My comparison of the XA9000ES and the XA777ES will appear in the April Stereophile.
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I don't know if you would be willing to consider something like a Denon DVD-5900 (street price roughly $1,550), plus some modifications from some of the many accomplished modders out there who works with Denon pieces. Even the stock 5900 seems to be well-liked by most people who hear it, and I'm sure mods make it even better.
Of course, I eaglerly await Kal's 4/04 review of the Sony units, as well.
Can't make a comparison, but some early feedback on the XA9000ES:
I have had it on constant burn in for only four days, so hopefully way to soon to tell. after a full listening session last night, I am.....worried. (The 9000 replaces my Perpetual Tech. two box affair with transport. I have also throughout the last year and a half progressed through the Sony 755 entry SACD player, and the wonderful Yamaha DVD-S2300 combi-player.) As of last night, The Sony exhibits about the same low bass as the 2300, but far more power and definition in the mid to upper bass. The midrange is without question higher in resolution, texture, depth and palpability than the 2300. (Exactly what the extra money should purchase). The highs show a touch more purity, and greater "bloom". Much more of the "detached from the speakers" launch into the room.
The problem? Well, everything has a pervasive layer of ice in the upper midrange/lower treble. Decidedly not what I expected out of this machine. I really hope this is just break-in!
Also: The bass management is anything but "advanced". Surround level setting is a pain. Sure, the 9000 emits discreet pink noise for all channels, but when you actually go to set the levels, as in setting the rear levels, it plays both front and rear, at the same time. You also can't individually set L/R rear levels. Something that even the Yamaha RXV-2400 reciever will do.
The remote is simply not what should be supplied with a $3k player IMO.
I'll give this player a couple more weeks burn in and post further thoughts.
It will be fine if it's better then the XA777ES, (my unit); a good power cord removes that "ice." My feeling now that all is said and done: I should have bought just about *any* 2 and 5 chan SACD player ($1000) and then a good stand-alone CD player. Though I haven't touched a redbook CD in months since getting an SACD player.