Upgrading cd player

I thinking about upgrading my Rega Isis CDP. I’m thinking about the Audio Research Ref 9se or the McIntosh MCD1200. Can anyone give me any thoughts / options on this ? Also I heard that Audio Research stopped production on the Ref 9se due to not being able to get the lasers anymore / that Phillips stopped making them ? I would also rather stick to a one box unit than separates. Ty.  Also if anyone else can recommend anything also I would appreciate it. My budget is up at about 12k 

128x128Ag insider logo xs@2xtattooedtrackman

Audio Research has had a lot of financial problems the past year. Things might be better now, and I wish them the best,  but if the choice was between them and McIntosh, a company that has been around for about 90 years and has as much broad support from the general public as a high end company will ever achieve, I’d opt for the Mac

@mahler123  But u are really talking about finances. And I un what u are saying. Just about all of my equipment is ARC. Ref 750s. Ref 6SE. I did purchase on Thursday the new McIntosh MQ112 equalizer which is a very nice addition to my ARC. But as far a ARC is concerned I believe that their financials are behind them. 

I wouldn’t be that sanguine about ARC finances going forward, but hey it your money.  You already had voiced a concern in your OP about parts availability for ARC, which led me to believe that long term servicing issues were a concern to you.

I think u have or we have a miscommunication. Arc parts are available with Arc themselves. It’s the Phillips laser that I believe Philips is not maki g them no more. That’s why Arc stopped making the CD9se. Now I’m not 💯 but it’s what I thought I read. But if they did stop making the laser ( Phillips ) then yea I would definitely reconsider the Arc ref 9se CDP. I was hoping someone had some first hand experience in those 2 models the Arc and MC. Which one is the better unit. 

Audio Research was purchased a few years ago in a highly leveraged deal by a private investor. Increased interest rates caused him to have to sell the business. It was sold to a deep pockets committed company that is already into high end audio. ARC is not in jeopardy of going out of business. They maintain the same dedication to producing new products and servicing old ones as they always have. Which is why they have a stockroom full of parts to service former products.


I highly recommend the ARC Ref CD9SE if you can find one. It is the best CD player / DAC that I have heard. It bested the $22K Berkeley Alpha DAC in my system and a number of others. It brings the rhythm a pace and midrange bloom of real music, as well as the detail and realism.. Through the player I can get the exact same fidelity by CD player and through streaming of the same recording. Frequently, I can get better quality through high def files streamed through Qobuz since I have an exceptional streamer..


How about an audition for a REGA ISIS VALVE cdp/DAC.

I have it and It is different than the vanilla ISIS. I preferred it over the latter ….. might be worth a peek 

@ghdprentice  Yes. I am not worried about ARC going out of business or parts for service of older equipment. I recently sent my Ref 6 to upgrade to 6SE. Very fast turnaround time. I’ve heard excellent reviews on the Ref 9 se CDP but I also heard that they discontinued it because Phillips stopped making the laser / transport or something like that for the 9se. Do u know anything about that ? Also have u heard the McIntonsh MCD12000. I’ve read and seen reviews on it and it’s supposed to have a world class DA converter. Also it’s a very beautiful player also with 2 L meters and a green window showing the tubes in the front. 12k. A lot of videos on UTube of it. 

@akg_ca  I have the Rega isis SS CDP and I’ve read a lot of people prefer the SS over the valve. Plus I’m really looking to upgrade and get away from the Rega Isis. 

@tattooedtrackman -Have you explored purchasing a replacement Phillips laser assembly from ARC? I'm deciding on getting the REF CD6SE after learning I can get a laser assembly from ARC for about $500.



Correct, ARC stopped making CD9SE’s because their supplier stopped making the transport. I am sure they have lots for repairs. But these days transports tend to be pretty reliable. They used to be terrible. 

While I do not know this, I suspect ARC will not invest in producing another CD player… it is a market that is contracting quickly. 

MacIntosh and Audio Research are on very different sides of the sound spectrums. Mac typically lacks detail compared with Audio Research. Their house sounds are very different.

@ghdprentice Thanks for the update about that transport. I thought I heard that. I originally did want that CD9se. But now I’m not so sure if I can’t get another transport years later. Also thanks for that information on the Mac. I figured they would be in very different sides of the sound spectrum. Never owned Mac before. I am going to demo the MCD12000 cdp next week but it will be on all Mac gear. So the sound will be very different on my system which is all ARC. I asked the dealer if u could take home the Mac to demo on my system and he said he can’t do it. So I don’t even know if it’s worth hearing it on their Mac system. 

There's the Audionet Art G5. It's a top loader that uses the Streams Unlimited CD Pro8 drive that Pro-Ject uses in their CDP, as well as Gryphon and Acoustic Arts but the last two go for well over your budget limit whereas the  Art G5 is about $1000 under it. Digital food for thought.

 All the best,

It’s been a long time since an Audio Research component was in my system.  I had a preamp from the early 2000s that I was the third owner.  I enjoyed it but sold it when I was going through a divorce and saw it listed for a thousand more than I had paid for it, so at least back then they were holding their value.  I have to say the one Mac CD/SACD player that I heard sometime before the pandemic didn’t do much for me when I had it in my system for weekend.  I prefered the Oppo 105 that I was thinking of replacing, although the Mac had a bigger soundstage and looked nice, the Oppo sounded more realistic to me.  The Mac was big and hazy and I thought really poor value for money.

  Things change in digital, so my comments may or may not be relevant, except that both labels are known for cultivating a house sound.  If you can’t audition in your own system, I’d get the ARC, and forgo the pretty glass and meters on the Mac

I have no idea what would fit your personal preference, so I can only recommend what I like.  I suggest you listen to Audio Note CDPs and models made by Lector.  Both utilize tubes in their analogue sections of their DACs and sound very natural.

@mahler123   Thanks for the response. I also was thinking the same as u said. About if I can’t demo the Mac at my home in my system then forget it. It’s a 12k. CDP and the least they can do is have me demo it with my rig. It’s definitely gonna sound different with their Mac equipment hooked up to it. And my whole system is ARC so I know the sound. I read a lot of great reviews on both the 9 and 9 se. I do really liked the looks of the Mac with the meters and green display lit up showing the tubes. 😂. But it’s a lot more than looks. Plus I do love the top loading players. 

Don’t overlook.Esoteric should be on your short list too

Good luck Willy -T

Can’t believe they won’t let the OP do an audition.  My former dealer would charge the card a week beforehe released the unit for an audition, just in case someone was going to cancel their card after talking the unit for a weekend .  He then charged $150 for the weekend audition, which counted towards the purchase if you bought.  If you returned you were out the $150.  At the time I thought this was absurdly draconian,but if you are like the OP here planning to spend 12K then an extra one fifty for peace of mind is worth it



+1 on the Esoteric K-03XD.

For those that don’t know, Esoteric is the bleeding edge best subsidiary of TEAC. I think it’s a passion project of one of the Toyota heirs, as I can’t see how it possibly makes money.

The K-03 has a really nice, metal, transport, multiple DACs, a great clock (and the option for an external clock), all fully balanced or digital inputs and outputs, and went to extreme lengths to isolate the electronically-noisy bits. It’s also in an aluminum block that weighs about a ton. Looks very sharp.

I like the DAC set up so much, I run a USB from by Lumin U-1 streamer to it.

Other than the Esoteric K-01XD (which gets to stupid money for improvements I’m no sure the human ear could hear), I’m not sure anything can compete.


Regardless, of choice, do please get something with a TEAC transport. So many "high end" players are nothing but re-packaged Sony Playstations and all plastic bits inside. (There are a few that use some excellent third-party components, but they are hard to find. I’d rather go get a 1990s CD player with a digital out and hook it to a modern DAC)

I asked the dealer if u could take home the Mac to demo on my system and he said he can’t do it. So I don’t even know if it’s worth hearing it on their Mac system. 

So, the dealer has a chance at a $12k sale and he won’t let you take his demo unit home for a couple days???  Run away!!!  U gotta be kidding me.  I wouldn’t give that guy a sale on principle alone.  And I agree that listening to it thru all their Mac gear would be basically useless as that system will no doubt bear no resemblance to yours whatsoever and would be impossible to “listen through” to assess what the CDP really sounds like, and of course it’s not in your room either soooo…writing’s on the wall I’d think.  Personally, if my system had a lot of ARC gear in it and I loved the sound I wouldn’t let a Mac piece near my system as they’re pretty much polar opposites sound wise.  But that’s me.

Plus, there are obviously some other great CDP options out there (although dwindling as DACs/streaming rapidly take over the world) and several have already been mentioned above.  If I was you I’d absolutely get the ARC DAC9 as you clearly like the ARC house sound and it’d obviously synergize with your system/tastes and pair it with a Jay’s Audio transport — I know you’re looking for a one-box solution but I just couldn’t help myself.  Sorry.  FWIW, and best of luck in your quest.


I asked the dealer if u could take home the Mac to demo on my system and he said he can’t do it.

Huh? What's he afraid of? I suggest cultivating a relationship with a different Mac dealer.


@tattooedtrackman Sorry, but I can't say as I've never listened to it and haven't read anything about it. All I can say is, for that amount of money, take your time and by all means, audition it in your system.

All the best,

I am getting ready to purchase a second Philips drive for my Jay's Audio CDT3 Mk3. As soon as it arrives the first drive unit will be replaced by the new unit just to make sure that the new unit it is in fine fettle. Then, if and when the second unit dies in the hopefully far-off future I will still have the first unit that I also know to be good.

@cleeds  Exactly. I actually live about 15 min from this Mac dealer in NJ. And last week I also bought the Mac MQ112 from him. The Mac dealer also said the MCD12000 is too expensive for it to leave the shop. 🤷‍♂️When I need to demo ARC equipment my dealer is Audio Connection John Rutan. And I don’t know how many times he let me bring home equipment to demo. I asked my ARC dealer if I can Demo the Ref9 or 9Se cdp and he told me yes. So I will be picking it up soon to demo in my system. 

@soix  Yes exactly. He also told me that the Mac MCD12000 is too expensive to leave the shop. 😂. Last week I purchased the Mac MQ112 equalizer from them for 3k. I literally live 15 min away from this Mac dealer also. Cmon. He is really being ridiculous. 

Also note that Audio Research CD9SE would not play SACD while McIntosh MCD12000 does.

@cfa88  Yes I do know that already. But that really is not important to me. I don’t even own 1 SACD 😂. So that alone would not make me buy it. It’s more which will sound better in my system. I’m leaning more towards the CD9SE cause I have the Ref 6SE and Ref 750s. 

@tattooedtrackman -"When I need to demo ARC equipment my dealer is Audio Connection John Rutan. And I don’t know how many times he let me bring home equipment to demo."

John is the BEST. He goes out of his way to provide stellar customer service and quality products.

As an owner of ARC REF equipment, I believe the synergy between the REF CD 9SE and your other ARC components will be hard to beat. Especially if you get an extra laser kit.

I'm looking to buy the MQ 112 this weekend.......Do you like it?  I sent back the Schiit Loki Max......didn't care for it.


In case you didn't know, you can click on an user name, say warfy for instance, then select details from the drop down menu, then click on marketplace feedback, and the persons city and state is shown if on their profile.

This of course is only good if they have put their correct city and state and haven't moved since.

Happy holidays to you and all.

@mbmi   I love the MQ112. It’s an awesome unit. I’m very glad I didn’t purchase the Schitt Loki max. I was going to until I heard about the MQ112 right before I was gonna buy the Max. Then found a Mac dealer very close to me and went in to hear it and LOVED IT. Also the Mac really fits in better with all my ARC high end gear. The Max seems to be more of low to mid fi unit IMO. What didn’t u like about the Loki max. ? I’d like to know. 

@tattooedtrackman Hmmm, upgrading a CD player???? If your budget is $12k I'm certain you already have a high end DAC. Why not get a unit that will allow you to RIP your CD,"s to a drive and just stream it. There are several units on the cheap , Eversolo DMP. All the way up to PS Audio Petfect Wave offerings

You really should check out the Luxman 07x SACD CDP if possible. Retail is 10K.

Detailed yet very musical. They also have RB CDP's for less money. I have the D06U which is the previous model.  I much preferred over the Esoteric K01 and the dcs Puchini with clock which are far more expensive.  Good luck.

Onkyo C-7030. I swear by them.  I collect them-if I see a used one for $150 or less, I buy it. currently, i own 4 i think. 1st time I ever heard a ‘soundstage’ was during the 1st song I played on a C-7030. Jim Keltner’s drums, on Handle With Care, sounded like tyey were set up over my bathroom door.  I’ve undertaken the A/B challenge against other brands & my 7030’s hold their own s


+1 piftech.  I have owned an Onkyo C 7030 for six years (very light useage) using it as a dedicated transport, and it works well. I paid about $173 including an extended warranty. I also have my late Dad’s 1992 Naim CDi which I also use sparingly. The CDi is a noticeably better sounding player but at about 90 times the price, factoring in for inflation, it should be. 👍

Have you thought about about going with a transport and dac at all? I bought a used Jays Audio MKll recently (top loader) and it is way better than I expected.Deep soundstage and the way it separates all of the instruments and vocalists in a natural way is really impressive.It was purchased reluctantly to replace the Cambridge that was beginning to have some issues but turned out being a major upgrade.

@tattooedtrackman .....About 2 years ago I bought a Schiit LOKI Mini for $149.....I loved it, bought a 2nd. one for a bedroom system....fantastic piece for the money...I use it on a $20K system...I DON'T EQ my SYSTEM....I EQ my RECORDINGS......then recently ordered the Loki Max $1500.....It didn't seem to sound like it was doing much........The Mini seemed to do a better job of EQ ing the music.....It even sounded "cleaner". I highly recommend that unit. Can't wait till I pick up my MQ 112 this week. Good Luck and happy listening to You!

Hoping to get my Estoteric K-03XD soon to replace my ModWright Marantz player. We shall see what the differences are.

UPDATE. Well I pulled the trigger and bought the Audio Research Ref9 CDP. I did a lot of comparing and even thought of separates with the Audio Research Dac 9. And a few transports. Looking forward to getting it delivered next Tuesday. 

Congratulations. I look forward to hearing what you think.

I love my Ref CD9SE… while with streaming I only use the CD player component rarely. It is great to be able to compare streaming and a CD so seamlessly as with this unit. I really think it is a perfect device with which to compare streamers. I did, and now the REFCD9SE is the perfect DAC for me. Hopefully you as well.

@ghdprentice TY  I really believe I made the right decision and I’m very confident that I will absolutely love the sound. Will be a very nice addition with my ARC Ref 750s and Ref 6SE.