Consider having your Philips 963 modified by Ric Schultz at Electronic Visionary Systems.
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I have entertained that option as well. Ric's upgrades sound tasty, but the interior shots on his website look pretty 'homegrown'. Here are my concerns with such mods:
-The mods are safe for the long-term - No electrical fires or busted player wanted!
-They make the big improvements he claims - enough to forget the mega-dollar players/DAC's
-The 963 is a good-enough starting point to warrant spending double (!) what the player costs on mods
Having said that, I guess this option would allow me to simply sell the Arcam and all formats that I use are still covered by this one player without adding the complexity of an external DAC.
--On another note: My listed 'requirements' are not written in stone, just semi-educated assumptions on my part.
I second modding the 963sa as a great choice.
As the first to try the Blackgate vk150/350v ps cap upgrade and post the info on 4 audio boards,I have had dozens of people email me and tell me that they can't believe the difference this one 23.00 cap makes.
Just think what full mods will do for the 963sa.
Another source for 963sa mods is www.asi-audio.com
Whoever you have mod it,you will have no regrets.
I have read much of the modding threads on AA, AgoN & such, with many posts from self-modders such as yourself. You have been very consistent in your enthusiasm for these mods, and I am definitely considering this route.
But the one thing I haven't heard much about is - How does a fully-modded 963 HONESTLY stack up on redbook against a Electocompaniet, Arcam, Audio Aero or Wadia players/DAC's? By the time you pay for the 963 player & full mods, you are within shouting distance of many of these great players (at least pre-owned). If you have any experience there, please let me know.
Also, has any definitive comparisons been done between ASI and tweakaudio mods of the 963?
I don't believe your going to be buying any of those particular players, except for the Arcam for anywhere near 1000.00-1100.00 used, which is about what you would have in the 963sa including purchase price after pro mods.
If you look on various boards, there are people who prefer the modded 963sa to the ML39,Sony 777 ect but your not likely to find anyone who owns the likes of Electrocompanient digital, buying a 963sa and having it modded, then again that player does not have SACD and these mods effect SACD as well as redbook.
As far as pro modders,which I am anything but,you need to talk to them as these are the only two pros that are currently modding the 963sa other than Audiocom, which would require shipment to Europe.
There is also a few agents of Allen Wright that will mod the 963sa,but I have heard of no feedback as of now.
One of the two mentioned modders prefers the modded 963sa to the a modded Marantz sa14 which costs almost 8 times the 963sa steet price.
The only player I have compared the 963sa is a Modwright 9000es level 2, and this particular player has Jensen and Blackgate caps with bybees ect, and may actually be a level 3...if not it is modified with the best caps available and is one of few level 2's whith these caps.
In comparing keep in mind that the 963sa in comparison had only dampening of the case and the Bg VK 150/350 ps cap as mods.
The 9000 sounds fantastic in comparison to stock as I owned this player when they first hit the shelves.
I prefer the redbook on the 963sa with a 23.00 mod as the soundstage is wider,and at times more defined.
The bass is better on the modded 9000 with redbook.
I prefer the Sacd playback on the modded 9000,especially the bass but again , the soundstage is not as wide as on the 963sa.
This was hardly a fair comparison as the 963sa was barely modded with one ps cap and some tweaks.
But this should give you an idea of the 963sa's potential whith full mods.