Own a 777 and use a Bel Canto DAC 2 along with it. Definitely smooths out glare and opens up the soundstage.
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The players make better transports for high quality DACs than they do as Red Book players. I have used a SCD-1 and a 9000es as transports with a Pass Labs D1, and the Sonys could not compare for simple redbook as stand alones. Compared to other transports and CD players I've used as trasports, they've outperformed much more expensive units. Where the Sonys lack quality is the analog output circuitry. This is why there are so many modified units. They have a great foundation, just poor final execution at the final amps. Remember that an upgraded output will benefit your SACD playback as well. A redbook DAC will not. Best Regards.
While adding a very good DAC is a common practice, I tend to agree with Sean, as long as you're willing to forego the Sony warranty. As Aaronm points out, the Sony's analog stage is OK but not as good as the better DACs out there, and that's where you can reap a lot of benefits through mods. The big advantage to going this route is that you will also improve the SACD playback and get a much better picture of what makes that format so special compared to redbook. Your main problem is you've got 6 channels to upgrade, as opposed to the two in my modded SCD 777ES, but there are modifiers out there who can work on it.
The warranty on my ES9000 expires on Thanksgiving and you-all have inspired me into thinking about an internal mod upgrade. For the sake of this thread, could some of you list the available craftsmen who perform this work? -Along with their relative merit and cost? It will be interesting to compare the mod to my Philips 963 SA's 24/192 upsampling.
I have a Sony SCD-777ES too.
I have to say the redbook CD from the Sony direct is about the same as via cable to my Adcom 700 DAC. Since that DAC was only about a $1000. job, I agree that a high quality DAC would improve the sound (but for me, it is 'good enough' as is).
And agree that any internal Sony ES SACD player mods invalidate the FIVE year warranty...
Enough folks have had problems with their Sony's that I want to make sure I am covered by the warranty.
Ken: Check the AA Hi-Rez forums. The modifiers I know of are Stan Warren, Richard Kern, Dan Wright and Allen (?) Wright (one of the Wrights is a tube mod), and I'm sure there are others. There are various levels of mods and improvements from each of them, depending on how much you want to spend--I think Stan Warren's start in at a couple of hundred, and Kern's full monty can run $2500-3000 or so. My mod was done by Jerry Ozment of Audio Logic, who doesn't do them anymore, but after my latest transformer upgrade from him I'd say I have yet to hear any commercially available unit that sounds better than my 777ES on redbook, and SACD is absolutely stunning, easily better than the Accuphase and dCS SACD playback I've heard at my dealer (bear in mind I'm a big fan of the Audio Logic); I know people who have had the Kern upgrades feel the same way about their players.
This reminds me a lot of the early days of CD players, when various folks like Scott Nixon, Mod Squad, Musical Concepts and the like would modify and greatly improve stock Magnavox players, often doing their own brands based on the stock chasis (Magnavoxes were easy to work on because they had a lot of empty space inside them). Remember, everything available commercially is built to a price point, and therefore can be improved on; this is particularly true with the Sony players and players from other mass-market manufacturers. Nothing particularly wrong with them in stock form, but they can really shine with a good person upgrading the right parts in the signal path and power supplies. Elizabeth is absolutely correct about the warranties, though, and that is not a small consideration.
I have a Sony 9000ES and a Theta Gen Va DAC. Red book from the Theta, using the Sony as a transport, is definetly better than analog directly from the Sony. I've thought about selling the Theta and upgrading the Sony, but am not sure the end product will beat the current combination.
Although the Sony 9000ES is not as good as the more expensive units, it does play DVD's. I consider this an advantage because I can listen to 94/24 tracks on DAD and DVD-Videos. Even DVD-Audio discs seem to have 96/24 DVD-Video tracks. I don't think any of this will play on the 777 or SCD-1.
Ken: There are a lot of reputable "professional tweakers" out there that are working on these units. My advice is to talk to those that come highly recommended to you and see who you feel most comfortable with. Bare in mind that you can spend as much as you want to when modifying gear, so i would find out exactly what will be done and how much it costs before shipping anything out.
Having said that, i'd like to recommend checking out Ric Schultz at Electronic Visionary Systems. While he used to build his own DAC's ( Millennium 1, 1A, 1B and the upsampling Millennium 2's ), stepped attenuators and modify tons of various gear, he has dropped everything and is strictly working on performing mods to Sony SACD players.
Once you get to know Ric, you'll find that he can be brutally honest. At times, he hurts his own business by talking customers out of spending money with him !!! He is VERY "tweaky" and always looking for the next best thing. As such, his points of view can change from time to time as he has a new revelation / uncovers hidden wealth within various designs / component combinations. Even if you don't end up using Ric to modify your unit, i would encourage you to at least take a look at his website and communicate with him. I can tell you right now that if i was going to have someone modify a Sony SACD unit, he is the one that i would be sending my money to. Then again, that is a personal choice and, as mentioned, you need to work with someone that YOU feel comfortable with. Sean