XA7ES, Miles, Cary 301, ARC CD-1?? Direct to amp..

Hi all!

I know that this topic has been BEATEN to death and I HAVE looked through the archives, but still have questions.

I need a CDP that'll connect directly to my amp. I've seen many recommendations for the Theta Miles...is it really that good?

The Sony XA-7ES seems like a hell of a piece for the money. It also seems that there are many people using it w/o a pre with good results.

Finally, I'm intrigued by the Audio Research CD-1. Anyone have any experience with using the remote volume capability?

I'm sure that each of these players is good in its' own right, but what I'd like to know is which one (or maybe another?) would do the best job of driving an amp directly?

BTW - I'm trying not to spend much more than about $1K used. $1,300 would be the absolute MAX.

Thanks everybody!
My only comment is on the Sony XA7ES since I own one. It drives my amp directly and sounds its best this way - bypassing the preamp all together. For the price, you can't go wrong. Its a very good sounding player on its own and you can improve it some with an outboard DAC (but then you'll likely need a preamp with the DAC). I should also mention that the Sony controls and layout make a lot of sense, both the front panel and the remote. It's a very well thought out player. I have a much higher-end player (Cary 306/200) that is a total mess ergonomically compared to the Sony.
I have not used any of the players you listed, but I am using a Wadia directly to my power amp. I was very skeptical when a friend suggested I at least try taking my ARC pre-amp out of the loop. I argued back that the sound stage would collaps, imaging would go away and it would sound to analytical. After some proding we tried it, none of the above happened and the overall presentation dramticaly improved. I have since sold the pre-amp and have been using it this way for well over a year. I guess the point of all this is, I think you are on the right track, and you might want to consider one of the Wadia players. Good luck in your search.......Bob
I also use a Wadia direct into the amp, and very strongly recommend the brand, but most of them are out of your price range. (If you can find a used 830 for under $2k, it's definitely worth stretching your budget. While not as good as Wadia's big guns, it's still worlds better than what you have listed. If this is out of the question, 23's can be found for around your price.) There is no question that direct is much better than through a preamp if you have no other sources. The Theta is excellent but on the punchy side of neutral, the ARC is also excellent but on the soft side of neutral, and the Sony is in between but I will never buy a Sony because I've had absolutely miserable quality issues with every piece of Sony gear I've ever owned (quite a few, but I learn eventually...)
I own a Sony XA7ES. I think it is an excellent piece for the going rate ($900.00 to $1100.00 used currently). It does have an excellent variable out, but ONLY in single ended mode. The balanced outputs are fixed, you must use them with a pre-amp. I finally bought an Adcom GFP-750 pre amp so I could use my Rowland Model 2 amp with the Sony to its full potential-balanced.
I have a friend who had a "Balanced" Theta Miles. They do come single ended or balanced-you'll pay more for balanced... I tried the Theta, it didn't sound any better than my Sony & it comes with a real cheap (Pioneer) remote. Theta has kind of forgotten the Miles, I don't think they have ever offered an upgrade for it.
If I were you I'd buy a used Sony. If you don't like it or find something better, you probably won't lose a dime when you sell it.
What amp do you have? If it isn't a truly balanced amp you don't need a balanced output on your CD player..

First off. Mark Levinson 39 cd player will sound more musical more detailed liquid mids and bigger overall presentation. I tried alot of players and I love my 39 I will never sell it I will just upgrade it to the 390s. You can pick one up for around 3,000. I had the theta miles prior to buying the 39 and the theta is a great cd player for the money. the theta is smoother than the wadia 830 by far. Heres why. The Mark Levinson and the Theta Miles both have an analoge volume control which is very important when driving an amplifier direct. When you turn the volume down you dont lose bits of information it just gets softer.Wadia makes great gear but I have found that when you turn them up they can souns somewhat analytical. So if you have your heart set on wadia you will need to match your cables accordingly. Out of all the above the 39 is superior in my eyes but everyone is diffrent. Read the reviews on the 39 and it will sell it self. Plus for 3,000 you cant buy a player to come close to it. Also the theta miles is no longer in production so you may want to consider that also. Remember. Analoge volume controls equals a smoother sound when running direct. good luck if you need help you can email me and I will be happy to give you my number and answer any questions you may have
The response before this one would be correct and I am backing him up here . I have a Levinson No. 37 transport and have to say that if you have an onboard DAC in your preamp as I do (Lexicon DC-1) then most definitely ramp up at least to a Levinson . I bought mine without ever hearing one and have to say it far exceeded my wildest expectations of how good it would be . I have had a Theta Basic in my system and had to say it would be best used as a doorstop!!!! Also had Proceed CDP in my system and thought it to be pretty good but the Levinson is definitely the FERRARI F360 of the bunch !!! If you go Levinson you will not be sorry as to the extra money you will be missing!!!!!
I was trying CD players out a few years ago and had a Theta Miles and a Meridian 508.24 at the same time. I listened to the Theta all day, then in the evening I put the Meridian on and in 5 seconds I knew that I would not buy the Theta, the Meridian was so much better. I know the Meridian doesn't have a volume control, but the message here is to try as many different cd players as possible, then decide for yourself which sounds best. I may have been ok with the Theta if I hadn't tried the Meridian, but I doubt it. The Meridian does cost more tho, so I guess it should have sounded better, but once I heard the difference between the two, the money was secondary. The bottom line is to try and listen to a few players that interest you before buying, then decide.
Thanks everybody. To answer Daniel's question, I'm running a Forte Model 4 amp, so unbalanced would be fine with the Sony.

What's the difference between analog and digital volume controls? Does the Sony XA7ES have an analog or digital volume control?



The Sony has a motorized analog variable output. Think of it as a conventional passive pre amp with remote control.
It will allow you to lower the volume & take it up to the maximum output of the player. It does NOT have gain like an active pre amp. The Theta Miles is like this also, the Theta products have a reputation for higher than industry standard output. Depending on your speakers & room size, you probably won't need an active pre amp with the Sony or Theta Miles. If you're using small monitors in a large room, you'll might want an active pre amp to make the music more dynamic..