My main objective was to obtain a CD player that supported an XLR output. My pre-amp and amp are hooked up XLR and the pre supports a XLR input. There are choices to be had for those diligent to do the research. The first is the audiophile Transport/Dac setup. You'll find these for sale on Audiogon for pretty good coin. Most are RCA outputs and among the XLR output DAC's, you find equipment that is not only a number of years old, but pretty pricey too.
If you're looking at audiophile CD players that support XLR, you'd better be ready to fork over some serious money. The other option is the older Sony "7" series, but at $750 to $1K and up, they ain't cheap either. Plus, the lasers are no longer in production, so if the laser dies, you're S.O.L.
The final leg of the search, led to thinking about who else uses XLR and of course, it's the Pro's themselves. That was a fruitful avenue and I found a lot of alternatives to choose from. Denon, Marantz, Tascam and Sony are among the more popular choices. and they are reasonably priced too. Plus, you're getting a brand-spanking-new player, with a warranty!
IMHO, the Denon's and Marantz's just didn't have that 'quality' build appearance, so it came down to Tascam and Sony. After getting a qualified opinion from a very helpful fellow LH member, I centered my search around the Sony CDP-D12. I did a websearch and found what had to be the last new one for sale in the U.S. Sony discontinued their 'playback' only CD players eight months ago. I got it for about $550, which was reduced from the $725 MSRP. Add Whirlwind cables and shipping and the whole shebang ended up on my doorstep for $600. Very reasonable.
Unpacking it, it's less than nine pounds and very slim. Rackmount ears stick out the side. The Sony does not have a drawer, but sports an 'automotive' type feed slot. This isn't a ES unit, but is intended for commercial broadcast and soundroom use. I've owned a single-tray ES unit and was used to the quiet, quick whisper of the tray. Not here. A very firm servo sound and some chunking noises tell you that the D12 is prepping the disc. The nice part is the eject. Unlike the car player in your car, where you get the edge of the disc, the Sony ejects past the hole in the center with a firm hold on the disc. This allows you to handle the disc 'vinyl' style, (thumb in hole, finger on edge), so you don't get the media smeared with fingerprints.
The remote control is friggin' huge, but doesn't have an eject button. The CD player sports a mark/locate option to find an interesting section that you might like to re-listen to. Also cueing options, including pause and skip pause between tracks. It is easily programmable and you can even alter the playback speed by up to 12%.
The technology moves forward and instead of a 35 pound vintage ES '7' series, I'm listening to a far newer unit, but I'll tell you this; this unit sounds very, very nice! The dynamics, detail and range are all excellent! Very clean smooth jazz recordings suddenly revealed even more than they had before. The XLR makes it dead quiet on silent passages. If you hear anything on my system, it's because it's on the CD. A hearty thanks to Bo for his thoughts on this fine peice of machinery.