Why is Sony Digital sound more like vinyl?

I have had Levinson, BAT, ARC, Wadia, Meridian, Denon etc...players..and the top ones, yet when I purchased a Sony scd-XA777Es I was touched in a way none of the others could! The one thing in common with the other gear was Burr Brown DAC's. Also, I have come to believe that RCA (single ended)connections are more musical. Most of my gear has been balanced...when I went all single ended...ah!!!...music like when audio was new!! Lastly, I have found that if CD playback levels on a preamp rise quikly with low volume settings...musicality and low level detail is lost. Perhaps others out there in Audiogon land have pondered my musings...or maybe I've got way to much time on my hands!!
Dave, I'm having too much of a Blonde moment right now to touch this! However this will be one of todays more interesting threads with depth? This may sound like a post for the Audio Guru Professor Slappy to take a wack at?

Till we get to the bottom of this Please Do Not listen to the group "Divinyls" self-titled Cd with the song "I Touch Myself", while your so touched by Sony's Digi-Vinyl type sound. Otherwise you may have more on your hands than just time?

I've had the exact opposite experience compared to you! My friend & I compared his Sony 777ES to my Wadia 861 in his system & we played SACD on his Sony vs. redbook on my 861. The 861 was significantly better than the 777ES & this was admitted even by my friend.
His preamp is a Spectral DMC-20, power amp is a Plinius SA-250 & speakers are B&W N803.
My reference transport is the Sony DVP-S7700. It does not have particularly low jitter, even after digital and power mods, but I believe it must be the digital signal processing that Sony does in their custom chips. It just sounds more natural and live. I am breaking-in a Philips 963SA which is also a dual-laser like the 7700, It is well-focused, but it just sounds clinical. The jitter on the Philips is much lower than the Sony and the digital signal is textbook perfect, but somehow it just does not have the magic....

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
The only Sony that I ever heard that was decent was the SACD1. IMHO.

Good luck,
Perhaps I am adrift in a sea of fellow audiophiles who can not, or will not get past the hype of what the mag's say should sound great!! Remember when it was far easier to listen to a decent reciever and a turntable than it is to put together a musical CD based system today? Does anyone listen to well recorded, meaningfull music anymore or has radio and the record industry pithed everyone by now?
Dave_b, were all pithed now, controlled by the advertising we see. nothing but a pathetic bunch of mind controlled robots. Yer the only one who still listens to meaningful music!


Out of 3 responses that actually repsonded to the question/statement, 2 disagreed and 1 agreed. I wouldnt say that is a good enough reference point to decide that people either take the advertizements as definitive truth or outright lies.

You also have to take into account that maybe that player works great with yer system, but not so good with other systems. Making a statement that yer one of the only people who looks past advertizing and yer one of the only people who listens to meaningful music this early into the thread is pretty pre-mature and a rather bold statement, especially considering the amount of audiophiles who post here. It is also somewhat condensending and arrogant as well.

Tell ya what, maybe that player totally sucks monkey butt on other rigs than yer own, but plays beautifully and naturally on your system because it is well matched to your system.

And maybe, just maybe, there are a few other people here who do not get caught up in marketing hype and actually have enough experience to make a vaid informed opinion of the player you mentioned, be it for OR against.

different strokes for different folks. Some people will agree with you, some will agree.

That certainly does not mean that the people who disagree with you are wrong. Taste and opinion are pretty diverse and subjective to personal standards that only that specific individual will understand.

Just because somone disagrees with you does not mean they are a marketing-slave. They just have a different opinion. And you know what? That is ok.

If we all felt the exact same way about every piece of gear, then we would all have identical systems.

where is the fun in that?

Some of the mags spoke very highly of the XA777ES, mostly refering to the SACD playback. I bought one without listening to it first (never a good idea) and found it to be clinical on both SACD/CD. I wouldn't describe it's sound as anything close to vinyl or really good SACD/CD playback. However, if it sounds good to you then that's all that matters.
If the XA777es sounds anything like the CX777es (carousel) then it needs a lot of help in stock form. The CX777es mods out really nice - almost reference quality. The analog outs on the CX are AC-coupled, but I eliminate this - makes a huge improvement. If this is the same on the XA, then this should be done there as well.
the CX777es is nothing like the XA777es. The XA is the multichannel version of the SCD777es. Both were, during their respective productions the second in the line below the SCD 1. The CX was just another multlidisc player.

I have the SCD777es, and I have been more pleased with it than the previous CDPs I have owned. As the system gets better I find that the Sony doesn't even sound too bad. SACD is obviously better, but...

If someone told me that I could never listen to my TT again and only had the Sony, after several months of crying I would except my fate, and go on with life.

Digital isn't the worst format, but it sure isn't the best.
What I'm saying is that I hear something more musical going on with the better Sony stuff (SCD-1, 777ES, XA777ES and XA9000ES) than with the Burr Brown stuff and I wonder if anyone else may have some insight on the subject. I have and can afford pretty much anything available...the Sony stuff was purchased as an experiment in SACD! What shocked me after having had 3 Sony players over the last 4 years between the other front ends, is how much less Hi-Fi it sounded and how it didn't roll off the extremes or the acoustic space and air on recordings...they also have a knack for creating tube like "action" with instruments which shocked me!! I once replaced my SCD-1 with a levinson 37 and 360s combo because it had more of an initial pizazz factor...I wish I had it back now. By the way, all my comments are meaningless unless it is understood that a quality power cord is used with the Sony's...the stock power cords make the units sound like AM radios!!
what power cord are you using, the nordost valhalla?
Maybe you just hit a great synergistic point in your system. Good for you.....enjoy it!
Interesting, I just bought one used (XA777ES),and it arrived a few days ago. I find the redbook presentation laid back, yet clean in a good way. Orchestral tuttis expand with little muddiness. I sold a Marantz SA14 ver. 2 in order to buy a unit with multi-channel capability. The Marantz' output seems to be a little more powerful than the Sony and former's mid-bass a little more defined. I'm hoping that replacing the output caps in the Sony will open things up in that area? Anyone replace just the caps alone? How did it sound?
Well Dave, I have to disagree as well.

I have had two very well respected Sony ES (two channel) cd players. I will certainly agree that both are extremely well built (probably the best built, mass produced, cd players I have ever seen) and both have good sound. Sony certainly knows how to built a good transport, I will give them that.

However, that being said, neither one comes close to what my Resolution Audio Opus 21 can do. The Opus comes so much closer to analog than either Sony unit ever did. (Closer, but still not quite there though.) There is a life to the music that the Sony's never really had. Also, there is now air around the instruments that the Sony's could not provide.

To paraphrase the NRA slogan: You can have my Opus 21, when you pry it out of my cold dead fingers!
Audioengr: If you have a Philips 963 or even a 763 that sounds "clinical", that thing is MEGA-broken compared to the Philips units i've worked with. These pieces are anything BUT "clinical" sounding. If you told me it sounded round, soft and syrupy, i would believe it in an instant, but "clinical"??? NO WAY. Put the Ayre Acoustics disc on repeat for at least 72 hours at minimum and then come back with your thoughts. A full week or even two of this disc on repeat works wonders. Sean
All great responses, thanks gang...by the way I am using a HarmTech AC-11 power cord on it...BIGGG DIFFERENCE!!! Synergy is sometimes everything...and built in bias!!
OK I have owned the SCD-1, SCD-777ES and XA777ES Sony players. I would not say they were anywhere near analog sounding to my ears. They were good but not analog sounding. My old Meridian 508.24 was slightly better sounding on redbook CDs. Cords made some improvement and cones, points, bearings air bladders all changed the sound on the Sonys also.

Going to a tubed DAC really upgraded the sound of the Sony players, then they became more analog. The difference could be noticed in piano recordings where the piano was not as hard sounding, and became more real sounding. There was more depth to the soundstage which was the key to making the recordings sound more real and live.

Happy Listening.
I must take issue with this wrap on the Sony ES digital gear sounding hard or lacking in depth or spread ...I have been an audiophile for over 30 years and grew up on vinyl. Perhaps the confusion comes in when most people started buying digital gear that added or deleted certain harmonic aspects of the sound to compensate for redbooks shortcomings on most high-end gear..which mostly tune out true musicality anyway! I have no stock in Sony...I've blown over 40K on front ends in 3 years..what I'm saying is that in a musical system the Sony stuff let's all the music flow in a more natural way without hype and without rolling anything off thereby in effect improving on some of the drawbacks of vinyl while getting the essentials of the music correct!
but piano is hard sounding. it's a percussive instrument. little hammers hitting little strings.
Sony analog sounding, wow.
Mine DVP-S9000ES is harsh very digital and really sucks.
Yeah, but the little hammers have little felt booties on them.

And Slappy, I have to disagree with you. I am an advertising slave and incredibly influenced by all that I see in print and outdoor advertising. When I saw the Stereophile Alpha-Core ad with those Flapjack MkII interconnects coiled on Dawn's melons, I was overcome by an uncontrollable urge to suckle.
Sean - I have a disk in teh 963SA on repeat-play for 2 days now. Have not tried it again yet. I installed a Jensen cap, so that might affect this. I am talking about the Transport performance, not the analog outs.
I agreed, piano is hard-sounding. What your tube DAC has done is limit the HF dynamics. You are getting the sustain and decay, but not the attack. This will make a Steinway sound like a Baldwin. I have experienced this "pretty" sound myself, since I mod so many different DAC's. It isn't real, trust me. To achieve live-sounding piano (which is my reference recording), you need sibilant-free playback with excellent focus and good HF dynamics. My wife plays our Yamaha grand in our music room, so we both know what live piano sounds like.

And just because most stock Sonys can be bettered by more expensive gear means nothing. The key is that the right digital signal processing is being done in there, so with mods, these other deficiencies can be overcome.
Sorlowski - The 9000 is a bit of a problem, you are correct. I am told you can program a "soft" mode, which is digital signal processing that can ameliorate some of this, but evidently you sacrifice detail in the process. I have modded the digital out on some 9000's and they turn-out okay, but are bettered by the older 7700. In fact, since the 7700 is getting quite old now, I am on a quest to find a transport replacment that is just as good. No luck so far.
My impression when I tried the XA777ES in my system was that it compresses dynamics in Redbook mode, making it less harsh on the ears than some players. It can be a pleasant sound, but overall kind of dull. The SACD mode doesn't have that problem. I suppose another component that is somewhat aggressive could complement it and produce good synergy.
I'm not surprised to hear some of you re-iterate what the reviewers have said.."SACD is great but CD is ok!"...bullshit, it is far better than ok with a properly tuned system. Remember, I am talking about acoustic instruments sounding reall...not artificial stuff, although everything seems to come off sounding better...I wish someone lived nearby to hear what I'm trying to say i.e...go to symphony hall and hear what music does in a real acoustic space in an average seat,,,that is what the sony does amazingly well!!!
Audioengr: Playing music and playing a disc such as the Ayre that i mentioned are very different things in terms of how it "works" the component. This is due to the differences in spectral balance and average levels achieved. By working the entire audible spectrum at a high average level, the break-in is both faster and more thorough in my experience.

As far as the analogue outs vs the digital outs, my experience with this player is that they sound very similar if using a relatively neutral DAC. In effect, the transport seems to impart much of the sonic signature that the 963 brings along with it. Quite honestly, i was amazed at how much the sonics of a transport impart into a system. That is, once i had a DAC that was good enough to reveal these things : ) Sean
I have been lately to philharmonic after long, long break (in Philadelphia), I have forgotten how good sound can be.
I could not believe what I was hearing. Even the best high-end audio rig exceeding 200k$ was not even close to me not to mention SONY...
Why if SONY is that good I have not seen one on HE 2001, HE 2002, HE 2003, HE 2004 used as a source ?
But I have seen as a source:
EMM Lab, Accuphase, Wadia, Cary, Theta, Audio Aero, Lector and others, not even one SONY ???
This is one of greatest post !!!
Base on my experience, so many of us are biased with name brand, and we can tell through reading this post.
If you come to a house/dealer... for an audition and without knowing namebrand of gears, how many of you can confidently distinguish SCD-XA777ES from others mentioned above ?????????
The industry has to sell gear...money makes the world go around last time I checked...and there is alot of tasty treats to be had but I say again..(I've owned most of the names mentioned or at least demo'd the others extensively at home)...the Sony sounds more natural or unhyped when carefully set up...the others make great initial demonstration gear because they grab your attention quickly!

The Sony draws you in unexpectadely upon extended listening...it is no way near perfect but it gets the essentials right..I didn't want to sell my $18k Levinson rig f or fun or the Wadia 861 or anything else...they just sounded wrong over time to the point I considered giving up this hobby!!!
Such an interesting thread. I continue to audition my new, (used) Sony XA777ES and the word that comes to mind is honesty. The dynamic range is very honest. When a solo violin plays, it's rather smallish, though when the orchestra roars, there's quite a bit of inertia behind the volume; the mark of a excellent CD player. Symphony practice just started up again and during pieces in which I don't play, I got a chance to sit in the hall and listen critically. It was, in fact, similar to Sony's presentation--at least the XA. There's no playing to the peanut gallery with the Sony--no hyper-realism--stings are in their place, bells sound like bells without splitting atoms, etc. I don't find the player harsh at all, though my Musical Fidelity A308 and Vandy 3a sigs are very friendly in that respect.
Jdaniel has the hall experience even more than I it appears and He understands a bit about what is special in the Sony XA presentation or rendering if you will. IMHO I believe the parallel DAC arrays remove the digital (subliminal at times) nature of even the redbook stuff more so than most other gear. The rest of the processing is also interesting and unique...24bitVC filter with 2.something Mhz processing power; add to that 8x oversampling (upsampling equivelent ala Mark Levinson) and a 1 bit downconversion scheme and you get something less digital sounding with few drawbacks...not that it can't be improved or beat..just that it amazes me that Sony has done it so well!!
Tqn999- You are wrong. These guys can, and have, heard the difference. Piano is especially good to A/B cd players, because we all know what it is supposed to sound like. I had a rega planet 2000, but I bought a Pioneer elite DVD and a french tubed DAC. Price- wise this combo was about 4 times the cost of the rega. It was obvious to both me and my wife that the rega was better. Trust me, Katherine has never read a review. Now I don't know a hoot about the sony's except what I have read. They are built well and sound great on SACDs- not surprising, considering who invented SACD. I have no doubt they'd be a good transport for a mod. Wonder why units sound different? check out http://www.modwright.com/ for all da bitchin' things you can do to these machines. While we're at it, here's a list of websites I have found to be handy. http://spazioinwind.libero.it/themagicsound/_private/links_home.htm
Slappy, you were killing me! L.O.L.! MUST BUY BRITTANY! Hell, there is no greater oxymoron than "Brittany live!" As for Bose, "No highs, no lows- must be bose!" If we were truly mind- controlled robots the reviews we'd read would be in Stereo Pay2review or Consumer distorts. One says the best advertiser is the best sounding, the other rates quantity of features per dollar. Sorry Dave, but "I am adrift in a sea of audiophiles" is the most pompous statement I've heard in these forums. In essence, they don't agree, so they are mindless automatons.
Dan modified my Sony 9000es with level III mod, DAC mod,
Analog Bybee filters,Amp direct Modifications with DAC
Attenutor,to me the sound is very close to vynil on
SACD mode,I stop listening to vynil for a year now.It is that good, with Tube output.
Well, certainly the new digital amplication in Sony ES Receivers (i.e., STR-DA5000ES) is much more like tubes than like solid state. Maybe the same theories have been going into the sound they intend from their SACD players.
Sean wrote:
"Quite honestly, i was amazed at how much the sonics of a transport impart into a system."

You are preaching to the choir. Transports can make a HUGE difference. BTW - have you read my white paper on Digital cable length:

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
No HAMMY...just you are adrift in your distorted rhetoric which adds no value whatsoever!!
Of course Dave- I dared to disagree. You are the all-powerful audiophile. Someday I'll put my reviews down, throw away my poser Duke diploma, and learn to think like you.
P.S. Dave- W.C. fields has "better here than Philadelphia" on his gravestone.
Audioengr: Your paper basically confirms what i've said about audio design all along i.e. it is all about speed, stability, impedances and power transfer. Until the AF guys learn that these factors are the key to performance, most AF gear will always be "child's play". I'm sure that your background in digital electronics gives you a great edge in understanding these factors. That's probably why your looking for answers in places where some never knew that there were questions to begin with.

Rather than mess with all of that stuff, i simply went the route of finding the lowest jitter transport that i could afford. This feeds a digital cable that makes use of high grade conductors and dielectric materials and is end-terminated. As you described in your paper, end termination reduces problems with VSWR and therefore lowers jitter. This is connected to a DAC that re-clocks all of the incoming signals, which negates the effects of any remaining jitter present. Once all of that is done, the DAC then upsamples the signal while using minimal filtering after that point. This reduces in-band phase shifts while offering wider bandwidth, negating many of the problems associated with "standard" redbook playback. Needless to say, i'm pretty happy with what i've got. Sean
Sean - FYI, I have not found a reclocker yet that does not benefit from a low-jitter high edge-rate Transport.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
So, Dave loves his Sony scd-XA777Es, and if anybody disagrees with his assesmment of it, he will bludgeon them to death with it. Dave, we are all intitled to our opinions, including you. Everyone here has a different room with different acoustics, different equipment and interconnects, different hearing and different opinions as to what live music sounds like. Also, the venue contributes to what live sounds like also. So, if your Sony scd-XA777Es sounds great in your system and room, enjoy it.

I've had a few Sony's in my system over the years for audition. However, the only one that I could live with would be the SACD1; a beautifully built and sounding machine. However, at the time it was out of my price range.

On another note, just because someone can hear doesn't mean they can listen. Example - have you ever walked in a McDonalds and ask for a Big Mac and a large soda and the kid behind the counter asks you if you would like anything to drink with your Big Mac? Or, how many times have you told someone to make a right turn and they made a left turn? That's why they have college courses on how to listen....
Civil disagreement is to be expected, even relished, when it is thoughtful and engaging. I started this post with an observation based on a lifes worth of involvement in audio compared to recent experimentation with several high end digital components. What is read into my statements or considered to be offensive is more of a reflection on those doing the reading (or throwing pseudo intellectual quips)! In other words, can we please stay on point instead of debasing one another for having strong opinions. I apologise for my contribution to the decline of discourse between me and others posting here. That being said, perhaps the issue at hand strikes a nerve for so long frayed by digititus, that we find it difficult to remember just enjoying music...without all the questions!

Overall, I believe it is far to easy to be sucked into the "bright light" of the gear Dujour...myself included! If pointing that fact out is pompous, then so be it!
Just for the record, my reference gear has included the following:


ARC ref2 MKII, LS 25 and SP16L
Levinson 32
BAT 5i
Krell KCT

ARC VT100, VT200, VS110
Levinson 360
Krell 600FPB and 400cx
BAT VK-500

Wadia 861
Levinson 39 and 37,360s
Denon 5900
Sony SCD-1, XA777ES, NS999ES and XA9000ES

Dunlavy SC-V's
Magnepan 3.6's
B&W 801 Nautilus
Watt/Puppy System 6
Martin Logan Odyssey wt Depth Sub
Dalquist DQ-10

Transparent Ref
Harm tech Magic
Alpha Core
I forgot the Meridian G08...disapointing.
W.C. Fields is rolling over in his grave- intellectual? Hovever, thank you for taking the high road.
Jayctoy- how long did it take to get your gear back?
I don't even have the 777es anymore...I'm afraid some are missing the point. The intent was to begin a fresh look at an old problem in light of something I and others have found unique to the Sony ES stufff...nothing more. Since it has morphed into some kind of techno, quasi-satirical diatribe for some, I will let this go and move on. Thanks to those who gave some consideration to my thoughts!