Used Arcam FMJ23; it's a classic.
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I used to have California Audio Labs CL-15 in my system. It's warm sounding great CD player. Its HDCD performance was excellent. You'd be surprised how many CDs are actually encoded as HDCD although the case may not show the HDCD logo. I'd pop in a CD and think it sounds pretty good, then notice HDCD decoding sign on CL-15.
FMJ-23 used RINGDACs same Dacs used in expensive Elgar. (ARCAM got license for them). Because of production problems (low yield) they switched to regular DACs in next generation. Get one if you still can. Ringdac has 4 current sources built-in that randomly add noise (16 levels)to increase resolution in filtering. As for HDCD - it is 16-bit compressed format where least significant bit 16 switches dynamic range od remaining 15 bits. Some studio engineers say that it sounds weird and was introduced to promote media with very strong copy protection. I would stay away - it's dead format.
Arcam dv27. The HDCD performance is great. I mean really great. It's a big difference compare to when playing non-HDCD disc. Everything just comes out more lively; deep bass gets deeper and even image gets sharper. Used can be had for less than $500. Whereas, I've tried the same test on a Linn Genki and the sound was pretty lame. No big difference between playing HDCD or non-HDCD.
You could also consider a DAC with HDCD. I have an Assemblage 2.0 that I love--it's ancient (relatively speaking) but works fantastic, is built like a brick and you can mate it up with any player that outputs digital on toslink or SP/DIF on RCA and BNC. They occasionally come up for sale on the 'gon.
Short answer for me is the Resolution Audio CD-50. Excellent redbook cdp and absolutely superb HDCD player.
The long answer; I got hooked on HDCD sound a few years ago when I had a high end Sony cdp paired with an Adcom GDA 700 dac. The Sony and Adcom were very similar with standard cds but when I put in Joni Mitchell's HDCD encoded "Blue," the Adcom was much better.
Since then I have owned several cdps and two dacs with HDCD. I'll list them in ascending order to the top rated (by me) CD-50.
1. OPPO DV-980H.
2. Original CD-A8, I believe this was a clone of the MMF CD-25.
3. Onix cd-88, another clone of the Music Hall CD-25.
4. Adcom GDA-700 dac.
5. NAD C-541i, this is an outstanding cdp for the money, IMO, especially if you like smooth sound.
6. Linn Genki, a very nice cdp for the used price.
7. PS Audio Ultra Link III, never should have sold it.
8. Resolution Audio CD-50, it uses older 20 bit technology but I'm convinced the wonderful sonic character comes from the analog stages. Even better when if you system supports balanced operation.
I know the CD-25 gets high praise here and by many reviewers. I prefer a smoother sound overall which is why the CD-25 didn't work for me.
Wow, this may be the longest answer I've posted. Good luck.
i hate to show my stupidity when it come to electronics but whats a dac? im really new to hi fi stuff. right now im having a issue with the pioneer dvd player. it pops and crackles when i have a dvd in it. sound fine when playing regular cds. thanx for the info your time posting is much appreciated. any ideas on whats up with the dvd player/quick fix till i get a new one. kevin
I've had an Anthem CD-1 for ten years; I think it sounds good. I too think HDCD is an improvement. Perhaps that one reason didn't catch on was that it started life as a proprietary process, not an open system. I know that the Sonic Solutions mastering suite wouldn't encode it (I don't know if this is still the case,) and Sonic Solutions was the market leader in cd mastering.
I may be wrong in the details, but this was the reason I wasn't able to use HDCD on some the cd projects I produced, at least according to my mastering engineer. The reason I stuck with him was because he is the best in town, and my one experience with using out-of-town mastering taught me I want to be present at the session. (In the end I caught what I wanted on that project (including HDCD) but it was an expensive learning experience.)
You might want to look at the NAD C542 CDP, which is an upgraded version of the NAD C541. Matter of fact, I'll probably be listing my NAD C542 on the Audiogon sales pages in the next few days as I recently purchased a Jolida JD-100. I will tell you, the NAD C542 is a very nice unit, and there are many positive reviews about this unit. Check it out for yourself.