CD player with Tube Output or Music Server

I play CD’s through an upgraded Audio Space CD8 player from Underwood HiFi. It can be played as solid state or tubed output. To my ear, the tubed output is smoother and seems to have more substance. It definitely sounds less digital through the tubes. I enjoy the player very much and it is definitely the best I have heard in my system compared to mid priced offerings from Sony, Rega, and Cambridge Audio.

The rest of my system is Maggie 3.6’s with W4S Preamp and ST1000 amp. I also run a Technics table with an Ortofon cartridge from KABUSA. The table is more organic and live sounding compared to the CD player.

Anyway… the upgrade bug is starting to itch so I visited my local hi end dealer in the Midwest.

He tried to talk me out of a CD player entirely. He attended the last Las Vegas audio show and was pushing a Naim music server and a DAC for around $5500. He tried to convince me that the Hi resolution capability of this combo would blow away a comparably priced dedicated CD player. He would not even show me his CD players!


1. What are your thoughts about what this dealer is telling me?

I am kind of convinced that I still want the dedicated CD player because I am not sold on computer audio. It just seems too hi tech for me....also, I am not so sure I need $5000 worth of Naim equipment to get the high resolution sound.

2. What are your thoughts about a good CD player that would be a significant upgrade that would sound live and smooth? I am thinking about the $5000 range new or around half much that used.

I appreciate any and all feedback!

How complicated is it to build an AN DAC? I have soldered new capacitors in large Advents, but this looks like it this would be at a higher required skill level.
I have enjoined two CDPs with tube output stages: EAR Acute and Ancient Audio Lektor Prime. Both companies' most recent offerings allow digital input; the Lektor Prime/Air also has a second analog input allowing it to be used as a pre-amp as well.
I've owned several VERY ($10k+) high end CD/SACD players and recently experimented with a server/DAC setup and I was stunned at how subtle/non-existant the SQ difference was between the two.

The choice comes down to what you like. I personally miss the human/machine interaction of a disk player (call me crazy) and having to change disks and manually clamp it down, etc.

From a pure performance standpoint I think it's becoming VERY difficult to justify a high end player. But this hobby is much more than just performance for most of us so things such as tactile feel, pride of ownership, aesthetics and more all matter.

Trust your ears and heart and get something that you will enjoy regardless of what your dealer may be pushing.