What to upgrade from Bluenote Koala? $3500 ish

I am thinking about upgrading from my BlueNote Koala Tube CD Player. I've done A-B comparisons to Audio Reseach CD3 MKII, BAT VK-D5 and Lector CDT.7. Each of those players resolved detail in a more musical way to my ears, and had a deeper more hologaphic soundstage. The Bluenote Koala is very dynamic, but has a rather forward solid state sound to it, albeit very musical. It is wonderful, but when I did the A-B tests, it was bested. I listen to jazz, Singer/Songwriter, blues, Rock. Artists such as: Keb'mo, Nora Jones, Diana Krall, Bruce Cokcburn, Amos Lee, James Blunt, James Taylor, Sting, Aaron Neville, Larry Carlton, Rippingtons, Russ Freeman, Brian Bromberg etc. Hence my search. I'd like to spend no more than $3500 or so. Here is my short list, new and used:

Cary 306/200 (Can't afford the 306SACD)
Cary 303/300
Audio Research CD3 MKII
Resolution Opus 21
Rega Saturn
Dare I consider the new Shanling CD-T1500 or Raysonic CD128

My System:
Audio Research Vsi55 Tube Integrated
Proac Response 3.5 Floor standing Speakers
BlueNote Koala Tube CD Player (Sovtek 6922's)
Acoustic Zen Satori Shotgun Speaker cables
Acoustic Zen Silver Ref II IC
Running Springs JACO Power Conditioner
Wireworld Silver Electra 5/2 PC on BlueNote Koala
Black Sand Silver Ref V/Oyaide 046 PC on ARC Integrated
Oyaide XXX AC Wall socket with Carbon fiber Mounting plate
FIM Isoltation roller blocks under components
Dedicated audio Acrylic Cable lifters
i auditioned the koala and owned the bat. i heard the audio research cd3, cd2 and cd1.

the bat in my opinion is not much better than the koala. i would not want to own either.

look for a tubed cd player and liste, listen, listen. the audio research cd3 in my opinion is not a warm sounding player.

i am looking for a cd player. i'll keep you posted.
Thanks Mrtennis. Are you saying you didn't care for the Audio Research CD3 MKII?

Have you ever heard or auditioned the Resolution Opus 21?

Short list:
Cary 306/200 (Can't afford the 306SACD)
Cary 303/300
Audio Research CD3 MKII
Resolution Opus 21
Rega Saturn
Dare I consider the new Shanling CD-T1500 or Raysonic CD128

Other players I might consider are:

McCormack UDP-1
Musical Fidelity A5
Ayre Cx-7e

All thoughts on these,and comparisons to the BlueNote Koala are appreciated.
Try a used Stibbert tube as I had your player and it's leagues ahead of the koala.
i have heard the resolution audio cd player(S)--current and older versions. i have heard the bluenote stibbert several times, although not in my own stereo systems.

i would not own either. i would not take the resolution audio cd player for free. it's to analytical for my taste.

if you are considering the stibbert, why not an older audio aero capitole ?

i am considering a prima luna prologue 8, which has 6 tubes, a melody hi fi player which has 3 tubes, including 2 6sn7s and a lector 0.6.
Is the PrimaLuna Prologue 8 available and shipping yet? Have you heard it? Also, have you seen the new Shanling CD-T1500? I don't think it's shipping yet, but it appeared at CES. If looks could kill, I'd be dead. Looks sweet! And they went to 6922 tubes, so you can tube roll!

hi groberts3, i briefly heard the Prima Luna CD player.

i did not hear the shanling. i don't have any opinions as to its sound. however its tube complement is most attractive. it uses a pair of 12ax7, a pair of 12au7 and 2 rectifier tubes. 6 volt tubes are problematical. i have not yet found and listened to a tubed cd player using 6 volt tubes i have liked. maybe it's the tube circuit and not the tubes. the Prima Luna, with open architechture, will be shipped around may of 2007. i contacted the company which is located in the netherlands.

if you can wait, it might be worth it.
This is a no brainer. Resolution Audio Opus 21. If you can find a player at twice the price that can beat it let me know. As far as the Blue Note stuff, reliability, service and manufacturer support should be a RED enough flag to keep you away. Either way, the Opus 21 is a better player than the Stibbert in my opinion and it is 1/2 the cost.
Please let us know when you hear the Stibbert in your system so as to make a more valid assumption.
Everything differs to peoples taste but comparisons need to be made in peoples own systems.
Many Regards,Bob
I'd love to hear from those who have compared the Stibbert with the Bluenote Koala? I've read all the reviews I could find from searching and many seem to think the Koala is quite close sounding to the Stibbert. Others think the Stibbert bests the Koala by a longshot. Hmmm.

As far as the Resolution Opus 21 goes, I would LOVE to hear one. I am encouraged by the thread about the GNSC Mods to the Opus 21. That is quite compelling.
I have the GNSC Reference Mod Opus 21 and it is really special, call and talk to Steve, he's a great guy and will shoot straight with you about any player...
For $3500 (or less), you could get a used Exemplar or APL modified Denon. I highly recommend that you consider this route. Note: I am not selling either player (or any gear). Good luck!
How do the Modded Denon's compare with the Modded Resolution Opus 21's?
You say your Koala sounds very forward with a solid state sound? The Koala in my system sound's the complete opposite, very natural and analogue sounding. I am sure this is more down to system matching though. I have heard the Sibbert as well which sounds a lot more open then the Koala, but has a very similar sound signature. It is a bit of an exaduration when people say the Koala is 95% of the Sibbert, more like 75% if you want a figure. I have now had a lot of modifications on my koala which now out preforms the Sibbert, but it has cost me little less then the cost of a new Sibbert. The results speak for them selves though.
foodfeak - What mods did you have done to your Koala? And what tubes are you using?

I agree that my system may not be as deep or wide as some. The comment about the Koala being forward was based on hearing it on two other exceptional systems that were quite detailed, deep and wide. The Koala was faster and more immediate sounding, although extremely musical and detailed with exceptional lows/mids/highs.

The other systems I heard the Koala on were: BAT VK31SE/BATVK150 amp/Imperium Speakers/Cardas Cabling/BAT VK-D5 CD Player for comparison

The other system consisted of Manley 250 Monoblocks,Hovland HP100 Preamp/Revel Gem Speakers/Dual Rel Storm Subs, Nordost cables/Isotek Power Conditioner. The comparitive CD Player was a Lector CDT-7. Very nice, musical sounding player.

The Interesting thing was that before we compared, we played the Bluenote on The Manley/Hovland System and the owner said he thought the Bluenote sounded like his Lector. It was very musical. But in comparison, the Lector resolved more detail, had better air and harmonics on acoustic guitar were much more natural and present.
I had the output stage rebuilt by Croft who also built my amps, so every thing really integrates well, all components were matched by ear with my amps. (FWIW Croft use a modified Koala in their reference system for amp builds and development). Tubes are a matched pair of "CCa Siemes Halske 6922 1960 Gray plates". Has Trichord's clock 4 and a Never Connected Power Supply. Main power supply rebuilt. New Op-amps on DAC board. DAC has been shielded. I use a Townshend Seismic Sink to get the sort of isolation that the Sibbert gets. Does sound real special, it has a very convincing sound that's natural open and balanced and as real as you could hope for on digital. As said my amps are Croft which would cost in the region of $14000. Speakers Art stilettos.
Could you give me your thoughts about the Stibbert. I have been thinking about getting one. Are they more row one or mid hall sounding? What I have been told is that they are a bit on the warm side but sound very organic. Is this your opinoina also? Bob
The Stibbert does look tempting. It competes in some very highly regarded company. I too would love to hear from those who have compared the Stibbert to the Koala. Or to anything else for that matter?
I have not had a long listen and would advice you not to buy a Stibbert from what I have to say, but from what I can remember. I think your analogy of mid hall and front row would compare the Koala and the Stibbert very well. I think these player are very close to a TT the Stibbert more so, but do lack the sound stage as do most CD player. You have to remember Bluenote are very well known for there TT, and I presume they have used that experience when they developed these players - and in my option with great success. I wonder if a lot of people who have heard them have not listen to vinyl so just compare them to other CD player which I think do them a real injustice. They both sound very musical and natural the Stibert resolves more detail has a bigger sound stage with better separation just seems to be a lot more air around instrument and vocals making everything sound more real.
What is "TT?" Having a brain fade. Not sure what you mean?
Turn table G-3.
i just received the melody cd m10 player several days ago.
based upon a preliminary audition, i prefer it over the koala, especially after substituting nos ge 6sn7 in place of the chinese 6sn7.

the melody player is less irritating. still, i prefer my audionote cd2 with several of the 12 volt nos tubes in my collection.
Less irritating could you explain? Sounds like when you listen to the Koala you want to slap a dog. Not something I would associate with the Koala in any stretch of the imagination.
less irritating means less emphasis upon the upper midrange/lower treble.

most 24/96 players i have heard annoy me because of the "extra" emphsis in the upper mids and lower trebles.

i am looking for a cd player myself. i can see now that i will have a lot of difficulty finding any player, even if price were no consideration, which doesn't bother me.

it's a curse to have sensitive ears. cymbals, violin strings and acoustic guitars sound so timbrally inaccurate that it's not fun to listen to music.

maybe the prima luna prologue 8 with 6 tubes will be sufficiently warm to meet my requirements.

i have heard most of the well known brands and some of the smaller ones. i am not impressed. even the current audio aero capitole lacks some of the warmth of the earlier models.
I feel the need to jump in here to clarify one issue.
I agree with Mr Tennis on the irritating being upper midrange/lower treble emphasis in the frequency response.

But, I dont think that irritating sindrome can only be perceived by people with sensitive ears.
On one side, For people with sensitive ears that kind of frequency response will be really annoying, almost like a little pain in the ear.
One the other side, for people with normal ears the irritating sindrome wont be as annoying but will be the main cause of a fatiguing sound which in a med term of time will take them away from their listening sessions. And they wont know why. A fatiguing sound can be define as a sound you cant listen to for a long period of time. Irritating is one of the main causes for a fatiguing sound.

So, for me and for a lot of people I know, irritating sound as described by Mr Tennis is something we always try to avoid.
I cannot describe my Koala as irritating at all. It is quite musical. Maybe my hearing doesn't pick up on those frquencies like some. I've had a few audiophile friends listen to my system and we compared the Koala with a Shanling, Rega Apollo, Arcam CD92 (with the Arcam DCS Ring Dac) and we all prefered the Koala. It was only when I compared the Koala with an Audio Research CD3 MKII, Lector CDT.7 and BAT VKD5 that I noticed how the soundstage depth, width and detail retrieval can become sweeter and more well defined (BAT,AR CD 3 and Lector were all varying degrees more musical and natural). But without those $5K and up players to compare to, I still prefer the Koala.

I have also rolled some Sovtek 6922's in place of the EH6922's and prefer them. I will try some NOS Amperex or Siemens-Halske 6922's to see what improvements they may add.

You may want to consider the Herbie's Audio Lab tube dampers on the 6922s...they have been an inexpensive and very worthwhile tweak in any tube gear that I've tried them on. Usually, an improved and more focused soundstage and a very natural timbre.

Try some old real Mullards.It's all relative as I have had Siemen CCa's in the Stibbert as well as various amperex including the pinchwaistes.The Mullards have worked beautifully.
I have never heard this player to be remotely irritating as have any of my audiophile friends which Ml-Prodigy's will certainly let you know.
Best of Luck,bob
Everyone please post the results of your last hearing test!
It is unfortunate and most audiophiles,audio designers and musicians can not hear the way they use to.
As we get older our pockets allow for more elaborate equipment and we get more set in our opinions,however,we just can;t hear the way we use to.
Therefore,it becomes personal taste.
I have been a musician for over 20 years and have sold audio in High-end salons and face it "is it true"
As designers master their craft with knowledge gathered over the years it is sometimes in vain.
I know some highend designers and musicians who can't hear @#%&
I have owned the Koala,Stibbert,Lector and many,many more players and would not call any of these players bright.
My suggestion is just pick up a guitar and play if you want to hear real music,however,carefull with that amp and pedal it may change the sound and then your back at square one
Could you please give your opinoin of the Stibbert vs. the Lector. Do you have any favorites in this price category? Hopefully your hearing is adequate for this question! Bob
Upgrade from Bluenote koala for $3500? it's not an upgrade just additional cost for CDP. Should be at least $5000 to real upgrade from Koala IMHO.
The Lector is an excellent player and is more suited for someone who prefers an atmospheric sound.
The unit is rich,musical,slightly dark and romantic.
It does not have the dynamics of a good analog set-up,although I hear this unit compared against analog in ads.
IT IS NOT and DOES NOT sound like analog.
The Lector does however put it's trademark sound on each an every recording.
That trademark being slightly warmed over and a little slow of foot.
As with all good players you are now more at the mercy, or blessed by the actual disc quality.
The Lector may make some of your older disc(sounds good in the car cd's )sound tolerable in your home system because of this flavor.
The Lector is definately more suited to acoustic,vocal and
less complicated jazz recordings

Old RCA 6201 Black plates were my favorite in the Lector.
I tried every other tube I could get a hold of(I had over 15 different pair)
My intention with the tube rolling was to reduce the coloration of the unit, without losing some of the players natural bloom and decay.
The unit throws a very deep and black background and the RCA's did indeed enhance the units strong points other than alter them.

Isolation truly does make a difference in the Lector as a reviewer pointed out.
Rubber,Plasic and Ceramic devices only helped slightly with the bass hump.
Brass cones by Walker,Mapleshade,etc tightened up the bottom end,but took from the players other strengths.
Symposium Rollerballs were a compromise between the two,however,because of the Lector being a top loader with your finger doing the opening and closing and because this top lid does NOT open and close very smoothly.The player had a tendency to move,shift and sometimes tip regardless of how careful one is when changing disc.
I finally settled for the Sound Fusion Vibe Buster 8.
I chose these after hearing the difference the Sound Fusion
SF-60 made on the Blue Note Stibbert.
The Lector is a s/e designed player and this has no bearing unless of course you have true -balanced gear elsewhere in your system or if your player will be located some distance away form the component it will be connected to.

The Bluenote Stibbert and it's appearance is not for everyone.
You have to initially get over issues.
The remote is terrible.The instructions for set-up worse and if you are listening to one of those old disc, that have only a few good songs on it(and the rest make you cringe with shame as to why you still own it)
You will have to "man the gates" because the Stibbert does not offer a program feature on either the faceplate or remote.The button is there on the remote it is however not active within the units capability.
The display color is blue and it is small.
One nice thing about the Lector is the nice big display.
You can see the track number from your neighbors house.
The Bluenote may be a set-up issue for someone who has a rack or gear that allows for a turntable on top (and using)and has other shelving that has little or no room for adjustment.
The Stibbert has larger than normal dimensions and with the Sound Fusion Kit it takes up even more room.
The New Stibbert is truly balanced in design and is user friendly for tube rolling.
It has a removable rear panel with easy access.
The chassis is also metal,therefore it is not suseptible to static build up
The older Stibbert became a partial disassemble when switching tubes out.
Once settling on a tube this is not an issue,however,when deciding on a tube I feel this is a pain in the @#$.
You just have to handle it too much.
The Stibbert takes a long time to break-in.
The sound of the stock unit with good tubes is fast,accurate to the recording with a capability to reveal
information that was once obscure.
Initial reaction is that the unit must be over accentuating
things across the board to achieve this,however,this is NOT the case.
The Stibbert extracts more information from the disc and portrays it naturally across and into the soundstage.
I found this truly amazing.
The unit never sounds analytical, bright or fatigueing.
If you have a bad disc in there "bare it" or change it.
The Stibbert does not re-engineer,re-master or re-produce a disc that you hoped would sound better.
That is the disc you listen on your way back and forth to work unfortunately.
What the Stibbert will do is re-create a live performance and recording to the extent that you are either "there" or at least very "involved" and taken back by the performance like it or not.
If you don't like the show leave!
But you are being taken pretty close to hearing DiMeola at Toads Place again "in your room" when you want.
The Lector let's you listen to a DiMeola disc when and if you want.
The biggest improvement one can make when owning a Stibbert is to Upgrade the suspension to the Sound Fusion Kit.
This kit is actually easier to assemble than the stock suspension and it even comes with directions!
The difference between the the 2 suspensions is drastic.
Car enthusiast will understand this comparison.
"you own a 98 BMW 328is.It's a nice car handles pretty good,has that nice BMW feel,it's reliable(not like that Audi was)and all is well.
Then you drive your friends BMW M5.
Now your car SUCKS!
The difference is that substantial with the Sound Fusion.
Bass is improved over what was already graet bottom end.Limitless layering of music"bring on those complex passages"
More natural air around each note than you can imagine.

The big difference is it will only cost you a few extra dollars to turn your 328is into an M5.
With all the quirks and all I'll recommend a Bluenote
Stibbert over a Lector in a heartbeat.

I can hear! and this is fact not opinion!
hi hiernote:

what you are saying is that you prefer truth over beauty.
that is your opinion and it is a fact.
Does the Rega Saturn even compete in the arena we are discussing? There were a lot of posts about it in 2006, but I haven't seen much more since then.
Thank you for your comprehensive post regarding the two players. It is far more than I expected and it is very much appreciated. Are there any other CD players in this price range that you even like better than the Stibbert? Bob
I'm about to pull the trigger on a BAT VK-D5 with Amperex tubes. Other alternatives are the McCormack UDP-1 which I've read good things about, or a used Audio Research CD3 MKII. Can anyone give me opinions on these, perhaps compared to the Bluenote CD players? Koala or Stibbert? Or even Lector CDT.7?
i owned the bat cd player for a while. i ytried mullard and amerex tubes. this cd player is not receptive to changes in tubes. the player is very transparent, detailed and unforgiving of poorly recorded cds. it is closer to the truth than to beauty. it has a little extra energy in the brightness region (1000 to 3000 hz).

i sold mine. why not wait for the new prima luna prologue 8 or the arcana cd 1.0 and cd 2.0 .
Why not buy the BAT VK-D5 in the meantime and enjoy it. Then once the Prima Luna Prlogue 8 is available, I'll have a nice opportunity to compare. I pulled the trigger on the BAT VK-D5. It has Amperex tubes in it already which is nice. It will be an interesting comparison to the BlueNote Koala. Both are good, but different in their presentations. I believe I am going to prefer the BAT based on a previous listening in direct A-B comparison.
Ok ..so I bought the BAT VK-D5 and it is coming with Amperex 7308 tubes. I will do a comparison in a couple days when it arrives and I'll post my review in comparison to the BlueNote Koala.
Congratulations!Will you being running the BAT balanced or s/e with the adapters ?
The BAT will definately be a more linear player with great dynamics and lower frequency deliniation.
In my opinion the BAT will not be as musical and entertaining as the Koala.
Regardless of tubes the BAT will always take on an analytical and solid state approach.
This is not a BAD thing,just a different thing and it may be much better suited to your personal taste.And that is what counts.
At least you have the standard unit so you can do some tube rolling.
I know quite a few folks who have had their Bat Pre-amps upgraded and were not pleased with the sound.
Waiting and waiting for it to break-in and lose the shrill.
Your comment is interesting thinking the Koala will be more musical and entertaining. I've compared it directly to the BAT VK-D5 (6922 version) in a BAT VK300 system. I thought the BAT CDP was way more musical than the Bluenote. The BAT revealed a deeper soundstage, the bass was tighter, lower, with better detail and harmonic content. The Bluenote was rather 'solid state' sounding by comparison. It was more up front, forward and more focused in ways that were not as holographic as I like. I am hoping for the same results in my own living room. I'll be sure to post a review in A-B Comparison to the Bluenote.

FYI - I also bought some Herbie Tube dampers! I've read great reports that they tighten things up in a very musical way.
i agree with hiernote . i owned the bat player and tried amperex and mullard 6 volt tubes. alas, the player was as hiernote described. the koala was very similar.

i have been auditioning the melody cd m10 for about 2 and one half weeks. bartokfan wanted me to give a full report.
i can't do that because i am reviewing the player.

i can say that it is another choice and since it uses 6sn7 tubes in the buffer stage, and a rectifier tube, it may be possible to alter its sound by changing the tubes. the player costs $2500 and weighs about 75 pounds.
I keep reading these post about the Bluenote's being digital sounding and not 3-dimensional and forward.What are you kidding?
The stibbert i have is none of these.It is smother than the Mephisto i sold as well as other cdp's.It has a beautiful soundstage that is wide and deep that also wraps around you that even my wife has noticed as she has had to deal with my audio illness for over 30 years.
I am not saying it is the end all but it is far from digital and forward sounding and as usuall each to their own.
That may be true for the Stibbert. I hear GREAT things about it. Depending on system, speaker placement, room acoustics, I'll bet it's nothing short of amazing. But the Koala is not the Stibbert. It's half the cost or greater of a price difference. All I can tell you is my experience.

I did some comparing tonight using the Koala on a different amp, and the sound was much less forward and was more natural. I was wrongfully attributing the forward sounds to the Koala, and in fact, it was the Integrated amp I was using that made things sound smaller, more one dimensional and somewhat compressed.

I also noticed that using Balanced interconnects on the Koala made a marked improvement.

Hi Gary,
Bluenote does highly recommend the xlr outs and I did find it better also.
I just could not fathom the Stibbert as being digital sounding nor found it with the Koala as my ML Prodigy's would always let me know when things were sounding that way.As you stated it is always system dependent.
Bob, I agree about the balanced outputs. I tried both the single ended RCA's and the balanced using Acoustic Zen Silver Reference II IC's. I had both Balanced and RCA versions of that cable. The Balanced really does sound better. Had I tried that before buying the BAT VK-D5, I might have chosen to keep the Koala. :-) It's a pretty close contest. I simply find the BAT VK-D5 to be more musically coherent connected to the BAT VK300x (6922 Version) I am benefitting from same brand synergy most likely. I'm sure they voice their gear using their own components. Bottom line, I am very happy. Gary
Great to hear Gary(no pun intended).Enjoy yourself.
Gotta tell ya, the BAT gear kicks!!! I am hearing details in the music that I never noticed before. The Vk300x integrated and BAT VK-D5 (6922)CD player are incredible together. and the Balanced interconnects also afford an even quieter, cleaner background. I am in heaven! The sad part is, there is always something out there that is better. But for now, I am incredibly happy and content. I tried a variety of music on the new system and it all sounds more involving and engaging. I LOVE this hobby!