Review: Sony SCD-XA5400ES CD Player

Category: Digital

I love natural recordings that capture the full acoustic envelope of the performances. The Shostakovich Sonatas performed by Ax and YYMa comes to mind...the Sony portrays the entire event in such an unforced and natural manner that it triggers ones acoustic memory into believing it is real. A player that offers no tone color or openness would be my worst nightmare. I replaced my BAT VK D5 24 bit CDP and was amazed at how much resolution and color was lost on the older design. The Sony re-creates the space, music and acoustic tones with overtones so completely that you start to smile and realize that you have been given a great gift...a peak into the performance as it occured at the recording session. My opinion of the Sony applies as much for the redbook section as it does for the SACD section. This player will become a classic product for digital playback....much better it does not get! It's a keeper at any price,,,for $1500 USD it is a freakin steal. This is Sony's best effort to date and manages to break new ground in the digital domain:)

Associated gear
Wilson Sophia speakers
Krell 400xi amp
Harmonic Tech Cables
MIT Oracle AC 2 power cord

Similar products
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Clayx, have you put 400+hrs on the unit yet? The Sony is very revealing of cabling and power issues as well. I use a Transparent PLMM into an MIT Super 20 Duplex with MIT M1.3 Prolines feeding my Krell. AC noise into the Sony and backwash from the Sony back into the mains is addressed by my PC and Duplex conditioner. The Sony itself has no inherent distortion, grundge nor does it reduce soundstaging or limit bass extension. It does take a long time to burn in however.
Dave, thanks for your input. I do not have 400 hours on yet, so there could be continued change in sonics. From a physics perspective, I have a hard time believing in a significant change in sound over time. However, I will keep an open mind.

I am using balanced Audio Magic Clairvoyant ICs between my sony and Audio Research pre-amp. They are smooth, extended, with deep bass and excellent 3-dimensionality. My PC into the sony is Harmonic Tech AC10 that is plugged into a PS Audio UPC-200. I will play around with different cords and ICs.

Any ideas for fixes for the sony remote turning down the volume on my ARC preamp?
Dave great review,I'm searching for a cdp, and saw this one on yahoo(in Taiwan), as u mentioned that u had krell known for excellent bass performance, how do you rate sony 5400's bass?
I have owned two weak bass cdp so far, now i'm looking at Bryston bcd-1(with strong bass), it's not that i want bass emphasis, my spendor are very musical sounding speakers, but bass shy with rock and pop music, i need an all rounder(highly dynamic)to balance the rest of my system. I have never owned sony apart from their walkman, so please educate me on this aspect.
The Sony has excellent bass response and dynamic contrast, which will ultimately be determined by what power cord and IC's you use. The Krell was a tad more forcefull, but didn't have quite the dynamic shadings.

I also bought this Sony, which was my first purchase of any audio component in the last 15 years or so.
Prior to the Sony, which I bought without listening, I heard a lot of other players, mostly in unfamiliar dealer systems.
Although some of them were quite good, including Audio Research cd8, with an excellent staging, lovely dynamics and good tonality, albeit a little dark-sounding, more of the mega-dollar players, up to 25k, were not that convincing at all, particular for the amount of money, so I was very pleased to read the laudatory revieuw of Dave_B (thank you Dave) and others of a player in the 1500 dollar area, which beats or is equal to other players costing 6 or more times than the Sony 5400, according to some of the revieuwers.
And yes, just cold out of the box, the Sony was already very good, although too harsh in the heights, without too much focus and lacking openness. After 200 hours or so burning in, the sound is already clearly improving on all parameters, specially neutrality, openness, timbre and focus, in a way, that I barely can't stop listening to my familiar cd's (mostly Redbook at this moment). Just passing the 316 hour mark the improvement is still going on and I expect to reach the 400 hour mark in a few days.
Better than this player is unanswerable possible, but at a cost!

Next upgrade will be the stock powercord. Some candidates for replacement are Lessloss dfpc Signature, Shunyata Python CX or King Cobra CX or Acoustic Zen Absolute.
And yes, I read about Dave_B's Transparent powerlink MM.
Any thoughts about these in combination with Sony 5400 are welcome.

Thanks in advance,