I am glad that this thread is getting some attention. I have noticed that when this question comes up, the threads die quickly. Maybe it is lack of interest. Maybe it is that people are so wedded to their opinions that there is little room for dialog.
I am not an expert, but I tend to believe, along with Uncle Erik that mechanical CD transports are doomed. Some of my thoughts, in no particular order, follow.
I am not an engineer, but CDs are a series of 0s and 1s. Uploading uncompressed files, and permitting the computer to use all the time necessary for error correction, should give you a perfect file. Trying to do error-correction in real time, time after time, means that your CD transport must be both sturdy and expensive.
Information transmitted digitally should be identical to the original CD. All of that information is either a 0 or a 1. That includes timing information. Until it is translated to analog in the DAC, it is either perfect or it isn't.
So, maybe people just like looking at the pretty CD players. Certainly manufacturers and retailers would rather sell CD players than have you buy a hard drive. We have to give up one more elegant toy. I wear an "automatic" (movement turns weight which winds spring) watch because I like the idea of a mechanical movement. But mechanical watches aren't as accurate as quartz watches and, at best, can only come close.
To those of us who already have the hardware, adding audio to a networked computer system, especially an Apple System, is cheap. Maybe the choice is different if you need to buy the compter or a CD.
It may be that the industry has not caught up by providing more options, quality, and competition in DACs under $2000. It is still a lot easier to find and compare redbook CD players, than to do the same with DACs. If DACs get more numerous, and cheaper, then people might answer the CD question differently.
Finally, note the popularity of multiple format disc players. We will have to see which formats require separate hardware, and which can be played through a computer.
I think redbood CD players can come close or be better, but the only thing making them better would be their DAC sections, not the transport. I run Apple Lossless, or uncompressed AIFF files, from a central drive, through an ethernet network (or wireless) to Airport Expresses through a glass toslink cable, to various DACs (Benchmark DAC1, Headroom Max DAC module etc.). Using a CD player, with coax outs to the DACs didn't sound
better in some, admittedly quick, testing.
Frankly, I think that this issue raises a sore spot with manufacturers and retailers. Recording engineers, like Benchmark and Apogee, appear almost unanimously to believe that bits is bits.