Cost effective mods for a Sony SCD-777ES

I bought one of these players used. Obviously know it needs to be modified to sound good. What mods are the best bang for the buck - Power Supply, Op Amps, Clock circuit, Power cord etc. Particularly interested to improve redbook performance.
With this player pretty much the sky is the limit but the mods that give the most bang for the buck (IMO) are as follows.

1)Superclock and superclok power supply are the first mods I would make.

2)I would do the analog output stage

3)Then the power supply.

First you must pick a reputable modder......unless you are doing the work yourself. Reference Audio Mods (RAM), Vacum State Electronics(VSE) and Audiomod(Richard Kern) all have excellent reputations and experience modding this player. All three have websites discussing their modding techniques and philosophies. I would read them as well as some of the discussion threads on this site. Also there location may make a difference as shipping may be an issue as well.

Good Luck.

Are you unhappy with the way it sounds now? I ask because I was never as happy with mine after the extensive mods I had done as I was before. Even though it clearly sounded "better" in many respects, I just didn't enjoy listening to it as much. If I had it to do over again, I'd try adding a Benchmark DAC before doing a more costly set of mods.

To Chuck's list above, I'd add Steve Nugent at Empirical Audio.
Ditto Czbbcl's recommendations for modders. If you can do the work yourself and want to work incrementally, start with the Superclock 4, replace the AD712 op amps in the output stage, replace select caps/resistors in the output stage signal path, remove the AC filters, and star-ground each board. There are posts on AA SACD Forum regarding these changes.
I wouldn't touch it. Rather, I'd buy a good used DAC and use the Sony as a transport. Why? Because IMO the DAC...say a Dodson or similar...will outperform the Sony even after mods. Also, the Sony will retain more of its residual value as a stock piece as the Sony players become more and more rare.
I agree with Tvad and Drubin. Use the SCD 777 as transport (excellent one).
I use mine for transport and use an out board DAC with excellent result. With the cost of mods, you can get a good DAC such as Musical Fidelity Trivista, or a tube DAC easily.
This way also give you the flexibility down the road if you like to change the dac for different sound.
The Sony DAC is not a gating factor. With clock replacement, power mods, & a swap of output stages to VSEI or buffered RAM coupling transformers, the 777ES will approach SOTA.
SOTA has many different flavors these days as a quick listen to the variety of SOTA digital players will reveal. Using an external DAC is the easiest way to experiment with different flavors.

However, replacing the clock and upgrading the power supply on the Sony would be beneficial to it's function as a transport.
Also forgot to mention the transport cap upgrade; I would do that along with the clock. IMO the Sony DAC is still considered one of the best and not the weak link here.

I have an SCD-1 with the Sperclock and transport upgrades. The addition of a Sonic Frontiers Processor 3 provided a substantial improvement in Bluebook performance. I might add that any mods performed will probably not prove to be a good investment at resale time.

The transport cap mod does improve things. There are several more mods that make an even larger improvement to the transport:

(1) Replace 4 SMD coupling caps on Main Board & RF board with radial-lead teflon.

(2) Replace signal path SMD resistors on Main & RF Board with radial-lead Caddock or Vishay.

(3) Eliminate ground loops. Remove Main Board center standup post and run ground wire from center tab to IEC earth. Replace all metal washers on the perimeter standups with nylon to sever multiple grounds.

(4) Upgrade power board 5V & 3.3V regulators to discrete assemblies such as Audiocom Invisus PPR2. Then bypass the two crappy 5V-to-3.3V SMD down-regulators on the main board, by running jumpers directly to the 3.3V source regulator. A major improvement.

More available, but much of this is only cost-effective for the DIYer.

Wow. Lots of great advice. Thanks everyone. I am Mr. Conservative. I am very nervous to spend - $1,000 and not be able to get it back when I sell it. I think I will buy an external DAC rather than continue to modify it. Mine has Black gate capacitors and Vishay resistors. I will leave it at this level. Any suggestions for external DACs. My local tweak guy says - use a modded Bel Canto DAC 1?
Depending on budget, I'd research: Dodson 217D Mk II, Lavry DA-10, Bel Canto DAC1, Monarchy M24, MHDT Lab Paradisea, and Benchmark DAC1.

All highly regarded. A variety of flavors and prices.
I modified my EAD CD-1000 mkIII myself and put in new Rubycon caps (28 total), switched out the stock diodes for Stealth soft recovery diodes, changed out all the internal wiring to teflon coated pure silver wiring, and the Auricap power supply tweak right behing the IEC inlet.

It was very simple and basic, with no change to circuitry design, just a one-for-one swap to better parts. The results were immediate and very noticable. At a cost of about $130 for the parts, I will be upgrading any future CDP I get.

If your goal is to retain value then IMO you never want to modify anything as you will never get your money back out of the mods and you may actually lose value. Unless your modder is well know for his/her work and has a great reputation such as Richard Kern. If you are going to buy a DAC and what to retain some value then do not have it modded. You may want to buy and sell, used of course, until you get the sound you want and as I believe Tvad is suggesting.

Thinking a bit more about your situation. Since you have already had some caps and resisters upgraded. I would spend the 300-400 and have the superclock 4 installed. You will improve the player substantially and (IMO) the clock will retain some value.


I am with you. I can not believe the improvements in my player with the few mods that have been made; it is simply stunning.

Modding is the way to get off the endless merry-go-round of swaps and upgrades. And with the SCD-1/777ES there is pretty much no diminishing return on improvements. Better is simply better until you get near SOTA, at which point Tvad's point about flavors kicks in. If you heard one of these units really tricked out I doubt you'd ever consider selling it.
Better is simply better until you get near SOTA, at which point Tvad's point about flavors kicks in. If you heard one of these units really tricked out I doubt you'd ever consider selling it.
Dgarretson (System | Answers)

I agree in general with this statement. However, one can hear different flavors no matter where on the SOTA scale one's equipment lies.

For example, I recently experimented with a Paradisea DAC ($500) and my 1992 Sony ES level changer. The sound was terrific. Warm and inviting. In some respects, I wish I had kept the Paradisea DAC. However, my Modwright Sony 999ES is better, i.e. more resolving, larger image, etc...and I felt I should make a choice before the holiday gift giving season.

The flavor difference was clearly audible, though, despite the equipment not being anywhere near SOTA.

More resolution does not necessarily translate to more musical or more enjoyable, IMO. I have owned very resolving players approaching SOTA that I would never own again. I'd own the Paradisea again in a heartbeat.

I have no major argument against modding the Sony CD player except that one doesn't know what the unit will sound like after the money has been spent, and it's nearly impossible to recoup money invested on modding. Clearly, the player will be more resolving, and that's a good thing I suppose. With outboard DACs, one has the freedom to experiment with sound quality, and change as one sees fit. Also, several of the DACs I mention are considered close to SOTA (Dodson, Lavry, Benchmark).

Douglas Jesse (RAM east) performed the mods on my player. I did replace the RCA's with silver WBT's but that is about the extent of my modding capabilities. Douglas did replace the the caps on the power supply board but we stopped short of doing the voltage regulators as I was trying to minimize the cost. Obviously as you know the sky is the limit on where you can go with this player. The player sounds very good now and is the best digital I have ever heard.

The items you list sound interesting but I don't know if I could perform them myself.


Of 30 odd mod/test cycles I've been through with the SCD-1, all but one or two changes were steps in a positive direction without any downside. The one or two mods I would consider "flavor" preferences-- i.e., mods that improve in one area while compromising in another, as you describe, usually in a trade-off between resolution & musicality-- were later corrected with improvements to power source. The experience of continuous improvement with a single player convinces me that absolute, not relative, comparisons are applicable when judging CDPs. Give me a player with high resolution, and mod it to add musicality. After the modding is done, one is finally up against the brick wall of the type of DAC or upsampler and the limitations of basic transport mechanism-- which doubtless together define the ultimate "flavor" of the machine. But there are so many compromises in most commercial players that short of SOTA, judging their quality based on type of DAC or upsampler is likely a red herring. This is why I'm inclined to restrict use of the "flavor" adjective to the best machines.
Sony SCD-777ES loaded with Kern mods listed now for $1550. Thats the best you'll ever do value-wise on a 777ES with mods...
I agree - Tvad. Mine did not have as many Kern mods as the one on sale know. That is OK. There is no doubt in my mind that the transport is excellent. Playing with different DACs can become a new interesting aspect to get the sound right. A friend of mine has a Meridian 566 - 24 bit. Let me start there.

Who did the cap and resistor work on your player.......or did you buy it that way? Also, hope the DAC works out for you.

Dgarretson, I believe we are essentially members of the same camp.

However, I don't believe a different "flavor" necessarily entails compromise. I simply believe three SOTA digital players will sound differently. I have the sense that you are suggesting that three players...maxed with mods...will sound similar. Perhaps I misunderstand. If this is your position, it is one I cannot accept based on my listening.

IMO, the bottom line regarding modding is that other than user reports, reviews, or personal auditioning of a similar player, it is impossible to know how a digital player will sound after all the mods are complete. There is no doubt in my mind that it's tonality, or "house sound" will be changed. I have heard this in an Electrocompaniet EMC 1-UP SE that I had modded to the max. After mods, it had no semblance of the Electro house sound. It sounded very good, but it was no longer an Electro.

There are enough owners of Kern modded Sony SCD-777ES players that one can probably get some idea of the sound of the player post-mods by communicating with other owners, but once the mods are done, they're done. There's no going back, and recouping the cost of the mods upon resale will be impossible.

I write this as an owner and past owner of seven modded digital players. Do I believe in modding? Yes. Am I considerably more cautious than I was after selling number six? You bet.

I agree with your assesment that the house sound, as you call it, if sony has a house sound, is changed; no doubt. And also agree that once modded you probably can not go back; depending on the mods performed.

My modded SCD-1 is so far beyond where it started it isn't even close in comparision. I put about $1800 in mods and feel it was well worth it. I do not feel I could ever achieve this level of performance by simply adding a DAC; although I could be wrong. I wasn't willing to add another component in the food chain as I believe in less is more or simplicity over complexity.

The sony is an inexpensive player and the mods are inexpensive (IMO) especially given the performance gains. The resale value while always a consideration wasn't as much of a factor for me as I was searching for the best sonic improvements for the dollar. This becomes even more evident to me when I compare the performance of my player relative to what a competitive player costs. In most cases the depreciation of those players is more than what I paid for the mods and the player. Good discussion though as everyone here has valid points.

12-28-06: Czbbcl

I agree with your assesment that the house sound, as you call it, if sony has a house sound, is changed; no doubt. And also agree that once modded you probably can not go back; depending on the mods performed.

My modded SCD-1 is so far beyond where it started it isn't even close in comparision. I put about $1800 in mods and feel it was well worth it.

Chuck, I have no doubt your SCD-1 sounds far beyond where it started, and if yours was purchased used, then it certainly has proven to be a good value.

I'm simply pointing out some pros and cons to modding from my experience.

One's satisfaction is all that matters.
Chuck hits the mark that if the cost of the mule plus the mods produces a player that matches commercial offers costing 2-3 times as much, the mod has been justified financially & also in terms of personal satisfaction, regardless of resale issues.

Tvad, yes I am generally in your camp, but when I look inside a hi-end player and see parts-bin compromises like the cheapest varieties of op amps, one-chip clock oscillators, and three-pin voltage regulators rather than discrete regulation circuits, I just can't rationalize the result as "house sound" or "flavor." These are simply shortcomings.
Having owned modified statement digital sources from Modwright, Exemplar Audio and APL, I can readily identify a "house sound" with these players, and they all use high grade parts. In the case of Exemplar Audio and APL, I have owned two models from each...Exemplar Denon 2900 and Denon 3910, APL Philips SACD1000 and Denon 3910. In both cases, the Exemplar modded Denons and the APL modded Philips and Denon each had recognizable sounds distinct to Exemplar Audio and APL.

I find this very interesting. It cannot be attributed to cheap and inferior parts, but rather to the specific design of each modification and the superior parts selected by both designers.
I spoke to a reputable modifier - xxxx last night. Their opinion was, the SCD-777ES is already good (I agree)and the risk that something happens if one ships a heavy player like this back and forth or breaks by age is too large. Obviously, it is not worth to have to buy a second player to keep a stock of spare parts. In summary keep the player "as is".

The refined players you have experienced have probably been cleansed of many compromises & arrived at a purer flavor defined by choice of DAC chipset, filter, tube vs. ss output. Now you're talking caviars rather than fast food hamburgers. But why so restless with so many CDPs through your system? Is there no possibility of converging their best qualities at an endpoint? With mine-- containing mostly RAM/Audio Consulting ideas but also help from Allen Wright & Zanden, and some SMD component replacements that are just too time-consuming to be commercially viable-- I'm inclined to believe that well-executed battery power takes DSPs over the top in a way that just can't be experienced on the AC grid. For APL it seems to be parallel DAC arrays. From the tweakers perspective, I conclude that with digital it's very hard to approach The Absolute Sound in a commercially viable package. And unlike analog-- where the idea of flavors is well accepted at all levels of transcription equipment-- with digital one cannot escape that restless itch for "perfect sound forever." Perhaps the restlessness is prompted by imperfections inherent in the digital medium. But I wander off topic of "inexpensive mods to the 777ES."
12-29-06: Dgarretson
Tvad,...why so restless with so many CDPs through your system?
Several factors, not least of which is audiophilia
nervosa. Mostly, I was searching for a sound that pleased me.

The most satisfying player I owned was the APL Denon 3910, which I
sold for financial reasons. The second most satisfying is the one I
presently own, which is the Modwright Sony 999ES Signature Platinum
version with tube 9.0 power supply. I don't believe I am giving up much
in the Modwright versus the APL. The Modwright costs 1/3 of the APL
(used prices), but it's at least 90% of the performance and enjoyment.

I have no need to change digital sources at this point.

...but, I've said that before. :)

One last point. The only stock audiophile digital source I owned and
then modified was the EMC 1-UP SE. I regretted modding that player.
The resolution improved as well as all the ancillary qualities that come
with better resolution, but the player lost its soul in the process.

Values can be had fairly often on Audiogon on used, modded digital
sources, and in my opinon, this is the most cost effective method to
experiment with the advantages of modding.

I'm glad to read Dcaudio has decided to leave his Sony as is.
I regretted modding that player. The resolution improved as well as all the ancillary qualities that come with better resolution, but the player lost its soul in the process.
Good for all of us to keep that in mind. Upgrading a bunch of parts is not an automatic win.
Yup, that is why you pick a reputable modder who mods with a goal in mind and with a design philosiphy. And one that has the same goals as you do and also one that you can hear their results. Just R&Ring parts is no guarantee of success by any means. And just as Drubin found out can actually make things worse. That is another reason I picked on RAM. I could hear how the mods sounded and their website is full of information concerning their mods as well as their design philosophy.

Adding a DAC does create another layer in the chain as well as set of other decisions such as cabling and power cords.

I am also glad to see that dcaudio received some direction from his thread. As he is the one that has to be happy with his decision and not anyone else.