High-end Sony CD/SACD players - worth the money?

I have always been interested in the higher end Sony disc players of the nineties and noughties. I like the engineering, styling and ‘battleship’ build. However a quick search of the well known auction site suggests that prices for used examples are going through the roof. Are they worth the money? I am thinking of the ES series with the CD pucks, the similar SACD players and the later 1200, 3000, 5400 and 9000 models. Does anyone have direct experience of them? Yes they are built like a tank but are they reliable? I certainly wouldn’t spend mega money on one but I do wonder if a reasonably priced one would be worth a punt one day?

“Worth” is the key word. Only you can judge the “worth” of something. :wink:

The high-end ES Sony players were very good sounding; but rather different from the Naim players I’ve heard/owned. The Sony’s tend to be smooth, detailed, extended, and to image/soundstage well, but (IMO) they weren’t as lively and organized sounding as Naim CD players.

If you see one for a reasonable price (another term only you can judge for yourself), why not? You’ll almost certainly be able to sell it on for at or close to what you paid for it.

I’ve used the big 777ES with the sliding top loading draw and puck for years. I really rate this model especially if you can run it through an NDac. You seem to get all the benefits described above but with a dose of Naim timing and musicality thrown in.

My 555CDP and PS went back to Naim last year for a service and DR’ing. Whilst it was away I used the Sony with an NDac and marvelled at just how good it was.

As for reliability I keep mine boxed in my workshop when not in use and it fires up first time, every time. Not had a single problem with it in 17 years.

Passing interest. Can they be serviced/repaired?

From what I have read,not really. Some "replacement "lasers may be available, but they are Chinese copies, not original Sony lasers.
I have a CDPXA555ES (non SACD) which I purchased in 2001-ish which still works perfectly, and Sony DVPS9000ES DVD/CD/SACD of similar vintage which I am currently using as my CD player, which is also fine, having had relatively little use.

Thanks Al.

In an idle moment yesterday I unearthed some old copies of Hifichoice and What Hifi and read reviews on the XA555ES CD player, the SCD-555ES SACD player and yours, the SCD-777ES SACD (with matching amp). They are all fine looking machines, the top loading 777 in particular and all get very favourable reviews. Both 555 players cost circa £1,000 and the 777 was £1,700. A lot of money back then but quite good value with today’s prices of new equipment. Also, many of the ES players on the well-known auction site cost the same or considerable more than they were new. Do you use yours for SACD replay?

Interesting what you say about using one as a transport. The XA20ES was the entry level at the time but still has the fixed pickup mechanism and looks the part too - perhaps it could make a great transport for a modern DAC?

Ref sound characteristics, the description by Zenercade above sounds similar to my father’s CDP-XE300 from the mid 90s. A very clean sounding player that suits classical music in particular and fits well in his Arcam/Tannoy system. With the exception of needing a new draw belt it has been faultless and is now 25 years old. If the ES range gives more of the same in terms of sound/ownership proposition I can see why they are popular.

Ref lasers, that would be my main concern ref spending quite a lot of money on one - I would assume everything else would be repairable by a competent technician? Having said that, on the same auction site, there is a German seller that advertises ‘genuine’ laser assemblies - they are not cheap though.

I opted for a Philips CD960

Its been very reliable since last 2-3 years and i changed the belt once - which is expected to last a few years more…

Its got an excellent transport to boot - CDM-1

what i understand is that the Philips players add some “warmth” and the Sony ones image / soundstage very well so one needs to choose as per what one wants.

I am happy with my Philips CD 960 choice ( not that i have money to spare for more than 1 player )

Note - A Sony BDP S 370 - CD playback thru analog o/p has surprised many who think a heavy weight & star ship build is essential for good music.

Its so ubiquitous looking - nobody would even give it a chance - till it starts playing… :grinning:

At less than USD 150 - its chump change for many here.

Its an SACD player to boot and plays all sorts of files via USB

Go figure.

Best regards

I am very probably going to use either my XA555ES or DVPS9000ES as a transport as I am almost ready to buy a streamer dac, probably in conjunction with a Chord Company Shawline spdif cable. Both are nearly 20 years old but you would not know it from their external condition.

Even Naim struggle to repair 20 year old CD players: if you buy a 20 year old Japanese CD player it really is a case of caveat emptor. Looking st some of the prices on the web for Sony ES CD players, there are no bargains out there, it would seem.

For the sort of money being asked I would probably go for a brand new Denon DCD2500ne for example.

A very good option…

But audition preferred in your system

It would be interesting to know whether a modern streamer dac is an improvement?

Regarding a new player such as the Denon I was wondering that - are 15 - 20 year old Sonys really worth almost as much if not more than a new high-end Denon/Marantz/Yamaha SACD player when you take into account age/wear etc. Are they like classic cars where looks/feel/pride of ownership are as much/more of a factor than performance? It would also be interesting to know how they compare soundwise with something like the Arcam CD37 or the current high end players from the likes of Esoteric and Macintosh.

It is a shame that Sony don’t make anything like this now - there current disc spinners are Bluray based - we have a basic one for AV duties and it sounds good for films through the HDMI to TV then digital coax to the AV amp but I have never tried it for music. It is not something that exudes quality or luxury though.

I learnt very early on that SACD replay is as varied as hi-res is now. What I would say is that using the 777ES as a transport through an NDac I thought standard CD was considerably better than SACD. Also worth noting that you can’t play SACD through the NDac only standard 16bit, so there’s not a valid comparison.

I did have the opportunity of a CDS3 before I found my CDP555 but thought the 777ES + NDac still had the edge over a CDS3. It took the 555 to truly displace it.

Oh…not sure if the rumours are true but I did hear that Sony were losing around £2000 on every 777ES player sold just to promote SACD. Just goes to prove a lot of engineering and a lot of expense went into them. I know mine weighs more than a CDP555!

It may have been the SCD1; that was the “big boy” of the range.
I bought the Sony after having a God -awful Arcam Alpha+ which ended up in its’ rightful place in the local council recycling centre IIRC.
The Sony has, touch wood, been 100 percent reliable.

If I were to take the plunge it would be out of interest rather than anything else. I don’t own any SACDs therefore, though older, I would be more tempered by the fixed-pickup machines. The SCD1 and 777es are the only SACD players in know of with fixed pick-up but they are advertised for far more than I would want to pay for such old machines with little/no support - I am sure they are great if you already own one though.

To feed an external dac with a high quality transport, something like a 20ES or 30ES in the silver or champagne would do the job nicely. They seem to go for £250+ depending upon condition. Not cheap like they once were but not rediculous. Interestingly there do seem to spec’ differences between European and US market machines which potential buyers need to be aware of.

As I say, as with amps with VU metres (Technics/Yamaha etc.) I approach this purely out of interest in something I coveted when younger rather than a want to upgrade my system! Coincidentally the Technics amps with VU metres also seem to be crazy money, though they might be easier to maintain.

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