I know nothing!!!!!!! Sorry I couldn't resist.
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i'm also about to get one of these...looking forward to it.
I used to own SL3's. IMO, they sound best with some sort of tube componant. either pre or power amp...or both!
that big pannel has the nicest mid range, and tubes just realy work their magic through them. big, lush sound.
warning, as i'm sure you have read..the sl3's very revealing of upstream gear. if you've got crap ahead of them, you'll get crap out of them. they want the best, give them what you can.
as to CD players....
more expensive ones use better transport systems and more importantly, better DACs inside. That is why they sound better and cost more.
why do preamps sound better than AV recievers? because they are dedicated to simple tasks of adding gain and selecting source. they dont try to do 100 things 1/2 assed, they only do a couple of things *very* well.
its all in the consturction. the less garbage in the way of the signal path, the better.
the b&k pt3, I just heard one (w/b&k amp and ML Ascenti) and thought it was crap...but that is me.
seek out a nice used tube preamp. Maybe something from Y-S audio. They are light years ahead of their price in terms of audio performance. I just reviewed the symphonies here: www.nickspicks.com. best $400 you'll ever spend on a preamp.
I have got one and at the price, it cant be beat. I really have no use for the premp facilities beyond just the volume control but as a stand alone cd player, just on the savings of a digital inteconned (between transport and processor) and interconnect between processor and preamp( that would otherwise be need to connect a traditionaly structured system) you may have about 4 to 5 hundred dollars.
Soundwise, it is smooth while also being detailed and precents a very good sound stage and air around the intruments.
Dont think about it twice.
Sounded hi-end to me with Revel M20's, but if the CD player dies, then you loose the preamp too. And since CD player technology is still changing probably faster than any other stereo component it will be harder to upgrade.
For example, M-F's A3-24 DAC is already discontinued after 1 year of production.
Lower jitter makes music clearer and rythmic, better power supply = better dynamics and bass.
Try a Scott Nixon DACkit for $100 or tube DAC for $300 and maybe a "passive pre" like DACT or Creek provided your CDP has an output buffer and doesn't need the gain of an active pre.