20 and still going [Meridian 200 transport].
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In my experience, older CD transports are far superior to what is available today. Partly because they were built in Japan, and partly because there was competition in the marketplace.
Having gotten (unfortunately) intimately familiar with what is coming out of China, both players and their replacement transports/assemblies/lasers, the prospect of purchasing a high-end CD player today is a gamble I do not recommend entertaining.
I am curious where transport assemblies are sourced. Do Chinese players use Chinese manufactured transports or imported ones?
As to name brand transports, I read that certain players or transports have a Philips transport, which I don't think are made in Holland anymore. Where does Sony manufacture its transports? Which is more important, the place of manufacture or the design and specs?
Jab, the Esoteric transports look to be of the highest quality. Also, Sony ES machines are produced in Japan, and seemed to have been able to maintain the expected level of quality.
Dougmc, the Sony transports that most high-end audio CD players from a few years ago are all made in China. Supposedly, there are two plants there. The reliability of these parts is among the worst ever when it comes to electronic parts.
On a personal level, at the time, I was importing a line of Chinese high-end audio gear. The company tried to instill in the minds of folks a sense of quality related to their products.
However, I can say that in one order of their volume leader CD player, 8 of 10 were either bad right out of the box or failed within the first several months of use. By "failed", I mean some functionality related to the Sony CD transport. Most often, it was the ability to read a CD, though the players themselves are notorious for issues with the drawers. Even more incredible than this were the replacement transports/lasers sent to fix these machines. I almost still don't believe it myself as it just seems surreal, but fully 12 of the 12 replacements sent were defective. Obviously, I questioned myself as I went through them, but good parts worked fine. The company then admitted to me that they were having some "difficulties".
These transport assemblies were used on all of their players, outside of the flagship model, which used the Philips. I had never seen an issue with Philips transports, but in years prior to that, it was the Philips that had the problems, and the Sonys were considered the reliable part - I take it that was when they were still made in Japan.
Most shameful is that after I gave up the line, the company usually refused to provide any assistance to the customers who were stuck with their crap. They often were insulted along the way as well. As the company has now tried to reenter the market here, and I'm sure will try to paper over the past in terms of their products and the service they offered to those unfortunate enough to be dealing with problems, I often worry about who will be unlucky enough to patronize this company.
Because of the issues with the Sony parts, I have noticed more machines from various high-end audio CD players using the Philips part. Obviously, like the Esoteric and Sony ES, I'm less gunshy over machines that use the Philips part. I also believe a cheap DVD or universal (the focus of the big companies has been in DVD transports for a long time now) machine, fed into a good/great sounding DAC (which should hopefully provide many years of happiness) is an excellent way to go.