There's Chris Johnson's new partsconneXion Ultimate mod for the Denon universal players. It adds a 6922-based fully balanced vacuum-tube output stage while upgrading plenty of stock guts as well [above]. There's Dan Wright's 5687-based tube output stage and parallel ModWright mods, to the same Denon machines. There's John Tucker's Exemplar Audio 5965-based valve output stage and associated upgrades, again to these Denon players. There's Reference Audio Mod's makeover of the Denons using, among other items, Audio Consulting's AC isolation transformer and silver power transformers. There's APL HiFi's fully balanced 6H30-based -- you guessed it -- tube output stage mod for -- guess again -- the Denon players. There's more yet and it's all in the same vein.

Add revised power supplies, new master clock generators, upgraded hookup wire, new output jacks and chassis damping. The vigor whereby well-known after-market modifiers have embraced the Denon universal player platform and nearly unanimously opted for adding valves is noteworthy to say the least. Here's what it says. It's says forget about separates. It's says get one player that does all the formats. It's says tubes are the magic bullet. It says that Denon designed a rock-solid base from which to hotrod. And, it claims to compete with the very best CD-only production machines from audiodom's royal houses.

If some of our most experienced modifiers raise the flag for tubes -- right at the beginning of the audio chain -- it makes you wonder how come that outside of Audio Aero, BAT, Cary, Einstein and Unison Research, most makers of digital continue to turn a cold shoulder at valves. Surely it's no coincidence that the tweakiest ears in the domestic biz are nearly unanimously betting on those glowing bottles from yesteryear. Meanwhile the Asian invasion of valve-fitted CD player continues. Cayin. Consonance. Eastern Electric. Jolida. Shanling. There's far more but the names escape me.

If you were a marketing consultant assessing the current state of affairs, wouldn't it strike you as a keen observation that if the imports and mods all cried tubes, domestic makers are perhaps a little stubborn to refuse joining this chorus? After all, they have a huge advantage over the imports when it comes to perceived brand stability and long-term service support. And unlike the modifiers who lack the scale of operations to invest into their own chassis and remotes, established HighEnd firms offering RedBook players are already doing all of that. What's lacking -- perhaps and if you were to put any stock in this perspective -- is simply a pair of small-signal tubes in the analog output stage. How hard could that be? Just a pesky thought on a rainy Sunday...