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I can't speak for them all, but Dan Wright that modifies DVD players for use as a transport does nice work and is a great guy. He is an AudiogoN member as well (Dwright) so you can view his feedback. I am sure Dan would be glad to talk to you about what he does. A lot of information is also at his website http://www.modwright.com/ and more specifically http://www.modwright.com/products/transport.php
Given what I've seen on AA relating to the superclock mods for the Sony SACD players and the sonic differences I've heard between well-made and flimsy transports, I'd say mods are the real deal. Remember that essentially everything you can buy retail is a compromise to meet a price point; a modifier who knows what he/she is doing can give a lot of bang for the buck in the way of improvements. The trade off is voiding the warranty on your unit, which may or may not be an issue depending on its age.
I don't know about transports specifically, but as far as mods to a cd player go, I'm sold on them.
In my own system I've heard both the modwright (not sure of price - it's the one Dan brought to CES) tube output Xa777 and the ($360 superclock + ~800 resistor) kern SCD-1 sacd players.
In a side by side comparision both of them completely blew away a stock scd-1. One of the best stock cd players out there. It wasn't even close. I didn't hear the kern and modwright players side by side.
I've met both Dan Wright and Richard Kern and they are both great people to deal with too. Either one of them will tell you their honest opinion on what gives you the best performance/$. I can't recommend one above the other.
I just know I'll never drive stock again!
Look at it this way: every $1 that a manufacturer puts into a product drives the suggested retail price up by $4 - $8. Since most products are built to a price point that most consumers can afford, they can all be improved by substitution of higher grade parts and / or circuit design changes. Doing such things on a mass production basis would be both cost prohibitive and alienate potential customers. This is not to mention that many products are built with features and reliability in mind with overall performance considered further down the line. After all, most consumers are attracted to something that looks fancy and has a lot of "bells & whistles", works "okay" and costs as little as possible. That is why both "rack" and "mini" systems are so popular. They give you a lot of "junk" for your money but perform quite poorly overall. Sean
Other than cost versus price points; another reason manufacturers do not perform many of these mods themselves, is the simple fact that many of those high grade parts are not available in large enough quantities to make enough units, or the supply is unreliable. I can remember a conversation with Stan Warren, where he commented he was backed up because he was having trouble getting some Black Gate caps. If Stan can't get a couple dozen quickly, imagine Sony's problem.
Also in many cases it may take too long to manufacture the unit in that way, so labor cost would be too high.
If you want a YBA made in France, you have to pay up; or settle for the cheaper Audio Refinement made in China. Same for the Creek designed gear for Cambridge Audio.
I can understand why manufacturers don't use the higher quality parts -- the public, including many who purchase higher priced transports, are satisfied with the sound. My take is that the after-market modding in transports is no different than automobiles or even homes. You can buy a new BMW and still change the chips, wheels, tires, exhaust systems, and even crankshafts. The same applies to homes. You can purchase a newly constructed house and then put in custome kitchens, bathrooms and the like. The key is whether your investment in the aftermarket costs show up in the performance department
Sugarbrie, actually Sony would probably have a far easier time getting the Black Gate caps than Stan. I am an electronics engineer and have always worked for small companies. One of the most frustrating things working for a small company is you have no clout with the parts manufacturers. A lot of the time if you aren't going to buy many thousands of something (sometime millions) they don't even want to talk to you. A lot of the stuff is made to order. They aren't going to fire up a production line to make a few hundred of something. The small company pretty much has to rely on distributors which only stock the most common parts. I think it's fair to say that most, if not all, specialty audio companies are pretty small, so their engineers have the same problems I do.
For large consumer companies like Sony, I'm sure the parts are chosen with cost as a primary consideration, so finding better parts for more money is pretty easy. For higher-end companies I'd bet it is a lot more difficult to find better parts than are used in the production units simply because cost is not as much of a factor. You don't see many people offering Levinson or Rowland mods do you?
I agree you also Nighthawk. It happens both ways. Sometimes there is no supply because the big boys buy up the supply. But also many new models of gear come out, not predicated on improving the product, but only because of a forced part change, or they figured out a way to make it cheaper to boost profits.
I'll also add Bill Thalmann at Music Technology for internal power supply upgrades and also IEC's. (www.musictechnology.com) Bill was for many years an engineer for Conrad Johnson. Good guy who does good work. Some of his associates modify and refurbish pro audio gear and guitar amps, etc.