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Not sure re dedicated transports, but my old Cary 303 cd player was a better transport than the newer Pioneer DV47Ai and Marantz 9500. The newer players probably have better DSP chips and in some cases memory buffers which help reduce jitter, but its up to the implementation to make effective use of these advantages.
i sound like a broken record, but the cd transport/dac or player is essentially the same as its always been. the cd however has been dramatically improved through a learning curve in recording, mixing, mastering, and manufacturing for this media. lots of first generation players sound as good as current models. the differences are there in hardware, but nothing as big as the hi end community would have you believe. i've been in the music and video industry for almost as long as i've been into hi fi, and i've had to face the fact that the hi end marketplace never letd the truth get in the way of a good story.
If Krell got a lot of tracking problems, you should probably look elsewhere.
Since Denon 2900 is a universal player, most manufacturing cost is actually spent on DAC and different decoders, rather than optic and reader. I don't think it is a good idea to use it as a pure CD transport.
I have some experienced with several good old CD players (Revox, Studer, Naim, ARC). All of them sound better than the new midrange players. I recently replaced my Marantz 8260 (stereophile class A) by a 10 years old ARC CD1. The improvement is huge and substantial. Even the CD layer sounds more smooth than the SACD layer on 8260....
Without knowing the equipment you're playing it through, the lack of sonic difference can be attributed to the preamp, amp and/or speakers. It's the synergy thing. From my experiences, the sonic difference of a big ticket component is not as spectacular as the price tag would suggest unless the associated equipment is of equal pedigree. If you slap a set of $2,000 Pirelli's on a Yugo, you can't appreciate what they're capable of as you would if you put them on a Ferrari - just making a point; not a jab at yours or anyone's system ;)
BTW, the Krell unit's age may be showing. The laser sounds like it's out of adjustment.
For whatever reason, all DVD based players
track better than any CD player I have tried over the years. I have a special CD to check tracking errors, and the best CD player I have tried was able to read a data drop out up to 1,5mm. My cheap Yamaha DVD plays up to 3mm of drop out without any problem. But it sounds nowhere near as good through its digital out.
I use an early 90s sony CDP X55ES. The build quailty is very good it has 2 transformers a copper caseing + weights in at 33lbs but the clock + dac in it are old so I run it into a Monarehy DIP ( anti jitter box ) which reclocks it and sends it to an custom made ( TDK 1543) nonsampling Dac. It has out performed any Mid range many high range that I have tried.
I'm using Krell transport for 12yars now and never had problem with tracking, don't even know what are you talking about. While I agree that price tag for older Krell was a joke, i.e. my KPS 20t was about $7000, but at least it tracks and sounds much better then Philips 963-a, that's for sure. I agree with Gs5556, that if the rest of your system is not revealing enough, you might not hear much difference.