I have not heard the Theta Pearl, but I have heard an older Theta Data Basic and it sounds great. A friend of mine bought it after auditioning several transports at home. I have tried several lower priced transports and this is what I have found (other components are Audio Alchemy DTI 2.0 and Micromega Duo BS): Counterpoint DA10: One of the best sounding I have heard. Only problems are company is out of business (service is available by mail order) and it emits RFI. Rotel RDD 980: Nice looking. I bought one used for $350 without listening. My Radio Shack cd3400 was much better. Suggest you avoid this. Audio Alchemy DDS Pro: I hope the one I tried was defective, because it was not very good. Rega Planet: A better cd player than transport. As a transport it is nearly the equal of the Radio Shack. Cal Audio Delta: Not bad, but not great either. This may be the easiest to find used. If you can use a forgiving sounding cable and dac, it may work for you. I found it to be the equal of my old Marantz CD94 cd player which I also use as a transport. Parasound CB/D 2000: This was what I ultimately ended up with and have had no desire to sell or upgrade from. I paid $680 for mine and when it was damaged in shipment, I sent it to Parasound, who promptly repaired it. It rivals the old Theta and Counterpoint in sound quality and it seems to be well made. DVD players such as Pioneer 525: I have read alot about these, both pro and con, and have not tried one. However, if I were shopping today I would try and borrow one. Good Luck. If possible, try before you buy.