Many years ago, when I was only a couple years into this hobby, I owned a Meridian 588.24 CD Player. It had a very pleasing, musical, liquidy sound, while still being fairly detailed and clear. Then, foolishly, I sold it and have continuosly upgraded to better (i.e. more expensive) players -- Ayre, Emm, Esoteric, etc. I have also sought out that "sound" in my other equipment, to the extent that equipment has a sound. In speakers, for example, the Linkwitz Orion, Avalon Eidolon, and Aerial 20T had it. In headphones, I suppose the Omega 2 and the Sony R10 were the closest I got, although I was a big fan of the HE90 and the HE60.
I've been out of the hobby for a while with job moves, work, children, marriage, etc, but now trying to set up a nice headphone system, with the advantage that I've tried most high-end products (or at least up to about 2 years ago), and know generally what I am looking for. Except this time, it will largely be a computer-based system (naxos music library is amazing!), so I no longer need a high-end CD Player. It's fun starting from scratch, but somewhat stressful as well.
Does anybody have any idea what I'm talking about in terms of "The Meridian Sound" -- or the Avalon sound, for those in the speaker world? If so, what are some recent components that have that sound. In particular, is there a DAC, or, even better, a DAC + headamp combo, that would replicate that warmth and richness, without being sugary and bloated (e.g. I was not a big fan of the AudioTechnica L3000/W5000, and while I liked the HD650s, I thought they sometimes suffered from the same flaws)?
And even if you don't have a particular recommendation, but know what I'm rambling about, what was it about the Meridian players that made them sound that way? Is there a particular chip I should be looking for in my DAC? A particular buzzword?