Are some of us losing our minds over upgrades??

I happened to run across a thread from 2011 regarding upgrading CD players; in particular, a Sony XA5400ES which was in the A- column of Stereophile for a few years. Some member had this model Sony player upgraded by Modwright( not sure if related to the amp and pre-amp company). The upgrade cost $2000, and the AG member claimed it was NOW the best sounding player on the planet.

OK, let me cut to the chase, I have seen adds for used Sony XA5400ES on AG between $1000 to $1200. Original retail was $1499 Call me crazy or a cheapskate, but lets say for argument sake you bought this player for $1100, and had it upgraded by Modwright, you have invested $3100 plus shipping in a CD player that may not necessarily be superior to the Ayre CX7emp which was the player that was being compared to both the pre-upgraded Sony, and of course the post-upgraded Sony. Nevertheless, I don't understand the logic behind such a move. I would like to hear from members that may own an upgraded XA5400ES, or anyone else who wants to provide insight into the upgrade craze. Thanks, Jim
I, personally, have never 'got' buying an inferior component and then spending big bucks for supposed upgrades when that same final dollar figure could get you something well designed and well implemented in the first place.
If the objective is to improve sound quality the Modwright modification makes plenty of sense. To some it may sound much better than the Ayre unit, if it does then the money was well spent. The Modwright OPPO 105 sounds fantastic and is a genuine bargain gevin the results mit yields.
Some people feel that for the $3100 cost of the modded Sony they are getting a player that sounds better than cd players that cost $5000 or more. If they are happy with the modded player, that's what counts, to them.

Other people are sceptical about mods and feel that if you are going to spend $3100 on a cd player you should buy one that costs $3100 to begin with, and that is what those people should do.

It is not a matter of logic but one of preference and it's useless to try to apply logic to people's preferences, especially in a matter that is so subjective to begin with.

I once read an article about hearing aids in which a doctor said that if you sent him 10 people with identical hearing profiles all 10 would want their hearing aids adjusted differently.

There's just no one right way to enjoy recorded music.
I wouldn't pay to have the mod performed, but I have heard modded equipment sound better than much more expensive gear. Not all the time, mind you, but it does happen. I bought a Marantz SA-11S1 that had a $3200 mod by pcX done on it about 7 years ago on Audiogon. It sounded better than two more expensive CDP's I owned at that time, so I sold them and kept the modded Marantz.

7 years later, it still sounds great. I keep it because it would only bring me $1500-$2000 in return, but I'd have to pay over $5000 to beat it sonically. No matter what the glossy rags would have you believe, technology has not changed that much.
I've heard mods done to a variety of DACs, amps and preamps. John Hillig and John Wright are masters at this and their mods are absolutely worth the very reasonable sums they charge. However, most of their mods are in the sub $1,000 range.

I think the challenge with multi-thousand dollar mods is judging the return on one's investment. If one is going to keep the gear, then it's strictly a subjective call; if you like the sound, it was worth it. If, however, you plan on re-selling the gear, I don't find the super expensive mods to be a "sound" investment because you rarely recoup the investment when re-selling.

To get a taste of what a moderate modification can do, replace your stock fuses with some Hifi Tuning or Synergistic fuses. Be careful, though. You might get bitten by the upgrade bug. ;-)
In general, upgrades, offer little bang for the buck. That 'bang' is sonic improvement in the sound. As for the 'return on investment' comments, I would say just plain silly. Audio is not a place where people buy things with a view to what they can get when they resell. Most buy because the equipment 'sounds' good. It is that simple.
"There's just no one right way to enjoy recorded music"
Well said and so true.
06-30-13: Dragon1952
I, personally, have never 'got' buying an inferior component and then spending big bucks for supposed upgrades when that same final dollar figure could get you something well designed and well implemented in the first place.
Dragon1952 (Threads | Answers | This Thread)

This is similar to why people like me enjoy modding their cars and motorcycles. Its a matter of personalization and enjoying the journey. As others have said, there is no right or wrong. After all this is a hobby and hobbies are meant to be enjoyed anyway that brings each person joy.
People like what they have but want to make it better rather than change totally. I think its that simple why people do it. If you trust the person doing it, its no crazier than any other crazy thing audiophiles do.
The Sony 5400ES is well recognized by modders as being a mod-friendly design. No problem with that. But, my own 2 cents is that value-oriented, or bang-for-the-buck, modding makes good enough sense to me and certainly has its place. Thing is, the more money you sink into a particular mod, the more of an "all-out-assault" kind of project it begins to become. So I can certainly understand where the OP is comming from. What then is the difference between an all-out-assault mod and an all-out-assault player?? There may still be a few technical differences between them, but, as both an investment and as a promise of return on that investment, at some point the line increasingly begins to blur. For my money spending 'smart' on a given mod may be more important than spending more (but then, isn't that true with just about anything?? ;)
I think it makes more sense to buy used upper end equipment instead of modifying your lower end gear. At least you have a shot at getting all or most of your money back should you decide to sell. I don't see buyers willing to pay for mods on the used market.

A cursory review of Audiogon's listings reveals that hundreds, if not
thousands of audiophiles *are* very concerned about re-sale because they
are trying to "work their way up" to better sounding equipment.
For wise shoppers, buying equipment which holds its value eventually
enables them to afford truly great equipment. The goal for these savvy
consumers is better sound, not just collecting gear.

Be careful about labeling others' comments "silly" on a public
forum or you might end up looking silly yourself.
As fate would have it, a lot of the mods to players these days include such things as the $400 Audio Magic Pulse Gen ZX, damping of caps, damping the transport, blackening around the laser, WA Quantum Chips, Bybee Filters and other exotica that haven't found their way into the sometimes backward design toolkit of high end manufacturers, most likely due to cost considerations, assuming they've even heard of them. You can't make a silk purse out of a pig's ear.
It is not necessarily about the sound or equipment. It is a mindset, a personality trait with a propensity to want to make things better than stock, because it is fun and it appeals to that part of the brain that makes us feel good in knowing we have something "special", or one of kind or whatever. We just want something that the rest of the herd does not have because we might think that is part of the happiness formula.

Stereos, cars, bicycles, telescopes, computers, every hobby imaginable has an aftermarket bin of parts and stuff.

Remember Tim the Tool man who turbo charged his ride on lawn mower :)
First of all, those of us who are music lovers and audiophiles HAVE lost our minds; and come to our SENSES! Second, any upgrade I make is an upgrade; otherwise it would be a downgrade. : ) Third, IMHO, only the individiual changing something can make that determination in his own system and room. Fourth - after having owned probably 20 to 25 front-ends (source components) in my 40 years as an audiophile – I have found the Modwright modded Oppo 105 to be truly spectacular!

I hope this helps a little.
I ought to clarify my post above. I myself buy with the intent to hold onto my gear, but acknowledge that others may consider resale value ahead of that. So when I say: 'investment', what I really mean and should've said above is the "investment in sonics", not purely the financial kind - which, as has been said, does indeed make it a subjective thing. But, to each their own. It's really seems a matter of preference to me.
When something is built to a price point, a mod can make sense. When something is a result of the manufacturer modding their own line with better parts and circuit revisions, it makes less sense as most of the work is already done.

Sony has reintroduced the XA5400ES due to demand and from what I can glean, it's still the same machine. What I don't understand is why since Marantz tweeks their existing lines, at not much cost and passes the benefits on to the listener.
I think Sony blew it if they didn't improve anything on a years old design that is past it's life cycle.

As for what others have pointed out when it comes to resale value, I, too, don't buy with that in mind. It's always based on how it sounds.

All the best,
People upgrade because they believe they can get $10K sound from a $1K player with $2K worth of upgrades. I wish it were true.
The only piece I ever had modified was a Fender Blackface Super Reverb guitar amp. In the early 80's, I was playing with a few guitarists who had to be the loudest one, you know the type. We were sort of purists using no effects or pedals. You know, "my only effect is the cord between my guitar and amp" type. Anyway, I purchased the amp in very beat up condition, not collector quality. My amp tech first made it "healthy". I then asked if he could do more. He asked for a couple of cassette tapes of a type of sound I was looking for. One I supplied was early Soundgarden album. After his work, I would play through the clean channel. (the reverb and tremolo would work with that) I then could throw a toggle switch hidden in the back and overdrive into the other channel. All controls available now!! Variety of sound variations. Normally, I would turn up to match the other guitarist, and of course, theirs would then go up further. They would finally reach an end where mine had plenty more! The REAL FUN was that I never let them in on my amp's secret. They all wondered how my amp could get so POWERFUL and DIRTY!! HA
And I never did blow the original speakers.
Thanks to all who have chimed in on this thread. It was very informative, and hopefully made us all aware of the pro/cons of modifying existing equipment Does anyone have the link for Modwright or John Modwright. I want to see what he can do for a Rega Apollo. Thanks, Jim
while mid-fi gear has its limits, i've not encountered mid-fi gear that couldn't be improved on immensely with mods (esp digital and preamps). speakers are tough to mod due to the overwhelming influence of the cabinet (how do you mod that?!?), and amps are influenced greatly by iron (hard to fit bigger trannys in a given chassis). but digital and preamps can get much better, and much better than high end gear at times (i've heard a modded esoteric DV50 kill an XO1-D2, and i wouldn't trade my modwright 5400 for the older P03/D03 setup straight up---however the K series is a different matter). preamps can get much better, but if its a volume pot, you'll never achieve the heights of uber gear which eschews them for ladder/single resistor-type volume controls.
its tough to get your money back out of mods though, no argument there. reminds me of everything else i've spent money on though. best bet: use a modder who's got a reputation and viable business (modwright, exemplar come to mind).
Another interesting point that I had not considered, but learned speaking to a well known modder, is that they have access to parts not made in large enough quantities to be used by most companies. My only experience with modded gear ia a friend's GNSC modded ARC preamp that sounds incredible.
It depends on what is being modified and who's doing the work, so there's a pretty wide spectrum of results. I can tell you a good friend of mine had the Playback Designs MPS-5 and the Mod Wright OPPO 105. He kept the Mod Wright and he sold the Playback Designs (it sold quickly). A number of more expensive components don't necessarily use high level parts.
With a talented and experienced modder they can select parts that can result in substantial improvement. Many variables involved. Mod Wright doesn't just tact on a few parts and call it a day. There's significant analog output and power supply improvement.
A friend of mine had the Modwright Sony 9100 (as I recall) with the outboard power supply and all. I thought it was very good, but we both preferred his Mac transport into the Audio Logic dac in terms of body and harmonic completeness. Of course, it's all a matter of taste and perhaps the modded Oppo is better than the old Sony was.
Chayro, I had the Playback Designs CD player that retails for 17,000.00. Yes my Modright Oppo 105 is better in every parameter. I sold the Playback.
The axiom, 'you get what you pay for' has numerous exceptions in High End audio based on my observations. Some expensive components justify their cost by virtue of the performance provided and others despite the premium price simply don't. The notion that it costs more so its better will lead to much disappointment and ultimately frustration. Listening will sort it out if one trusts their own ears.
Charles, I'd venture a guess that you would agree with me that, in order to truly judge a component's merit, one needs to listen to it in their system for a significant period of time, through the complete break-in period and after the initial rush of the new has dissipated. We've both been around long enough to see many initial glowing pronouncements of a component's superiority fall by the wayside as the owner quietly sells it off for something else. Only time will tell whether the Oppo will survive in JWM's system.
Absolutely, time and familiarity are the true test of merit. Jwm is an
experienced music lover and also patient. He had the units in his systems
for months "following" a break in period of hundreds of hours. I
heard both on many occasions and concur with his assessment. You
under the same circumstances could certainly choose differently, one can
only report honestly what they hear.Without question some will clearly
prefer the Play Design and others the Mod Wright OPPO. Jwm really has a
fabulous sounding system, the recent addition of the Rockport Altair
speakers have taken it to yet a higher level. We both have had the
opportunity to listen to many fine audio components and just sincerely
comment on what we hear.
TO CharlesIdad, and Chayro; Not to rain on your responses, but the audio market is not constituted as a Renaissance Fair where we can try out all that is brought from local market places. If you want to long term audition a piece of equipment( assuming it is already broken in via store use)you better be prepared to marry the ugliest daughter of the proprietor. This same issue was brought by one of the Stereophile wags, a few issues ago and it is definitely a an issue of concern. BTW, To Jwn, beautiful system and home. The paintings look either like a Fragonard, or the American 19th century portrait artist, William Peel (or is it Paley??)
Your point is understood.My response to Chayro was to make it clear that Jwm had spent considerable time with the units in question.It wasn`t a few hours audition and then forming a conclusion,this was done over a period of months with a multitude of recordings.