What's the best Sony CD/SACD player?

Hi all, there's been a bunch of talk lately about Sony's latest 5400ES SACD player. I have a 9100ES DVD player I use for both video and audio. What are peoples' opinions on the best new or used Sony for CD/SACD sources?

Specifically, what about the new 5400ES, the XA-9000ES, the 777ES, vs my 9100ES? They all seem available for around $1000.00.

What else would people suggest in that price range for 90% RBCD and 10% SACD? The rest of my system is Linn. I'm also thinking about a used Linn Unidisk SC.

What do you think?
What do you think?
IMO the SCD-1 / 777es are the best players Sony has ever built...........properly modded they can compete with anything out there irrespective of price ............ stock they are OK ...... competetive within their price range ........
I'm currently using Unidisk SC. I have XA5400ES on order, so hopefully I should be able to make a direct comparison between two pretty soon.

Nice system you have there. It looks like you use the the Unidisk SC as a disk player only. Have you ever used it as a preamp? If so, how would you rate it?

To be more specific, I have Linn Ninka speakers and C5100 amp, the 9100ES player and a Rotel integrated as a preamp. I'm considering a Linn Exotik or 5103 preamp or Unidisk SC. If I go with the Exotik or 5103 as the preamp that leaves me with the disk player in question.

I look forward to hearing you opinions on the 5400ES vs the Unidisk. I also wonder how people would compare the newer SACD 9000ES vs my 9100ES or the 5400ES. I know the SCD 1 is a great player but I would prefer something newer.

Thanks for any opinions on any of the above.
I forgot to mention in the last post, I also have a Trikan center and old Helix speakers for rears so I would like to stick with a multi channel preamp. I will use the system for movies and 2 channel music. The 9100ES will stay for movies unless I go to a Unidisk. So the questions is what combination of multi channel preamp and music source is best. The Unidisk fills both roles but would an Exotik and a good music source be better for the same price as the Unidisk (all used)?

I've been using SC without a preamp for a while with good result. The built in volume control is quite good. Bypassing preamp makes the sound very transparent. However, the analog input section is not very good, so if you have other analog sources a dedicated preamp will serve better for you. The digital input section sounds okay. I've connected Airport Express to the digital input of SC, and it sounds good. I don't have a lot of lossless music on computer so I can't tell you how the digital input compare to the CD from its transport. I haven't watched a lot of movies on SC, as I use it mainly as a music player. I do have some DTS music disks, and Unidisk decodes them just fine.

As far as 5400ES goes, all the reviews I've read said it sounds better than any previous Sony ES players so I am pretty excited about the purchase. It reportedly has long break in period, so it may be a week or two until I can do a meaningful comparison.
hi jylee:
after you get the player, send it to dan wright and ask him to add a tube output stage.
I took the delivery of XA5400ES. I have done casual listening + burning in for 5-6 hours today. The material was mainly redbook CD. I understand XA5400ES has long burn in time, so take my preliminary review with a grain of salt.

The initial impression was more prominent treble. That's probably consistent with what others have expressed as strident treble. I don't feel the treble is over emphasized, although I definitely hear more treble content compared to Unidisk. The midrange is quite good. I hear more texture and better micro dynamics. That's a really good sign as I've been yearning for better midrange texture for some times. The initial impression also includes loss of depth. That might improve as the unit burns in, or maybe I'll get used to it.

It's hard to characterize the sound of XA5400ES. I would compare the sound akin to looking out the window that has been just washed and squeeegeed. The sound is smoother, and more accurate than my previous CDP. It's by no means warm sounding, but at the same time I don't want to leave a wrong impression that it sounds bright and harsh, because it does not. The sound is smooth, detailed and accurate. However if you are partial to warm sounding system, this is probably not for you. I suppose the sound is rather neutral. Others might (wrongly) perceive the extra detail as being bright.

I feel the amount of bass is less than what I used to hear from Unidisk, but it's too premature for final ruling at this time. Perhaps it's less boomy and more accurate. But I did notice difference in the amount of bass. Perhaps it will improve as the unit burns in. Perhaps I'll get used to its sound.

I do feel there is more midrange texture, and more detail throughout. That's a good thing, as those two things were what I was hoping to improve on my system.

I like this CDP so far. It show excellent build quality compared to my Unidisk SC. The sound is just as good, and in many areas better than the incumbent. I don't notice any obvious shortcoming yet.
update more on its performance, pls
I've been burning in my XA5400ES continuously for 100+ hours now. I've heard the most improvement in the first 20-30 hours of the breaking in. The initial impression of etched treble went away after a day or so. I haven't noticed much improvement since then.

I did a brief comparison between my Linn Unidisk and XA5400ES today. They were connected to the preamp using identical interconnects, level matched using SPL meter for CD medium. I've used Diana Krall - The girl in the other room (SACD), and Friends of Carlotta (redbook XRCD2) for comparison.

Both Linn and Sony sound good to my ears. There are more similarities than differences in the sound they produce. Some characteristics are more subtle than others. I'll list some of my observation in the order from more dramatic to more subtle.

Off the bat, the immediate difference is in the bass. Many of Diana Krall's album, The girl in the other room in particular is hot on the bass. While the overall sound quality for this album is exceptional, it also brings the worst out of my room with boomy midbass around 80Hz. With XA5400ES the room mode is dramatically reduced. The bass is tight and less boomy with XA5400ES.

Friends of Carlotta is a studio recording that captures high level of immediacy and detail. I've first played the CD on Unidisk. When I switched to Sony I noticed three things. The background was darker with Sony. Chimes sounded more delicate and extended. However the female vocal was more sibilant. Her voice is rather sibilant, but it was not as bothersome with Linn. With Sony it was somewhat annoying.

Linn sounds more three dimensional, with excellent width and depth of the soundstage. Sony sounds more focused and detailed, but not as wide and deep.

If those CDP were drawing sonic picture of the music, Linn was projecting three dimensional hologram in the air, and Sony was presenting oil painting on canvas. Linn was projecting transparent and vibrant three dimensional picture in the air. With Sony the picture is clearly focused, and I was able to see the tiny little details on the canvas.
If those CDP were drawing sonic picture of the music, Linn was projecting three dimensional hologram in the air, and Sony was presenting oil painting on canvas.
Jylee (System | Threads | Answers)

Based on that description, I'd choose the Linn hands down.

Based on that description, I'd choose the Linn hands down.
I tried to be as objective as possible, but my bias was probably showing in my short description. I like the presentation of Linn as well. But I probably have under stated XA5400ES somewhat. The detail retrieval and increased midrange texture on Sony cannot be ignored. What's even more amazing is that the higher detail is heard without sounding bright or edgy. If anything Sony is darker sounding than Linn. For me I actually prefer Sony's presentation because 1. I'm used to Linn and was looking to get something different to begin with. and 2. I was looking to improve red book CD playback with more detail, and get more textured midrange overall, and Sony hit the sweet spot.
There's a problem with describing sound. Adjectives and adverbs do not
necessarily have the same meaning from listener to listener.

For example, to me the term "darker" means less detail, closed-
in. Just the opposite of how you describe the Sony. How would you describe

In any case, unless the image was significantly smaller with the holographic
player, I'd choose the player that produces a three dimensional hologram
of sound in almost every case, even if it meant less detail.
True, the choice of adjectives I used probably was confusing. When I say darker, sometimes I mean tonal balance, and I also use darker to indicate the blacker black background / lower noise floor. For example, when I played Friends of Carlotta on Unidisk I thought the sound was detailed, but sometimes it was "shouty" or somewhat congested. On Sony I thought it was less congested, also there was more of the small ambiance of the recording studio. Could be due to lower noise floor. Could be from better detail extraction. Another reason I used the word darker was to emphasize that Sony is not a bright sounding player. But anyways I should just stick to more objective side of the impression than using colorful adjectives that could be confusing.
So is there any reason to look at older Sony units like the SCD-1 or XA9000ES vs. the new 5400ES? Seems like used XA9000ES players are around $1000.
Only if you need 5.1 analog outputs.

The Best Sony Players EVER made, are NOT the SACD players,
but we ALL have our own opinions.

I have collected several Sony ES players over the years, and
since MOST of what I listen to are "Redbook" CD's, IMHO,
I have found the XA-7 to produce the BEST sound PERIOD!

The 707ES might be the very BEST EVER MADE. Look inside one,
and then look inside whatever player You have;This Sony, they
cut NO corners at ALL.

Throw the wood panels on the sides of the XA-7 and it is
instantly about 40 pounds!

The XA-5 ES is 2nd in sound I think, but then, I tend to
agree with the Japanese forums that list the order of the
BEST SONY Players from 1 to 50 or so.

9 out of 10 times, the XA-7ES, XA-5ES, players are 1 and 2

The X707ES is sought for the great Transport.

The XA-7 is great as a Transport also, these 2 players
share the 119db. Signal to noise ratio!

Since I implement a Benchmark Dac-1, IMHO,the way I have
my Digital configured, when I A-B SACD sound and the Dac-1,
the Dac-1 sounds Better!

I am trying to set up a comparison of a new 5400ES to my

XA-7ES/Dac-1 combination. I have a 555ES the 5 disc SACD
Class A player, funny, it looks like the 5400ES as far as
the design and the round buttons. They just are not as heavy
and solid as the XA-7ES or the 707ES. I have enjoyed both
for hours at a time, when I go out of town, I leave my Sony
playing on "shuffle" and 1-3 weeks or more at a time, every
time I come home, the Sony is STILL playing!

I know Philips owners, that can't leave their Philips transport for a minute, it skips?

Owning Sony players, this is NEWS to me, as Sony player
play forever, so long as you secure the drawer with the
key supplied players. Sony ES players NEVER Skip.

I have CD's that have holes in them, the Sony plays them
without a problem.

The 707ES had the best Error Protection,IMHO that is.

The SCD-1 is a beauty but they like the 777ES have
issues with them after while they need service.

Find a 707ES for cheap, and add a Dac of quality, and
you are set. The 707 will be playing long after Your
gone. They just play like a Swiss watch.

It is obvious that as time goes by, Sony is gradually
taking a step back in Audio components, as the ES line
is ALL but gone.

The Vintage Knob does not praise these old reliable units
for nothing.

This new stuff, is just NOT made with the same quality as
the Earlier ES Players were.

Love Your Music!
Could someone describe the tonal differences between the xa5400es and the dvp9000es which I'm currently using in my bedroom/TV system?

I have no doubt that the 5400es is overall better- my only concern is that I actually like the slight "stridency" of the dvp9000es which may not exist on the 5400es.
I haven't heard DVP, but my XA5400ES does not sound strident. However there is this Sony house sound that I also heard on DAP9000ES preamp as I remember. I wonder if that's what you are referring to. Other than the house sound, it sounds exceptionally neutral and detailed.

My DVP-S9000ES had a bit of stridency. When it finally failed to play SACD discs reliably, I sent it to Sony Larado. According to their report, Sony overhauled it and brought it up to specs. Whatever they did, the stridency is gone and it is an improved player. So much so, it replaced a 9100ES in my primary system.

I've used a Sony NS999ES for quite some time, primarily for SACD as almost all of my RBCD is ripped to a music server and played via a Squeezebox. RBCD that is played on the Sony goes through an external DAC, but as far as SACD performance goes, the need for a change has been hard to justify!

On the subject of SACD performance, does anyone know if there's ever been any kind of upgrade path for the SACD decoding chips from Sony? They essentially own the technology, right? If they've never changed the decoding chip architecture at all (like has been the case in a myriad number of ways with RBCD chips...), should there really be that much difference in SACD performance amongst Sony players (or any other for that matter?)? I'd imagine there's been changes to things like power supplies, output stages, transports etc., but has Sony ever introduced an "updated" SACD decode chip... just some food for thought and conversation.
How do you tell what kind of SACD decoding chip is used on which model? Unlike other high end manufacturers Sony employs their own custom chipset and AFAIK it's not published anywhere which chips are used.
Guys-I think you're all missing the point for the existence of the 5400; that is passing multichannel SACD data over an HDMI interface to a proper decoding processor. The fact that it plays stereo CD and stereo SACD well is just a bonus

Give it a try; multichannel blows away stereo, by miles and miles! None of that darker, warmer, more neutral, etc., stuff - you are just there, right at the performanace.

OK, so what is an example of a proper decoding processor? And how many would perform better than the analog out of the 5400ES?

Also, if I have it right, the XA9000ES and XA777ES offer multi channel analog out, while the SCD777ES and 5400ES do not. It might be just me but I find the various Sony models with 777 in the name a bit confusing.
The 5400 is a clear winner I have 1,000s of hours voicing sysytems and especially with modificationsand capacitors.
The 5400 platform once runin which takes some 500 hours to fully run in I played mine 4 weeks straight and have heard subltle differences after 3 weeks a very natural warm tone with excellent inner detail and very taught Bass.
I am going after the max potential ,for 1 music direct sell 1 ampslow blow Hifituning fuses ,a clear improvement ,a solid digital power cord and quality cables also 3 damping sheets buy 3 for the transport and all over the top cover and sides , .I al replacing all the stock electrolytic capacitors with the Nichicon fineGold series
also the Best clock and regulator board out there by far the Terra Firma clock modificationwhich is a revelation .
The 5400 have a excellent platform to build on as several Modding companys are douing this ,the dual R core transformers are excellent as well as the Burr Brown 1796 dac ,the opamps are also BB.for under $2k in Modds this unit will go toe to toe with ANY player in the $10k range with No problem. I heard one 2 weeks ago ,I brought my player as a direct comparison,it was destroyed compared to.
The word High quality Analog and natural are the only ways I can describe the sound in a brief term well worth the expense IMO.
After servicing by Sony Laredo the sound of my DVP-S9000ES is much improved -- since I got a PS3-80, I've used it only for stereo with video processing turned off. But the sound of my XA5400ES is superior. The 5400ES exhibits what might seem opposite ends of a dimension: The sound is much smoother than that of the DVP-S9000ES yet considerably more detailed. The XA5400ES also has much greater low frequency extension, yet the bass is if anything tighter. Depth of soundstage is superior.

Whereas with the DVP-S9000 ES I prefer using the DACs in my Proceed PDSD, with the XA5400ES I prefer using the analog XLR from the Sony to my PAV. I also have a 9100ES, but have for some reason always preferred the 9000. perhaps just because the 9000 is so handsome.

I Must admit when I am wrong, While out west on business I had the opportunity to hear Dan Modwrights new modification upgrades for the Sony 5400 sacd player.
As good as the Terra firma clock was ,the Modwrights had a much more
3 dimentional presentation ,using the 6sn7 Vacuum tube for the analog section was a excellent choice a warm very
involving sound with tons of layering around the instruments I am sure the seperate power supply also had lots to do with the solid tight Bass which was also Vacuum tube.
Dan said he is using the latest Audiocom 4 superclock
from the U.K and custom building his own regulation for the Masterclock.I gave him the deposit and have sent my unit for the superb upgrade it is the best I have heard
to date for under $10k.
Check out just how extensive Modwrights total rebuild of the Sony 5400 is,a steal for the amount of musical enjoyment you get itsound better than anything at 5x this ,and this is no exageration.
Just came across this thread. I have the XA9000ES and a STRDA9000ES receiver. I had been using a 777ES receiver for years, with great results! I still have 2 777ES receivers, one that the 9000 replaced, and 1 still in use (with Belle Klipsch as L,R fronts and Klipsch Cornwalls as L,R rears). The STRDA9000ES and XA9000ES have the unique ability (there are a very few other firewire compatable pre-amps/receivers) to link with one another for SACD playback. The DSD signal from the XA9000ES passes into the receiver, remains in the digital domain (because of the S-Master Pro digital amplifiers in the receiver) until a conversion just before hitting the speaker wires. Now in my case, I use a TAN9000ES in BridgedTranformerLess mode to drive my L,R fronts because although rated at 200 wpc (just like the 200 wpc rating of the receiver's 7 digital amps) I prefer that sound ("warmer") to the internal L,R digital amps. SACD sounds incredible on this combination, with 2ch and multi-channel SCADs! I have 3 Klipsch Legend KLF-30s across the front, a pair of Heresys for front side surrounds, KSP-S6 rear side surrounds, and AW600 rear surrounds (for now) along with a Definitive Technology Trinity subwoofer. I have NEVER been listening to music or watching a movie and thought to myself "I wish..." or "If only..." This system sounds amazing at all volume levels and will play as loud (while staying clean and clear) as anyone could possibly desire.

I use the Sony S9000ES in a second system as transport and couldn't be happier. It is connected to Eastern Electric MiniMax DAC via Silnote digital cable currently, in past MIT. I recently made a couple of Western Electric WE14ga power cords with Furutech connectors. Wow! Nice improvement everywhere, natural/organic, more presence, very musical and dynamic. Bass, mids, it has it all in spades. Soon, going to change capacitors to Arizona Green, resistors to Tepro or Ohmite Brown Devil. Need some advice and guidance from my favorite mod guru...I'll also be on the lookout for the 707. Best, Rob
The Modwright 5400ES is world class and adds the dimensionality, weight and air that the stock Sony barely hints at!
I have always wanted the XA-9000ES cd/sacd player.
It has some really interesting features that are unique to this Sony spinner.
the XA-7ES has to be Sony's "statement" CD player.
It was pretty ballsy of Sony to build this $3K player back in the late 90's.
Anyone else using a Sony ES SACD spinner?
I have a stock Sony XA5400ES. I have owned it for 5 years and love it. It takes a long time to break in. I would be skeptical about any descriptions of the sound from owners who gave their impressions after just purchasing the player. After 500 hours or so, the sound really comes into its own. I like the xlr outputs, but only if I engage the grounding switch on my preamp. If using the rca outputs, I found it responds to different brands of cables. I like the Audio Sensibility Statement silver cables for this player.  I like the stock Sony better than my Modwright Oppo BDP83SE. The tone is fuller and more natural, and the images are more appropriately life sized. I notice this especially with redbook cd's. I think the Oppo is more transparent and detailed, but less 3 dimensional and "full" sounding. The Oppo plays my DVD-A discs excellently, and SACD performance is very good, and nice to compare with the Sony, so I am keeping the Oppo around.  But the stock Sony is clearly superior with redbook, at least for my tastes, which is the main reason why the Sony is still in my stable.
Thank You! thaluza.

Keep me posted & Happy Listening!
jafant, you are welcome!
The Modwright Sony 5400es is the bomb. It beats my Parasound best CD player the Parasound cd1. It easily beats the Ayon cd2s. It beats the ear acute. It beats the stock oppo 95, the Bryson cd1 and the metronome player I heard. The only better player I heard was the solutions 540.  It has great detail, soundstage and prat. It also has great image placement and separation.
Thanks! for the update -calvinj
that is quite good company(Parasound, Ayon, Oppo, Bryston) in regard to the Sony ES.
Happy Listening!
i had a Sony S9000ES player for many years (since replaced with an Esoteric DV-50S), and I wouldn’t call its sound "strident" by any means!?

But then again, I was running it through tubes (both preamp and amp).

how did the Esoteric compare to the ES for SACD playback?
Happy Listening!

The Esoteric was a significant improvement over the Sony wrt SACD playback. With CD, it was much closer (but the Esoteric still won out).
Thank You- nordicnorm