DAC or Upgraded Analogue in SACD units?

I have read that upgrading the analoge section of SACD units delivers the equivalent of using a stand alone DAC wiht the same unit.

What is the truth?

What is the cost?

Which have you done?


Bill E.
I have my 777 modified by R. Kern (audiomod.com) and it cost me $480 plus shipping both ways and by far it is the best $480 audio investment I have made. Highly recommend!
I had Richard Kern of Audiomod (www.audiomod.com, located in Oak Grove, Oregon) upgrade my Sony SCD-777ES's audio board and power supply board with, as appropriate, Vishay resistors, and Rel, MIT, and Black Gate caps. This was simply a parts upgrade involving no circuit modifications and cost $480 plus shipping. After a 200-hour post-upgrade burn-in, I moved my external DAC to a secondary system, since the Red Book performance of the 777 alone is now considerably better. SACD performance is enhanced as well. In both modes, there's better resolution, transparency, soundstaging, timbral accuracy, and bass impact as well as definition.
Bill: There is no truth, just what your ears tell you. Well, so much for philosophy. My recollection is that you are considering the SCD-1, which from my auditioning along with the sonically very similar 777ES I own I would consider as sonically in the same ballpark with the Wadia 850/860, more or less. That ain't bad by itself, my first thought is keep the Sony unit for a while, let it break in (it takes a LOOONNG time, as the other posts on the subject have noted) and see how you like it as is. If after that you still have the upgrade itch, there are a number of upgrades available for the lower priced Sony models that may help and be available for the SCD-1 as well. If you like the sound of the Audio Logic DAC, which I do, Jerry Ozment of Audio Logic has a minimally invasive surgery which I had done to my 777ES where he diverted the power supplies to the digital side, then bypassed the analog stage for a small box attached to the side of the Sony with the tubed analog stage from the Audio Logic DAC, together with another separate box containing the power supply for the analog stage. The result to my ears is a more dynamic, dimensional, "alive" (for lack of a better word) sound which is very close to the sound running from the Sony as a transport through my Audio Logic 2400 DAC. I think he charges $1450 for this mod/upgrade. Stan Warren (formerly of PS Audio) has some excellent modifications and upgrades which he does for the 9000ES, don't know if they're available for the SCD-1 but worth considering; others can comment on this, but I understand his mods are very reasonably priced. Another possibility is Great Northern Sound, you might want to contact them. And there are others mentioned in your recent SACD thread and other threads as well. Like I said in the other threads, there seems to be room for improvement of the sound from these units, but see first if you aren't satisfied with the sound from the stock unit before springing for an upgrade and voiding the warranty, as Sony did a nice job on these players sonically. Hope this is of some help, and good luck!

When you say you would put the Sony SCD-1 in the same ballpark as the Wadia 850/860, I'm assuming you're comparing redbook CD to CD, right? You're not comparing SACD to the Wadia CD playback are you?

The reason I'm asking is I've considered buying a used Wadia 850, but am now leaning towards a SACD player. It would seem logical that the SACD player would be the better value as long as it's regular CD sonics are euivalent to the Wadia.

Any thoughts?


Just to offer a contrarian view -- one of the truly nice features of the Sony ES line is the 5 year warranty. In addition to voiding the warranty, any of the above mod may negatively effect the resale value of your unit. I use the 333ES machine with a MSB Platinum DAC, total cost under $3,800. More expensive than the modded 777ES, but better sound quality (at least for Redbook CD) and flexibility.
Kenl, I was only referring to the CD playback, not SACD, which is a different ballgame. Sorry for the confusion. You should listen to both the Wadia and Sony units if you can, they each have their own strengths and weaknesses, but on the whole I felt they were of similar value. Onhwy61's post is well worth emphasizing, I mentioned it briefly but it is a significant consideration.
onhwy61: I cannot understand logic of people who upgrade only part of front end i.e. CD via extrenal DAC vs entire front end SACD+CD together. If I to put my limited resources I would go 2nd way, which I did (mod by Stan Warren for $250 plus fantastic filter "triphazer" plus few more thing BUT for both). Other think, not every one has $3.8k for hi-prices Red Book DAC's, If I would have them I would put to better front end (today, Marantz, SA-1 which seems to me is somewhat better then SCD-1 in SACD mode and substantially better in CD mod - at least according to posts). Again you don't have to mod and void warranty if you don't wish to do it but there are many ways to improve the system sound.
I don't view onhwy61's post as contrarian, since the warranty and resale issues need to be considered carefully, and any decision to mod equipment requires a certain comfort level. So you've raised an important point. In my case, the 777 is a long-term purchase that will likely wind up in my secondary system some years hence. Beyond that, the decision to do strictly a parts upgrade rather than a circuit mod simplifies the task of a qualified tech with access to a Sony tech manual in the event that something goes haywire. But you're right: having a unit like this modded in any fashion is _not_ for the faint of heart.
A used or new 777 is way over $2000 now, plus mod is way over 2500 and the lose of warranty! u do the math. Better get a SCD-1, isn't it?

SCD-1 can offer a first class redbook CD sound already but could be "better" in really subtle way, which some people may say "different"

I heard people say SCD-1's Redbook sound can match AR CD2.
Just to throw yet another option at you. Ric Schultz at Electronic Visionary Systems(www.tweakaudio.com) is completing a total overhaul of the Sony DVP9000 DVD/SACD player. You can go to his website for details, but this mod goes far far beyond inserting higher quality parts and reworks the entire output stage and more. What's more, I think this whole thing costs less than $2k, and there's a 30-day money-back guarantee so there's no risk for trying.

As for advantages of doing it this way, obviously you avoid a whole other set of connections and a cable in not having to use an outboard DAC. Best of luck.

Hi Melhsu,

I picked up a Sony SCD-1 yesterday. It's very nice, but, simply doesn't have spaciosness and separation of the Resolution Audio 55 I usually play redbook cds on. I understand that it will improve and frankly, I'm banking on it. But, as of day two, it needs fixing.

I wonder if it's necessary to have the amp and pre-amp running while the SCD-1 is playing in order to get the "full benefits of breakin?"

I'd appreciate feedback.

Thanks all.

Bill E.

Thank you for your opinion and advice concerning the Sony. I have been burning in the unit 24/7 on the XLO break in track and the changes are astounding. The detail is completely changed by the end of week one. There is actually more detail with more distinguished bass now than with my Resolution Audio 55. There is a more present feeling than with the RA55. I can't tell which I like more now. But, to even be at the point of debate means that the SCD-1 is a winner in redbook mode. One note that no one that I remember has touched upon is that the SACD section also seems to need breaking in. I am not aware of any break in/test disks for SACD. It would be nice to flex the entire range at one time.

Also, thank you to everyone who contributed to my learn curve.

The DAC/upgrade question is still open for me. In spite of the improvement, I am willing to do either, if, by change I will have marked improvement. Either way, it's a cheap shot at the next level. Isn't it?

Best wishes,

Bill E.
Bill: I'm not aware of any test/break-in discs for SACD at this time, so you'll probably have to use an SACD. There have been some posts on other SACD threads in the past remarking about breaking in the SACD side separately, although I imagine it might be easier and shorter, as the analog stage is the same for both so you are only breaking in the digital section. Glad to see you're enjoying the unit; I'm astounded at how long it takes for these units to sound their best.
I started to wonder if the filters also need separate break-in? It appears that they soften with use. It's unbelievable that I could have to break in five filters and two analoge sections to get first class sound. My brother the lawyer is probably right when he said, "they should be responsible to sell the unit in operating condition. Someone should sue them!" Now, everybody hates lawyers, but, he sure sounded right.

Bill E.
Lakenfront: Some, me included, feel strongly that five filters simply distort music in five unique ways. Keep "STD" which provide the most "life like" reproduction and work on the rest of your system to make it less noisy, mory silky or whatever
Hi Simontju,

I feel as you do. I have tried the different filters and gravitate back to std. Thanks for reminding me.

Bill E.