Sony SCD-XA5400ES-Best SACD for under $10,000

This Sony player supplanted my Ayre C5-XE 3, which I still have, months ago. I paid $6000 for the Ayre after determining that it was the best-sounding unit for under $10,000. The Sony blows it away!!!
A unit costing $1500 besting all others under $10,000? That is exactly what it does!
For reference, I am using Audio Research electronics and Vandersteen speakers and subwoofers (about $30,000); a similar system has repeatedly been lauded as "best of show" at CES, so we are NOT talking second-rate stuff here.
This Sony is the only SACD/Cd player I have EVER heard that puts a classical piano live in my living room; nothing I ever had before even comes close.
This unit is a small miracle. I would have gladly paid $8000 for it, but if they want to give the thing away for $1500, who am I to argue?
This unit is going to send the engineers at Audio Research, Luxman, Esoteric, and Ayre back to the drawing board; their current units at 4 to 5 times the price are not even close. Some engineer at Sony is a freaking genius!!!
thanks for this review. I know your going to receive flak from other members and many are going to hit you with how does it sound on red book.
Hey : Tell it like it is ,,If they don't like it too bad....This is the best thing that can happen to Audio! Bring competative prices back to reality....Thank you Sony
Im contemplating between this cd player and Marantz 15s2 strickly for headphone listening. Of course, to find a dealer for actual audition is nothing short of miracle, so I'm going to have to take people's opinion into consideration.
I do not have SACDs so I do have to ask, how is the redbook play? keith
It is good to hear about this kind of find. First because of this company---I doubt anybody thinks you have a connection to Sony---and second, its price being affordable.
'Glad I don't own the Ayre unit.
Then we have the usual: How's it on red book? Most of us have some sacd and plenty of regular cd's --AND; maybe what cables do you use?
I would simply say the Sony XA5400es is a sensual aural experience.
What I most observe is listening intently or casually with the same enjoyment.
I heard Indigo girls "Become You" on SACD today.
Excellent album,whereas on regular CD I didn't realize it was such a strong performance.
The timbre & balance of frequences are terrific
The Sony is Inspired!
I bought a Sony XA5400es and I'm very pleased. Granted, you don't get the "cool factor" of owning a boutique or lesser known brand but mine bests these players (all of which I've owned) in my system:

Accuphase DP-57
Meridian 508..24
Linn Ikemi
Resolution Audio Opus 21
Electrocompanient EMP-1UP
Musical Fidelity A5
Ayre CX-7e

My System:
Gamut PreAmp
Spendor S9 speakers
TAD-70 Amp

I have had sony scd-1, MF A5, simaudio moon eclipse, esoteric XO-3 se, bryston bcd-1.
It doesn't have the razor sharp imaging of some of these units but tonally it is better than any of them ( imo). At a msrp of $1500 I can't think of anything that would touch it.
Makes you think, what else is out there that will better the rest of your $30,000.00 system for a fraction of the cost.
Sony has alot of pride and must spend painstaking hours perfecting their task.
I don't think they make money with some products,it's more of a statement.As with the SCD-1,I had heard Sony lost money on that venture.More desire to get it right then profit drivin.
They have alot of integrety & ingenuity/
Let's hear some more feedback about the Sony's Redbook performance. I know that Daveb believes that it is excellent.
Finally CD's don't sound like numbers or bits but real music/analogue.
Even though cd's vary from many factors,I have not heard one sound annoying yet.
Like when passages would get loud or complex,XA5400es somehow compensates & balance is maintained.
There is a musical 3D effect I would venture to say.
Piano music seems to "float" over the surface and it has a visceral effect on the psyche..
How would you use the HDMI?
My comments apply to redbook only as I haven't tried sacd..
I'm impressed more on red book performance than SACD performance. Redbook playback is so impressive it makes you forget about SACD.
Has anyone compared the Sony to an Ayre MP upgraded player? The MP upgrade makes a big difference.
The Sony has a msrp of $1500. What is the msrp of the upgraded ayre?
My comments were for red book only. I own one SACD disk, lol.

..... and I payed $1109 shipped. :-p
I bought the XA last May. It is REALLY great on SACD (and I have about 50-60 of them). It replaced my Phillips SACD 1000. I was hoping it would be so good on Redbook that I could sell off my Ah! 4000 redbook player and recoup a few bucks. NO WAY.

The Sony is good but my fully loaded Ah! is still markedly better on redbook. Oh well, I have to live with the best of both worlds.
I think its great on both formats. On redbook it is detailed but never fatiguing,with nice extension at both ends. I dont own alot of sacd's,but I am now buying them at quite a clip! The remastered sacd of Dire Straits "Brothers In Arms " even got a "WOW" out of my wife! I'm very happy with this player.
I found Simaudio Andromada to beat it in both formats. (but its over 10k). Mostly in top to bottom balance, dynamic contrast, nuance, etc. I may try the Audio Research CD8. Thanks.

The Sony is First rate on Redbook CD's
I don't believe an older player like a phillips could be as good.This is a very modern player
As usual, the high price of component will tell you nothing about its sound, nor its quality. The Sony is a great unit but I think the oppo 83SE will give it a run for top of the heap. The best part of this is that Sony will now be forced to try to top it. Sony has the R&D muscle to do that. Without deep pocket companies like Sony, real progress would not take place. Here comes DSD.
You may get better parts for a higher price ex.Creek Destiny CD Player or Marantz Pearl SACD Player but the sound may not improve.Sony has the insight & experience that other companies don't
Wa6itd: in what regard does the Sony "blow away" the Ayre?
i will be reviewing the oppo 83 se. perhaps its sacd playback will be a competitor opf the sony.
On redbook, how does the Sony 5400 compare to the Sony SCD XA777ES? keith
Does the release of this player by SONY suggest that there still a chance that SACD will survive? Thrive?
Good Point
When I spoke to Creek in England by email
They said it was dead and would not waste resources on Development & research.
I said your not only making a mistake but have an arrogance I don't appreciate.
You lost a life long customer
The thread is about how the Sony blows away the Ayre soundwise, not which one costs less.

If you haven't heard an Ayre with the MP upgrade, which costs $250, you should get the upgrade before you sell your Ayre. As I said, the difference is pretty significant.
I think Fishing716 hit the nail on the head IMO.
Reference Recordings also had the same take on SACD couple of years back, but got into SACD eventually. I guess Creek will find some "reason" to get into SACD someday.
I bought the EMM CDSA-SE with no concern or hope that SACD would survive, the Redbook play was better to my ears than my previous tranport/DAC combo. But now that I have had a chance to hear some good SACD versions of my favourite jazz music through Analogue Productions, it sure would be nice if the music companies come to their senses and rejuveante the whole SACD venture, especially with recordings that start with DSD from the recording forward. It is exciting to think that SONY has come out iwth a first rate player, with SACD for only $1,500 ($1,100 street?).
Has any compared this player to its predecesor, the SCD XA9000ES? That is my current CD/SACD player.

I don't see the point,obviously from all indications the XA is best
Let's just say that, for the moment, I have yet to hear a better SACD/CD player.
Kal, Does it "blow away" the Ayre?
what's the bass performance like on this sony? I read someone said the bass is lacking, so can someone describe its sound compared to let's say Byston bcd or Ayre cx7e? i know someone asked these questions b4 but they have not been asnwered yet. I'm still learning and auditioning cdp at the moment hoping to improve my CEC tl51xr(yes i want better bass and more realistic soundstage).
many thanks
[quote]" Rufipennis asked: Kal, Does it "blow away" the Ayre?"[/quote]

First, I would never use that term because, in comparing among high quality components, it is totally inappropriate.

Second, I have only heard the Ayre player/DAC at show demos and cannot make a direct comparison with the Sony.

Thanks for the reply, Kal
"I would never use that term because, in comparing among high quality components, it is totally inappropriate."
I agree. The OP stated "The Sony blows it away!!!" in reference to the Ayre. That seems not to be a credible report, so I thought maybe you could provide a second opinion.
As for the CD sound quality of the XA5400ES, consider that its op amps (2132) are not the best available. I understand that, in general, replacing op amps is one of the more easily done and cost effective modifications. Point being that CD quality might be improved relatively inexpensively.
How would the sony compare to the Krell standard SACD or the new Oppo SE?
I paid $6000 for the Ayre after determining that it was the best-sounding unit for under $10,000. The Sony blows it away!!!
A unit costing $1500 besting all others under $10,000? That is exactly what it does!

I am very impressed & satisafied with the XA5400 but find the above statement useless.
I neither belive this is a $10,000 player nor does it "blow away" the Ayre,etc.
My advise is to disregard the above as exaggeration.
Try to spend $1100 street & come to your own conclusions.
You will lkely agree the Sony is a gift for the investment, but it's stll a CD/SACD Player not a magic machine.
Out of curiosity, I decided to spend $1100 street price to see how this stacks up against my modded CEC TL-1X/Dodson 218 combo. Delivery tonight; will burn in over weekend and will then report to the equally curious. Will try various PC's (Valhalla, LessLoss Sig, EPS 2s, Kimber Palladium) and various IC's (Valhalla, AQ Sky, AntiCables, Stealth Indra) to see what effect. I am deeply skeptical of so-called worldbeaters but will give it a fair shot. If it is even somewhat close it will be an accomplishment for Sony and will be installed in my BR system.

XA5400es sounds best with the display off
what makes the sony such a great player ?

frequency responses, timbre, depth, clarity, does it have tube like characteristics ? i understand the redbook section is no big deal.

i am auditioning and will review the oppo 83 se. perhaps that will give the sony a run for its money--certainly on redbook.
The sampling frequency is the same as SACD's
Sony Engineers are Guru's
I have yet to put on a cd & not finish it straight through.
The sound is heavenly
I'm with Fishing716. This player draws you in and does not let go until the cd is over. Thank you Sony for keeping some cash it my wallet.
Mrtennis: if you " understand the redbook section is no big deal" I think you've been mis-led. As previous posters noted, it does "draw you in". I find myself listening to entire discs from start to finish rather than constantly jumping up to switch discs. To me, that means something.