I own a heavily modified 777 and I've owned a 508-24. Modwrighted 777 beats 508. Haven't heard unmodded 777 or Gamut.
I have modded xa777es. I wouldn't buy another CD player for redbook. The only way to better it would be to get an outboard DAC for redbook and still use it for SACD. You won't improve on the transport by much without a megabuck CD player. So, why not get an outboard DAC if money is burning a whole in your pocket or get it modded.
I bought a XA777ES and was so bummed out by the Redbook ! I couldn't believe Sony would make a player sound so good in SACD and so poor in Redbook. My friends and all liked my SCD 333 ES better for Redbook. I thought about a Benchmark or Musical Fidelity DAC but didn't want the extra cables etc, so for half of the price I sent it to TRL and had it modded. All I can say is sweeeeeet! It realy sounds great. It passed the acid test when I started to pull out alot of my old cd's andstay up all night listening.
Check out Tube Research Labs, it's $550.00 and I think well worth it !
I realize every system is different, different cables etc.
I am very pleased with what Paul at TRL did with my 777.
He offers a money back guarantee. My 777 got a deeper, wider sound stage, more midrange bass and above all, it got a tube like smoothness to the top end. Have fun whatever you do!
It's hard to believe that a $550 DAC betters the 777. And that you thought the redbook performance was "poor". I would have accepted that something was better, but that it was poor and dissapointing sounds suspicious especially since it ranks up there with the top players (although it is not the top player) - then you followed it by a plug for a cheap DAC that supposedly sounds much better? I could be 100% wrong and you 100% right, but...
I am not trying to sell anything, I am just throwing in my 2 cents on my XA777ES experience. The $550.00 is not for a DAC but for a TRL mod. Before I bought my 777, I read a lot of reviews, most were very good and a few were very bad.
I thought that the bad ones were just Sony haters or very anal. I was surprised when I got my player,andIhad others listen too. The SACD was far better than my SCD333ES. The Redbook was much more detailed than my 333,but it was a very flat,dark and analytical sound with very little sound stage, at least on my system. I called around and not many people will mod a 777 and those that will for $1500 don't really recommend it because the newer players have better chips. So I thought sell+get a DAC but that also means a few cables that take a $1000 DAC price up to $1500 or more.
So the most affordable upgrade was to give the TRL mod a try. I really like it, and I think it is a good deal at $550.00 Have fun !
I read your post wrong. I apologize for my acusation. Damn, that's my third apology today. I must be a prick LOL
Anyway, I bought (recently) a modded (modwright-superclock 2) XA777ES, and I am enjoying it. Without a doubt, I think the relatively inexpensive Mods can make huge gains in sound on these players.