Arcam Ring DAC models v. Sony DVP-S9000ES

Can anyone compare the redbook CD performance of any of the Arcam Ring DAC models (Alpha 9, CD92T, FMJ 23) to the former Sony flagship DVP-S9000ES?

Am looking at a used player, thinking the Sony's SACD capability might be a nice fillip, but not at the expense of good redbook CD.
The DVPS-9000ES is a good CD player and a great SACD player, but its red book CD performance is far from an Arcam FMJ CD23T. The FMJ will let you hear on CDs what you cannot hear on the DVPS-9000ES. If you care to read on, I enclosed the details of my search:

I was evaluating the same choices starting a few months ago. I had the DVPS-9000ES at home for a one month evaluation. Although the SACD performance was truly impressive, the CD performance was detailed but lacking integrity in harmonic structure. I also tried the Philips SACD 1000 and it was even less satisfying. I listen to mostly classical music and I do not see a lot of support for SACD from major European labels. After evaluating the future or lack of future of SACDs, I decided to spend money on a good CD player.

After evaluating the Krell KAV 250 CD/2, the Rega Jupiter and the Jolida 100, I found all of them deficient in some way. The Krell was rich but dark, the Rega was transparent but not very detailed, and the Jolida had the tube "fluffy warmth" that I consider a distortion.

Then I bought an Arcam FMJ CD23 from a local person. I am very impressed by how the FMJ resolved details. The level of detail was just right, the transparency was stunning and the harmonic integrity was really good. If you favor richness and over warmth, then the FMJ is NOT the player for you. The review from Stereophile mentioned a midbass shyness, and although I noticed it, I associated it with the clean and detailed bass. With the CD23T, my system comes closest to my reference of a live classical quartet than even the Accuphase DP-80 transport and Mark Levinson No. 36 DAC combo that I used to have. Every instrument and voice comes through the CD23T with only air between you and the soundstage. The CD23T is simply musical, no pretense or additives, just a little less flavor than live. I can live with it for a few years.

My system consists of:
Arcam FMJ CD23T with small tip toes supporting the chassis.
Audible Illusions Modulus 3A preamp with sim pods under the chassis
Mark Levinson No. 331 power amp
Wilson Watt 3 Puppy 2 loudspeakers
Transparent Music Link Super XL interconnects
Transparent Music Wave Plus speaker cables
Monster Cable 2500 Power center

Hope I helped you. Feel free to email me with questions.

I've lost track of the Sony SACD DVD model numbers. Assuming this is the original, or at least sonically equivalent, the following applies (In my case):

Shortly after they first came out I brought home the Sony to compare against my Arcam Alpha 7SE and preferred the Arcam. I've since replaced the 7SE with an Alpha 9. The 9 is substantially better than the 7SE in every way that I can think of. So, doing the algebra, I don't think the Sony would stand much of a chance against the ring DACs on redbook.
Thanks guys. And Aaron, thanks for taking the time for such an extensive response.

My only exposure to Arcam components was an audition of an all-Arcam home theater electronics set-up, but it was enough to indicate it was probably what I was after.

It's crucial to me that the very front end of the chain extracts the maximum amount of information (in all senses) from the source, that it has a high degree of transparency, and it gets the details right without being clinical.

It's unlikely I'll hear any of these components before I buy, but I was curious whether the Sony had a suave touch to go along with what most Sonys seem to have, a dynamic presentation.

I did notice a trace of hardness at volume in the lower mids/upper bass in the Arcam system I heard, but was unfamiliar enough with the components to identify where the problem was.
I have both a DiVA CD92 (ringDAC) player and a Sony SCD777ES (the big top-loader weighing about 40kg). Whilst SACD is clearly ahead when comparing dual-layer discs, using either player for the CD layer, the Arcam is better on standard CDs, at least as far as resolving fine inner detail is concerned. Example: a group of unison violins sounds like a number of distinct contributions on the Arcam, but 'N violins' on the Sony. It's subtle, but I believe that Arcam is using the best available DAC architecture in this player, and the low-level linearity and resolution is just what one might expect.

The Sony does very well on image spaciousness, placing sources very well in three dimensions. I hope to be able to use the wonderful transport of the Sony and feed the SPDIF output into the RingDAC converter - but that will require substantial ingenuity and modification to the Arcam player.

Arcam no longer have rights to use the RingDAC, it seems, as they have switched to a different architecture using Wolfson DACs in some multiple-differential scheme. No doubt it's good, but DCS, the inventors of the ringDAC scheme, have pretty good arguments about why it's a good solution (it originated in radar systems, where ultimate resolution is rather more life-critical than in audio!). I regret this change, and also that there has never been an affordable DAC using this technique - which is why modding the CD92 seems a good idea.

If anyone here knows how easy/difficult it will be to make an alternative digital input for the CD92 onboard DAC, I'd be very interested in some feedback.

In the meantime, I have no hesitation in recommending any of the Arcam players - unless you want a particular 'type' of sound, they are very truthful, accurate, and satisfying to listen to.
(rest of system is NAD S100 preamp, own passive high-impedance crossovers to twin Audio Synthesis Desire amps, own-design speakers using Bandor wide-bandwidth drivers and low crossover freq. to transmission-line bass) Not standard, but good enough to intrigue most visitors!


I have both Sony DVP-S9000ES and old Arcam ALPHA 6,
unfortunately Arcam betters SONY even in SACD mode:

my full review from audioreview:

Price Paid: $772 at audiogon

Product Model Year:

I have bought SONY 9000ES after reading > 200 rave reviews on According to them it was cheap way to have great SACD player (supposedly 80% quality of SONY 777ES). It was suppose to better as SACD player nearly everything maybe with exception of high end players, even as CD player was supposed to better player up to $1800. So how could I not buy this. Especially, that you can have great deal for $750.
So I have bought it. It really look great, built like tank, nice acryl plate, big blue diode, looks like very expensive piece with comparison to my old plastic CD player Arcam Alpha bought in London in 1996 for 300GBP. So because I have wanted to be shutter by it quality (I have bought new one) I burn it for 400h with Sony SACD sampler before listening to it.
I could not wait but I wanted be blown away and according to reviewers it needed 300h to shine.
In the meantime i have bought hybrid CD from Chesky Records (I wanted to test it with high quality software). As a CD it was recorder very good, as SACD I do not have any experience to assess it but because it was from CR I have assumed it was at least good.
Knowing that as CD player SONY is supposed to better $1800 CD player I was sure that as SACD player it will crush my old Arcam CD 16/44.1 playing without any re/up-sampler. And this is why I have bought it and this was what I was expecting to hear!
Used equipment :
Musical Fidelity A300, Thiel 3.6, speaker cable AQ Midnight III, inter cable TA Super. So I was about to hear new 24/192-technology vs. old audiophile design from 1996 in old technology. I could not been happier.

My listening sessions disclosed that SONY move music layers back simultaneously flattening distances between them. Arcam was presenting first layer on the line between speakers. I had impression of better scene blackness in SONY (on the perception level though), I had impression that SONY is less tiresome too, but I have perceived timbre of Arcam as much more harmonically rich. Bass in both was equal maybe a little lover in SONY but less tight. Definitely worse went women voices in SACD, they were more edgy and dull in comparison to Arcam of course.
The more I have listen the less I have been convinced that SACD was at all better then old boy. How this could be, Am I deaf? I have really started to worry.
So I made manly decision to use my wife in blind tests (it latter appeared to be mistake). She is not audiophile but have good ear for music. A few years earlier she was able faultlessly to pick out 11 of 12 in interconnects blind tests when cable A was playing and when cable B was.

So I have done five triple tests (both player was connected in turns to MF A300 with TA Super).

Test1 (track no 1 from Chesky hybrid sampler)
A - Sony was paying SACD layer
B - Arcam CD layer
Test2 (track no 4 from Chesky hybrid sampler)
A - Sony was paying SACD layer
B - Arcam CD layer
Test3 (track no 6 from Chesky hybrid sampler)
B - Sony was paying SACD layer
A - Arcam CD layer
Test4 (track no 7 from Chesky hybrid sampler)
B - Sony was paying SACD layer
A - Arcam CD layer
Test5 (track no 10 from Chesky hybrid sampler)
A - Sony was paying SACD layer
B - Arcam CD layer

She was supposed to write remarks and in every test appoint winner (A or B).
A and B was a different payer in different tests to make tests more reliable and difficult to forge.
Her remarks: player x had better scene, less tiresome highs, more tight bass, plus far better woman voice in test 5. Rebecca Pigeon Spanish Harlem, according to her player y presented voices as outlines hollow inside (edgy :) ), player x played music imbedded with color.
S better player x was in following tests:
Test 1): B
Test 2): B
Test 3): A
Test 4): A
Test 5): B
So it was faultlessly Arcam in each and every test.

built, nice look, and a lot people believing that it is something really great, so it would be easy to sell :)

I was in shock SONY as CD player was supposed to put into shame CD player costing $1800, but according to my not aware of her blasphemy wife lost as SACD player to 6-7 years old British technology.

I have personally was not so much convinced that SONY is so much worse but to be honest I have heard it was poorer harmonically (we have agreed here) and its presentation was laid back. She heard that instruments presented by Arcam was more separated, I hear differently (or maybe I wanted to hear it so much?)
Maybe it was why Sony was edgier and brighter so I have impression of better separation. But definitely it was not better, and it was not upgrade. So be careful and not buy equipment base on even > 200 rave reviews.

Similar Products Used:
none, I'm giving it 4 stars as overall rating because it is DVD/SACD/CD player and maybe it is really good as DVD player (benefit of doubt), 3 start as value because as SACD player is miserable.