Transport and DAC or Upgrade CDP?

I'll admit to being a total newbie when it comes to anything more advanced than comparing standalone CDPs in my system. I'm currently using a Music Hall CD25.2 and also have a Cambridge 540D (v1) sitting idle.

Comparing the two in my system leaves me with these impressions: CD25.2 is more open, detailed and gives a wider sense of space, but is a bit cold and lacks analog warmth. 540D is warm, but it's not even close to the same level of performance as CD25.2.

In order to get to a better performance level I'm considering either selling both and moving to a better CDP (Jolida 100a maybe?), or using the 540D as a transport with a tube DAC. I'm looking at the TAD TACs most closely (TADAC and TDAC), but open to other suggestions as I know very little about them. question is...what's the consensus as to the better approach? Adding digital music is a consideration for down the road, but not top priority now. I really have no idea how to evaluate transports, and buying a whole bunch of gear for trial is out of the question.
Best to get in front of the curve and consider a oppo 83SE. The developing format for audio is blu-ray.
Check out The Absolute Sound's guide to disc players, DACs, and music servers here:
In my opinion, Jolida 100A is not an upgrade from what you have -- it's just a way to add the coloration of tubes (which you might like, but it's not by definition an improvement). My suggestion -- keep the Music Hall player and use it as a transport to feed a Benchmark DAC1. If you buy used, try to get the latest model of the Benchmark that you can find (manufactured within the last year or so if possible). You can buy direct from Benchmark with a 30-day return period. I own two Benchmark DACs. I prefer the sound of the Benchmark -- clean, neutral, detailed but not irritating -- to some fine players I've owned, including Cambridge 840 (a superb player, which you might prefer to the Benchmark), Rega Apollo (nice sound but not to my taste ergonomically), and Naim Nait CD5i. If you're looking for a warm and romantic sound, then the Benchmark might not be to your taste, but I've found it to be a really fine device, true to the music.
You might want to consider the TEAC PD-H600. I wanted to get off this merry-go-round and settle on a CDP and the TEAC fits my bill to a tee. Absolute Sound gave it a product of the year already and its not readily available but worth searching out. The cost of it ($999) was at the bottom limit of where I was going to go just for a DAC and then there was the transport to consider, not to mention the coax cable. It sounds fabulous, to my ears, and has yet to break in.
The guys at Esoteric did their homework on this one, for us commoners.
new DAC.
Considered a Mac Mini, with AIFF files, out to a good DAC? Don't mean to throw you a curve here, but that is quite the transport to DAC setup for not much money. Surprised me- and I've owned Exemplar, Resolution Audio, Ayre, Electrocompanient and Marantz players that were extremely good.

Well now you’ve gone and done it!

Single or multi box solution.

As I saw recently posted here on another thread as an answer… Yes.

Multi box = multi stuff. Basically more wires and shelf spaces are needed.

Single box? Well you have just opened the door a crack now, as you already have two of those.

I’d say DAC as well, despite the addition of more wires and space usage.

If so then, one with great jitter elimination and several common interfaces. And I’d use it with my most revelatory CDP on hand.

A tube DAC might not be necessary too to gain you that fluffier presentation. Deleting a load of jitter will aid you towards that promise.

I’d address warming or filtering things downstream… and NOT with the source. Ever.

Lavry DA10 was a very musical DAC and not too too expensive as DACs go. I’m sure if you check out the archived threads here on such a subject you’ll gain more choices.
"Best to get in front of the curve and consider a oppo 83SE. The developing format for audio is blu-ray."

Yes, hot on the heels of the success of DVD-A and SACD. (Classical SACD is a marginal success.)

I read that the Oppo is a nice sounding unit for the current audio formats, but I wouldn't buy it anticipating the success of BD audio discs. There will be plenty of time to pick a BD player when/if BD audio comes to life. And then you'll probably get 3D BD thrown in and maybe same performance at a cheaper price.
Thanks for all the responses. To start it seems to make sense to add a DAC, which would only help going to digital music down the road.

So, for now, how do I evaluate my two CDPs as transports? I could just say the 25.2 is better because it's more expensive, but I have heard 540D is quite good. Also, how much is it really going to matter? Funds aren't unlimited and CD25.2 will surely fetch me more (one will be sold).
You asked, " how do I evaluate my two CDPs as transports?" Either will do the basic job, especially if you get a DAC with excellent jitter rejection (like the Benchmark that I recommended in an earlier post to this thread). I once owned a Cambridge 640D and found that its transport was mechanically noisy, making high-pitched whiny sounds audible during quiet passages of music. That might have been the case only with the unit I owned, which sat only a few feet from me in an office system. I've read that the Music Hall transport operates smoothly and quietly, but I haven't tried it myself. You have both units on hand, so you should keep the one that works best for you. I'd probably keep the Music Hall since, as you noted, it sounds better than the 540D, and who knows, after trying DACs, you might just decide that you're satisfied with the Music Hall on its own. At least you'll know whether the DAC represents a significant upgrade to your ears (which is what matters). By the way, you'll need a 75-ohm digital cable -- I'd suggest you go with one from Blue Jeans Cable (Google it) or from Canare (advertised on Audiogon, search "Canare") -- both are excellent performers, good values, and soundly engineered, free of snake oil.

Usually the better sounding CDP is the better transport.

Another digital cable recommend for not a lot could be something from Chris Somavigo – Stereovox xv2, or his latest Black Cat 1.25M @ $125. the XV used should come in under that amount or right at it. I own the XV2 but haven’t heard the Black Cat.

I’ve also used reputedly 75 ohm cables from places like Blue Jeans and Canare among others and you really do get what you pay for here in the majority of cases.

I have a 2M no name RCA digi cable I’ll send you for $35 incl’d shipping if you want a smooth warmish sounding presentation. I seldom use it and it resides in my BR system.

A good jitter control DAC is the Bel Canto DAC 3. it’s jitter control is great using SPDIF; BNC; or AES, TOS & USB are very good. Two sets of outputs RCA & XLR, and it can be used as a preamp for all of it’s digi inputs.

You can also upgrade it to get off the grid for $600. Or you can get one of the newer itterations in the ‘.5’ series that possess varying levels of interfaces and flexibility…. But preowned the BC DAC III is a superlative value… and is quite ready for the notion of PC music down the road.

The DAC III has a neutral voice and outstanding bass and remote control.

For your above noted sonic preffs though, I’d think the Lavry folks would possibly be a better fit and cost you less money. I posted a review here on both of these dacs and one other some time back which may help if you care to look it over.

Good luck