Review: Toshiba SD 3960 CD Player

Category: Digital

I would not consider this a true review of this product but a overall impression. I was looking for a budget CDP as a gift for my dad. He had a pair of old RadioShack speakers from the eary 80's that sounded so bad that I broke down and bought him a pair of Dynaudio 62's. He also has a Sony CDP, circa 1987, that he absolutely refuses to part with. The motor system is so old that Diana Krall literally sounds like a drunk with slurred speech. Even he agreed that this was true and that he needed a new CDP. Arcam? Cambridge Audio? NAD? How about a Toshiba SD 3960? There has been some buzz in A'gon forums ( and other forums ) about this DVD/CDP - a real love it/hate it clash of opinions. Most people buy the SD 3950. Some people have even downgraded their system to include the Toshiba. Needless to say, I was very curious how a $70 combo player would perform in my system.

I did some direct A/B testing (against my MF A3.2 CDP)with just one CD: Marcus Roberts, the truth is spoken here, 1988, NOVUS. The MF player was better in every way. The most striking difference was the overall tone of the music. Each instrument was better defined, tonally correct, and better placed within a wide and deep soundstage with the MF player. There was also more "air" surrounding each musician. The SD 3960 had a decent midrange of sound but overall, it sounded more compressed. It had a decent soundstage widthwise but lacked the soundstage depth the MF had. The Toshiba was surprisingly musical. If I just let the disc play and walk around the room ( ie. without listening critically to instrument placement, etc... ) and do other stuff, the music was not altogether displeasing. I guess what I'm trying to say is that the Toshiba did not make me want to throw up and rush back to Best Buy for a refund. Please keep in mind the the MF costs over 20x as much as the Toshiba. Would I pick this over the MF. NO!!! Is there a big difference between the newer SD 3960 and the SD 3950? Dunno. Is the SD 3960 better than the SD 3950? Dunno.

I think I have found the CDP for my dad. In a less resolving system, this thing might just work. If I can only convince him to give up that Luxman integrated....

P.S. I happen to own a Toshiba SD2200 2 disc DVD changer that I use in my AV room. It's hooked up to a Marantz 7300 receiver. TotemAcoustics Mites are used for my fronts ( a great little monitor, BTW ). I did a quick comparison between the SD2200 ( about 5 years old ) and the SD3960. I prefer the sound of the SD2200. A little bit more mellow. A little bit more musical. Hmmmm....

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Toshiba SD2200
Hi. I own a Tosh 3950[unmodded]. My present player is a Bruce Armstong nopariel. To get more from cd I've been advised[by ears I know and trust]I would be looking at the Sim audio top player and players in its' range. So I've listened to the Tosh quite a bit using it for background music. It is easy, relaxing and fun[remember it is way cheap]. Everyone who heard it liked it in my system but when I switch over to the Nopariel there is more meat on everything and the music flows with more analogue-like ease and potency. No contest, but remember, the Tosh is cheap and can be modded. It is simple cheap and fun and shows what can happen in the low end of digital. It is way ahead of many of the old cheap cd players. Have fun with. There is a modder her on this website too that does serious upgrades to the Tosh. regards, Bluenose
I had both the 3950 and 3960. Sold the latter, since the 3950 is a little more substantial (metal chassis instead of plastic) and the display is a little more informative. My mods to the 3950 have been very modest -- damping sheets and strips applied inside and on the bottom, new hard-wired PC (the "HD-14" cable from Home Depot), and it sits on heavy brass cones and hockey pucks with a 3 lb. slab of granite on top.

Bottom line: My friends and I can't tell it apart from my $2K Sony XA 777ES on Redbook CDs. This is a real overachieving CD player (never used it for DVDs). Picked it up for $48 via Amazon.

I thoroughly modded a 3950 for use in my office system, total cost of the the player plus mods was under $200. I changed all the capacitors to either Panasonic or Black Gates, changed the DAC to a TI/Burr Brown, installed an IEC, and used extensive damping material on every internally exposed metal surface. The bottom end tighted up, the sibilance was gone, and the mid-range pretty much stayed the same as stock (the 3950 does mid-range very very well). All in all it's an excellent player, how it stacks up against mega-buck CDP's is hard for me to say since I haven't compared it to well known CDP's in the same system. To my ears this is one helluva bargain for $200. Buy one and mod it, what have you got to lose?
This might sound like a very naive queation but what exactly did you use for dampening material? Did you do the mods yourself?
Even without changing caps, the stock player can be greatly improved upon by doing the following:

1) extensive damping of the chassis, top, sides and bottom-I'd suggest interior and exterior-with heavy duty industrial floor tile and double sided carpet tape
2) change the internal fuse from the glass that comes with the unit to a ceramic-either 125V or 250V/1.6A This makes a substantial improvement-it's really quite surprising.
3) decent isolation feet-I'm using Herbie's Tenderfeet with excellent results
4) rope caulk all non-moving parts-top and sides-of the transport
5) damp the crystal with rope caulk
6) hack off the molded male plug and replace it with a cryoed Marinco 5266
7) loosen the transport screws and then re-tighten them so they are just starting to grab into the isolation grommets (or whatever you want to call them) as Vinnie suggested

As stated above, I'd suggest the heavy duty floor tile (available at Home Depot or Loewes), NOT peel and stick which is unsubstantial by comparison. You'll need an exacto or drywall knife to cut it. I've done the whole player, interior and exterior wherever I could apply it. I've also done my integrated with this with very good results.
I used Wurth noise-suppression material, it's peel-and-stick and very substantial. I only did the inside of the unit and it now weighs a ton. I stuck on some small EAR footers as well, forgot about them little fellas. And yep I did the work along with a guy at work. It was fun but time consuming.