I use a balanced theta Pro Gen V with Genesis Digital lens, Behringer DEQ 2496 for digital EQ and a Sonic Frontiers Ultrajitterbug. My SCD-777ES is stock. The difference in sound quality without the DEQ (i.e. no digital room correction) is vast and well worth the upgrade. I never heard a modified Sony so I can't comment on differences between it and stock, however, I suspect the fully balanced class A, discrete output stage, of the Theta would be hard to beat. With digital EQ providing room correction CDs are actually very enjoyable compared to vinyl. Vinyl though is still supreme.
Cut to a simpler approach. Go listen to a Cambridge 840 player. I think you will find its DAC well beyond any outboard. Get a dealer to loan you a unit, then you can compare to your current setup. The 840 squeezes out everything there is in red book cd's. I also have a 777es (no mods), together with Cal Labs Alpha and Sigma tube DAC's. The 840 took the red book's to a new, and better level of listening.
You have done all you can do IMO maybe some power supply mods. Vinyl is obviously your thing so I would put my money there.
I don't think you'll find a great dac in that price range or at least one that will overthrow your modded Sony. I used to have an Audio Note 2.1x balanced dac that was better than the redbook section of my xa9000es but that was more than your budget allows.
I agree with Chuck and think that vinyl where may be your best investment...
you might be able to get some improvement with a power conditioner - my experience has been that CDPs benefit most from it.
otherwise, I'd audition at length before buying an external DAC; the modded Sony is already up there with the best digital (I have a Kern-modded SCD-1)
Your thread doesn't mention if your player has the super clock installed. If it doesn't then this is where you need to put your money. The super clock upgrade is a huge improvement over the stock clocking circuit.
I do not have the Superclock. I believe it is two parts. A circuit board and a power supply for the circuit board. Is this a mod I can do myself or do i have to send it in? Does this upgrade only change redbook or also improve SACD?
You've done quite a bit of trading here so why not try some of the popular dacs in your price range and see what you like. As you prefer used you know you can do this with little $ worry. There are numerous options in your price range but if I were to make a specific recommendation I'd say try a used Bel Canto dac2. Very ice for the used price.
Benchmark DAC1 or Lavry DA10. My friend tried both with his Sony and settled on the Lavry just because it has an off switch.
The super clock and superclock power supply are separate mods and depending on your skills can be done by you. I had a local modder RAM (reference audio mods) East install both the clock and power supply in my scd-1(did it free). The superclock will improve both redbook and sacd performance. This is the single most important mod you can do and will exceed the performance gain that the resistor and the cap upgrade made by a large margin. If you only did one mod to yout player the superclock would be it. I can understand now why you said your TT outperformed your 777es. Forget the DAC and get the clock installed. I can not believe Kern would do the resistor and cap upgrade and not the clock knowing full well the improvement the clock makes.
Audiomod know offers the reference clock which is claimed to be a large improvement over the superclock 4. It is very expensive at 795 versus 295 but as I understand is a big improvement over the sc4.
I thought about the advice overnight.
1. Investing more into vinyl is an answer, but not the one for me. I am trying to get the CDs and SACDs I have sound better.
2. Superclock 4 sounds interesting. Gets the board into an existing unit. Improved both SACD and CD. However, it does not add any resale value to the player. As I looked at the web there appears to be several mfg of similar boards - LC Audio, Dexa etc.
3. External DAC. Ack!, PS Audio, Bel Canto, Benchmark, Theta. Better second hand value than 2. Only improves CD playback.
4. Buy a dedicated CD player. Basically only use the Sony for SACD. This is an interesting answer. However, I am concerned that $ 1,500 used will get me a CD player that beats the Sony. Remember the Sony is not bad. I am just looking to improve it.
This person has an auction running for a new 45mhz SC4 for the sony player; no affiliation. Also has a used power supply for sale although this is not required for the clock.
Yup it is always a crap shoot but the clock is the only thing that gives you what you seek for the money. Because as it stands your Sony is not even close to how good it can be.
I have an SCD-1 (balanced version of 777ES) with SC4 and many other mods, which I have compared directly to my stock Theta Gen Va DAC throughout the development process. RBCD on the SCD-1 surpassed the Gen Va at an early stage in the mod process.
I think it would have been unusual for Kern to have modded an SCD-1/777ES without installing some kind of aftermarket clock. I've had three iterations of Audiocom Superclocks in the SCD-1 up to the SC4. The SC4 is a big improvement over earlier Audiocom clocks, which in their day were themselves considered by several pro modders as the best available.
There are lots of things you can do make the 777ES near SOTA, but if resale value is a big consideration you might do better elsewhere.
Musicslug gave you excellent advice but you haven't seemed to acknowledge it.
If you consider spending $1500 try a used or 'demo' MIT Oracle AC2 power cord on your Sony. The refreshed sound will probably 'blow you away'. You have a great cd player; this level of conditioning & isolation will release 'most' of its potential. And the cord will be with you a very long time.
Please advise if you do try it. PS. you can't just use a cheap isolation transformer for the isolation; they are far too noisy. Have you tried any conditioning on the Sony?
I am using the stock power cable from Sony. I recently bought a PS Audio Power Plant. It made a very nice improvement on the CD player. I have not tried to use a high end power cord. I may want to try that.
Sounds as the combo may be Super clock and a new Powercable.
A new power cord is nice, but if you want to take the unit much further, the next step after the SC4 would be to replace the stock 4-pin rectifier bridges on the Power Board with discrete Schottky diodes. If you don't have the capability yourself, then Reference Audio Mods does it. With this mod there is improvement in all areas, but particularly in bass control & dynamics.
I use a PS Audio Statement Extreme power cord on my scd-1 and feel it provides a blacker back ground; not a revelation but certainly worth doing. Not anywhere near the inprovement that the clock and other mods have made. I have used passive power conditioning in the past (not active, couldn't justify the price) and felt it put a veil over my speakers. I disconnected the unit and go straight into the wall. These are my experiences others may experience something different.
Dgarretson I respect you have significant experience with modded units however it does not sound like you've actually tried the MIT Oracle AC2.
Czbbcl I don't think it's completely appropriate to compare a $500 pc to a $3495 Oracle AC2. 7 times the price? I appreciate many power cords and conditioning units are not that beneficial; but perhaps you would be pleasantly surprised with the MIT.
PS.The increase in bass control & dynamics is revelatory with the Oracle. FWIW. Happy holidays-I have Mr Vivaldi entertaining me with some lovely violin works.
I think dcaudio is looking for practical approaches and experiences not 3500 pc.
I listened to Vivaldi last night as well; Giuliano Carmignola Late Violin Concertos (SACD), very enjoyable and excellent recording.
You have a great New Year as well.
The AC2 can be picked up for~$1575; that's within his stated range. I'm not suggesting he buy it---just 'try it'.
That Vivaldi is a charmer isn't he.
Sorry but that still seems like alot for a power cord but hey if it works then thats what matters.
Yup agree I love his music I have quite a bit of it.
the Musical fidelity X-DAC v8 retails for $1500 and performs far beyond it's price point. i replaced my Tri-vista 21 with this, the X-dac images much better.
i use a Sony 9000es as a transport, the dac sounds way better than the sony alone.
Update. Followed the advice to buy the auction of a Superclock on Audiogon:
1. Super Clock 4 never installed and Audiocom Super Clock 2/3 power supply was used with previous SC versions. Power supply is used.
2. Will use a high end power cable.
I will do these two first. After I see the results, I plan to revisit the external DAC. My sense is this is big bang for little money and can't go wrong.