After looking at your system and seeing your goals, (clarity and soundstage)my advice is to forget the dac, scrap the PS power conditioner and pick up a good power conditioner, such as an Audience AR6, or the 6T if you can stretch. Lower noise floor and overall sound improvement, IMO. Of course I can't diagnose your system without hearing it, but neither can anyone else, so my opinion is as valid/ignorant as anyone else's. Again, IMO, a $1000 DAC is just a sideways move. If you want a real improvement over the AA, you will have to break more eggs than that. At least that's what I've found. Good luck.
Musical Fidelity V-DAC for $299. You can return it if you don't hear a big difference; I think you will. Use a decent digital cable.
Adding the right DAC can improve all the sonic signatures you're looking for. But, like everything else, it is system dependent.
Burson dac is the one I would highly recommend.
There is a 30 day trial for the Burson. I don't think you'll be sending it back though.
The Wyred 4 Sound DAC-1 would be worth considering and is in your price range. I believe it would be a step up for you.
Ask yourself this question. Do you find that the music (sound stage) becomes compressed as the size of the music increases (more instruments) and does the sound stage become congested as you turn up the volume with larger scale recordings? However, when you play small scale recordings, trios, female vocals without much instrumental support behind them, the sound stage is good, well defined, etc. . .
This is your CD player. I cannot tell you if it is the DAC portion of this player or what aspect. But the AA Primo CDP has this fault. I bought one when my AA Capitole needed to be repaired and figured the Primo would give me similar, but not as good perfomance. It was fine with small scale music, but fell apart with larger scale music.
While I hate to say this to you, my recommendation would be to dump the Primo and get either a better CDP or even one that may have digital inputs. You can try a DAC, but I don't know if it will fix the problem with the AA unit or not.
What Ckoffend is discribing sounds like the OP amps in the CD player.
If you get a DAC, that will by pass the OP amps in the CD player.
Thanks everyone for the comment.
Ckoffend, it is exactly what you described. Large scale or complicated music would diminish soundstage while small scale is great.
Rbc, it does make it tough, the Primo is a good player for small scale music. I can tell you that I went to a Resolution Audio Opus 21 w/ GNSC mods (this unit has digital inputs by the way) and for not very much more money got much better results. I am not saying this is the player you should get as I don't know all your goals, etc. . . I am sure others can suggest alternatives.
As for Zmanastronomy's comments about the opamps? I can't say either way. I don't know if the Primo uses different Opamps than the Capitole and I can tell you with certainty that the Capitole never had this problem. He/she may very well know more than I about which Opamps are used and if so, he may be right???
I know I will get beat up for this, but I think the power supply in a DAC and CDP is very important (in some cases just as important as the chips used). I have never heard a really good sub 10-15 pound DAC or CDP! We all put a lot of effort into understanding the power supplies in our amps, but for some reason ignore this factor with other components. Even the best Class D amps (which for the most part I am not a fan of) have some real weight behind them as they use better power supplies.
There are a lot of good CDPs and DACs out there. Try not to fall for the flavor of the day $300 DAC - you won't be impressed. Sure, they may be better than your computer's DAC, but that's about it.
Your remarks regarding the importance of a quality power supply is absolutely correct.From all the articles,detailed reviews and interviews with serious designers I`ve read, the PS and quality of the analog circuit andI/V conversion matter greatly. These aspects seem to affect the ultimate sonics more so than what digital chip is utilized. Power supplies matter in all audio components without exception.
Well, my $300 DAC operates in the company of Gamut L5s [$15000 retail] CJ 350 [$10500] Audia line stage [$7000] and 2 REL subs [$6000] and holds its own quite well. Is it the best DAC available, of course not; but HIFICRITIC said that they had never tested an active component at this price level that could be used in high level systems like the V-DAC. With an external power supply it is even better. It is just too cheap for most ; it took a friend almost 2 years to convince himself to get one. He is very happy with it.
I'm reading this thread after checking your system page and it leaves me wondering if you have installed the room treatments you mentioned. From the system pics, I see a very lively room. If you haven't addressed the room, I would strongly recommend that as the first step toward improving your sound.
I agree with Timrhu. It's hard to tune a system if it's in a untreated room.
Not all rooms need to be "treated". I am in my fourth room in the same house, two have needed treament and two have not. That being said, I agree 100% that if a room does need treatment, there is no better return on investment. Having just bought 8 various types of Real Trap panels (in addition to what I already owned), I can attest that some of these products are better than others, but addressing the room is key.
That being said, I can also state with a high degree of confidence the inherant weakness in the OP's CDP (but also its strengths).
Ok then I'll give priority to room treatment. Unfortunately I can only treat the front wall behind the speakers, because this is in our master bedroom. My wife doesn't want to see too many things. I'll put a artistic panel behind each speaker and start from there.
Always remember, it's much more easy to get forgiveness than to get permission.
My wife liked my Ready Acoustic panels so well she made me buy some more when I moved them to another system. YMMV.
I bought the Rega DAC a few weeks ago. It was a huge upgrade over my Rotel CDP. I'm loving it. Some say it rivals the Rega Saturn, but for way less $$$
Without the benefits of having heard any of your components, a do know from personal experience that upgrading your DAC is one of the best bang for the buck moves you can make, so you would probably get a big boost out of a new $1,000 DAC.
Another suggestion is power conditioning. My best spend $1200 in audio in 2010 was a ps audio powerplant premier. These units will be hitting the used market in high volumes now that PS audio has released the new P5 model. You should be able to pick one up for $1,000.
I just replace my signalcable with My Audio Cable Paradise power cord costing only $200 which connects wall to the conditioner for my cd player. The improvement is immediate and I'm sure a better conditioner will improve the soundstage. Having said that I still think room treatment will yield the most improvement in soundstage.