What is the best CD player direct into one's amp?

Since I don't listen to FM (poor reception) and seldom use my vinyl (too noisy), what red book player has the best analogue volume section and sound for direct connection to my Threshold 4000 class A amp? I am looking for something in the $1000-2000 range on audiogon. The other possibility is to slightly warm up and expand the soundstage of my maggie 1.6 system with a tube preamp and continue using my very musical McCormack DAC-1 deluxe. Thanks
I've ran a consonance ref. 2.2 direct and was surprised on how good it sounds. My previous experience running an Audio Alchemy dac direct was a large loss of dynamics. It may be the tubed output stage of the consonance that's the difference. I still prefer the sound with my AI modulus in the chain however. Hope this helps. Harry
Use DAC-1 you're using. Less likely you'll find what you're looking for...
I use a modified Marantz player from APL Hi-Fi, who are famous for their pricey modified Denon and Esoteric players. $1100 complete for the Marantz. Sounds wonderful direct into my Rowland 201 monoblocks.
Sorry to digress, but a 4000A, now that really is a classic. I used one into Dayton-Wright XG-8s when the high end was in its infancy. I think that Nelson actually designed the 400A, 800A and 4000A on the Daytons, since they pretty much blew everything else up. Nice amp, a real classic, glad to hear that it is still in service. Oh BTW many of the Wadia players are specifically designed for direct connection to amps.
Let me know when you find out my ancient Audio Aero Prima CD was used that way and just crumped again . That Marantz sounds interesting for the Money. I can tell yout the Consonance is an underated product and it does sound good, there are several variations to choose from. There is an Agon dealer who specializes in their products Quest for Sound the dealer is a great guy.
I have owned the Prima, Resolution Audio Opus 21, Quad,Consonance 2.2 Ref and the Muse Thalia. The Muse was the best by a good margin. Hard to find used with the volume option. It was almost as good a an Audio Aero Capitole Sig that I A/B'd with it. Very close indeed.

Very few know how food this CD/DVD player is. The Resolution Audio is also great, but costs $2500 used.

I am using a Resolution Audio CD55 in this manner and love it. Used, about $1200 to $1400 or so.
I have owned and used several CD players or DACs with volume control. Here is the List:

Theta Miles (balanaced)
Cary CD-308
Quad 99 CDP
Resolution Audio Opus 21
Birdland Odeon Lite DAC
Monarchy Audio Model 33 DAC/pre-amp
Musical Fidelity CD/Pre-24 DAC/pre-amp

Personally, for value, I thought the Quad 99 CDP was the best. It sounded very good and only cost $800-850 used. It also had 6 additional digital inputs so you could add other digital components if you desire. Heck, you could buy one used, try it and resell it for little/zero loss if you didn't love it.

Overall, the best sounding from my list was the Resolution Audio Opus 21. Unfortunately, I have never seen one sell for under about $2400.

The Cary CD-308 is not bad for about $800 used. I've read that the Cary CD-308T (tube) is significantly better and it sells for about $1300 used.


The 308T is also very good as I had this player. I agreee with Reubent on this. I also owned the Quad I found it to be one of the biggest disappointments I have had in audio.

I so agree with Reubent on the Opus and Cary and am not sure why we are on the opposite extremes on the Quad. I found the Quad very electronic sounding. Not musical at all and rather lifeless. System matching my be an issue, I don't know. I found the preamp section paired with the player even worse yet.

Love to hear other comments on their experience with the Quad. Mine was the 2nd generation model as an FYI.

Wadia 302 also sounds pretty good. Some interconnects work better than others for connecting directly to amp
Visit the website for EVS passive attenuators.There is a through discussion of what is involved in setting up a direct to amp system.I'm presently using the EVS passive attenuators between my theta DAC and Amp.I also use it for my phono stage.I plan to take this configuration a step further by having amps modified so they will take a direct connection without a volume control.
Hey Bill,

I know we've "sparred" over the Quad before and I too find if interesting that we agree on the other players and not the Quad. I really liked it in my system and it bested all of those listed, except the RA Opus 21.

Interestingly, I took the Quad to a friend's home. He has a very highly resolving system comprised of a $10,000 TT setup, a $4000+ Herron Pre-amp, Herron phono stage, ARC tube amplifier and Quad 63 speakers and a Meridian 508.24 CD player. It is a great sounding system. We put the Quad 99 CDP player into his system in place of the $4000 Herron and Meridian player. The Quad playing CD direct was easily superior to the Herron/Meridian combo.

Now, my buddy in an analog guy as you can tell from his system. He also preferred the Quad CDP playing direct vs the Herron/Meridian combo.

Just goes to show you, one man's champagne is another man's Miller High Life!


If you can ever find a used Opera Audio "Droplet" -- BUY IT. Will give you evrything you are looking for, and then some.
Some Droplet demos will be around after the show if you are going to take Denf's advice!