I would go for one of the older heavily built dedicated transports like CEC's or some of the EAD's. The 7700 is a good transport but the above (or an SCD-1 or 777) do sound quite a bit better.
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I agree with the previous posters. I owned 2 different 7700's. one stock and one specifically modified for transport duty by a well know modder. Neither of them approached the performance of a Theta Miles or Cary CD-308 when used with the same external DAC and digital cable. I wanted to create some extra shelf space for myself by replacing a dedicated CD player with a DVD player/CD transport and use a small external DAC. It did not work for me and I ended up purchasing and even better dedicated CD player and a very inexpensive DVD player. I'm very happy with both audio and video playback now, but still would like to find a quality DVD player that could do both.
It depends very much on the DAC and its sensitivity to jitter. Many transports sound different because of the amount of jitter they produce and how well the DAC is able to correct for it.
The better your DAC handles jitter, less difference youll have between transports.
I have the Sony DVP-S7700 as my transport with a Bel Canto DAC-2. The Sony is well-built and sounded a slight bit better in base resolution than a few other transports I tried (on the coax output). But, it was not a BIG difference. The Benchmark Media DAC1 is also very jitter immune and the different transports I tried with it all sounded pretty much the same.
A dissenting opinion:
For the used prices the 7000 & 7700 are going for they're hard to beat as transports.
Sure, an expensive transport like a CEC or SCD-1 will better it, but when modded (total<$1K) the cheaper Sonys will generally provide more detail in a musically satisfying way than the most of the cheaper CD players and transports, IMHO.
My 7000 is stock and my 7700 is Modwright modified w/ bybees. I've used several other <$2,000 transports over the years, and still run a Micromega in one system (which is smoother, but more opaque, and which, BTW, replaced a Delta).
None of them, however, were overall better than the modded 7700.
I agree that the Thetas and EADs provide good competition though.
Reubent - you just didn't select the right modder. The Sonys make superb transports: 7000, 7700 and 9000es. I prefer the simplicity, low power usage and size of the 7700. Mods focused on the digital output electronics by an experienced digital design engineer make a world of difference. See these posts:
My 7700 was mod'd by one of the mod'rs mentioned in your post. It did not have bybees as far as I know. I bought it used, verified the mods with the original mod'r, but I did not pop the top on the unit to look around. Also, that was more than 2-3 years ago. Maybe mods have improved since then.
I'm sure there are good DVD based units out there, I just haven't heard one yet!
I have since moved to a Quad 99 CDP and use it CD direct using its excellent built-in volume control. This unit sounds very good, has volume control and has inputs to allow use of its internal 24/192khz DAC with other digital sources like DVD players. For $1499 new (I bought mine used), I think it is an excellent value based on its redbook performance and its versitility. And, it's small and doesn't take up much shelf space.
I currently use my old 7000 as a transport. Tried a 7700, but it was imo not as good as the 7000. Have also tried most of the Teac VRDS drives (T1, 10 and 20) but alwayes ended up going back to my 7000.
To me the sound is sweeter and more natural, at least compared to the Teac drives. They had more details, but less music.
So IMHO for the money the 7000 cant be beat.. And you have to spend a lot, to get better sound..
Back in 1997, there was a planethifi.com (no longer on line) review on the 7000 as a transport. A panel of very influential judges-reviewers (most of them current reviewers still ) found that the Sony 7000, to their disbelief, was the best transport cost-no-object, beating the Sonic Frontiers , Levinson, you name it. I wish I had kept a copy of this. Unbelievable but true, at least for them it was.
I have a Sony DVP-S7700 stock.Sorry to dissapoint but wouldn't play music on that thing.Only DVD's.I played CD's few times and the sound is thin,lifeless.My Musical Fidelity
A3 beats it by far.The funny thing is that the MF A3 Cd Player uses a Sony transport.For critical listening I use a Krell transport.