Warmer CD sound sought - MCD 301 or 500 or REF CD7

As much as I have enjoyed my Levinson 390S for many years now, I am finding that I prefer a warmer sound. I am considering McIntosh's MCD 301 & MCD 500, and the ARC REF CD7. I realize these 3 players purchased new are quite different from each other in price. What I am looking for is input from any who have compared two or more of these, and for those who have, what differences did you discern? And since the subject players cover a large price range, I would also be happy to learn about other recommendations, especially toward the lower end of the $3000 to $9000 price range.

I listen to vocals, jazz, solo instrumental, classical, some rock, and a little blues. The rest of my primary system is Levinson gear driving Sonus Faber Auditor M's with a REL B-2.

Thanks in advance for any guidance/suggestions anyone can share!

you don't need to spend that kind of money and I'd advise against it since I expect cd optical medium will be a thing of the past in the next 5 to 10 years. I'd go with a Raysonic 168 or any good design tubed output player.The Ray is slightly warmish. In my experience ARC designs are highly detailed but analytical and not musical...just my opinion and others with have a different take.
Agreed, no need to spend that kind of $$....the Rega Saturn is a world class red book spinner, no tubes to fart around with, just leave it on 24/7 for best sound...zero digital nastiness and sublime musical fluidity and weighty sound, plenty of detail and harmonic definition.
Don't let it's price fool you, I've put it up against many of the so called best and with $15K in my pocket for a digital source, I took the Saturn......
I auditioned 3 players about 5 months ago,AudioResearch CD-7,
Arcam's top player(forget the #) and bryston BCD-1.
They were all connected to a Audio research pre.
I had about 2-3 hrs. with them and my own music.
To MY ears(and I really wanted the CD-7)out of all I preferred the BCD-1,she always seemed to be closer to how the
instruments sound naturally.I had to trust my ears and I think we all hear differently.I did use the dacs from the BCD-1(analog outs)avoiding the dacs in the AR pre.
Hopefully you can audition different cdp at home or at least
with your own music and trust YOUR EARS.Hope that helps.
My CD collection will outlast any hard drive and I will always need something to play them. Investing in a great CD player is an obvious choice for many, including you and me. Twenty years ago people were saying LPs were disappearing and that turntables were a stupid purchase. There is no clear end in sight for the CD IMO. In any case, you'll get lots of good use out of the player in 10 years time...

I plan on getting a 301 soon myself - but if you can afford the CD7, it is the finest CDP I have heard. Its only downside is that it uses 7 6H30s of which there aren't many options to choose from. Either you have to get expensive DR tubes or risk having to buy 10 EH to get 7 good (i.e. quiet) ones.

I haven't heard the 500 yet but it might be serious competition for the CD7 and have the benefit of zero tube hassle. Not to mention that you also get a sophisticated preamp and DAC inputs, which makes it a practical and flexible deal.

I spent several years trying to warm up the sound of my system, particularly on the CD side. It's not easy. I was disapointed in the ARC "house" sound, but I have never had the CD7 in my home. I think the ARC house sound is kind of cool and analytical (and I think that's the general view). I also tried a Mac pre-amp, and was similarly disappointed. The CD player in your range that I like (and bought) was the EAR Acute. It's pretty darn warm and laid back. But I prefer the EMM CDSA SE--unfortunately at more than twice the price. For what it's worth, before you spend your money, do whatever you have to do to get your prospective purchase into your system where you can hear how it will really sound. I don't think either of the brands you're considering are especially noted as being "warm" sounding.

Good luck.
Thanks so much for all of the above comments. It is always interesting, thought-provoking, and helpful to get the kind of input I have received so far.

As it turned out, I got an opportunity I could not refuse and so was unable to complete the comparison I had planned or consider the other options you all have offered/suggested, with the exception of the Rega Saturn, which I use in my secondary system and although which I like very much, I find it falls well short of my 390S in the A/B comparisons I did in my two systems.

WRT the aforementioned opportunity, my dealer brought over his last (and newest) ARC REF CD7 for me to audition A/B in my main system against my 390S. As many/most of you know, this unit lists for $9K. This one had about 100 hours on it (so not even fully broken in yet), came with an extra set of original tubes, came with an extra remote, all paperwork and boxes, and was/is in mint condition; essentially new. For "only" $6500. And on top of that, he gave me 85 percent back on a Rega Apollo I had purchased new and used sparingly in our HT when I wanted to crank up my Aerial 10Ts for better 2-channel sound than the Pioneer Elite Blu-Ray or Toshiba HD-DVD in that system can provide. So the price dropped from the realm of "low WAF" to, in her own words, "I can't believe I'm saying this, but that sounds like a pretty good deal." Out the door for ~ $5800, including tax.

As for the audition, it was a jaw-dropping experience, maybe about 20 percent of what I experienced when I first heard the Shindo Latour Field Coil Speakers in his home. The REF CD 7 bested my 390S in every way, producing a broader and deeper sound stage laced with even more detail, air, musicality (for me that means akin to being at a live performance) than the 390S, and provided the kind and degree of warmth I was after. So I snagged it, and those new tubes are now up to about 115 hours of use! The 390S has been in standby mode since late Friday night, probably a record except for vacations. And after reading the many post about the sonic benefits of ARC's free (except for insured shipping both ways) update to the CD7, I know I can eventually look forward to an even better musical experience, once I feel I can part with the CD7 for the requisite two or so weeks for the update. After which I will be parting with my 390S with my dealer's help or through this venue. (Actually, I would prefer to keep it and use it in my secondary system and sell the Rega Saturn, but that part of the domestic deal fell through!)

Again - thank you all for your thoughtful comments and suggestions. Now, I have to get back to listening! :-)
If your CD-7 has only 100h, thet you still haven't heard what it is capable of ! Wait till it hits 400h mark. And def send it back to ARC for a free PS upgrade. I just sold my CD-7 (waiting for CD-8) but this is a hell of a player. Enjoy !

Thanks for confirming what my dealer told me as well about how the CD7 will continue to improve over the next several hundred hours. Then, when I think it can't get any better, I will get the free PS upgrade and enjoy it even more.

Your system looks fantastic! I hope to eventually replace my Levinson 38S and 334 with either Audio Research REF gear, comparable Ayre gear, or possibly Shindo. Whatever gives the best synergy, which I suspect will be Audio Research.
That is wonderful! As I said, it is the best I've heard. Congratulations on making such a fine choice!

Why do some people say AR stuff is analytical while others say it is warm with lots of air?
Abruce, Because everyone's hearing is different.This is a fact not just an opinion.
Their players have never been analytical.
Check out Rega or Marantz.