What Is The

I am in a situation right now that it is quite confusing and I think some of us have been there before. I currently own a Musical Fidelity Trivista SACD Player. Excellent Sounding Player and it has been my Reference Player for quite some time. Now I want to try a Different SACD Player and my choices are , Cary Audio 306,Esoteric X-03SE,SA-60 and a stock DV-50s and here is where my dilemma is. I am considering purchasing an Esoteric DV50S and have it Modified since many people have claimed that these modifed units are by far much better sounding than their 4 times more costly stock players.

Many Audiophiles claim that many "MODIFIED/UPGRADED" CD players sound much better than many $10+ stock units. I onced purchased a TRL Modifdied Marantz SA-14 VER2 and even though this unit sounded very good it was no competition to my Stock Musical Fidelity Trivista.

Now with so many Companies "Claiming" that their Modifications/Upgrades are the best! How is it possible for anyone to know which is the "BEST" or "RIGHT" Modification for your unit?

In one end you have a company charging you $600 for their "BEST" modification, another charging $1299 for their "Signature Modification," another one charging $2900 for their "Reference Modification" and so on. The question is: Does the most Expensive Modification makes the best Modification? Or can you get the same exact results from a $600 Modification compare to a $2900 mod?

Now I know that this is a Topic that will elaborate a lot of discussions since many Audiophiles have had their units modified or Upgraded by different companies but I will appreciate if anyone can share their experiences not just with me but with many other Audiogon members that may be in the same situation as I am right now. I know that your comments or opinions will be helpfull to all.

My Best Regards,

Keep what you have. Be patient, and wait for a used modified DV50S to surface (or another model). Personally, I don't believe you can possibly do better than a used APL Denon 3910...one of which is available now (no relationship with the seller).

I strongly advise against paying "retail" for modifications. You'll lose your shirt upon re-sale.

Your POV may vary on new vs. used.
I absolutely agree with Tvad's reply. Be patient, and keep your shirt. If interested in modified units, buy used. If you want new, look for a stock unit.

I recently purchased a RAM-modified Oppo 981. It is far, far beyond my expectations. Amazingly so. Before that I modded a few components of my own. This gave me a good basis for evaluating different modders claims. It is daunting ordering something like this without audition, but if you take the time to really understand what they are doing then there really is not that much risk.

Number one is you need to upgrade internal power supplies. These make a huge difference, as you can easily prove to yourself. Just get some high speed soft recovery HEXFRED type diodes and solder them in for the cheap diodes in your amp/preamp/cd player/whatever. Trust me, they will be cheap diodes in there. Then, when you hear how much better just that one tiny change sounds maybe you will begin to understand how something like a little RAM modded Oppo 981 can give an Esoteric DV50 a run for its money. Or even beat it, depending on the listener, it is that close. Because RAM goes way beyond this simple mod, using hard wired surface mount diodes and Jensen 4-pole caps. (I'm talking only about the power supply right now.)

Then you look at things like the clock. Google around, no problem finding lots of reviews of top-end players improved by adding the Superclock 2, 3 or 4. In doing my research I found several reviews saying if you have Superclock 2 (or 3) it is worth upgrading to Superclock 3 (or 4) they are that much better. And the clock in turn was much better than stock. That one also is a no-brainer. And yes for the Esoteric as well as the Oppo. Superclock improves them all.

Something like replacing output stages with different op-amps, you have to trust the modder a little. But even here it should be easy to see where there is room for improvement, as far too many of these spendy players use way too complicated circuit design. Simpler is better is the rule of the day. I've talked to Kyle and Doug at RAM, a lot of what they do is throw out overly complicated and unnecessary circuitry and replace with simpler, direct-wired parts.

Another thing you might try, replace some caps with higher quality same value caps. Amazing. Most of these modders replace a handful of caps, this is a fool-proof guaranteed path to improved sound.

I should also note there is no conflict whatsoever in all modders claiming their mod makes the player competitive with players costing 3-4X. They could easily all be right. Now if they claimed their player sounds better than any other mod, thems would be fightin' words. But they don't. Of course when done with the $250 Oppo you really have a $1465 player, but even then I think it is quite fair to say it is better than players costing 3 or 4 times more, ie $4500 to $6k. In fact based on my experience I would say that claim is quite conservative.

As for how much it costs vs what you get, depends on what you started out with. Different players with different hardware and design topologies naturally lend themselves to modification to different degrees. Its easy to see how a player with a good transport mechanism and DAC, for example, will be easier to mod to a certain level than one with worse trans and DAC, because its easier to improve caps and power supplies than more expensive and hard to install parts like a transport mechanism. And on down the line.

Still, I think you will find (and I know it is somewhere here on Audiogon) people with these incredibly expensive decks who have spent thousands having them modded and will tell you it is some of the best money they have ever spent. I didn't spend that much but I'm extremely pleased with mine.

This all makes sense in consideration of the economics of designing, producing, distributing and marketing a new component. For every $1k you spend maybe $.1k goes to parts. Mod your component and about $.7k goes to better parts. Again, if you try the simple parts swaps experiments I've suggested you will really begin to understand how powerful are the forces working in your favor when you decide to mod what you have instead of buying againg. And again. And again . . .

Frankly, if it was me, and if I was looking at the kind of budget you seem to have, I would be talking to RAM about what deck would be the best starting point for all-out performance. Have them stick in a couple Silver Rocks, mod it to the max. You will have music like you never heard before.
My situation is I own a Sony DVP 9000ES, that is claimed by at least 2 "modders" to be a very good unit to modify, with the similar claims as to how good the end result is, vs. more expensive units. I am very skeptical of the process. If true, wow what a savings as the Sony is basically "paid for", so even the higher end mods are a deal on a unit. So I have always been wondering if that is even an option worth considering ?
Waynefia, yours might be the only situation in which paying for new mods might make sense.

The DVP-9000ES is basically worth about $300 on the used market. If you can invest $1200 or less on a full boat modification, then it might make sense. Otherwise, I'd suggest buying a used Modwright Sony 999ES or 9000ES. Both occasionally show up in the listings. The Modwright 999ES usually goes for around $1600 and will be better than a mod that simply involves parts swapping, IMO.
Send your Trivista to RAM for a full mod, you won't be disappointed.

They've modded lots my stuff and it's worth every penny.
If you are satisfied with the tri-vista then stick with it. IMO the players you are considering are not a step up and maybe a down grade. I would mod the the tri-vista if you are so inclined and resale isn't important to you. I have a RAM modded SCD-1 and it is far superior to the stock unit and IMO betters a couple of players north of 10k in direct comparison. If sonics are your ultimate goal then modding makes sense however if resale is important then be fore-warned as modded units do not retain their value. But if done right they do offer sonic bliss at least in my experience. Or as others have suggested find a used modded unit that interests you.

Hi Chuck,
Thanks so much for the advice in Modifying the Trivista. I have thought of that in the past but my problem has been figuring out what or who does the best modification. Its a situation where one will have to listen to many different modified units to find out which one sounds the best to you.
That is why it is such a complicated desicion.

For instance, Chuck911 writes in his well detailed explanation of modifications that one of the many things that should be upgraded is the Superclock. Yet there is a well respected company that does modifications and they suggest that Installing a Superclock Is a bad idea because a Superclock "simply collects more RF (radio frequency) and EMI (electro magnetically induced) noise and distortion, making the sound "different" but never better. The additional circuitry and wiring with aftermarket "clocks" negatively affects both digital signal and power supply lines because the additional circuitry and wiring perform like receiving antenna's, as all wiring and circuits do, picking up both internally generated and airborne RF and EMI, injecting a lot more noise directly into the data stream and power supply, compounding problems and hurting performance.
Also this Company have "performed a high number of A-B comparisons with identical players installed with aftermarket clocks installed by us and by other firms. Unanimously the identical player with the aftermarket clock installed was clearly worse, no improvement in sound quality was discernable".

Now this is why it is so confusing when it comes to having something modified. One company says "Do this and the other one says "thats not a good idea" an then again I think it is up to US ( the listener) to decide what it will be the "Best" modification and I will guess that it will take a lot of auditioning many players to find out which one sounds the best!

I can understand your confusion and the risk associated with deciding what to mod and what modder to choose. All I can say is choose a reputable modder such as RAM or Kern. You should be able to peruse this site for others. Music Technology (Bill Thalman of conrad johnson fame)comes to mind. I believe they do the VSE mods in North America and have an excellent reputation for doing good work and there mods I understand are excellent. Most of them have some information concerning their mods discussed on this site.

As far as the Superclock (SC4) goes it made a huge improvement to my player. It and the SC power supply were the first mods I had installed. The next step was the output transformers along with some power supply and audio board cap replacements. I also had the Op Amps upgraded as well. I am extremely satisfied with the performance especially when I take into account the money I have invested. I don't mind the fact that the resale value isn't there as I don't feel I have alot of money invested and the sonic performance is so outstanding. Good Luck

One should also be aware that modifications will change the presentation and sonic signature of the component. This has been my experience, and the experience of others in these forums.

Essentially, mods should lower the noise floor and provide a clearer presentation and larger image with increased definition. Sometimes this results in an overly detailed sound that was unexpected. Sometimes it's exactly what the owner was seeking. Of course, the problem is that it's nearly impossible to hear the results beforehand through a demo.
Carlos, yes it can be very confusing, and every company will claim their mods are the best, that's business.
That's why it's important that if you do buy modded, buy used modded. That way you won't take a huge financial hit to find out if the change in sonics sounds better or worse to you.

I've purchased three used players, all modified by different modifiers here on AudiogoN. I've kept the one that I liked best, and sold the other two at minimum losses, considering what I would have lost if I had the mods done. Did I find the best modder? No, only the best for me. That's why there are so many different flavors (modders), because all of our individual tastes vary. Unfortunately, no one can tell you which flavor (modder) you will like best. If it was that simple, all the other modders would be out of business.

If these mods are worth what the modders claim, then ask them to send you a demo unit when you send yours in. If you hear a difference worth paying for, then give them the green light to do it to yours. Or have them send yours back.
05-02-07: Gs5556
If these mods are worth what the modders claim, then ask them to send you a demo unit when you send yours in. If you hear a difference worth paying for, then give them the green light to do it to yours. Or have them send yours back.
That's excellent in theory. In practice, it's not very common. If you have experience with modders that offer this service, then it'd be helpful to others if you'd list them here.
My suggestion was serious, not rhetorical, in the hopes that some company, when challenged, might be prodded into some kind of assurance to a perspective customer who's about to fork over good money. Or else one may as well ask "which five grand CD player should I buy without having to listen first."

Even if we share our experiences, it's still an expensive shot in the dark without prior listening. Not to mention the voided warranty.

05-02-07: Gs5556
My suggestion was serious, not rhetorical, in the hopes that some company, when challenged, might be prodded into some kind of assurance to a perspective customer who's about to fork over good money.
I understood your suggestion was serious and not rhetorical. I have pursued this avenue in the past, and not a single modder has agreed. IMO, their position is pretty easy to understand. Swapping an unmodded player for a fully modded unit is not an even exchange. More importantly, modded players are ususally made on an order by order basis, and the best modders I know have a hard enough time keeping up with paid orders. It's nearly impossible to have a loaner hanging around when paying customers are in line. That's the POV of the modders, in any case.

This is precisely why I recommend buying used modded machines. They offer the possibility of "auditioning" at home by buying and re-selling with little monetary loss since the first owner had taken the big depreciation hit. Further, if one likes and keeps a used machine, the owner typically saves 50% or more versus the cost of a newly modded player.
Get the Esoteric X-03 SE from your list, It has the VRDS NEO transport that will make a big diference in sound.
It will be hard for any mod with a cheap transport to beat the diference a great transport makes!

Actually if I have decided that if i choose to go with a player without doing any mods my two choices are the Cary Audio 306 SACD or the Esoteric X-03 SACD Players. But if I decide to send a unit to be modified my choice is the Esoteric DV-50S. Also thanks to the Advice of many Fellow Audiogners who have answer this thread I am also considering the fact of purchasing a Modded Unit but the fact is that these Mods units are selling for almost $4K and up. The advantage of purchasing a unit like this that it is already broken-in so you don't have to spend hundreds of hours doing the break-in and also you don't have to pay full price for the Mods.
Nypr2003, I have gone the modded way with cheap DVDs and came back. Yes any player will sound better modded, but I dont think top of the line players will gain a lot more from mods, probably just a flavor change. I have a Forsell transport and EAD DAC I would mod the DAC but I dont think anyone can do a better job than Forsell himself on the transport...but I can tell you the transport is way more important than shotkys, clocks, BlackGates etc.
The XO3 with the NEO transport seems as good as anything out there, a simple mod will probably just change the flavor...a full expensive mod makes the Best available in some peoples opinion...
This level mods will take a long time to come out used...

PS: Have you seen the pics of the VRDS-NEO transport next to mostly all other transports out there...its humbling!
(No relationship with Esoteric..I wish..just seems a good choice)
But why?
Just like buying Honda Civic and mod upto 275hp and end up with almost same money as buying BMW 328i. It's fun for step-by-step experience. But at the end, is still Honda Civic.
Sorry..... just my personal opinion.
Try a Sony 999ES without mods and see what you think. There's a reason this unit is a good one to mod.

The SACD performance even without the mods is very good. It has a feature they call sharp/slow which modifies the sound (not sure how) and is very useful.

And, they can be had for change used. BTW, video performance is very good as well.

Can't really go wrong at this price point.