I’ve wanted to join almost any discussion about the Sony XA-20ES CD player for some time now. My audiophile experience goes way back to my first TT which was an AR manual turntable (purchase new in 1967) with a Stanton 681EEE and a pair KLH 17 speakers hot off the assembly line where Henry Kloss lived. Driving them was my Lafayette Radio Pre-Amp (famous consumer electronics chains predating Best Buy by about 40 years) pushing an Eico (local Brooklyn, New York electronics company that was well known for excellent test equipment and amplifier kits) 35-wpc tube power amp that I built from a kit.
I know my audiophile equipment. On a whim several years ago, I was looking for a replacement to a Denon DVD player that I was using for digital media playback when I was reminded of the excellent Sony Elite series and how solid the construction of their product series was. By chance, I found my XA-20ES unit on eBay, did the research on what it represented within the ES product series and purchased it for $400. When it arrived by FedEx, I lifted the box and realized that it was serious just by it’s weight alone. The 20ES has an aluminum case, no plastic crap to diminish the aura of a true audiophile component. After I got it out of the box and set it up on is perch, I was impressed with the simplicity of the front panel which belied the amount of programming control afforded the end user. After I plugged it in and connected it to my German-made Vincent Audio SA 31 Hybrid Stereo Preamplifier that feeds a Parasound Halo A21 Stereo Power Amplifier, I was stunned at just how “sweet” certain instruments sounded. Listening to a number of acoustic Jazz CDs, Miles Davis “Sorcerer” (24-track digital remaster), and Wayne Shorter’s “Speak No Evil” (RVG Edition), the stage was focused and spread out just as if I was sitting in the front/center of Seattle’s acclaimed Jazz Alley or New York City’s Jazz Standard clubs. Seriously. And this was through the 20ES’s standard analog line out jacks!
I have a neat little accessory I use to pull the last “bit” out of a CD. It’s the SID Disc by Peter Boffin from Germany. The SID sits on top of your CD, SACD, DVD, Blu-Ray disc and focuses the laser beam so that it’s scan is narrowed and doesn't bounce from light refraction since it shines “up” through the disc from the bottom. With the 20ES, it’s particularly effective since the laser is fixed to a massive mounting block inside the unit and only the drawer moves in/out with the disc mounted and stabilized by a unique “puck” much like a record stabilizer.
Right now, I’m listening to Joni Mitchell’s “Mingus” CD and “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” is playing. Jaco’s bass is killing me with it’s finesse and tone. Playback is through a pair of KEF Q-500 speakers with a little help from a Sumiko S.5 subwoofer. The 20ES is showing no sign of of it’s age whatsoever. It sounds pure and sweet, the way real Hi-Fi is supposed to.