Are you ready to gamble?Try your luck?You have access to the same sources we do plus more cash than most.Any dealers near?Are you computer-literate?Cheers,Bob
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I was looking to replace an Esoteric source and tried the new dCS Puccini with Boulder amplification. The Puccini is new, hideously expensive, British and not particularly accessible for auditions - so i'm not surprised that not a lot has been written about it in this predominantly US forum.
I found the Puccini sound to be clean, fast, neutral and uncompromising in resolution. The Puccini is also the only player i've ever heard thats volume control [for direct connection to a power amplifier] was not, at least to me, audibly inferior to the fixed line out. I was however incensed with the cheap plastic remote and the absence of this players ability to DSD upsample from external sources.
Have not compared Wadia 581SE do dCS but can say what Wadias sound signature is in comparison to Audio Aero Capitole SE and ML 390S.
Wadia and ML are closer to each other and starkly different players from AA.
To my surprise Wadia and ML sounded much smoother in HF than AA, quite the opposite of the preconceptions I had, and were significantly more extended on both ends.
The differences between Wadia and ML are not enormous, Wadia betters ML in terms of soundstage and imaging (ML is two dimensional in comparison to Wadia), and has more extension and control on bottom end, tonally they are close and the differences would be more along the lines of a preference and system synergy.
I personally would not go for AA, not even at significantly lower price tag.
I owned the two box emm labs transport and dac and it is marvelous. Why buy the one box system when you can get the two box system used for the price of the inferior one box system used.
Or you can save even more money and get great analog sounding cd player from the reference marantz cd player (available used on audiogon for 4k-5k). Because of budget issues, I purchased the dartzeel preamp and acquired the marantz sa7s1 reference cd player. The addition of the dartzeel preamp to mate with my dartzeel amplifier even when connected to a much less expensive cd player easily outclassed the emm labs preamp/dac and separate transport paired up with my dartzeel amp. The marantz transport is quieter than the emmlabs transport and has a nicer remote too. If I could have kept the emm labs, I might have since it is might be a little more revealing than the marantz but its damn close.
I would agree that for cds the marantz does not have the same bottom end slam as the emm labs. But it seems more refined and smooth. I would say the emm lab is more analytical but still not harsh but not warm either (neutral). the marantz is the most analog and least digital sounding cd player that I have ever heard (a tad warm but in a wonderfully natural way). On sacd, I think the marantz is as good as the emm labs even in the area of bass.
Combined with my dartzeel preamp and amplifier, I would be more concerned about bass slamm if not for the fact that my speaker has a powered woofer so I still get quite a lot of bass just less than with the emm labs preamp/dac with transport combo. Neither the dartzeel nor the the marantz is the last word in bass. However, the bass sounds very accurate, not flabby, and quite fast (just not super deep and tight). I don't think anyone system has no tradeoffs but the tradeoff is rather slight. I have only listened to about 50 cds on the marantz so far with the dartzeel preamp and prefer the new combination on the overwhelming marjority of cds. Only a few cds sound equally good to the old system and only two so far sound better on the old system. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to listen to the dartzeel preamp and amp with the emm labs so am not sure how much is attributable to the new dartzeel preamp versus the marantz. But bear in mind the marantz reference cd player costs $4500 used ballpark and the emm labs se edition costs over $10,000 used. The non-se version is not nearly as good. I have not heard the one box system but hear great things although the emm lab dealer concedes that it is not as good as the two box. Even stil, the one box is used approximately $6500 so the marantz is a real good deal.
I have puccini and asked directly to DCS about plastic remote control. They said soon they will upgrade it to much better looking a hefty (brushed alum.)one. People like me who purchased Puccini or Paganini will pay a reasonable upgrade feee. BTW, Puccini's software upgrade has just released.(1.0x to 1.01)
i have owned a Wadia 581SE and now i have bought the DCS Puccini, there is a big difference between the two players,
Personally i prefer the DCS because there is more detail, musicality and more analoge sound if you can say so. Even so the stage is better and more reality.
I have had the Wadia for two years or so. and the DCS for about 8 months. For me it is not the question that the DCS is different but defenitly a step forwart.
I have a suggestion for you.
IMO, none of these are even close to touching the APL 4.0SE. There is a potential work-around however, because I have done it. I have an Esoteric UX-1 upgraded by Esoteric to UX-1Pi and am using it with an APL prototype SUPER-DAC that Alex recently made for me. It a one of a kind at this point and has pretty much everything that's in the 4.0SE - 20 2nd generation 32-bit AKM DACs per channel, upsampler, double tube Class-A output stage, etc., etc. Alex is supposedly going into production at some point on a lesser DAC - you might drop him a line and see what comes of it. I also have a Denon he modified into a 32-bit DAC, as do several others here on Agon.
You can pick up a used UX-1 or X-01 here on Agon for $5-6K, (containing a better transport (VRDS) IMO than any of the players you mentioned) and have a shot at world-beating sound without paying an arm and a leg when combined with an APL DAC. Just a suggestion.
I will say that I heard NOTHING at CES several weeks ago that touched my front end, and that includes all the usual suspects and stacks, regardless of price. Peychev's implementation is really THAT GOOD.