Review: Sony SCD-XA777es CD Player

Category: Digital

This unit is by far the best CD player that I have heard. For Red Book CD playback it surpasses Sony's previous reference standard the CDP-XA7ES and the Mark Levinson No. 39, both of which I owned for a number of years and which in their day were as good as anything available. It is very nearly the equal of analog output of the separate Levinson 360S D/A converter. So much so that I don't route the digital output through the D/A in my system.

I would classify the difference between the two (360S vs. XA777ES) being that the Sony is slightly more analytical and less warm then the Levinson, but certainly not bright or synthetic sounding in any way. It just doesn't quite have that analog feel the standalone D/A gives.

As for SACD playback I think the unit is unmatched by anything available today and certainly anything even remotely in it's price range ($3000 list, but street price in the $1700-1900 range). The build quality is as good as any high end components I have seen. It also incorporates both 2 and 5 channel playback. The only drawback I can find is that it does not provide balanced outputs.

The SACD playback makes me want to forget about my record collection. Ever since I purchased it I have been buying every SACD of my musical tastes I can find. The new Rolling Stones remasters are particularly good, and since I had them (and in some case still do have them) on vinyl (my age is showing) I can say the SACD player gives every bit of the smoothness and tonality of the analog recording with all of the advantages of the digital format.

The remote, although rather simple by today's standards gets the job done. In some respects it's rather refreshing not to have to read the entire manual first to figure out how to use it. And all the functions are available on the front of the CD player, although most people will probably have to refer to the manual at least once to understand how to use some of them.

In summary this is an outstanding component and an even more outstanding value in high-end audio.

Associated gear
Mark Levinson 39, 360s, 380S, 333, 434s, Legacy Focus and Martin Logan ReQuest.

Similar products
Mark Levinson 39, Sony SCD-555ES, CDP-XA7ES

Good post. I agree, I have a SCD-1 and love it. It is very good on redbook and simply outstanding on SACD. I too find myself buying any SACD that fits my musical taste. I know people like to slam these players but from my experience it is totally unjustified.

Thank you for your post. I have an SCD-1 on the way to me. It is the first major NON-KRELL component that I have bought in over decade. Although it won't match the look of the Krell, I am hoping the sound quality will make it worthwhile.

Your post gives me comfort.

I agree with Dtf's impression of the XA 777's performance on SACD. Very smooth, detailed, and involving. It certainly beats the Philips SACD 1000 in every respect on SACD. When it comes to redbook CD playback, however, I disagree wholeheartedly. The Sony is detailed but also very analytical and completely uninvolving. The Philips in comparison, while not as detailed and with a more compressed soundstage and not as tight in the bass, is much more emotionally involving and musical.

Even when connecting the Sony to my Audio Logic 2400 dac I hear the same Sony "digitalness." So while an outstanding SACD player, the Sony, imho, is only a mediocre CD performer. Since I will continue to listen to redbook CDs, I decided to sell the Sony and replace it with a CEC TL-1 transport (it's on its way and I will post a follow-up comparing it to the Sony as a transport) for CDs and hold on to the Philips for SACDs.
10 year old PS Audio transport and DAC totally outclassed a Sony SCD-XA777es in my system when playing back red book cd's.. The PS combo soundstage extended from wall to wall and floor to ceiling 21 feet by 9 feet. The Sony stage barely extended past the edges of my still almost Dunlavy SC4's.. When I used the Sony, only as a transport and the 10 year old PS as the dac the sound became much improved when compared to playing the Sony as a solo device. In total on red book cd's the PS combo sounded better than the Sony as a transport and the PS DAC. The Sony had been in use for some 6 months so it was fully broken in. This comparison was done with three other people present and we all agreed on the same results. Tom
This for the SCD-XA9000es player wich is in many ways the same player,in redbook format that is at least.
It's different for DSD multichannel playback cause of the use of 18 dac's not six as in the SCD-777 and the I-link feature or firewire wich will only work with Sony's big and ugly 9000 reciever.
The player is stunning with SACD in every aspect of the word.
I have been fortuned to compare it with the Krell standard in my home situation and I can seen that the Krell is a bit better on certain parameters but so is the Sony on others.
I think its fair to say that their overall performance on 2 channel SACD playback is at least on the same level with just a little preference for the Sony for my taste.
The Krell is besides a great looker with a horrible disc-tray also a lot costlier in Holland (almost twice the Sony price)
And the Sony is also a multichannel player!!!
Talking about big bang for the buck( I would almost call it big big gang-bang for the buck with it's multichannel playback).
The big bonus is the fact that the Sony is a better on CD on some parameters and at least the same on the others in my hearing.
The Sony SCD-XA333es player wich I could pick up cheap (about 1000 USD) made me realize that in digital frontend there was so much evolution going on that I was almost shocked to hear the difference on redbook with my good old Marantz CD11 Limited edition wich was about 11 years old.
I think I knew this was about to happen for I once tried a low budget Midiman Superdac 24/96 connected to the Marantz and suddenly the music had more of everything but also to much treble for my likings,that made it less easy for longer listening.
The 333es did not have that problem at all with much more detail and very involving and also a very nice SACD player.
Why was it performing so much better than the Marantz CD11 or the Meridian 508 24bit player or even an early Mark Levison drive-dac combo?(yes I'm still talking about the Sony SCD-XA333es player!).
I think the main reason must lie in the newly developed 1 bit dac and the much better (read faster processor speeds) of today,and the up or oversampeling (can someone please explain the difference in a logical way?)that makes it sound so much better for me.
I sold the Marantz and the Sony 333 and I still had some other player collecting dust (an early Meridian 206 bitstream and a Sony CDP-X500es)and the Midiman Dac and bought myself the new Sony flagship.
After putting it on repeat for about 10 days to break in "sonic heaven" was becoming part of my life!
This was much more than I had hoped for this was in every sense better than everything I have ever heard from a CD/SACD player,thank you Sony.
Recently before purchasing the SCD-9000 I was impressed by the Audio Aero capitole tube player but it was way to expensive for me and it does no have DSD playback wich to me almost has becomes adictive to listen to.
The Sony 9000/777 is top notch on redbook format and the real High-End for me regardless the price of many so called top High End players.
Low and Mid-Fi from the past becomes Hi-End for now and the future.
The great thing remains the fact that it's a more than dedicated CD player unlike say the Philips 1000 or the Marantz SA12 wich perform at best as a 300 dollar CD player.
Talking about 300 dollar players the Sony SCD-XB940QS 2 channel (Eisa Award winner) SACD player was on discount in Holland last year for 249 dollars (read Euro's) and I got one offered by this man for 150 Euro's with still 7 months warranty.
He told me a few weeks after bying it he bought a Sony DVD/SACD multichannel player (of much lesser quality) and since than never looked at the player again.
I told him I had no use for the player so he told me I could have it for 100 euro.
This I could not refuse and bought the player.
Funny that it can not read writable disc's but all the other it does so well it outperforms my former almost 20 kilo's Marantz CD 11LE in every possible way I can think of.
What makes this budget player so good on redbook?
As I stated before it must be the dac or/and processor or just my taste,else you tell me.
The rest of my set is:
Krell KSA150 amp
Audio Research SP11 mk2 preamp
Nakamichi Dragon cassette deck.
Pro-Ject RPM4 turntable with Benz Micro Gold.
Nordost Blue Heaven Speaker cable.
Nordost Blue Heaven interconnect.
Cable Talk Reference Gold mk2 interconnect.

Ernst Schulz