Cary 303, ModWright Sony 999ES, 33 & 45 Vinyl

In a several hour session I listened to CDs and SACDs on a fully ModWright Sony 999ES and CDs on an older Cary 303; a pair of large Cary amps; Innerspace speakers. The room had been preped by an audio specialist. Most of the comparisons were with jazz and one or two orchesteral pieces.

The sound of the ModWrght Sony was preferable to the Cary, with a deeper soundstage. The differences between the Sony and 33 RPM vinyl were subtle, sometines in favor of vinyl, othertimes in favor of CD or SACD. Perhaps the vinyl sound could be generalized as a bit softer, digital more detailed. I thought the capture of the timber of certain horns, sax espcially, was a bit better on vinyl; bass was definitely better delineated on CD and SACD.

The big hit was 45 RPM single sided vinyl. These recordings were distinctly spectacular, with great rendition of timber and imaging. Unfortunately, this seems an impractical medium, because little was recorded on each disk, only two or three songs on each Crosby, Stills, and Nash disk, a remastering of Fritz Reiner conducting a very short forgetable Ravel piece, a 10 minute jam by Cannonball Adderley. But what was there was a striking. I have been and remain a vinyl skeptic, but those 45 RPM recordings cannot be dismissed.

Yes i agree with your observations about 45rpm recordings.I prefer my cary 306 sacd playback to everything except 45 rpm recordings from classic records/analogue productions.
The only reason i'm hanging on to my analog setup is for those recordings....
I have the Miles Davis Kind of Blue 45rpm recordings from Classic Records and agree the sound is excellent, especially compared to the 33rpm version. I will have to look into more of these recordings in the future.

As for vinyl versus CD/SACD. I recently upgraded my digital front end with TRL modifications (Transport/DAC). I will say that some of the digital recordings now sound very close to analog and have a tendency to exhibit more detail. However, I still prefer vinyl overall, or for that matter 2-track reel-to-reel or DAT masters. There is an ambience that digital just does not quite capture.

I also prefer my modded Sony over my Cary CD player, but I like vinyl over both. It just sounds "real" - and that's compared to regular speed - for 45rpm even more so.

The comparison is not something that can be measured. Just different strokes for different folks.

Good listening!
Maybe it's me, but you never mentioned once in your comparison what TT you were using.I think that is important info when comparing and evaluating three different mediums? You state what sacd player and Cd player the Cary and Sony than you stop never telling use what TT....? Just thought that was odd.
Good point Schipo, I'd be interested in knowing the phono stage, tonearm, and cartridge as well, since all of those are integral to the analog set-up's performance
Well, I'm sure what I'm about to write will invalidate my observations for some of you. The answer to Schipo and Clio09 is I don't know the model of the turntable, tonearm, cartridge, stylus, or phono stage. I believe my cousin said he bought the turntable used for about $3500, and I was with him when he bought what I thought was a replacement sylus in a high-end shop in Studio City for a bit less that $1000. He's a Cary tube freek, so if they make a phono stage, that's likely what he has. I know the selection and setup of components was done by an audio specialist. He lives off Mulholland not far from Universal City, so he has access to high-end shops and specialists.

I'm a vinyl skeptic. The last turntable I owned was an AR with a Shure V15-II cartridge, and that was during a period when people tried to track at a gram or less, a practice no longer fashionable. I eagerly adopted the trouble free, low noise floor CDs. I've avoided the lure of vinyl even though I think the accouterments make attractive toys, because it seems one of the blackest holes in audio, filled with mysticism and demanding deep spending. The idea of cutting grooves into vinyl and the mechano-electrical transduction process of reading those grooves seem to me archaic -- yes, there are those who say that well written prose cannot be done on a computer, it must be written on paper in longhand. My cousin and a local friend are trying to convince me of the error of my ways. As I wrote in the earlier post, the imaging and timbre capture of the 45 RPM vinyl was an eye-opener. With all that said, I was trying to be an honest observer. I have been listening to high-end audio since the early 50's. I am open to conversion, but have yet to be. The 45s come close, but I wonder about the selection of music available if the duration is so limited. Also, these were new recordings; wonder what they'll sound like after many playings. I hope to hear a Bach or Corelli trio or quartet on 45s. I would like to justify a turntable and arm, because they are such attractive toys.

? What?? This thread seems to have simply died... so I am a bit late in the game, I guess... I'm sniffing around for threads on the Modwright 999, as I just bought one recently from an audiogon member. Unfortunately he witheld a "minor" detail.... It refuses to read the sacd layer of dual layer sacd's.
His excuse is (get this... you're gonna love it) "I don't own any sacd's, so I wasn't aware of it". Not likely. Anyways, I haven't had a chance to hear sacd playback through the unit, but on redbook, it truly does shine.... However, my vinyl front end still sounds better to me, and to be honest, in my revealing system (highly sensitive horn speakers) the difference between single sided 45rpm vinyl, and 33 rpm vinyl is not 'distinctly spectacular' by any means. In fact, I have old 33rpm pressings with better sonics and fidelity than highly rated "holy grail" re-issues, and I have some 33rpms that just plain stink.
So it is hard for me to take your comparison seriously. If the 'big hit' was the 45rpm vinyl, the 33's must have been pretty cruddy!
I almost wish I had never bought a turntable...... I was perfectly happy with my system, a nice chinese integrated tube amp, a pair of paradigm stand mount speakers, a mid-level NAD cd player... it sounded great!
Then I got a pioneer sacd-dvd-a player, and better speakers... now we're cooking!!
Then I heard about these cheap, but tweakable and amazing Lenco record players...... the rest is history.
As soon as I played the first album on that da*n thing, (Dire Straits) it was OVER! Then , of course I had to upgrade, tonearm, cartridge, phonostage....
the $2 records from Salvation Army were DESTROYING my $25 SACD's!!!
the amount of retreivable information within those grooves was limitless!! I needed to upgrade my whole system to keep up with this 'new' medium!
The amp was replaced, then replaced again... the phonostage upgraded... the cartridge upgraded, I needed to try moving coils, and step-up transformers, the voices told me! Silver interconnects, tube phono preamps, ruby cantilevers... I needed to tweak that tonearm, rewire it, change the weights on it...... the plinth: slate, more tubes!! Hornspeakers!!! Single Ended Triodes!!! Silver capacitors!!! and so on, and so on..... until I found myself huddled, situated in the sweet-spot between the six-foot tall, horn loaded behemoths in my living room, lights out, household appliances unplugged... holding my breath and listening to sitar music...... I don't even LIKE sitar music!!!!!
But the voices, they told me that it's the best recording ever put to vinyl!!! pressed on ultra pure, rare, special vinyl, recorded with special mics in a special hall, by special musicians.. the BEST!!!!
I had become a member of the very cult I once mocked! The upper echelon of inner-circle of audiophile elitists... the vinyl , tubes, and horns, crowd!!!
I had abandoned the cd player , it was ignored and abandoned during my all consuming quest for the perfect sound!
I tried to go back, but I had gone too far, my 'vinyl front-end' (it was no longer a mere turntable, it was now a system unto itself) was now such a high resolution source, I had put so much time and $$$ into finding a perfect balance and synergy between the cartridge, phono preamp, interconnects, amp, tubes,and speaker cables that I had gone through countless components and configurations, having found, and then lost, the 'perfect balance' so many times... to put a cd player back into the mix was an exercise in futility.
Listening to CD's was depressing. They sucked. There was nothing there, no 'life' no 'snap' everything seemed like elevator music the sound was sterile, and un-engaging. I looked at the little silver box, and I hated it. I wanted it out of my house. It didn't fit, it didn't belong. I realized after a moment, that my tonearm, hell, my cartridge cost more than my cd player did!
So I began the quest: I wanted "analog" digital. Everybody was using it as a descriptor, and , dammit, I wanted some!!!
I knew I could never afford Wadia, or Esoteric, or DCS etc...
I found an SACDMODS player on EBAY, for $350, promptly lied to my wife, and bought it.
With apprehension, and yes, even a bit of excitement, I set it up, dusted off one of my SACD's and played it. It wasn't bad. I played a record. I played a cd.
Over the next several months, as that modded cd player sat gathering dust, I began noticing a trend toward Non-Oversampling DACS. People were talking about them. A lot. I began formulating a hazy plan, My wife went to Europe to visit family, and my plan came to fruition! I bought a chinese, solid state NOS DAC. Now we're talking! More snap! more Texture!!! more life to the music! Geez! I went 3 days without listening to a single record!! But after a particularly gruelling 18hr day at work, I came home, put my feet up, and put a Mikes Davis album on that turntable! You know the rest, I finally ended up with an Audio Note nos TUBE dac, and a modded , dedicated transport.
I was happy with it, but still found the gap between my redbook and (non-45rpm haha) vinyl to be so wide that I kind of admitted defeat: I would possibly never have the means to enjoy , truly, deeply enjoy, digitally reproduced music in my own home. Sometimes, make that a lot of times, I don't want to clean a damn record, clean a stylus, fiddle with an antiskate setting........ sometimes I want to just press a damn button, and be taken away, taken into an orchestra hall, or a jazz club... I want to feel the space appear in my living room, I want to hear the musicians shifting around, moving the horn to their mouth, turning a page, taking a breath.. right in front of me!
I'm getting that with vinyl. I want that with digital.
This Modwright has been the only thing that has gotten me close, I left my turntable alone for the first WEEK that I had it!
I went out to the record store and bought CD'S!!!! Things were looking real, real good! I was fiddling around with interconnects and powercords...., I had moments, I was given glimpses of the promise that awaited.. I knew that with a bit of minor tweaking, I finally had a digital front-end that could perform on the same level, and even at a higher level than my vinyl-front end!!!
Then the laser died.
I'm awaiting delivery of a new laser and transport from a donor machine, and in the meantime I've upgraded my phono preamp, and I'm still not seeing a huge difference between my well-recorded 33 rpm records and my 45's!!
But I do know one thing... none of it is going to matter much once I get my modwright up and running again!!!
The Sony 999ES likely needs a new drive. This is a very reliable player but the drive was the only weak point, IMO. The SACD read issue is generally the first indication that it is time.

Not a big expensive and you are back in biz!
I recieved a DOA laser from singapore... laser $3.99... shipping: $40.00!!!
Whatever, I found a new 999es, and transplanted the entire drive into the modwright. It STILL doesn't want to read the sacd layer of most of my hybrid sacd's, but it will recognize the layer on a few... frustrating, but the darn thing sounds so good it doesn't matter!
The vinyl still kicks butt, but only if it's clean as a whistle, and well recorded, so the gap has definitely closed, and hey, I'm actually buying CD's again!!!