I don't know if SACD is of importance to you or not, but my recommendation is to have the unit modded. You probably won't get $1400 for the 777ES, probably more like $1200. I had mine modded by Warren Gregoire with the Level 5 VSE mod for $1500. Redbook CD was tremendously improved with greatly decreased digititus; SACD improvement was noted but was not as dramatic. If you go the DAC route, you will also have to play around with digital cables (something else I now wish to avoid having already been there). This is just my opinion, however.
The external DAC route will yield the best results on CD's. If you go this route, I recommend that you get the digital output and clock modified in the transport. Here is some more info on why:
A great DAC, even stock is the Benchmark DAC-1. It has improved a lot in the last year. With mods, it will go way beyond "nice". It becomes hard to beat, and will probably beat out the SACD, even with mods.
I second Billspecfoc's recommendation. The VSE Level 5 mod takes the 777ES to an entirely difference arena of performance. I respectfully disagree with Billspecfoc in one respect---the SACD playback is transformed to level where it is as enjoyable as my vinyl system. RBCD is transformed significantly and, where I would probably agree with Billspecfoc, the gains in RBCD are greater than in SACD, but overall SACD playback is still superior to RBCD---by a small but significant margin. This, of course, is my opinion---however, I don't think there is any debate about the fact that the VSE mod transforms the 777ES.
It depends on whether you wish to persue the dying SACD-route further or not. For an improvement in red-book only, I would try a Benchmark DAC-1 for 1000 $ or Grace M902 for 1700$. Already the Benchmark should give you a huge improvement in red book CD-listening.
I just got mine back from Audiomod. I was asking the same question recently, and came to the conclusion investing in the mods would be far more cost effective than selling and buying something new. If I sold it for $1200 and put an addition $850 (which was the cost of the superclock and the blackgate caps) into the mix, that would give me $2050 for something new. There isn't anything really special in that range. Nothing, anyway that I think is a big jump over the Sony.
The stock SCD 777es is a pretty good unit, and a good foundation on which a person can build. I have had the modded unit running for about 36 hours now. Tonally it has a long way to go, but Richard Kern said it would take about 400 hours to fully break-in.
The first thing I noticed when I got it up and running is that it did not sound as 'digital' as it had. As a word of warning, I greatly prefer vinyl to digital.
There are several people who have asked the same question here, and who ended up using Audiomod. Check out the thread done by Jadem6. He has an SCD 1, which is similar to the original 777, not the bastardized second generation 777!
If you have specific questions about my experience, send me a letter, and I will try to answer them...
Having had the Sony SCD-777ES SACD/CD player along with a buddy who had his modified, the modified one sounded better then the stock unit. BUT, when he sold the unit, he lost too much money versus what the mods cost him. I went and purchased a used DAC. The DAC I purchased was as good as or better then the modifed unit on Redbook playback. When I sold my Sony, I got close to what I paid for the unit. I still have my DAC and can get what I paid for it used.
So my recommendation is to get a used DAC. Depending if you want SS or tube sound in your system, there are some very nice sounding DACs that easily better the stock Sony on Redbook playback. I had posted a thread on this many years ago but here are some DAC recommendations:
SS DAC Units:
1. Electrocompaniet was the best bang for the buck DAC that I heard at the time.
2. Chord 64 was the best of al the DACs I tried in stock form.
Tube DAC Units:
1. Audio Logic DACs were the best tube DACs I tried. You can find them for around $1500 or less depending on the model.
Email me if you'd like more information.
I think you would do well to spend the 2.5K (or less) on a nice DAC. The
question I think you have to ask yourself is, "am I comfortable with
modding my gear?" If you ARE comfortable with modding you would
probably get the most value out of modding. But, For 2K or less you can buy
a DAC that I think would significantly improve your redbook playback. You
already have a great transport in the 777.
Two recommendations for DAC's: there is a Dodson 217MK II-D on sale right
now. Also, the new April Music Stello DAC has gotten impressive reviews for
I know the Sony is very well built, but it is a few years older now and I
(personally) would be concerned about shipping it around and having things
done to it. (I am now expressing my personal aversion to modding, which is
not completely rational, I know).
I AGREE WITH Nrchy . I HAVE A SCD-777ES THAT RICH OF Audiomod PERFORMED HIS TOTAL EVERYTHING MOD. I COULDN'T BE MORE SATISFIED. BOTH SACD AND RED BOOK ARE RAISED TO SOTA LEVEL. SKIP
I have modified my SCD-1 twice and now have all the available mod's from Audiomod (Richard Kern) I generally feel this is far and away the best money spent in that so much of the SCD-1/777ES is beyond anything a similar dollar would buy. In your case however you are straddling the line. First off, your motors and lasers are around five years old and will die in the coming year or so. I had both motors and both laser pick-ups replaced at the same time as my last mod. This was around $500.
Given that cost, and shipping round trip to Portland you are left with only a few mod options in your budget. I would get Superclock 3 and Superclock 3 power supply, about $300 each. I then suggest the op-amps being replaced followed by the power regulators. This is possibly beyond your budget, but that would be the order I would consider.
Now if you feel you could better the level this would produce, then go for it. I guess I still consider the mod route the best though.
Richard Wright of Modright will I think take this to a full tube output status.Trying to think of very hot selling D/A and PS that they allowed him to keep factory wararnty [PS3 and PSA were models].If I think of name I'll email you.Ouboard keeps flexiblity but if you mnotice even the big boyz are going one piece-less dreaded jitter generally inherent in these designs and no cabling issues.Toss up.Ayre,Gamut,Music Fidelity,etc have excellent CD players (and some like Muiscal Fidelity offer both players and converters).Another factor is the kind of discs OTHER than red book you might want to play.No to all but some SACD's are breathtaling.Esoteric (Teac high end) runs universla discs if that's an issue.Denon or $1K befor mods rubs all the idscs though buddy picked $1K Sony as he thinks SACD is entrenched and DVD-A may wither on vine especially id DVD-HD or Blyue Ray get there act together but thinks SACD will still survive.Think that once you eveluate the cost (many times not cheap) of upgrades you may think it's a bust head to head with what some some companies are offering in your price range.But sopme folks become almost Mooney like devotee's to blcakgates and fast diodes and Vishay resistors anmd figures nobody will rpoduce the HG you get from the mod squad crowd if you but a ready made.May time the modsters have levels so why not take what you have (though they are pickly about which are "worth thier time and your money" and go with first level.If it lights a fire send back for full make over (hopefully the premium for breaking up the process won't be so great).I am cheap so thinking I will go with the $1K D./A bought used and whenm my pocet are more chinga lingy I'll get the mods.But that's me.
The more you mod the better it gets. You'll get more bang for your buck. You won't find an SACD/CD player that betters SACD and redbook unless you spend much more.
The DAC options might give you the best of both worlds, but you'll need a digital cable, a shelf on your rack and maybe a power chord, so it depends if you want to hastle with all of that. When it's all said and done, you'll probably get the most bang for your buck with mods. My XA777ES modded sounds good enough to where I don't crave tubes. Prior to that I didn't think I'd ever keep a SS CD player. Or another option is getting a good redbook player for $1,500 -2,000 used.
Good luck and keep us posted what choice you make.
Thank you very much for your valuable time spent of this subject in providing many detailed suggestions. If I replace the motors and laser pick-ups for $500.00 and Superclock 3 and Superclock 3 power supply as suggested by jadem6, would this mean that I am going to have more or less a new player in terms of longevity with significant improvement on redbook playback???. And yes i would still very much like to pursue the dying SACD and deal with it when it's dead. Can anyone please comment on what Bigkidz was saying about going with the DAC route, sonically,just as good or better than mods assuming with the same amount of money spent on both options.
Hi Anthuan, Yes in effect. The two motors and two lasers are prone to dying at this age. I spent quite a bit of time discussing this with Richard Kern, and that is becoming a larger part of his business with these units. He is actually now running ads for replacing motors. I suggested I try only replacing the motors, but he said at five years the lasers are just as prone to problems. these are the only parts that wear at this rate. Theoretical the capacitors at ten years will begin to lose there capacity, where the Blackgate should last 50 years. In my mind, extending my player five more years was logical. I have not seen great breakthroughs in cd playback since the introduction of your player. I suggest the manufacturers are still waiting out the format war. Given the last two year's amount of high end SACD machines being introduced, and the lack of very high end DVD-A machines, I think they have decided. The next five years (IMO) we'll see some major improvements in digital playback. When your ready to sell your Sony, you should have a nice selection of players to choose from.
Superclock from all I've read is the most improvement for the money. I have no way to verify this in that my original (five years ago) mod's included Blackgate capacitors and Vishey resistors on both the audio and power boards. I also has the op-amps and power regulators replaced. This last month I had the additional mods made, so my reference is clouded within all the other mods.
I have read quite a bit from people who have done one mod at a time on their SCD-1/777ES. My conclusions are what I suggested. I would certainly verify my findings with Richard, www.audiomod.com
There have been a lot of people who responded to this thread who clearly have no knowledge of these players. I suggest the stock unit still betters 80% of the players available today, and I'm discussing redbook playback here. The superclock and op-amps will bring you within the top 10%. The remaining modifications (about $3500 total) will each improve the performance, but I do not here you asking for the EMM Meitner performance level. With these mod's you can sit back, enjoy the music knowing you are bettering most players (many much more expensive) and continue building your SACD library.
Despite the often written obituary for SACD, it is stronger than ever, and they are finally getting around to re-mastering to DSD some of the music we have been asking for.
Good luck and feel free to email me if you need specifics.