Review: Sony CDP-707esd CD Player

Category: Digital

#1 Musical tastes: Oldies, and Jazz.
#2 Best aspects of sound: Bass control, and spaciousness.
#3 What turns me off: Poor bass control.
#4 How long in system: 1 month.
#5 What it replaced: Nothing.
#6 How the sound changed: Deeper, and bigger bass.
#7 Strengths: Bass (deep).
#8 Weaknesses: Still needs a DAC.
#9 If money was no object: I would buy a Sony xa7es.

I still need a DAC, but still, this is comparable to all of the other Sony ES flagship models. You can go to audio review, and read the reviews on the Sony X77ES, and the Sony X779ES. They are easily compared to the newer models, and found with equal quality. You have to read the reviews, to see that what I am saying is backed up by others. The bass is huge, and the dynamics are good, with very rich, accurate sound. I am going to get a good theta DAC, but I will not know how it changes, till I get it, but I will write a review afterwards.
Thx, Greg

Associated gear
Aragon amp, Bryston pre, and Klipsch speakers.

Similar products
Sony xa7es
After 8 years still a great CD-player. Laser is replaced once by Sony Services during regular preventive maintenace (once in 3 years). I've replaced the NE5532's by Burr-Browns OPA2134: IC402/403 and IC502/503. Also the OPA27's by the expensive OPA627's of Burr-Brown: IC406/506.
This CD player had been with me since 1991. I bought it used for $550 from a private seller. I loveed it since I owned it. I like the detailed and comfortable sound from this player, especially the deep bass.I completely agree with Greggie. I also own a theta $2000 DAC (I do not want to mention the model).I bought the theta in order to replace the stock DAC in the Sony. After AB compared with each other.I feel that the CDP-707esd had better sound. If you own one CDP-707ESD please keep it forever, you will not
find one at this price.
The CDP 707ESD was the hall mark of the Sony ES product line. It was an all out effort by Sony to produce a statement piece using their top transport which they do not sell to other companies, but keep exclusively for their 7 series. This component had the most expensive parts including matching Burr Brown 18 bit converters. Many enjoy the precision variable output and feed it directly into a power amplifier without the need of a preamp. When it went on sale at select ES dealers, it cost $1800, a small fortune at that time for any cd player. Like the song, this cd player is "solid as a rock!" and causes owners to view other high end cd players with disdain. Unless you pour Coke into it, it will endure and produce excellent sound for a very long time.
Hi. Living in NYC, one sees plenty of "obsolete" gear sitting out by the curb on a trash day. When I saw the CDP-707, i shamelessly scooped it up, and, blowing off a meeting with a friend (greed conquered guilt), i dragged it home, ripped it apart (this is one is truly designed to be easily serviced - construction & layout equal to the better half of 80's studio gear, and the weight comparable to tube gear).
This is the second one I've owned, so I was willing to carry the thing ~7 blocks.
After fixing a trivial problem (eject servo switch), i tossed in a my standard first test CD - a moderately mishandled (dirt & scratches) Heart CD (some great low synth passages, "overproduced" mixing, gives a fair idea of the player's overall "character", and, hey, most of my listening is similar in dynamic range / mastering quality / cd condition).
Just to check the functionality, i plugged in a set of so-so Behringer cans, and was horrified - I guess the headphone amp's not really meant to be used... The sound was of a typical low-end AB SS amp, grainy & nasty.
As I said, this is my second one, so it wasn't much of a surprise.
After dragging the thing downstairs, and hooking it up to my "80's" system (using built-in DACs, Sansui AU-9900 going into a pair of Altec 508's, with upgraded crossovers & cat-proof grills), tried the same cd. Bypassing the preamp still showed some digital artifacts, and sounded a bit "thin" & a bit compressed (this last part is subjective - i often resort to using the tone section on the Sansui - the listening room is far from a dedicated one - it's a living room, with an odd mixture of wooden floors, rugs, and a less-than-ideal speaker placement). The harshness of the phone amp vanished, though - and the one obvious tracking error could have simply be the result of poor alignment. After a few similar CD's (many home-burnt), the the (once again) subjective feel was that the sound was a bit too clinical & slavish for 80's rock, and, with the 508's as speakers, i didn't bother with anything more complex.
After dragging the thing back upstairs, i gave my "non-family-friendly setup a try - plugging straight into a triode A1PP 25W/ch toob amp (a homebrew, think along the lines of a triode-strapped ST70 with a mamouth power supply, oil-capped, metal oxide PS resistors & carbon composite sound path, Vit.Q caps, 6SN's driving triode-strapped KT88's (real), minimal NFB, ~0.1THD @ 1w, driving a pair of Tannoy red-back 12's in Karlson boxes (sorry - those things seem to work for me, and I simply don't have the space for more appropriate Tannoy enclosures.
This was a bit more interesting - still not a "rocker" setup, but everything from chamber muzac (harpsichord, cello & violin) to solo piano (from Chopen on a Chickering baby grand to Professor Longhair on an out-of tune upright) sounded really listenable & actually made me listen to the music instead of listening to "gear".
Early blues (slavish scratch-for-scratch transcriptions from 78', no post-processing), which sound pretty trying on some players (and the 80's setup described above), were perfectly listenable without any filters, which I usually use(There's really nothing worthwhile above 7Khz on those old 78's AFAIK. Band-passing HPF-ed 7+k sounds like pure noise to me - if you know how to get the highs back from 78's - I'm all ears (real plea for advice - I'm into old vinyl, and transcribe them to cd's - HD since flipping record is not an option when I'm working. I'm far from a purist, and resort to digital processing (soundforge, pro tools, Sonar, Cool Edit etc, along with a rack full of "vanity studio" hardware...)
Jazzers should like the thing I don't like / understand contemporary jazz, but keep a few test CD's just to check out vocals & impress friends with SE flea-powered amps. The detail is really neat, the female vocals sound awesome.
If you are annoyed by the subjectivity of this review, i could provide some spectrum / distortion data from test cd's, but there are probably plenty of info like that on the net already.
Last but not least, the unit is a truly "sexy" chunk of gear - machined aluminum plate case & sound-damping materials covering all parts which could be considered as having microphonic potential (even electrolytic caps in sound path) The transport slick & heavy, the transport buttons feel great, variable - outputs are a blessing for anyone going straight into a power amp, and the look is truly late-80's semi-pro. Could do without the programming features & the array of buttons associated with them, but the unit doesn't clash with other period gear (the faux - wood panels on the sides come off easily, and rack ears could be easily attached (make sure to support the back of the unit - *HEAVY*.
The optical /rca digital out is a neat thing to have if you're planning on external gear, though I haven't checked into that yet - it would be great to get some tech info on the thing, such as alignment procedures & obtaining error counts - i'd appreciate it if those of you who are digital oracles dropped me a line or a link on the net for schematics / maintenance procedures.
Hope some of this helped, and thanks in advance to anyone who's willing to drop me a line with some tech info (stuff [&^at888] [remove] hotmail [890908098] D0t c0m.
The Sony CDP-707ESD is simply the finest commercial CD player I've owned. The playback is gentle, smooth, clear, and sweeping in its ability to extrapolate details from a simple 16 bit 44 khz CD. This is not a player for those who want to take out their ociloscopes and measure the player's ability to infuse digital processing elements into a music format that has long been forgotten for supposedly superior audio formats. The problem is that those bafoons at record labels are unable to discern cnsumer loyalty from their own self-indulgent willingness to keep insulting the consumer with more ill consceived formats--like the new Dual Format DVDs with CD audio on one side and somewhat improved "high resolution" audio on the other. At least every standard CD and CD-R I place in the 707ESD plays to magical audiophile proportions. The music that comes out of the 707ESD is truly upconverted into the fine art that music lovers perceive "the music" to be. This is a player meant to be treated gently, and enjoyed for a long time. It is a phenomenal tank weighing 40 pounds that incorporates refined audio filters, Burr Brown 18 bit DACs, super fine power supplies with heavy shielding and dampening, and a superb craftmanship that is simply uncanny. I found mine on eBay for $425 in mint condition--with its like new box, manual, and remote. I can say that the Denon DCD 1650AR , which I also own, does not compare with the 707ESD. A comparison of both yielded a Denon DCD 1650AR that was harsh sounding, and hurried somehow. The DCD 1650AR worries too much about upconverting data bits in a seemingly wrong direction. The Sony CDP-707ESD simply plays the music and transforms it into a comfortable and warm sweet spot that takes one into a new realm unexplored. Classical pieces, like Pictures at an Exhibition from the SACD hybrid disc, came out resoundingly triumphant, with deep lines of low frequency orchestral maneuvres while delivering a resiliant sense of being there! With rock music, the 707ESD reproduced a finer detail than I have ever heard on a plain CD. The Who's Who's Next and Elton John's Captain Fantastic both sounded practically as high in detail and sweet quality as the SACD versions did on my Denon DVD 2900 Universal player. Let me just add that the Denon DVD 2900 player is not the unit I use for standard CD listening. If you manage to isolate one of these "vintage" CD players, be advised that you will miss out on a true upward step by not purchasing a 707ESD--even if heavily used. I can say the same for the quality on a Sony CDP-X339ES albeit an inferior machine by construction and component standards. The CDP-X339ES appears to be the one-step down machine below the X707ES. The X339ES also brought out a powerful and sweet sound that is just too good to be true. I hope folks don't feel that I'm biased for Sony CD players. Far from it. In fact, I don't like the fact that Sony no longer makes the parts for most of these high-end CD players. But I must admit that the sound coming out of these better built players was truly aimed at those of us who listen to the music--but not for those who only study the components we play music on. In my opinion, standard CDs are here to stay. And a good player is needed to savor the sweetness that can be gleaned from what is now becoming a neglected format.
Prior to this player, I used a CJ Sonagraph and a Kyocera (I think it was the 710, not the $2k 910 which was well reviewed in those days). I purchased mine ~ 1988 from a dealer in Verona, WI and only sold it just last year (only because I had no place to keep it and I was scaling down my digital front end). The 707ESD was just on another level altogether and I never looked back, much as I loved the little Sonagraph with its slow, squeaky drawer. With 45lbs. of extensive internal copper shielding, internal bracing, mechanical isolation and damping with an acoustically isolated tray, this player exuded everything good about a high end product built to last. I used it as a player until the late 90's when I began using outboard DAC's (and the player as a transport). I have never seen a more nimble drive mechanism: the tray closed in about a second and tracking was nearly instantaneous. This was Esoteric before there was Esoteric. As a transport, there really was no better. Consistently musical and never fatiguing, this was a product built for the ages. If any criticism could be levied, it would be for the styling (which one would either like or dislike but is decidedly "80's") or that it was perhaps a bit mellow in character (rather quite opposite of the fare of the day). It is a shame that the drive/laser mechanism was allowed to fall into obsolescence (it cannot be replaced...once it fails; the player's usable life ends). One of the nicest features the player had was the ability to program your favorite tracks for any given disc (up to about 200 or so if I remember correctly) such that anytime you put that disc back in the player, it would queue up the previously programmed favorite tracks. I have never seen this duplicated. It utilized 45bit noise shaping, dual 18-bit DAC's and 8x oversampling and had both fixed and variable outputs so it could drive an amp straight (and the volume was a motorized unit which was remote controllable). IT made use of extensive dual power supplies (analog, digital) and isolated the digital circuitry from the analog with all that copper.

Again, this was a fixture in my system for almost 20 years. It survived severe thunderstorms in the Midwest, multiple moves across the country and even player CD-R's without a hitch and it even worked well with the Mod Squad CD-Damper and Finyl treated discs (and I could readily tell the difference between treated and untreated discs using this player). The ONLY thing to ever fail on my player: a rubber disc that had been glued to the bottom of one foot fell off last year when I was moving the player around a lot getting ready to sell it. All buttons, knobs and dials on both the unit and the remote never lost their silk screening (which couldn't be said for many components), their feel nor did they ever get stuck, jammed or loose. I think the only potential disadvantages to owning one are: 1) the inevitability/likelihood of mechanical failure sometime in this decade and 2) the difficulty in accepting the possibility that a decades old but exceedingly well executed 18-bit CD player might sound better than an inexpensive multi-format player built yesterday…and that you’d need to adopt a "set-it and forget-it" mentality and eschew the need to get the next “latest and greatest” merry-go-round many audiophiles find themselves stuck on. I sold my player here on Audiogon for about $400.
I had a Sony 707es cd player I bought new back in 1988??, never forget when I first bought it I had a problem with it reading discs so I had to take it back and they sent it back to sony to get the laser replaced, never thought that would happen on a new expensive player like that. I kept it all these years until now and just recently sold it, it was mint condition with original manual and remote, didnt use it much but I remember the sound and build quality being nothing short of spetacular!!!, sold it for $500 and feel never should of sold it but I have to admit I also bought a Sony X339es cd player new back in the day as well which I still have and I ended up keeping the 339 vs the 707, thought it sounded better???!!, I am using the 339 directly into 2 Sony N55es amps bridged on a pair of Polk RTIA7's and the sound to me is as good maybe as I have heard!!!.....--Ron
I have a 777, Cal Labs Alpha, Sony 595. Yes, the 777 sounds best to my ears. I tried a 5400 and the Oppo 105, but still the 777 sounds best to my ears. Still 'sony' after all these years. From time to time I plug in my original sony 101 to remind myself how far cd players have come.