CD Player Modifications. Is it worth the ?

I recently have been discussing modifying / upgrading my CD player, NAD C541. I would cost me around $300. Is it worth it, will it make an substantial difference?
Depends on what is done and the quality of the parts that are used. Simply changing some coupling caps to higher grade pieces and adding increased reserve to the power supply can make a VERY noticeable difference. Not only is the noise floor lowered, bass can become more controlled and you will typically make noticeable gains in midrange liquidity, overall transparency and treble "tone". By the tone of the treble, i'm talking about softer and more detailed highs with less smearing. More "shimmer" on cymbals and not as much "splash", etc...

My suggestion to those interested in doing such things is to start off with a product that you are basically happy with and go from there. Turning a sow's ear into a silk purse can be done, but it typically isn't worth the investment. Sean
Sean is right. It can make a big difference but I don't think the platform you have is something I would invest a lot of money in. I have seen Audio Note CD2's go for $500 to $600 used and I think you would be way ahead with something like that over upgrading your NAD.
Check out the LCAudio products at
I installed four of the AD825 opamp modules replacing the BB units in my sony 9000es. I also replaced the coupling caps with Black Gates and installed top of the line Cardas RCA's and Bybee Filters purchased from

These mods have made a huge difference.

I would say theat looking at your system on another thread and depending on your budget I would sink all I could into some nice speakers and then think about modding this player or another unit. Some machines are easier to work with than others. The folks over at DIY should be able to tell you what they have available for your player.

I would highly recommend the Bybee's from they are so easy to install and make a huge all around improvement.
Chelillingworth, thanks very much for you top notch advice, I appreciate it.
Toss the NAD (or at least sell it used). A modified Pioneer from Stan Warren is only $400 complete with mod, and it will run circles around a modded NAD. It's in a compeltely different league.
The "fully modified" Pioneer DVD from Stan Warren can't hang with a better quality red book player. Stan himself will tell you that it will not have the bass impact, body, pace, tempo or warmth of a "good" cd player that is considered "musical". At least that's what he told one of my buddies that had him modify one for him. Sean
CORRECTION TO SEAN'S LAST POST. He is taking words completely out of context regarding Stan Warren's statements. I speak to Stan over 40 times a year, and he has never made a statement like: " the modified Pioneer will not have the bass impact, body, pace, tempo or warmth of a good cd player that is considered musical". NEVER, NEVER, NEVER DID HE MAKE THIS STATEMENT!

The only thing that Stan has ever said about the Pioneer is that it is slightly lacking in bass impact and dynamics as compared to his other more expensive outboard d/a's and transports, and some of his other modified cd player variants. To be specific: some cd players, which Stan used to mod (namely the Teac), had a slight edge in its bass and dynamics, but the Teac is not nearly as musical, nor as refined as the latest Pioneer, that Stan now recommends modifying. I know this personally, because I still have one of the Teac's too!

The modified Pioneer is a wonderful unit for anyone looking for a cd player under the $1000 mark. It is sonically refined, and does not have any of the typical sonic anomalies that are so characteristic of virtually every other "budget" high end (read under $1200) cd player.

If the Pioneer had such "bass, impact and pace problems" that Sean claims Stan had stated , then why does he have so many satisfied customers ? Is Stan a hypnotist? Perhaps a cult leader? Maybe he uses drugs his customers? I know, he's an alien from the constellation Virgo, with the intent of controlling his customer's minds and ears! That's it, I'm in his control..... All of his customers are in his control! That's why we love his modified digital products so much. Invasion of the body snatchers is for real!

Sean I really think you should avoid making such statements like: "Stan will tell you himself.......". You are not his spokes person, and more importantly, you are speaking in regard to another persons conversation, that you did not participate in yourself.
Please speak for yourself Eric and don't put words in my mouth. I stand by my statements.

The person that told me this has a Stan Warren modified Pioneer DVD player. He also has a very good quality redbook cd player from a "mass production" manufacturer. Stan told him that the modified Pioneer DVD would NOT match the low frequency qualities or capabilities of his stock CD player. Stan clearly stated this before he had begun to modify the Pioneer, so he did "flat out" say such a thing. He was being as up-front as he could be with the customer and for that, i applaud his honesty.

As such, my statements are not "corrupt", second hand "bullshit" or relying on "special circumstances" such as someone comparing the modified Pioneer DVD to a much more expensive outboard DAC, etc... The person that told me this still has the Pioneer player and i communicate with them on an almost daily basis. He has NO reason to "BS" me nor would i want or expect him to. I told him up front that i didn't think that the DVD player would match his CD player in bottom end warmth or body. My exact words were that they sound "crisp, clean and open but are somewhat lean". Stan basically confirmed those thoughts over the phone with him, but the owner still went ahead with the modifications anyhow. To be quite frank, he received the player back after having it modified and was not overly excited about it. The player has been relegated to his bedroom system.

I was informed by another Audiogon member that the "lack of performance" on some newer Pioneer DVD players is due to a production change. Pioneer has decided to change the internal DAC's and the units don't perform as well. For all that i know, the above mentioned Pioneer DVD may be one of these models and why Stan mentioned what he did to the customer.

For the sake of clarity, the information regarding the Pioneer DAC change was divulged directly by Stan Warren to this A-gon member TODAY while Stan was at his house. I spent quite a bit of time talking to this gentleman last night arranging a business deal. Everything went as smoothly as possible and it was as pleasant as could be. Given previous correspondance with him, i have no reason to doubt these statements or his integrity in passing them on.

As i have stated before, i only post information that i have experienced first hand or has been passed on to me by what i would deem a reliable source. Like anything else though, it is up to you as an individual to believe who and what you want to. Sean
I floated my old Rotel on a Neuance iso-shelf and was amazed at the improvement in coherence and reduced fatigue.
$150 experiment that is instantly reversible...and reuasable with any upgrade later. Ern
When you speak about the value of modifying Pioneer DVD's, you need to speak of those models that are worth modifying. I have a Pioneer 503C carousel, which while working quite well overall as a transport, has developed a number of frustrating mechanical problems over its short life, and would likely not be a good candidate for several hundred dollars worth of mods. I really only expect to get a year or two of service out of this unit and don't see it as a long term purchase. To its credit, it was inexpensive and does a decent job as both a DVD player and an audio transport. However, there are likely higher quality Pioneer units that would certainly provide better value when modified.
I have spoken to Stan Warren on a number of occassions and he believes in his work. You need to have a Pioneer or Onkyo DVD player with the Burr Brown 24/96 or higher DAC. I cannot believe he would downplay what he does. If Stan did say something similar to what Sean is relating, he may have been comparing his modded Pioneer against a $2500+ player. (He has said such to me, but did not feel they were much better). So you can spend $450 for a Pioneer DVD player modded by Stan or spend $2500+ for something better; it is your money.

I have both a Pioneer DV333 in one system and a MSB Link DAC modded by Stan in another. If was worth more than every penny.

"Mods" very much understates what Stan really does. He redesigns large portions of the original circuit, removing bugs and design oversights, and upgrades the parts quality of the most
important components. He can be reached at (541)344-3696

Dan Wright at does similar work.

The following is a link of a comparison of Stan's DVD player and a Camelot Morganna player. There is also lots of comments on Stan at the Chicago Audio Society website archives of meetings, etc. A Stan modded MSB Link DAC is their reference player.

With no offense to Dan Wright, i would not place his level of experience or knowledge anywhere near that of Stan Warren's. As most of you know, Stan has been working with audio for a couple of decades now as both a designer and "tweaker". Someone with knowledge of advanced circuitry, years of experience and a good head on their shoulders is a tough combo to beat. This is not to say that Dan's work is not good or appreciated though, as his long list of satisfied customers and public testimonials says quite a bit about how far he has come in such a short period of time. I do know that he is working with some very knowledgable people and doing his best to "pick their brains".

As to my comments, i did not mean to stir up a hornets nest. Since there was quite a bit of "controversy" regarding what i said, i did some further digging. I was able to find out that the DVD player in question was a Pioneer 434. This is not one of the newer models that was mentioned to me as having the "low grade" dac's in them. So far, three different people have listened to this specific player in three different systems in three different parts of the country.

The first guy thought that it was measurably better than his stock Pioneer Elite PD-65. It was appr equal to the PD-65 used as a transport and feeding an Art Dio tube Dac. It could not hang with his Sonic Frontiers transport / DAC combo though, but this is to be expected. That is, if price has anything to do with performance. The only thing that i can remember about his system is that he has both a Morrison ELAD preamp and an Audible Illusions Modulus 3A. Which one he was running, i'm not sure. I "think" that it would be his AI, as the Morrison had gone back to the factory for some updates / changes. Can't recall which amps he has, but speakers are large ribbons with multiple dynamic woofers.

When he had let it run for a couple of weeks and had become completely familiar with it, it went onto the next guys house, who is the actual owner of the unit. While i know that this sounds weird, the owner had it drop shipped to his buddies house first for him to break in. This also let user #1 see what he thought of it so that they could compare notes.

In the owners' system, he was comparing it to a stock Sony redbook player, of which i'm not sure of the model. It was not their top of the line "redbook" player and is a few years old. From what i can remember, i think that this player was somewhere around $800 - $1000 when brand new. His opinion was that he preferred the Sony within the confines of this system. I do know that he is using a modified tube preamp, a hybrid tube driver / SS amp feeding large e-stat's. At this point, he offered to send the DVD player to me to check out, but i declined. I had too much other stuff going on and didn't want to tie up his gear.

It left his house and went to the third party's house. He is using a Pioneer laser disc player with a highly modified tube preamp, highly modified hybrid tube driver / SS output amp. These two pieces have about $4500 - $5000 in modifications and upgrades done to them. I don't know what type of speakers he is running though but i do know that they are not "off the shelf" models of anything available. In this system, the owner thought that the laser disc absolutely smoked the modified DVD player. The actual owner of the modified DVD player ( tester #2 ) has since purchased an identical laser disc player to user #3 and is now waiting for its' arrival. Needless to say, he wants to do a shoot-out with the Sony, LD and DVD players to see which one really does work best with his system.

Keep in mind that these results are ALL subjective and based on personal opinions within those users systems. Based on the above info, you can see some commonality with the systems involved. All of them are making use of tubed preamps, so this might have something to do with the results and how the DVD player "loaded up". Personally, i am a believer that gear DOES change "personalities" when mated with different combo's. As such, this player may work best with passive, buffered or active SS preamps, i don't know. I may have him send the unit over here so that i can check it out. If that is the case, it would be feeding an SS preamp and SS amp, so i would get to find out first hand. If i do get the unit and people are interested, i can report back with my thoughts on the subject.

I hope that this has not pissed anyone off, as i was strictly commenting on the subject at hand and trying to relay as much "honest" information as i could. Obviously, different people have different tastes, different systems and different hearing. If everything worked the same for all people, we would not be having this conversation now nor visiting a site for used gear.... Sean
I own a Stan Warren modified Pioneer CD/DVD 5 disc changer.
I have personaly taken the unit to 3 audio salons and at least 7 other audiophiles houses. It also has been the digital reference for 3 Chicago Audio Society Meetings.
Sean, your friend took Stan Warrens words out of context. When Stan said that the unit was soft in the bass, he was referrng to the new pioneer dvd players with the new (cheaper) dac. He doesn't recommend modifing the brand new units. Please get your facts straight if you are going to badmouth Stan Warren or something that you haven't even heard for yourself. You told a friend of mine that you know Rich & myself. We do not believe that we know you.
Rich and I have spent the last 3 years trying to find the best affordable digital products. We have listened to $100.00 cd players on up to $20,000 dac and transports. The Pioneer may not be the best unit that we have heard but it sure is one of the top 5. It has sounded better to us than units from Wadia, Theata, Electrocompaniet, Krell, Levinson, and Sony SACD units to name a few. A couple of months ago we brought it into an audio salon that sells Accuphase and put my Pioneer up against a $12,000 cd player with upsampling. 3 out of 4 audiophiles strongly felt that the Pioneer was the more accurate sounding player. The person that disagreed worked for the store.
The Pioneer definately ranks up their with some of the best digital available reguardless of price. The only reason that I am selling my pioneer is because the Stan Warren modified MSB/Aiwa combination is the best that we have ever heard reguardless of price. We obviosly have not heard every unit out there, but we have heard a substantial number.
The Pioneer is also very finicky for getting the best performance. It needs to be mass loaded. A 5 lb. bag of sand on top of the unit works best. We found the Pioneer to sound the best when you use Mapleshades Isoblocks sitting underneath a 2" thick solid maple wood block with Final's Durumas sitting between the maple wood and the Pioneer.
I'd like to add to my post above, that I also have the Stan modified Aiwa to go with my Stan MSB Link II. Greggstraley, you may want to note that I recently tried running it with the MSB P1000 power base and felt it took another step up in authority accross the whole frequency range.

Thanks for the note on the DVD player. I will try the sand bag with my DV333 in the other system. A sand bag worked well back when I owned the original Cambridge CD4.

Wow, I had an Aiwa XC-30M 5 disc carousel. I guess I should have never sold it to my brother for $25, LOL. It just had too many blinking buttons and noisy loading sound when it shuffled discs. I think this was the forerunner of the XC-35Ms and XC-37Ms. I wonder if my old XC-30M shares this same "world class" transport anomily as the later units?

The unit I replaced it with was a Marantz CC-47 carousel (1bit DAC, yuck!) that was much quieter, smoother, switched discs faster, and had S/PDIF out via RCA (instead of toslink like the AIWA).
Aroc. I believe the XC-30M was the first. Stan Warren replaces the toslink in favor of his own designed setup. Mine is the XC-35M, but I have a new unmodified XC-37M in the closet as a back-up. They recently stopped making the XC-37M. I wonder if they will make a new model?

If you run to eBay someone is selling off some left over new XC-37M. The link is:

All i can say is "WHATEVER".

Since some of you seem to think you know what took place better than the guy that was involved in the conversation and transaction, i'll let you believe what you want to. In the meantime, PLEASE get YOUR facts straight. If need be, the owner of said unit will verify that Stan told him what he did.

My one question is WHY would Stan tell him that the newer units would not have the bass response of his Sony when Stan already knew what unit he had and was going to modify ? As mentioned, it is not one of the newer "bad dac" units but is a Pioneer 434. If i remember correctly, Stan already had the unit in his possession but had not begun to work on it when that conversation took place. I may be wrong on that part, but i can verify it if need be.

As to having to "defend" Stan Warren, i did not "impune" him in the least. You are letting emotions enter into what SHOULD be a logical discussion and putting words in my mouth. I actually stated that i applaud his honesty in the matter. If you read my follow up reply, i stated that i think that he is a very capable and experienced engineer and tweaker and placed him above another well regarded and respected "modifier" of gear. Once again, that is simply a "comment" that i made and my PERSONAL OPINION.

As to having to "defend" your personal preference ( or someone else's ) in a piece of gear, RELAX. My comments were just that: comments. I passed on information that has been passed onto me directly from the sources. Unfortunately, everyone does NOT hear the same or have the same tastes or goals when it comes to a music reproduction systems or even the type of music that they listen to. I'm glad that you enjoy what you have and i'm glad that some others have agreed with you, but GET OVER IT. You can't tell me what is best nor can i tell you. That is why there are SOOOO many brands, models, designs, modifications, etc...

Until EVERYONE can universally agree that specific components are the best ( BAR NONE ) and someone assembles a system of those specific components, OR can verify that they have the most perfect "golden eared" hearing, it all boils down to PERSONAL PREFERENCE. As it turns out, the people that listened to this specific unit did not PREFER it to some of the other units that THEY had. That is not to say that you, or anyone else for that matter, would necessarily agree with their observations and opinions.

As to what i have or am using, that is NOT the point. Nor did i EVER say that what i had or was using was "better". I specifically stated that i "MIGHT" have the opportunity to audition said unit. At that point in time, i'll be able to see where i stand on the issue. Until then, i can't pass judgment or offer anyone MY "opinion". Whether i love the unit or hate it, i'm NOT going to post my results either way. I don't feel like being dragged through the mud, being crucified and having people yell "heretic" at me while throwing stones. I don't need that from EITHER side of the fence.

I appologize for trying to share honest yet "alternative" points of view. Obviously, this was NOT what some people wanted to see and hear. If this has offended some of you, robbed you of your manhood, made you feel humiliated in public or reduced the resale value of your product, TOO BAD. Grow up and figure out that not everybody likes the same things or has the same impressions. That includes audio, cars, food, types of socks and underwear, etc.... Nor is every "test" conducted under the same conditions. There are therefore a LOT of variables involved that nobody can account for.

Now i'm going to go and eat my peanut butter and sardine sandwich with mustard, mayo and onions. Don't tell me that this isn't good, cuz i know better. Besides that, i've done testing at several different deli's and 35 out of 36 people liked it better than pimento loaf with hot sauce and dried clams on "aged" bagels. The one guy that didn't like it was the one that made the competing sandwich. Obviously, he was biased and we were "right".... Sean
To be COMPLETELY honest in this, i may have somewhat embellished what Stan told him. I specifically remember that the owner told me THREE times within the same phone conversaton that Stan told him the DVD would not have the same amount or quality of bass, bottom end or warmth as his current redbook player. From what i can remember, this was the same day that he talked to Stan on the phone. The owner obviously found this to be "disturbing" enough to repeat it to me multiple times during our conversation.

As to my comments about the unit lacking pace, drive, etc... this MIGHT be based on another conversation with the owner that i had AFTER he had gotten the unit back and listened to it. It is "possible" that i am combining his listening results with what his initial conversation with Stan consisted of. However, there is NO doubt in my mind that Stan DID alert him to the lack of bottom end PRIOR to the actual modification taking place to his unit. Sean
So, after all of the "banter", would it be advantageous to modify my NAD C541? Or should I abondon the unit and purchase, say a REGA Planet 2000?
As an owner of a "modded" 333ES player I can speak from some experience... I think the money I spent was worth it for a variety of my own reasons but my advice to you would be not to mod the NAD and my reasons are:

1. It will void the warranty and while I had no problems with my NAD 540 when I owned it there have been reports/discussions about the "reliability" of some of NAD's cdps. If there is a component failure then you will have to pay for the repairs regardless of the fault.

2. The probable cost of mods may be similar in net outlay costs of selling yor 541 & purchasing the Rega 2000. Possibly more to mod...

3. The 541 in my opinion is a very nice player at its price-point and there doesn't seem to be much previous discussion of anyone modding this particular unit and therefore there is very little feedback to go by.

Good luck with your decision
That is a personal decision. ANY unit can be improved upon by thoughtful and careful modifications and parts upgrades. You are best off to start with a unit that you like and go from there. Since the Rega can also be improved upon ( like any other unit ), you might be in the same boat in terms of wanting to upgrade or have it modified some time down the road. Be aware that some people prefer their units better BEFORE they were modified and are not as happy with them once the work is completed. Such are the crap-shoots with unproven or "one off" designs. Unless you can hear a unit that was modified IDENTICALLY to what you will be getting, you really don't know what it will sound like. The problem with this is that many "tweakers" tend to "progress" as they go along, making changes and updates as they learn and are exposed to more units. As such, the unit that "Billy Bob" has that was modified two months ago might not be the EXACT same unit that "Sammy Joe" gets back when he sends his unit in for mods next week. It might be "close", better or worse. That would all depend on the individual unit, the mods that were done differently and the end users personal preference and perspective.

Obviously, there are some here that think that the Pioneer DVD or Aiwa / MSB combo as modified by Stan Warren is the most cost effective way to go. My suggestion is to find someone that you can trust that works on that type of gear and talk to them about your options. If they are "straight up" and want to keep the customers happy, they will let you know what they think is the wisest move in terms of bang for the buck and the investments that you have already made.

A call to Stan Warren would probably be a good place for you to start, as i think that he is both good at what he does and honest. You might also try John Hillig at Musical Designs, Dan Wright at Modwright, Ric at EVS, Richard Kern, etc... These guys are all reputable and will present the options to you from their personal point of view. After all, it makes more sense from MY point of view to talk to the guys that you will actually be handing money to rather some knuckleheads ( like me ) on a forum that are simply running their mouths. It is good to post things publicly though, as it gives everyone the chance to share their experiences, as different as they may be. Sean
Thanks Sean, sound advice.