Will I be a jaw dropping Wow for an upgraded CDP?

My current system

AES/Cary SE-1 SET (300b tubes) amp
Decware Zen Amp (used both alternatively)
AES/Cary AE-3 Preamp
Sony and Panasonic walkman type CDP (using line out)
Low end Audioquest and homemade RS magnet wire interconnect
Axiom M22Ti speakers (with pure copper monster cable)

I listen to a variety of music, but fall in love with vocal (especially female) and chamber music. I also listen to both Pop/rock and Classical. Most of the time I listen to moderate level, not very lound (to give you the idea, I never clip my Zen amp on my 92 dB rated speakers yet.).

To be frank I am pretty happy with my set up right now. Female vocal sound wonderful on this setup.

Just that I can afford a better CDP, probably for around 600 or so. I am wondering how much better I should expect to spend 600 on it?

I know many people are happy to pay 10 grands just to get small amount of improvement. For me I try to justify how my money will pay off. $600 is quite a lot for me and I would be disappointed if the improvement is so subtle that I barely notice it. For example I had a failed marry with the new Music Hall MMF CD25 (failed miserably and had to return it.)
As it wasn't burnt in completely yet so it hard to justify. I know that it sounds differnt from my walkman CDP, but not sure if I could say it sounds better.

I have read a lot about CDP selections, but still can't justify to get one. Many story about Model A is better than model B, but not much about how better.

For example Rega Planet 2000 is better than Cambridge audio 500SE, but by how much? Is it worth extra 500 for that differnce?

I know this kind of question is hard to answer as it subjective, but still would like to hear thought from experienced people who went to this route before.

Thanks a lot,

If you failed to notice a difference using the music hall. Then sit back listen to what you have and spend the 600.00 on music.
The source is your most important piece. If you did not hear a difference dont sweat it.
Ake, I am going to tell you something right now. If you are using a Walkman CD, and you haven't already blown alot of cash on CD discs, then you just have to go with an analog setup for the kind of system that you have. For $600, you could get a Rega 3/RB300 and a cart from the classifieds on Audiogon. You could also get a low cost Phono section there too, and still may be under your $600 total. There is no $600 CD player in the world that will touch that combo. And there are other good analog set-ups that you could get for the same money that may give you comparable or even better performance than the Rega depending on the deal involved. If you want the most sound for your $600, analog will provide it.
I was using a panasonic portable cdp using the line out with 70's vintage panasonic receiver, and picked up a denon dcm-560 cd changer from good guys for $250 with 5 year warranty. The second I connected it (I used MIT 330 series II IC) there was an enormous difference in sound, their was just so much more of it (sounded much fuller) and much less digital sounding. I don't think the little outputs on the portable cd players can compete with the analog outputs on any of the over $200 cd players connected via a quality cable(something like a straightwire chorus $30)What failed so miserably about the music hall? I myself would like to play with vinyl when money allows.
This is a tough post.. If you have tons of cds.. then you owe it to yourself to get a nicer player. One with a better d/a convertor... something more musical. The difference will be jaw dropping as you say.. I went from a Nice Classe cdp3 to a Krell kav 300 and it was even more dropping... simply stated, the da convertors in standard components and something as simple as a portable cd player, cannot compare to a nice solid state player with a heavy duty transport and class a electronics... detachable power cords for upgradability, digital and coax out for future dac upgrades... In short, it will be well worth your while...Cd is not going anywhere anytime soon.
Good luck,
TWL, don't forget about $400- for a good record cleaning machine along with the $600- for the T.T. Agreed that analog is great, but it's a totally different animal than CD. Let's not forget what a pain in the ass vinyl can be. There are negatives that do accompany that wonderful analog sound.

Ake, in your price range, I would consider the Audio Refinement Complete CD Player. Be careful that your jaw doesn't break when it hits the floor the first time you hear the difference! And this unit also features a digital output for later upgrades, should you want, with an outboard DAC. Let the ecstasy begin!
A good CD player would be a definite improvement over what you currently use. Money being a concern for you, I would recommend buying used. Maybe a Rotel could be gotten for the amount of money you quote. In the less expensive models, it appears that you have already eliminated one. I, for one, did not like the sound of the Rega, I felt it somewhat dark. I liked some of the things the Roksan Kandy did, a lot of air but maybe, overall, a bit thin. Keep to your budget and try for a home audition is the best recommendation I have. And then, as our vinyl missionary as opined, there's vinyl ... but I think that wasn't your question...
Try a Sony DVP-NS500V DVD player. It has a 2 channel output so you can use it as a 2 channel only cd player. If you shop a little you should be able to get it for around $150, including a rite of return if you don't like it. I think you will be pleasantly surprised. Search the forums for more info on the Sony.
There's little doubt that you would find even a mass market consumer CD player a big step up from your Walkman. Your system is plenty good enough to justify a much better source. If you're not looking to spend too much cash, look for a used Sony 333ES (and get SACD playback as a free bonus), an Arcam Alpha 7SE/8SE player or an Arcam CD72. Any of these would set you back less than the $600 budget. You could get a Rega Planet 2000 or a used Meridian 506.20 for about $600 also. Good luck with your search. I'm sure you'll think it was worth it.
Sorry, forgot about the record cleaning machine. But you could get that later.
You may want to pick up the Sony DVP9000ES.
If compatible why not try a $200 cal sigma tube dac? I am using one along with a roksan caspian cdp and it does wonders even with this too smooth "high end CDP".

Thanks a lot for all responses of my post.

Response to Twl: I already have quite a lot of CDs so I think I will go with CD route for now. Maybe some days when I make more money I will think about it.

Respose to Natalie: Frankly my MMF CD-25 sounds awful out of the box. It's very harsh and edgy. I burn it it for a day and it sound better, but still not as smooth as my Panasonic C570 CDP. My setup back then was Sennheiser HD600 with Xcan V2 hadphone amp. All detail disappears from the CD25. I end up returning it before it sound right. So I wasn't at the point to tell if it's better or not. I know for the price, it'd better be. I notice that it's fuller and richer compared to C570 CDP, make the Panasonic a bit thin and dry. Frankly it still bothers me if I should give it a second try or not. Mechanism of that unit is awsome.

Now story about MMF-CD25 that I posted on another thred:

I have a different experience with MMH CD-25. I got a demo (never been used) for pretty good deal. As soon as it arrived, I hooked with up with my Xcan V2 headphone amp and Senn HD600 cans. It sounded pretty harsh to my ear, much worse than the Panasonic C570 that I have been using. OK I blaimed it on not burning in. So I left it run over the night on repeat mode. Next day I came back. The player stopped playing. So I sent email to music hall and asked if something was wrong, I got reply back that there was a bug in a program and nothing can do. By that it means that it cannot left running on repeat mode forever. No one is doing that except for burning in period any way. OK ok I thought. Let it burn in a bit more. Then the worse came. The player started freezing briefly (less than a second or so, but I can notice it.) It 's like it didn't know what to do next to it stopped then went on (different than skipping). I though I must have had a bad CD so I played another one. It kept coming. So I gave it up. I was lucky that the store I got it from was happy to have it returned. Still I wasted $40 for shipping both ways.

It may be just a bad unit or not I don't know, but I seem to loose faith in the product. And the fact that it can't play repeat for even over night is a bit fishy to me.

This is just my own experience and I returned it before it sounded right so I can't comment on it. At least what I can say is that my unit sounded awful out of the box.

You could get another Walkman (or home CD player) with digital output and buy a used Theta DAC. A Theta Chroma could be purchased for about $400. When you have more funds you could add on jitter filters such as; a Theta TLC or Monarchy DIP, and better digital cables.
Ake, before I suggest anything, I would like to say that I own a $10K CD transport/DA converter. It does not mean anything if you are not enjoying the music! I also own a $200 DVD/CD player, which I also enjoy very much. Guess what, it is a Panasonic DVD-RV31K !!! Very decent piece compare to many "hi-end" CD player.


BTW, I also enjoy my $10K CD transport/DA converter, too :-)
When I was in HS, my system consisted of a Nak receiver and used a portable top of the line second generation Sony discman as source. Theoretically, using portable diskmans as source has a great advantage over regular cd players.

The power supply of the portable discman is dc based, at least my Sony with Ni-Cad rechargeable batter was. This makes for cleaner and less harsh sounding music compared to mass market cd players with lesser power supplies and stock powercords. It sounds better than the CDPXA7ES when used with a headphone, but the output voltage was too low on the portable unit to power a Sennheiser.

I had absolutely no problem sonically with my portable unit, but it was pilfered from my dorm room. And I replaced it with a CAL Delta and Alpha with a Meridian dejitter with about $1000 worth of powercords, and digital and analogy ICs.

Ok, in summary, prepare to spend big bucks to get that jaw dropping WOW.