I had a Cary 308 for quite some time and enjoyed it very much.
Am now using a Marantz SA14 version 1 which I bought used and then had modified by Tube Research Labs.
The mod is $550. The SA14 v.1 retailed for $3000 but used runs around $1200.
Total investment around $1750.
Amazing extreme detail, smoothness, natural extended sound.
See the TRL Marantz SA14 thread for more comments on this option. Those that have it consider it a reference type level unit.
Another cheaper, yet also extraordinary route is a Sony ES2000 modded by Tube Research Labs. Player is $250-275 and mod is the standard $550. See comments by La45 in same thread referenced.
Quad 99 CDP CD player (not the older Quad 99, it must say CDP). This is a great player at $1500 retail, $800-900 used. I previously owned a Cary CD-308 and liked it, but I think the Quad 99 CDP is a level above the Cary.
I know exactly the problem you are referring to. I would suggest you give the inexpensive Jolida JD100 a try but be sure to get some nice tubes for it - the stock tubes make it a good buy at $1k but good NOS tubes will make it competitive in the $2k category with all the coherence a performance should have. I don't bother with mods other than good tubes.
The Planet is great too but doesn't have quite the frequency extension my Jolida has (with 3 mica black plate Sylvanias). The Quad 99 CDP is excellent all around. Any of these three would be great choices for you. Good luck! Arthur
A used Audio Aero Prima 24/192. Tubed output with a great dac.
It appears that my musical taste is similar so I understand your quest...
I had the Jolida JD-100 for over a year and a half...I bonded with that player so much I couldn't imagine replacing it.I easily could have lived with this player forever....however,despite the gorgeous sweetness of that player,(and perfection on female vocals) it does lack in detail needed to fully realize large scale orchestral...That is 90% of my listening...
I purchased the Audio Aero Prima, what seemed to be the logical upgrade according to trusted ears here, but oddly enough I found it dry and disinteresting. I'm sure it was some kind of system syngergy mis-match but
I sold it . The new owner loves it.
Just by chance and some kind of uncanny instinct, I purchased a BAT VK-D5..
a 6-tube CDP. I was immediately in love. It retains all the sweetness of the Jolida but sorts out complex music on a realistic and expansive soundstage.
Finally, I am hearing a symphony orchestra in full regalia.I believe have found my CDP nirvana.
The downside is, this model is many years old (mine is 6 years old) so if buying an older unit makes you nervous it may not be a consideration.
On a side note, have you tried a different amp with your Cary? I briefly had a Coda amp and I found it sterile and slightly harsh.
Good luck...it's such euphoria when you finally find your own magic.
I had the Rega and switched to the Cary 308. Both fine players but with the increased resolution in the Cary came increased glare. I now have a Copland CDA-289 (not to be confused with the 266 or 288). It's in your price range and if you can find one I highly recommend it. I have had many comments about it's smooth, artifact free sound.
The Jolida would be a good player to fix your midrange issues. Buy a couple of different makes of NOS tubes and roll until you are content.
The Cary 308T is the best of both worlds (I used Mullard tubes). The glare is reduced compared to the 308, but you still get more detail than the Jolida. The Jolida, however, is the best value I think.
Don't overlook the Consonance 2.2. I found it a significant upgrade over the Jolida. Not as tubey, but is cleaner and more extended at both low and high frequencies, with no discernable grain after break-in (long). Slightly forgiving, but is very transparent/neutral and will not add much warmth to a system. Seems well built and has been reliable. A real bargain at current used prices.
Keep your CDP and buy a good DAC. Electrocompaniet, Audio Logic or Chord 64 but make sure you get a really good digital cable. These DACs will compete or beat any single unit in this price range although the Audio Aero Prima would be my choice for the all in one box.
Agree on the used Audio Aero Prima. These players are VERRRRY close to the best out there while having an affordable pricetag.
Also, there is currently a used Granite 657 here for sale. You really can do no better than this player without spending ridiculous money.
My first Cd player was a NAD 5000, 1991 vintage. I upgraded to a Theta miles and then a Quad CDP-99. I'm back to my NAD 5000 and enjoying music more than ever. I saw a 5000 for sale here for 65.00 a few weeks ago.
Goes against all my audiophile logic but I'm trusting my ears and heart. Also sold my high end cables and went all Signal Cable, another good move. Not as much bling-bling, appearance wise,in my system now but more bling-bling to my ears. Good thing my ears can't see my equipment or read reviews.
I agree with Bigkidz in that you should look at DACs. In addition to up/oversampling DACs check out the non-os DACs as well. Audio Note if you like tubes and Audio Mirror ($550 new and a great value) if you don't prefer tubes are good choices. The 308T would make a nice transport and before I bought my Alesis ML9600 it was on my list of potential transports for my Audio Mirror.
I am absolutely delighted with my GamuT CDR which I believe sells used in your price range. I have enjoyed it for 2 yrs. I love opera, all classical music and jazz. All sound very natural and analog like to me.