happy listening
Hello,

Try the Marantz SA-11S1, its a wonderful player!!!
The SA-11 is more Musical than most of the players
you have listed.

Enjoy the Music
Yes i the SA-15 is a sexy beast not as good as the 11si though. Since I have (and do like) my Marantz 8400, I am ready to move on to new worlds. Gosh I hope this thread helps others because I am getting some good emails and posts.

THX for your post
It sounds like you need to decide if you want a cd player or a dvd/combo. The Ayre is an outstanding cd player. If you are going cd, you might also listen to the Cary 303 (or 306 if it fits your budget). The 303 allows you to experiment with different levels of upsampling and solid state/tube output all from the remote. The new Arcam Universal($3000) got a very good review in the new Absolute Sound.
To bad looks are more important than sonics. The Opus 21 sounds better than most the players you listed!

Also several of those players you mentioned are old or are well known for reliability issues.

From your list, its a no brainer for me, the Wadia 861 is the reason my opening sentence stated "most" and not all. Though, to be fair, I dont have much listening time with the Ayre. From what I have heard I like it.
I NEVER said that looks are more important than sonics!

I just feel that when I spend good money on audio gear it doesn;t have to look like crap. There are too many good products out there to settle for less. As far as your opinion it's just like mine, everyone has one, and it's personal taste. Sound is different to everyone and you may feel the Opus is better than most of the stuff on my list but, I gurantee the majority would not agree with you.

thanks for your post
Tlday:
Yes I agree and this point I am prob. going to get a Esoteric DV-50/60 or a Denon 5910 for combo play and then purchase a stand alone CDP. The Arcams are just fine but, the value in my opinion isn;t there.

thanks for your post
Does anyone know anything about the sound/video/hi-res audio quality etc. of the Theta Compli/Voyager or Lexicon RT-20s, the new Classe CDP-300? If someone out there has a Voyager I am highly interested!

Thanks
Some other players to consider... Consonance Droplet (very different looks, sounds good, and has a good volume control), Blue Note Stibbart (havent heard it, looks really technical), Shanling (they have several interesting looking CDPs, that sound pretty darned good too).

You're right, you can buy a CDP that sounds good and looks good too. Also, we're cool as long as you don't call my wife ugly! Har Har!

BTW we have very similar musical taste. Do you like Sasha - Air Drawn Dagger (a few years old) or Bliss - Quiet Letters (A year old or so)?
Thanks Distortion. No hard feelings pal.
Yes I love the droplet and the blue note. Never
heard them though. also I do like Sasha a lot and have
Airdrawndagger on vinyl as well as CD (Fantastic album for
testing or showing off your system to friends.)
Two folks I respect very much (my dad and a good friend in audio) have the Esoteric DV60 and the other the Ayre and both are very happy with their choice, my dad has the Esoteric and I think it is pretty darn good.
Here's the problem: if one listens to electronic/ambient/non-acoustic/computer generated music, a top-of-the-line CDP will not do you any good....it's mostly, money wasted on this type of music. Very expensive CDP's will give you an improvement in vocal and acoustic reproduction...better detail. That's exactly what you don't want.

That said, pick up a Musical Fidelity CDP, say, a used 308cr. Or a new A3.5. Great bass/imaging....does everything right.
Thanks Chadnliz. I think both players are great choices also.
You won't have a question at all if you listen to the Ayre C5xe.. There is nothing to quibble about with this unit
Thanks Alextychkin. Although, I can tell you don't listen to the music I do or you would know that your statements are not correct. The music I listen to ranges quite a bit in audio diversity it often gets grouped in a generic 'techno' classification for those who are not into the underground vs. the main stream. I also feel you gain much more than just improvements in detail, vocals, and acoustics with most better CDPs. A lot of the music I listen to incorporates vocals and acoustics it just depends on the group. One of the reasons I love all the things I listen to is because there isn't a lot than can test your systems limits better. ie: Hybrid has so many elements of different types of music. However, even though you bring up some stereotyped assumptions, you can be more right than not it just depends on the material. PS I feel MF is over rated thus its deletion from my list. This is a case of pretty packaging that doesn't meet my sonic expectations/taste.
Here is an update as to what I have done.

Please feel free to continue to post your questions/suggestions as they may help others. Later I may post my reasoning behind my decisions and a small review of each new piece.

Rotel 1075 (NOW Halcro MC50)
- Rega Jupiter (NOW Raysonic CD128)
- Marantz 8400 combo hi res (NOW Esoteric DV-60)
Monster Hts 5600 (NOW Shunyata Research Hydra 8)
Velodyne CHT-10 for sub (May be out of funds for now but will prob. go with a Martin Logan Decent)
For my main system I am also getting a new stand by Adoni and some new cables, etc.

I am also purchasing a new Denon AVR (prob. 3806 or 4308ci) to adopt my Rega and Marantz in another room.
Optitron.
FYI, I own around 1200 ambient,drone, electro-acoustic, techno-tribal, Berlin School etc. CD's.

I am speaking from my experience. But suit yourself, though.
Thanks Stringreen. Do you have a Cx5e? I believe this prob. is a fantastic machine. BUT as you can see I finally just jumped in with the CD128 and DV60. The Cx7e was really high up on CDPs I was looking at so maybe next time around.
FYI

I am still fond of the Oracle CDPs and the Consonace Droplet. Yes, stone me I think they are very sexy beast. The Moon Supernova and Andromeda are a little more straightforward in appearance but, still nice looking players. Classe Delta and Plinus players are gorgeous also. However, I think the Raysonic has the future/hi-tech look down pat without being overly gaudy----beautiful sound and design. Remember I am an artist and designer by trade so cut me some slack people. Sound is still the most imp. element.
Alextychkin says, "...it's mostly, money wasted on this type of music."

Thats not true. I listen to many genre's and IMO there are no more poor recordings in this particular one than any other.

I use the rule of thumb that states, you can not improve upon a bad source.

The Orcale is a fine choice, though I thought it was too expensive. I havent even seen a Raysonic yet so I cant comment there.
To say that MF is overrated is just plain naive. This statement is similar to the MF bashers who have too much time on their hands. MF makes many different products, and in many cases makes the best value. Have you really listened to their products? The Tri-Vista integrated, in my opinion, cannot be touched at that price point.
Alextychkin I don't care how many albums you own, I have many more and I still think you are wrong and I would bet most others who have such massive collections of the UG software as we do would agree with me.

Tlday. No I haven't heard all the MF stuff if you would like to send me some stuff to change my opinion I would be more than happy to take a listen. PS: I will settle for their headphone amp for starters. As I have nice cans but no good headphone amps.

This isn't a bashing forum. It's just educational. It's ALL subjective and yes a well recorded/produced album on a cheaper CDP can be better than a shitza recording played on a much more expensive CDP. Take chill pills and then listen again before you shoot out noise. Thank you both for your observations and Happy Listening! I know I will be ;O
Your not going to believe this but, I listen to a lot of glorious things on vinyl also.
THX Distortion the Oracle is to expensive thus why I dont own it. I want it all.
I also got a Denon 5910.
AMR cd-77
AMR CD-77

A tad more expensive, but something you might prefer given the music you hear mainly: Burmester CD 061. To be sure, in my personal opinion, the AMR bested the Burmester by a comfortable margin but I mainly listen to small combo jazz, acoustic guitars, piano solo (I guess Dead Can Dance would almost certainly be clearly more involving with AMR as well, though)

Oh, and should you decide to leave the "REAL" range, as you have correctly designated it: Naim CD 555
Optarchie and Karelfd thanks for the input but, for now, (ha-ha) I am content with the 5910 and am amazed by the beautiful looking/sounding Raysonic.

Hi Optitron,
I also love electronic and ambient music . I have many of the groups you mention . I find a wealth of hidden information as well as creative use of dimensionality in many recordings in this genre . As the resolution of your system increases , these attributes will unearth and shower you with a kaleidoscope of mind bending sonic landscapes to entertain you . Its the reason I am so fond of the genre. Everything starts at the source. A lousy source will spit out the recording in a lifeless, one dimensional palette.
There are so many great cd players out there and there are countless threads addressing this. I wanted to shed some positive light on your comment about " wasting time " with a good cd player in this musical genre.
Oh yeah, the Raysonic is one SWEET piece of gear! Ya done good, laddie! I'm glad you "settled" for the 5910, that is one hella good DVD/CD player. Sounds like you're in the sweet spot now - DON'T MOVE an inch!!

-RW-
Yes thank you Brainwater. Email me so we can exchange ideas for good software. Everything you said is soooo true and why I love the genres we listen to. Few understand how many more nuances open up in say one of Pansonic's albums with the right gear. I too felt the comment about "wasting time" on a good CDP was silly and that is why I answered with an appropriate response. (PS This member contacted me for a list of groups to check out so I must have said something that was true.)
;O
Rlwainwright, "I will miss you the most scarecrow." I can't tell you how much it means to me to be validated for spending thousands of dollars of my hard earned cash on the right gear. Ha, Ha, Ha---That's all we need sometimes from a fellow Audiophile to make it all worth while instead of some 'you should do this or that bitch session.' How refreshing, thank you, and yes I am not moving an inch right now in the source arena just in other areas FYI now upgrading speaker cables to Voodoo Ultranlinears. I think they make great power cables from my personal experience. Hope the speaker cables live up but, I think they will. Bruce over a Voodoo is fantastic to work with. Cheers!
Here is an updated list of my equipment Additions with the previous gear they replaced/supplemented.

This is for my own personal glory boasting so please don't respond saying that you have better shitza cause I don't care, you prob. have more money than I do and a bigger gun too. This is a hobby not a slam fest.
It's taken me a few years to get to this point. I am at about 85% of where I want to be with my total system.

Anyways, I am very pleased thus far and the best part is all of the items marked NEW/AGON! came from great members like you. Thanks everyone for your advice. Happy Listening!

Parasound C2 controller
Rotel 1075 (Soon to be replaced with Parasound A-51)Nope went with:
NEW/AGON!
Halcro MC-50 used with Voodoo Gold Dragon AC

NEW/AGON!
Raysonic CD 128 with Kimber 10 AC &
Vibrapods from Alan@Audiowaves also purchased NEW/AGON! x4 matched Phillips tubes to replace the factory Russian ones
NEW/AGON!
Denon 5910 combo-player with JPS digital AC & Vibrapods from Alan@Audiowaves

NEW/AGON!
Shunyata Research Hydra 8 and NEW/AGON! Voodoo Diamond Dragon power cord to go with the SR

NEW/AGON!
Voodoo Ultralinear speaker cables

Velodyne CHT-10 for sub (soon to be replaced with Martin Logan or JL Audio)
NEW/AGON!
Went with a Martin Logan Descent (I may move the Velodyne to the back of the room and only turn it on for movies or to destroy those who oppose me.)

- May sell my Rega Jupiter (anyone interested?)
- May sell my Marantz 8400 combo hi res (anyone interested?)
Both are still great pieces.

Camelot Lancelot PRO battery powered phono stage
Music Hall MMF-7 turntable on marble with Anniv. Ringmat
Monster Hts 3600 power center, oops had 5600

Infinity Prelude HTS fronts w/powered subs and center
Artisitc Audio Mobius rears

Onkyo m501 x2/150w CH amp for rear back channels
Polk rear back channels, I only use both of these for 7.1 movies sometimes on THX Games

PS3 bluray
360 hd-dvd
Wii

Sony wega 50" A2000 sxrd 1080p

cables are audioquest, kimber, harmonic technology, jps, ixos, voodoo, etc.

Had the Pronto remote that came with the Parasound but am going to give the Harmony 890 at try, I did order that from Azon

I also ordered: 2 new vinyls (Beck Guero and remixes)
about 10 SACDs, 12 DVD-As, 10 DTS-ES audio discs all rare, weird, or electronic. You gotta have software too ya know ;O

09-25-07: Optitron
Here is an updated list of my equipment Additions with the previous gear they replaced/supplemented.

This is for my own personal glory boasting so please don't respond saying that you have better shitza cause I don't care, you prob. have more money than I do and a bigger gun too. This is a hobby not a slam fest.
It's taken me a few years to get to this point. I am at about 85% of where I want to be with my total system.

Anyways, I am very pleased thus far and the best part is all of the items marked NEW/AGON! came from great members like you. Thanks everyone for your advice. Happy Listening!

Parasound C2 controller
Rotel 1075 (Soon to be replaced with Parasound A-51)Nope went with:
NEW/AGON!
Halcro MC-50 used with Voodoo Gold Dragon AC

NEW/AGON!
Raysonic CD 128 with Kimber 10 AC &
Vibrapods from Alan@Audiowaves also purchased NEW/AGON! x4 matched Phillips tubes to replace the factory Russian ones
NEW/AGON!
Denon 5910 combo-player with JPS digital AC & Vibrapods from Alan@Audiowaves

NEW/AGON!
Shunyata Research Hydra 8 and NEW/AGON! Voodoo Diamond Dragon power cord to go with the SR

NEW/AGON!
Voodoo Ultralinear speaker cables

Velodyne CHT-10 for sub (soon to be replaced with Martin Logan or JL Audio)
NEW/AGON!
Went with a Martin Logan Descent (I may move the Velodyne to the back of the room and only turn it on for movies or to destroy those who oppose me.)

- May sell my Rega Jupiter (anyone interested?)
- May sell my Marantz 8400 combo hi res (anyone interested?)
Both are still great pieces.

Camelot Lancelot PRO battery powered phono stage
Music Hall MMF-7 turntable on marble with Anniv. Ringmat
Monster Hts 3600 power center, oops had 5600

Infinity Prelude HTS fronts w/powered subs and center
Artisitc Audio Mobius rears

Onkyo m501 x2/150w CH amp for rear back channels
Polk rear back channels, I only use both of these for 7.1 movies sometimes on THX Games

PS3 bluray
360 hd-dvd
Wii

Sony wega 50" A2000 sxrd 1080p
Apple iMac 24" 2.4 dual core with 4gigs of RAM 1080p to Sony
HDMI switch box

cables are audioquest, kimber, harmonic technology, jps, Monster, ixos, voodoo, etc.
walker audio cryo treated sst
echo busters full room treatment

Had the Pronto remote that came with the Parasound but am going to give the Harmony 890 at try, I did order that from Azon

I also ordered: 2 new vinyls (Beck Guero and remixes)
about 10 SACDs, 13 DVD-As, 15 DTS-ES audio discs all rare, weird, or electronic. You gotta have software too ya know ;O
EAR Acute CDP. There is one on Audiogon for sale now, I believe.
I am using the Ayre C5XE with great satisfaction. Remember that all Ayre equipment much prefers balanced operation. I use Anti-Cables on my whole system with great pleasure.
I'm with Gsm18439 on this one,
You should definitely audition the EAR Acute CDP. I'm not taken by its looks (mine has chrome faceplate and chrome knobs) but with the right tubes (2 6DJ8, 6922 or equivalent) it can sound marvelous and kick some butt as well. Analog volume allows direct to power amp if you desire. Just sounds like music, what more can I say?
I replaced the tubes in the Raysonic and it to me is unbeatable in sooo many ways it's not even funny. But THX
I have a Denon 5910 I use in my surround sound system in another room. My big system has the Ayre C5xe...no contest. The Ayre is much better..
I would guess that the Ayre does have better sound for redbook and may be a tad better with SACD and DVD-A but it can't touch the Denon in the video dept. This is why I have the Raysonic for redbook and the Denon for everything else. Once again I am very satisfied.
How about a lector 6 or 7
As I said before I am happy. The lector does look like a nice machine though.
The Ayre C5xe has no video at all..
Yes your right all the more reason why it can't touch the Denon in the video dept.
If you have a lot of SACDs and DVDas you should also consider the Mccormack universal player.Its an extremely refined CDP and plays redbooks almost as good as SACDs.Just my two cent worth.All the players recommended are very good . It all boils down to preference and system matching.
Thanks for the input but, I am currently set. However, I did consider the McCormack.