Since I can no longer log onto IRC (don't know why) I'll have to spread the joy here. I've decided to end my constant questioning and indecisiveness and purchase the Cary CD308 this weekend from my local dealer (unless a used Meridian 506.20 comes on Audiogon for a reasonable price). So now, Carlo, you know my choice.
This past week my friend's 506.24 quietly passed on. His replacement, the CD-308, began its duty yesterday. He sounds satisfied, almost happy that the Meridian broke. (The Cary was my recommended replacement. It didn't take him long to act on my advice!