Budget CD / DVD or D/A solution

I have a moderate family room system consisting of Cary 40M Signature monoblocks, Red Rose R3 speakers and Preeminence Reference 1 passive pre-amp. My source components are the problem (with the exception of the tuner which is a Magnan Dynalab Ft-11). I currently have a Pioneer DV 343 for CD and DVD playback. I need one unit for DVD and single CD playback (I only have one available input for this application). My first priority is good sounding CD playback. I'm not very concerned about DVD audio or picture quality--it just has to be able to do that. I would like to spend around $500 (more if there's something really great) and I don't mind used equipment (why would I be on this site?) Should I buy a standalone D/A and use it with the Pioneer, or is there a combination player with very respectable CD playback quality?
Everyone speaks very highly of the Pioneer DV37, a DVD player that has excellent CD playback. It's also a great DVD player, though you say that's not that important. I use this unit upstairs in my bedroom system, where it's the only CD player, and it sounds really good! I believe they are available on this site for about what you're looking to spend.
Talk to Rick Schultz at EVS. www.tweakaudio.com if you don't mind a "tweaked" player....
I recently got a Denon DVD 2800. Great progressive scan dvd player and also very good at redbook CD's and HDCD's. A new one should be in the price range you are considering.
Do you need a dvd player for video?
If yes, I would suggest adding an outboard jitter reduction device, preferably one that can upsample and an outboard dac.
There seem to be many good buys on used dacs so you should be able to find one that won't break your budget.
Some possiblities would be a Cal Audio Sigma or a Micromega dacs. Another possibility for little money ($123+shipping) would be the Art DI/O dac. My limited experience with this dac is that it works better with an upsampler jitter reducer in front of it, but when properly interfaced it is a great bargain. It only has a coaxial digital input, requires some tweaking and accessories to get it set up properly and some burn in time to sound good, but I think it might have potential. It has both a/d conversion and d/a conversion so you could run the analog output from your dvd into it, convert to digital and then convert back to analog at 24/96, plus in the a/d conversion mode you have the option of adding tube warmth (it has a tube in its a/d circuit). All this for $123 plus shipping. It can be modified for around $200 into something that sounds much better. Search the forums here and at audio asylum and harmonic discord for more info on the DI/O. Only negatives I have found with the DI/O are some rfi problems which I have been able to get around with changing digital cables and shorting plugs and its imaging is a bit vague.
The Pioneer DV343 has the Burr Brown DAC chip, which means Stan Warren or Dan Wright can modify it for about $250 into a killer CD player. They are both well regarded, but Stan would be my choice. Search other theads for information. Dan Wright is at www.modwright.com
Thanks for all the suggestions. Sugarbrie's makes an aweful lot of sense to me. The other thing, that I failed to mention, is that I want a DVD player that can play VCDs, and SVCDs from recordable media. The pioneer does this, so not changing the unit, but upgrading the output stages makes very good sense. Thanks again--if anyone does have Stan's phone number or e-mail I would appreciate it. I have not searched the threads yet, but will do so.
Stan doesn't have an email address. I am at work so I don't have it handy, but you will find his phone number if you search here.
I had Dan do work on a Pioneer 38a for me and I can attest to what a huge improvement his work can make. Before Dan it was pretty bad as a CD player, very two dimensional and not much like music at all, after his work it's a wonderful player with great detail and very three dimensional. Highly recommended!