What a great write up Trelja. I really enjoyed your thread!
I look forward to your updates.
I look forward to your updates.
I received this same player no charge with the purchase of a Dell LCD HDTV. I didn't realize until after I had it that it wasn't just a dvd player but was a universal. I only own one sacd, "Let it Bleed" and no dvd-a's so my basis for comparisons is rather limited. For my purposes it makes a great dvd player and looks trick, so I'm happy. I love my cd player, so all it has to do is play dvd's and look good. Maybe in the future I'll explore some of it's other modes. Thanks for the info!
Trelja, Thanks for the post. I've heard some remarkable things about this modded player. I have an Exemplar 3910, but am thinking about the Samsung or the Toshiba SD4960 for my second system. Where to get the player modded is a difficult choice, but many people have compared this modded unit with players costing more than twice as much. It's amazing how far good digital playback has come, and while I use to dismiss mods, I am now a believer! If you can get past concerns about resale, mods are absolutely the way to go.
In the past, Joe ( Trelja ) and i have shared many common sonic observations. With this one, we are experiencing very different sonics at this point. Then again, the unit that i purchased was a floor model, so who knows how many hours it spent sitting there powered up. This was the last one that the store had and doing a search amongst local Best Buy's didn't show any others available. At $69 with a 30 day return privilege though, i figured i had nothing to lose.
While we all use terms differently, "dead" to me typically sounds muted. On my unit, the top end sticks out quite noticeably. That's probably because it is horribly splashy and indistinct, making it hard to overlook. The midrange lacks any form of liquidity, texture and is forward and peaky. The warmth region lacks any form of body. Harmonic structure sounds squashed and the bass is lacking in both weight and extension. In effect, i guess it could be termed "dead" sounding as it surely doesn't lound "lifelike" in the least.
I can't see how these units have gotten such rave reviews on the net as they have, at least in stock form. Then again, almost every single product that i've tried that has been an "internet rage" has been an utter piece of hyped-up junk, so this may be no different. The only thing that leads me to believe that it has hope are the comments that i've read by Ric at EVS. Ric is a very honest individual, to the point that he'll talk you out of spending money with him if he doesn't think that it's worth it.
Having said that, i installed this in my HT system. Compared to my stock Denon 2900 with a power cord that i built feeding it, the stock Samsung sounds like a cracker-jack toy. Then again, i've not broken this unit in as i do most digital devices yet, so that may change drastically in the next week or so.
Something i hate about this unit is that it "goes to sleep" after 30 minutes if it is not playing a disc. As such, you either have to have a disc on repeat to keep it playing or it won't stay powered up. Ric commented on this, but i forgot about it until i saw it shut down. I wonder if there is some way to kill this "built in feature" ???
I'm going to use this strictly as a music source for right now and see what i think of it. If it really starts to come round, i'll probably have Ric modify it. If it stays much the same, i'll return it. Quite honestly, my experience is that if a unit is a piece of junk after break-in, even heavy modifications can't fix all the flaws. On top of this, i know that transports have their own sound ( from experience ), so even if the electronics are modified, you're still stuck with the sonic signature of the transport.
As a side note, if you doubt that transports have different sonic signatures, try comparing a Philips SA-763 against one of the inexpensive Panasonics feeding the DAC of your choice. As a player, the Philips sounds very round, warm and somewhat "sweet" in that it rounds off sharp edges. The presentation is somewhat closed in though due to a lack of air in the top end. The Panasonic is much more open and detailed with less bass weight, but better over-all tonal balance and speed. This is kind of like the "accuracy vs musicality" debate that we so often read about in the forums.
When used as a transport and bypassing all of the electronics, those sonic signatures are still quite evident. Performing a test like this wouldn't cost you more than $200 at most and you could probably return both units if you weren't happy with either. Quite honestly, this is a very inexpensive education in hearing how things that "shouldn't matter" really do.
Quite honestly, at this point in time and based on my experiences with both, a stock Panasonic mops this Samsung / Toshiba unit up without much comparison. Ric speaks highly of the modified Panasonic's too, but thinks that the Samsung / Toshiba is superior after receiving equal modifications.
My Brother has been using a Panny as a DVD player and a digital transport since before the "great digital player shoot-out results" as posted at AA. If you dig in the archives over there and here at Agon, i had posted comments and recommendations about the Panny's before people were discussing using them as a source and / or a platform to build upon when doing mods. I've talked to a few others that are using them and they are very happy with them, especially for what they paid. Sean
I received my RAM Tosh a week ago,745$ with Superclock.I now have a EVS modded Panasonic S-47 and a Stan Warren modded Aiwa X-37C to compare and will do so.I will post my results in a week for others like me who want some of the magic on a shoestring.If it wasn't for all the homework,I would love this hobby.Happy Easter/Spring/Sunshine/Sugar Magnolia...whatever that means...Bob
My RAM fully modded Toshiba SD-4960 seems to have no sonic weaknesses at all. I have never heard a stock unit, so I cannot comment on the sonics of a stock unit.
The only thing that I am not happy with is the fact that when playing DVD-Audio discs, the player always wants to default to the 5.1 channel mixes on the discs. I cannot get it to play the Advanced Resolution Stereo tracks on most all discs that I have tried.
It easily sounds better than any stock universal or stand alone CD player that I have heard, with the exception of the Linn Unidisc. They sounded virtually identical.
My unit has a very powerful, tight, and the best extended bass I have yet heard in my system, with the exception of the Unidisc. The bass on both CD and SACD is easily superior to my Sony SCD-XA777ES player.
Before break-in, the unit was lacking in bass power and extension, but no more!
The highs are very extended, smooth, and lack any kind of digital harshness, and the mids are full bodied, smooth, and palpable. It sounds smoother, less digital, and warmer than my Sony unit. I simply have to take a double-take, and shake my head in disbelief, everytime I play a CD or a SACD, and hear the exceptional sound coming out of this "mini" dvd player!
Just my 2 cents.
I for one hear none of what Sean hears on his unit. If my unit sounded that bad I would have requested a refund in a hurry! I was never crazy about the stock unit to begin with.I only owned it for a day! A person would have to be deaf,blind,cripple and crazy or just plain close minded. Not to recognize what the modified version is doing for music..and how good it really is. But then again I don't listen to garbage compressed rock music either so YMMV.
I guess the guy with the $8000 NAIM must be a knumbskull as well. After his comparison of the RAM toshiba against what was suppose to be superior player. He sings a different tune now ..ring the bell cuz school is in!
My guess is that there is quite a bit of variance on these units going from piece to piece. If you look on Ebay, there are TONS of "refurbished" units floating around. In order to have so many refurb's, there had to be a lot of "defective" units thrown onto the market initially. With that many "defect's" floating around, there's bound to be differences in how well each unit performs and what we should expect out of them.
Other than that, i'm not saying that ALL of these units sound this way. I was saying that this is what i was hearing out of this specific unit. As mentioned above, Trelja and i have shared similar sonic observations on more than a few occassions. I have no reason to doubt that his unit sounds the way that he claims that it does as i think that Joe is both an honest individual and knows how to listen. As such, my unit may be "funky" and one of those destined to be returned with the need for factory refurbishing. Sean
PS... We went through this with the Philips SACD 1000 two years ago too. Several people bought the machines at the same appr time. Some worked fine, some were sporadic and others failed quite early in their life. Quality control in these days of MASS production surely isn't what it was in the days of hand-built lower quantity production runs.
Sean, I agree with you about the Panasonic players. I have a Panasonic DVD player that cost me $79 and it's unbelievable! I've been slow to pull the trigger on the Samsung/Toshiba mod because I can't imagine that it can be a lot better. I would be very comfortable putting my Panasonic player against most players under $1000. A friend and I did an a/b of my player and a Marantz SA14 and we both thought it was very close. The Panasonic isn't in the same league with my Exemplar, but I think it's an incredible value.
Agreed with the variance theory. If one reads the posts on the digital board on Audio Asylum, for example many people had to go through several "toshibas" before finding one that sounded decent. There does appear to be some variance is sound quality from unit to unit. Maybe the old saying of avoiding shirts made on Mondays and Fridays? hehe. :-)
I want to first thank everyone in the participation of this thread!
Barring me returning it to Best Buy, which would only be a result of the unit not functioning correctly, this will obviously be a long term thread. Something I will revisit at various junctures, to share my experiences, good and bad, with the player.
Despite what Sean thinks of us having very different experiences, as I read into his words, I find a great deal of similarity in our sonic experiences. One also needs to understand that our systems, at this point, are markedly different. But, yesterday, after a night of repeat (I am running the player 24 hours a day on repeat, and listening when I can), using a retrospective SACD of Sam Cooke, I heard basically all of what Sean described. Note, I played this knowing that the disc is quite thin sounding and harsh in many areas. I ended up reducing the volume, which, if anyone knows me, is something I am not very prone at all to. To be honest, it was relentless. Even to the point where I was happy to listen from other rooms, as I cleaned the house. Again, basically everything that Sean pointed out was coming through loud and clear. The highs were way out front, the bass as described before was not acceptable, and the vocals were shouty and harsh.
I should mention that I was running the Cabasse speakers, homemade jobs, in the size of the Harbeths. Unusual for today, as they are not full sized floor standers, nor minimonitors. As such, while they do a lot right, they neither image like a mini nor have the lows of a bigger speaker. They are quite sensitive and engaging, however, though with the Atmas can be bright if I am not careful. The Frieds are much warmer and more forgiving, along with having surprisingly musical and deep Line Tunnel bass. In this situation, the Frieds would have sounded better I am sure.
Sean also has the benefit of hearing a lot of other players put into the "giant killer" category. Therefore, his opinions, along with others who have tried the Panasonics and the Aiwa, are most appropriate. Unfortunately, for this thread, I do not. I also value Ric Schultz's (at EVS) opinion, and his assertions weighed heavily into my decision to purchase this player as a mule to test how well these modded players actually performed.
As my family arrived for our Easter celebration, the player continued on repeat...
Later, in the evening, I tried again. Sam Cooke was much better sounding at this point. I am not sure if it's break - in, or the normal "system sounds better at night thing". But, for whatever reason, the additional nine hours smoothed things out considerably, making things actually listenable. Bass was stepped up from where it was, though still in need of some serious help.
As I progressed through other music - Sonny Rollins, Dar Williams, John Prine, and finally, Beth Orton, I continued to hear better and better things. Part of it was going in the direction of choosing music that did well, although my intent was to pick stuff that would show the player in the worst light. I must also mention that the Atmas warming up over the evening should not be ruled out of the equation. Surpisingly, Beth Orton's "Central Reservation", which I ended the night with, was beautiful. Expansive, open, luscious.
What I mostly had issue with in the evening was the treble, detail, and overall jump factor in the uppper midrange on up. There was a lot more there than I was getting to hear, and I knew it. Obviously, the bass didn't miraculously appear, but I've already touched on that. The Frieds would have helped, as will probably the mods when I get to it. I can say that after the morning listen, followed by reading Sean's post, I was a bit down on the sonics, but the evening session swung me back in the positive direction without question.
Ergonomically, the player doesn't respond well to using the remote for SACD. A lot of the functionality must be gotten through the video monitor, which more than defeats the point of SACD. I expected this from DVD-A (which I haven't tried), but to get it from SACD is frustrating, as it was supposed to be an AUDIO format. With my unit, I cannot skip forward or backward through a song, nor can I call up a song via its number on the keypad. In order to go to song 7, I either need to use the menu on the video screen, or keep moving to the next or last song until I find it. Not very good in my mind. And, I did have the distortion thing rear its head again. It happened as I skipped forward in a song. It has to be corrected by pausing, and restarting.
One thing I have been doing is performing break - in with both CDs and SACDs. I am sure, unlike my Sony SDC-C333ES, the player has but one laser for both, but I do wonder if each format breaks the player in differently. With that, I don't want to use a CD exclusively.
My intention is to probably mod the player in the later spring/early summer. Until then, I will give another serious sonic report card when the player is broken in. Apart from that, we can touch on whatever issues everyone brings forth in the thread.
Thank you all again!
Welcome to the club.
Here's a link to the 4960 mods thread over at www.AudioCircle.com
There finally seems to be a group interested in this little player, now that the price went below $100. Do the mods I suggest, then you can rave about it some more. Then try the Superclock3 and you can put it into some serious competition.
Bob: I checked the link at AudioCircle and just got done reading your initial assessments of the player as posted over at AA. I have to say that we seem to be in very close agreement on most everything in terms of sonic detail.
I do want to mention that i have had a highly modified DIO here and it did not impress me in the least. Quite honestly, a stock el-cheapo Pioneer universal player sounded better than the DIO did in every respect. As such, stating that this unit sounds surprisingly close to the DIO doesn't surprise me as i'm not currently impressed by either of them. Then again and as mentioned earlier, i'm thinking that i am the current owner of one of the mass produced "dogs" that Samsung / Toshiba shipped out.
Other than that, i was only able to make it through the first page of the thread that you linked to at Audiocircle, so i'll have to head back over there and dig further in. I still don't have much time on this unit and quite honestly, i don't know if this specific model that i have deserves much more of a chance. Then again, i have to wonder how much of the "poor sonic attributes" that i'm experiencing due to mass production would actually go away once i got into the internals and starting playing Dr Frankenstein with the various mods??? Would i come out with the same "beautiful creature" that you seem to be happy with or would i have a dressed up pig??? Sean
I read the entire thread at AudioCircle. Given the continued references to the modified DIO and the Samsung / Toshiba basically equalling it in performance after these mods, i will probably go another route with mine should i decide to keep it. I know that Ric at EVS basically bypasses the entire output stage, driving the output of the DAC's directly into the line out. I don't know if this is what the "Swenson mod" does without looking at the schematics or spending more time doing research on the web, so i'll have to look into that.
As of this writing, the machine does sound smoother and more natural, but the treble is still not all that great. I've not hammered this machine with the Ayre disc like i usually do with most digital players yet though, so that may help things out quite noticeably. Sean
Very interesting! I must say that I found one phrase in your write-up to be highly amusing. I am 51 and my parents are both still living. I believe it is my dad more than my mom who picked up an expression from his parents that always seemed rather odd but quite funny (that's both "weird" funny and "ha-ha" funny), to wit: "Don't get your bowels in an uproar." Thank you for reminding me!
Sean - if you read a little more carefully you will notice that the AudioCircle comparison of the 4960 to the modded DI/O used the 4960 as a transport for the DI/O. Yes, the sound of the two was very similar with the same transport.
However, using my old Cal Labs DX2 as a transport into the DI/O I definitely heard a difference in the sound. Somewhat punchier (op-amp's vs coupling caps I would guess) than the 4960 and somewhat better air than the 4960.
When I upgraded my transport to an EA modded Sony 7700 the Toshiba couldn't keep up. What's the difference? Probably better clocking in the Sony and a reduction in jitter.
I would guess that the Toshiba would come back up in the rankings if you installed a Superclock3, like RAM does in their mods.
Sorry that you don't like the DI/O (it's all a matter of taste, like anything else audio) but that's what I had on hand for comparative purposes. And it is fairly well known that people have a reference point to know where I'm coming from.
Bob, Have you tried a different clock in the player? Some say this makes a huge difference and puts this player in the big leagues. I would appreciate any thoughts you have.
It's easy to get caught up in the hype, but it's impossible to know how good the player is without extensive listening in your system. I'm not sure it makes sense for me to sink $700 or $800 in to a flimsy $80 machine. Again, it's amazing how good stock players under $100 sound now, and digital gets better every day.
I was never a mod fan until John Tucker's Exemplar made me a believer! Buying an Exemplar was an easier decision because everyone who listened to it listened to the same player with the same mods done buy the same guy. We don't have the same frame of reference when talking about the Samsung/Toshiba machine because of the different mods and modders. I cant't dismiss the great reviews this player has received, but I'm not sure we are all on the same page if there are big differences in the quality of the machines and mods.
Ptm: I kind of zoomed through the entire thread in one sitting, so some things might have initially slipped past me. Thanks for taking the time that you did to both compile the part listings and values, post the photos that you did, etc... It was very kind and helpful of you to do so.
As to the Swenson mod, can you point me to where i can read more about this? I wasn't real clear on what was going on other than the addition of some caps. It seems as if this was discussed in another forum or another thread and it was taken for granted that others were already familiar with what was said there. Not having seen that specific thread or too much else about these players, i got kind of lost there. Sean
Sean - Here's a link to (what I believe is) the original Swenson mod thread at Audio Asylum. There's lots of info there about this output stage mod, as well as other power supply mods that were made to the Toshiba 3950/3960 machines. The 4960 is a different beast and, based on some reports by others, better than either of the other two after mods.
84 Audio - I agree that $700-800 worth of mods made to a $100 player seems a bit much. That's why I posted my findings, which should run less than $100 and a bit of your own time and soldering skills. Adding the Superclock3 boosts that outlay another $399 (I believe that's the price of these things). A high price to pay, in my opinion, but I have no doubts whatsoever that it will tremendously boost the performance of this player (or most any other player without a true clock circuit).
However, I feel there are other options once you go north of $500 that may in fact be a better investment in the long run, and worth additional outlay. The 4960 is inexpensively manufacturered, and the quality of the transport (and its longevity) have me questioning anyone going beyond what I've laid out in the mods thread. Of course, you may feel otherwise, and that's why we all fight for freedom of choice in the good ol' USA.
Good luck with whateve you may decide.
I returned the first HD841 to Best Buy after about two weeks and picked up another one that they had there. This one sounded much better as soon as i fired it up. Evidently, there is either a pretty wide parts tolerance from unit to unit or a complete lack of quality control. As others have mentioned, this has been a known problem with the Toshiba's, which are basically the same units with a few less features. Sean
Bob aka Ptm: Thanks for the link. This is just what i was looking for. This combined with some other basic mods should really wake this player up. As mentioned in my post directly above this one, the second 841 that i picked up sounds MUCH better than the first one. I've now got a solid platform to build upon. Now all i have to do is make the time to do it : ) Sean
Well, after several weeks of burning my player in with both SACDs and CDs, I spent a significant amount of time listening to my Samsung over the weekend.
First, allow me to say that my Granite 657 CD player is quite significantly better than the Samsung. Sounds are more natural and easy to listen to, there is a bit more detail, but most signficantly, there is a weight and richness, coupled with low frequency impact that the Samsung just does not have.
On the plus side, so far, the Samsung has played every silver disc I have tried in it (no DVD - A as of yet). Watching the Star Wars IV DVD last weekend, my family commented that they have never heard better sonics from a home theater, and this was simply through my 2 channel rig.
But, while it's nice to have a player that my wife is more than happy with, I more or less want a good sounding player for music. On music, there are several things to like about the Samsung. Mostly, it offers good sonics through the midrange and treble, even if the highs are perhaps not as extended as could be. For the most part, I do not find the player harsh or difficult to listen to, but on some discs... I will note that it has taken an appreciably long time for the Samsung to settle down, and that burn in with SACDs seems to not be the same as burn in with CDs
I very much believe in Sean's assertion that modding a player will not change the fundamental character of the machine. In that vein, I think the Samsung HD841 shows tremendous potential. It basically plays the notes right. Again, I am most encouraged by the midrange. Since I am quite pleased in that regard, this player seems to be an IDEAL candidate to send out for modification.
What I hope for is that with spending money and effort on the areas that a mass fi manufacturer will have to skimp on (especially, in the power supply and output), the low frequency impact can be added into the mix. I would also hope to add some richness to the sound. If these things can be done, I would surely conside the total $700 outlay to produce one giant killer of a machine.
No, it may not ever play a CD as well as my Granite, but if they can up the ante in the bass, I think I have found myself a player that I can go into the next five or ten years with, at least in a second system.
So, if it sounds as if I will be keeping the Samsung, I think I will. Now, the next question is, who is the best outfit to modify this player for me later this spring???
Doug: Believe it or not, this is one piece i've never popped the hood on as of yet. This is the busiest time of year for me i.e. right around tax time. As such, i've not attempted to start any more projects due to a lack of time. I've already got a few dozen that have been waiting patiently as it is : ) Sean
Here's a couple of pics from the inside of my RAM 3960 SC3. Doug does great work and these mods really do work..I agree with Lanny. Bass and richness isn't a problem for me. I have both my powered subs connected directly to my player. The only thing in between is a buffer and a passive volume control. I have no problems with dynamics at all! I have both subs volume set around 10 O'clock. There's no way to know how the modded unit sounds unless you've heard it.Listening to the stock unit WILL NOT give you an idea of what it sounds like. The site should be up within an hour or so. I will add more pics as the site and time allow. This site only allows a certain amount of data transfers in a hour.
Hi all,I have done all the mods talk about on Audiocircle on my Samsung HD841 plus Audiocom Superclock(used from RAM) and a 320 IEC what a great player now.I would put it in a shootout with any player over $1000-$2500 and win.I now can in joy CD's but vinyl is still better, total cost for player $50.00 new from ebay and in mods total $225 so far.And will be doing one more thing a psu for the clock.
I'm very happy with my RAM tosh3950 with the superclock 3. Friends who have hear the RAM in my system kept saying how relaxed and easy the music flowed, no harshness on vocals and you could really turn the volume up. Width, depth and height of imaging all improved....great fun. This is so much of an improvement over my old "rebuilt" kenwood player. I should mention my unit has "two" buffers built in it....happy listening.