Philips 963SA normal characteristics?

I just got a Philips 963SA. stock player

1. I think it sounds rather flat, like most Japanese equipments (think Philips is Japanese?). Even with the 192K upsampling it's flat, uninvolving, and not that much better than without upsampling. I'm a bit disappointed, especially with all the praises I've heard for this thing and the SACD 1000. Does this sound about right to others, comments, opinions please.

2. Is it normal for the disc loading to be so noisy. It makes some weird robotic cartoon-like noises be4 opening up and while loading
1) Compared to many higher end CD players, I agree, I understand modifying them really helps, but I have moved mine to another system and bought a better player.

2) Sometimes.....

FWIW I paid less than $400 NEW, for that, it does quite well.
Mine took quite a bit of time to break in. Maybe 100 hours.
Sounded a whole lot better after upgrading one capacitor for about $30 not including labor.

Mine has started to make a fluttering noise on some discs. Particularly discs that may be warped. Happened to a friend's too. Hope it doesn't get any worse.
Give it time to break in and do the $30 blackgate mod.

Good luck,
I have well over 1800 hours on mine, and paid less than $350 for it with a 5 year warranty. My Sony DVP-S7700 stopped playing dvd's so I took it to work to use with my hd600's. I got a new amp and speakers at the same time (bad idea since I lost my reference point) and played away. Sound was detailed, yet I did not really seem to have any bass and I thought it was my new speakers. Just for laughs, I connected the sony again. Night and day, bass returned and music was much fuller. Now the phillips is used only for dvd and sacd. Cabling used was all cardas hexlink and quadlink. Picture on the phillips is outstanding.
I'd give it at least 200 hours before deciding. Mine sounded flat for the 1st 100. Then it opened up a bit but the bass got boomy. Around 200 hours the bass settled down.

The best thing this player has going for it stock is: detail, imaging, midrange clarity, powerful (though not tight) bass.

Weaknesses: high-end is AWOL, sound is dead-center neutral (ok if you like neutral, though I prefer warm). Also seems to be an annoying frequency peak in the lower treble (though this could be aggravated by my system, cabling).

Had mine modded by EVS. Made soundstage deep, wide, and tall. Sound is much smoother, quieter. Treble is very smooth, detailed. Cymbals sound more real than any digital source I've heard. Bass is cleaner.

But, it still retains some characteristics of stock player: still neutral, bass still isn't tight. But man is classical music nice on it; I can hear every musical line clearly.

Still, not sure if I'm 'there' yet.
Philips is Dutch, the 963 I have is made in Hungary. The sound is generally as you describe -- it gets better with time, as all others have noted.
OTOH, this player has a good DVD image and some very good components inside. It's a prime candidate for a good mod to the dac & the PS. Overall, for $~500-600 mod + ~400 for purchase, it's a very good deal.
thanks a lot for the responses, confirms my personal observation and enlightments me on a few other things.

1. Can someone help me out with the details on the $30 mod, the where and how. I think this is a mod I can do myself?

2. I bought this player used, so I think what I'm hearing right now is how thing are supposed to be. Radknee and gregm, I'm tempted to say that "neutral" is a euphemism for this thing. As an analogy, this is like a color TV that's been turned down halfway to black and white; just really low in saturation of tonal colors. Although you're right, it does have detail, midrange, openness...I'm not sure how well I can adjust to listening to near black and white music. My brother has fairly high end equipments (American: Audio Research, Adcom) and those sounds characteristically shallow and low in tonal saturation too. I'd sort of promise myself to stay away from that "neutral" kind of sound.

You know it goes back to the basic philosophy of high-fidelity: the attempt to reproduce real life instrument. Well, there's a guy who lives in my neighborhood who occasionally plays his saxophone in a nearby garden, and when I walked past him, I had to tell myself, man, this (real life) is really nice and warm, full bodied... that this is the reason why I like music.

3 So, for the sub $400 range, what would be a nice, warm player? I heard a used Rega Planet is a good buy at this range. With it being British made, I think it should be warm, yes?
The mod's about replacing the PS caps with blackgates. IMO, before you do anything, check out on the 963 and/or contact Guido Tent -- an engineer who works for Philips & also devises mods (site). Cheers
The capacitor upgrade is a single capacitor that is easy to change if you can solder and unsolder.

Get a Blackgate VK 150uf/350V. I got mine from Replace the only large cap on the power supply board. It's easy to find. Make sure you keep the polarity the same. It's not hard at all. You will need a torx screwdriver to get into the unit. Those are the 5 pointed ones.

I heard immediate improvement, though the cap took at least 100 hours to break in. Had much tighter, richer bass and a much more natural overall presentation. Like it didn't have to work so hard.
Gregm and Mmrog, thanks a lot. So I'll give that mod a shot be4 blowing this thing off completely.

My other problem with this thing, is with the upsampling sounding a bit watery, unconvincing of real instruments. timbre different from unsampled, and is not even as convincing. Upsampling certainly has ovbious benefits of sounding more open, relaxed, and less digital, hard.

I had read somewhere concerning this that upsampling involves Digital Signal Processing, i.e. some kind of extrapolation process, which results in the lesser accuracy that's probably what I'm hearing. The same article said that hence, their company only doubles up to 88.2 kKz, as opposed to using DSP to extrapolate to 96 KHz or here, to 192 kHz.
Give it some time to break in. Usually 200-300 hours. I had mine for under 4 hundreds and I think it does a good job for it's price! It is a bit flat and uninvolving but that's Philips' characteristic. No, it was not a Japanese company but I think now part of it is own by Japanese?

For upgrading the inside stuffs? It's up to you. I decide to leave mine along and I moved it to my bedroom system.