I have a Sony DVP-s9000es. Just got used a week ago for $600 from a local dealer. My primary interest is 2-channel SACD, but I also needed a DVD player for my Sony XBR LCD HDTV, and it has served that purpose wonderfully so far - very filmlike and with a richness and accuracy of color to die for. Allthough I found out later (after visitong Audiogon) that $600 is somewhat on the pricey side for that particular model, the one I got works so well with no disc tray or hybrid disc problems that I don't want to take a chance by returning it and then buying the "evil I don't know" online for $100-$200 less.
My plan is to buy a second 9000es for $300 from a fellow member on another av forum, and have him send that one - while I send my current one- both to Modwright and have the Signature Truth Mod done on both units at a discount. Then my girlfriend receives the second modded unit for a belated Valentine's day present and we both live (together or separately) happily ever after. That's the plan anyway.
My impression of the unmodded 9000es so far is that redbook isn't nearly as good as on my Linn Ikemi, but that player has has a killer transport and MSRP of $4000 so it's not a very fair comparison. The 9000es does have better redbook than my gf's Rega Planet, however. Not quite as "tuneful" but musical enough and more revealing and harmonically coherent.
If you do try a 9000es, I recommend treating yourself on the first day to the Telarc pure DSD recording of Paarvi Conducting Stravinky's Rite of Spring.
I have several redbook recording of this work, but was blown away by both the sonics and performance of that recording. My gf got to listen first (she own's some Sennhesier HD600's and is already familiar with my Ikemi's sound when heard through the direct preamp driven headphone out of my Bryston B60 integrated) and her first comments upon hearing even the first two movements was that there was "much more openness and airiness" and that when more and more instruments joined the initial lone (oboe?), they "seemed to be coming from everywhere - up agove, far left field, almost behind her". She also commented on how there didn't seem to be so much pressure in her ears, considering that piece's wide dynamics and her moderately high listening volume. What's interesting is that she knew almost nothing about SACD or its supposed benefits before hearing that recording. I resisted the temptation to regurgitate online effervescence over the medium, and as such told her only that SACD music was encoded at a higher resolution and was a totally different technology than CD or HDCD (the latter which she had also heard many times before).
When I myself finally conceded to her insistence that I myself take the headphones and listen, all I could do was chuckle. I had actually been afraid to listen, fearing that my ears would not be able to tell the difference or that I would be overly biased by the many reviews I had read describing SACD and the 9000es. But once I actually starting listening to my first SACD, all of that anxiety just melted away and was replaced with vivid first-hand experience that confirmed what all the excitement over SACD was about.
Some descriptions that come to mind are "organic", "powerfully dynamic yet precise and restrained", "instruments somewhat laid back yet easy to home in on". Then we listened to the Telarc's recording of Martin Pearlman conducting the Boston Baroque's performance of Bach's Orchestral Suites, and the Prazak Quartet playing Beethoven's string quartets Opus 74. and 95. These last two recording were somewhat disappointing relative to the Rite of Spring, especially considering that the Bach suites are also supposed to be pure DSD and I'm a big fan of those Beethoven quartets (own many recordings of each one). They were good recordings, to be sure, but I didn't note quite the same degree of fidelity that had raised goosebumps with the Rite. However as my gf pointed out, it could have been simply a matter of those performaces not being as rousing as the best (read the 1970's recordings of the Vegh Quartet). I will say that A/B comparisons between the redbook and SACD layers on all three hybrid discs consistently favored the latter. Even when I couldn't tell a distinct difference in "airiness" and other supposed benefiuts of SACD, I could always rely on how I felt a within 20 seconds of listening; whenever I felt the slightest "crowding" in my ear signaling the slightest fatigue, it turned out that the culprit was the redbook layer (my gf and I did blind testing of one another in A/B tests - she was even more successful).
Since then I've come to appreciate the latter two SACDs more and more - especially the Bach suites, every day hearing phrasing and timbral nuances that heighten my purely musical appreciation of those pieces such that they no longer sound as dated or hackneyed (read: sounding like overplayed WCRB classical FM radio pieces). Layers of counterpoint, microdynamic subtleties revealing fresh musical ideas that I never dreamedBach had way Bach in 17th-18th century made Bach seem almost progressive; this revealed musical freshness has turned out to be all the more revelatory in light of the recording's period instrumentation, which can tend to impart a staleness to period music and a seeming lack of wholesome vigor. Since then I;ve picked up 4 to 5 additional SACDs: Brahms' Violin Sonatas (Praga or Praza Digitals label), the Telarc Classical Sampler 2, the Kempf Trio performance of Beethoven's Piano Trios, and the 1976 Karajan Beethoven's Ninth.
All of these were noticeably superior to redbook, but the Brahms pieces in particular shine most pointedly through the SACD layer, no doubt owing also to the fact they are exemplary performances with perfect unity between the Piano and Violin. My gf noted right away that the violin was much sweeter than she's ever heard in any recording (also as compared to my Ikemi or VPI/glider/Blackcube analog rig), and a wide open spaciousness that nevertheless avoided losing focus no matter how far the instruments receded at time. The SACD sound of that disc was so seductive that there was a few 10-20 second segments of the recording that I replayed literally 100+ times in one sitting, so infatuated with - and almost in disbelief at - the practically live peformance in my ear.
I'm going on and on and by now am way OT, so please forgive. Needless to say, I'm sold on SACD, but in some ways it was only a taste. There were a few harsh places in various recordings that I intuitively attribute to the cheap analog op-amps and other components used in the analog stage of the unmodded 9000es. My hope in modding the 9000es is to obtain an essentially unchanged sonic character (in terms off overall musical perspective and pacing presented by that player) that is somewhat more refined and without compromise given above average SACD discs.
Lastly, I should mention that I haven't picked up any rock or jazz SACDs (i did just luck out by snagging 2 sealed copies of the Stones' let it Bleed, offered for $13.98 each (!) due to an ebay store's accidental mispricing), so I can't comment on how rock sounds - the one jazzy swing track on the Telarc sampler sounded great however, even though I usually hate pops orchestra arrangements of anything. I can't wait to pick up some of the highly reviewed jazz transfers out there...too bad there's no Three Blind Mice (japanese jazz label) recordings on sacd yet!
Good luck in finding a great player. From what all the published reviews and forum feedback, I'd definitelt say you;re best bet seems to go the mod route - especially that of the original Sony DVD/SACD machines - but it seems to be such a toss-up between different modders that who can say with which modder one should go, and which unit in particular one should have modded. I think my criterion for a "smashingly successfull mod" will be one that results me placing an ad on audiogon for my Ikemi, with bonus points given for my turntable going down the same path. That'll be the day!.(bye bye MFSL.)