46 responses Add your response
I have an Oppo 105D with the full ModWright upgrade and, while it does many things well, it cannot complete with a high-end dedicated SACD/CD player.
If you don't need the other things the Oppo brings to the table, with your budget, you can definitely find a demo or slightly used player that will check all your boxes.
I'll "third" the Marantz--listening to my SA-11S2 right now and it's just "right" whether I'm listening to redbook or SACDs. Today's lineup has included The Eagles' "Long Road Out of Eden" (both discs--CD), Karajan's Beethoven's 9th (SACD), Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" (SACD), and Tony Bennett/Bill Evans (XRCD).
The first and second round of mods were done by Ric Schulz of EVS and included analog and digital mods, the Audio Magic Pulse Gen ZX box, high speed clock, Oppo Mods Linear PS, the one with massive toroidal transformer, with upgraded capacitors. The third round of mods were done by yours truly and included one of my spring-based ceramic tile vibration iso stands, complete double mu metal wrapping of toroidal transformer, cork isolation for circuit boards, WA Quantum Chips galore, constrained layer damping for toroidal transformer, Mpingo discs for CD transport compartment, Marigo VTS dots for most capacitors, replaced Oppo cover with clear Lexan, Codename Turquoise scattered laser light (visible red spectrum) treatment for CD tray, Dark Matter invisible light absorber for CD tray, mu metal/copper/3M AB5100s anti RFI treatment for all ribbon connectors, and quite a few PWB tweaks as well, you know, foils, Red X Pen, Magnadiscs, that sort of thing.
"geoffkait, that was an Oppo 103 just like it was a Toyota Camry that won the Daytona 500 yesterday...."
That’s why there are such things as modded Oppos or modded anything.
"You referred to it in the past tense, so why did you give it up after so much work?"
Good question. One reason is there was no more room in the Oppo. ;-)
I am not familiar with Oppo or Marantz, but I recently acquired a Classe Audio Omega SACD-2 SACD player. It plays regular audio CD's, HDCD's and of course SACD's. You can also up-sample the sound quality of all regular audio CD's, but of course can not perform this function with SACD playback as it is of course unnecessary. As far as price, it originally retailed for $8000.00 when manufactured from 2004-2008. I have heard many players, and this is one exceptional sounding SACD player! Also the build quality and components used are ALL TOP NOTCH! I of course did not pay $8000.00, but it was a chunk for this player! I can't imagine finding another player of this exceptional quality for under $2500.00, but if you are patient and do some looking you may be able to find one! There also was a recent listing on AG for a similar Classe SACD player, so you may want to look into that one. I am of course SOLD on Classe, but I am sure you can find other manufacturer's of the same build and quality from Krell, Macintosh, and a few others. If you want any other info on the Classe Omega SACD-2 let me know, and good luck in your search.
I have heard several Esoteric models, and none of them have induced me to buy one.
None of the Esoteric units I heard sounds anything like what the OP is asking about. Rich sound and musicality are not words that I associate with Esoteric players.
Now, that said maybe you can tune the sound in that direction by using warm cables, like Transparent. I suppose there's many ways to accomplish the same goal.
The OP hopefully has a chance to listen to some players, as sonically the Esoteric and Marantz are very different sounding players, who each have their admirers.
The Esoterics I've owned, while good performers overall (especially the X-01, which was highly modded), just did not engage me over the long haul. My Marantz, on the other hand, has.
When I've listened to the two manufacturers back to back, it sounds like two companies with two totally different conceptions of what live music sounds like. Neither conception is wrong, per se, but IN MY OPINION, Marantz's idea of live sound, as engineered into their Reference-line products, is closer to what I hear when I go to a concert.
I said I wouldn't have another CD player, sold my McIntosh MCD500 on Audiogon, as I've been using a media server...but the server hard drive packed it up, is back at the factory being re-imaged or replaced, so I thought...since I have an external DAC I'm really happy with, why not snag a transport, just bought a PS Audio PWT. I have their P10 Power Plant and DirectStream DAC, happy with both of those as well.
As I've gotten deeper into digital, I think the best way to go is with an external DAC.
When I transitioned to having hi-res digital files on a music server I sold my former SACD player. I still buy CDs, record them in iTunes as 44.1/16 AIFF files, transfer them to the server, which outputs them to my external DAC via the coax connection.
Long-story-short, the hard drive on my music server became corrupted, had to be returned to the manufacturer to be re-imaged, and one of my audio buddies got me interested in a CD transport, which I snagged last week on Audiogon.
The combination of this high-end transport & high-end external DAC produces the best level of detail I've ever experienced! Better than the 192/23 AIFF files thru the USB port on my laptop, or the coax port on the music server!
Bass is distinctively more defined, the sound stage is markedly improved, and the highs are much better (you can actually feel the timbre from cymbals vibrating!)
I'm thinking, over time, DACs will continue to improve and become more cost-effective, so I think it might be wise to consider a transport/DAC combination, instead of a CD player with a built in DAC.