I have recently purchased an old DAC Magic 2 and have integrated it into my system. It has made a marked difference in Redbook CD listening. I am using a Kenwood 323M 200 disc changer along with a Pioneer 563a universal player as transports. I was wondering, obviously there are far better CD players out there, however since I have an outboard DAC to handle the digital conversion, what should I be looking for in an higher quality player.
I'm not sure what you're asking. If you intend to use the older outboard DAC, then a transport would be required and there are far less differences between transports than between players. You don't state a price range so it's difficult to suggest anything without knowing how many funds are available. I think if you can spend $700-1200 you'll find the better players in that range can easily outdo your older DAC. The Rega Apollo is my standard choice in the $1k price range. Whether it suits your system needs is another matter. Do you require SACD playback in the new unit?
Sorry for the lack of specifics. I am looking for something in the $500 dollar range, but it does not need to be new. As for SACD, I assume that with the exception of a handful of bargain basement universal players (of which I have one) I would have to shell out around a grand for a player that would do SACD justice. Also I suppose my question revealed my own lack of knowledge as I didn
For the most part a transport simply gets the signal off the disc and then sends it downstream to a DAC. It's not an easy job but a transport doesn't deal with getting the signal out of the digital domain and into the analog domain.
You have several problems you'll have to make decisions about before you can proceed. I know of no transports in your price range that will play SACD's other than universal players used as transports. You already have that. Secondly, there are no outboard SACD DAC's in your price range. So, you'll end up with two transports/players, one for Redbook (standard) CD's and one for SACD. Depending on your preference, this could complicate things substantially. Two transports, two inputs to the pre amp, two sets of interconnects, etc.
I guess the first question is what do you expect to gain from this purchase. Are you still intending to use the old outboard DAC? Not to downplay the importance of getting the 1's & 0's off the disc and downstream, but the DAC will be responsible for a very large portion of what you hear from the digital player and today's DAC's (in or out of the player) are better than yesterday's as a rule.
Offhand, I would tell you to look for a pre owned Denon universal player. A 2900 or 2910 maybe. These should be in your price range and would be a considerable upgrade in quality from the Pioneer. But they will not sound all that different than the Pioneer with a DAC. The improvements might not even be things you readily notice though the sound will definitely be better as you listen longer or do more comparison against live music. Cambridge and NAD build SACD players in your price range, but everyone I know who started with either of those eventually ended up with a Denon at least.
Can you tell us what you're expecting this upgrade to gain you? Then we might be able to give better advice.