Review: Modwright Sony 9100es Platinum Sig Truth modification CD Player

Category: Digital

I was able to test my Modwright 9100 Platnium CDP against my Sony DVP-9000es modded by Vacuum State to Level 6. I have had both players in my system for a good 6 months.

System consists of all solid state gears (McCormack amp and preamp modded by SMC, highly recommended) and Tyler Decade D1 speakers (also highly recommended). System tends to be on the neutral side: not really "warm" like many tube-based systems, but very full and in no way "thin" or "brittle" soun (which were quite good ding. The Tyler speakers are full yet detailed, much improved over the older Linbrook speakers in terms of soundstage and neutrality, as well as clarity (although the older Linbrooks were still very good speakers for the price). Cardas cables perhaps add a hint of warmth.

First off: the Modwright unit has 2 sets of tubes, both in the tube output stage and the power supply. The fit and finish of the actual Sony unit is a bit cheaper than the older 9000es, but that isn't of huge concern. The Vacuum State Level 6 modded unit is a bit different in that it is not a tube-based player, and does not have an outboard power supply. Lots of reviews floating around on both.

Discs used for comparison: most of what I own, although for really detailed listening, it was Diana Krall's Love Scenes, Air's Walkie Talkie, and the Britten recording of Brandenberg Concertos.

The comparison was pretty straight-up: I felt the players were more or less equal on performance, although they took my system in different directions. The Modwright excelled (being a tubed unit) at predictably filling the room with texture. Everything felt very dense, rich, and full. Bass was very prominent (these speakers are quite full already, they are big!). Soundstaging was superb. The player seemed quite tonally accurate (of course limited to my scarce knowledge of music) and very easy on the ears. It gave the system a bit of "tube bloom" without really sacrificing much in the way of detail. It felt like the soundstage was a couple of feed wider than the VSE unit. Very, very nice player. I haven't compared it to stock high-end players, but I hear that the Modwright unit will pretty much trounce any stock player under $5k retail, and I believe it, based on my prior experience with modded electronics. My SMC-modded preamp has easily beat a couple of very popular $6,000 preamps in my system, and my amp has yet to meet it's match with a few amps in the same retail $6k range.

The VSE-modded Sony is a bit different. Also a very good player, but it really drops the "smoke in the room" feel that the Modwright gives you for more of a crisp, clear, very precise sound. The soundstage is still excellent, if perhaps a foot or 2 narrower, but the images inside of the speakers are clearer and better placed. The guitar strings on "Mike Mills" (off of Talkie Walkie) are clear as a crisp, clear fall day. The interesting sounds at the start of "Alone in Kyoto" (sounds perhaps like water flowing, although not quite) are much clearer and almost haunting on the VSE unit. The clarity couldn't be quite matched by the Modwright unit. The low-end on the VSE unit was a bit thinner, and perhaps, more neutral (again, the Modwright painted a darker, heavier picture). Perhaps the difference isn't too much from the traditional differences everyone talks about between tubes and solid state: clarity vs. body, and even though I didn't listen to each unit with that in mind, those differences were fairly obvious in these 2 units.

Overall, I couldn't say that either unit exceeded the other in terms of performance. If you have an overly bright system, the Modwright is probably the better bet. Perhaps for jazz lovers who really like the dense, dark images, you will love this CDP. If you are looking for primarily crispness and accuracy, yet a very musical sound and great detail, I would look at the VSE unit. I could keep both, and really enjoy listening to either. Even after 6 months, I can't say which I like better; they are just different, but both top-notch players that punch well above their weight in terms of what they go for on the used market. And, in terms of being able to listen for long periods and enjoy the music: they both do that very, very well. And a note on the overall presentation of each player: I could easily tell which was which when going back and forth with the same disc, but after about 15 minutes of not switching and just letting a disc play, I could not longer distinguish which I was listening to. Instead, I just thought that hey, this sounds great, and sat back and relaxed. I could easily live with both, and would if I could afford to.

Associated gear
Tyler Acoustics Decade D1 speakers, McCormack DNA-125 amplifier with Gold- revision by SMC, McCormack ALD-1 preamp with Platinum revision by SMC, Cardas Golden Reference and Hexlink 5 IC's and speaker cable, Acrolink PC w/Oyaide connectors.

Similar products
Sony DVP-900es with Vacuum State Level 6 mods
Follow up: I should mention that the Modwright is an "almost" platinum, without a pair of the Bybees. I was going through my records and found this. I called Modwright and they said it was a small upgrade and should improve the sound a tad. Also, after doing some more head-to-head listening, I think I do prefer the depth of the Modwright slightly, and it does probably sound as clear as the VSE unit. It is just that the soundstage is bigger and the picture more "full" that it may not seem as crisp initially, but I listened to some complex passages and was getting the same information out of each player, just a bit fuller picture with the modwright. Again, with the tubed power supply and outputs, I am not really surprised. Superb player!
Another follow-up: switched amps out to the Rogue M150's, and with other tubes in the system, the balance of the rig changed just a bit. Now, I find that I am getting a bit more clarity out of the VSE modded unit, and while the Modwright is still presenting a fuller picture, I am not sure I prefer it, as the M150's KT88 tubes are already giving me a lower end and slightly darker presentation. In this configuration, I think the VSE Sony may be more of the sound I am looking for. They are both really close, but with these amps, I would say it is more of a "1/2 dozen of one, 6 of the other" and less of a unit that is better or worse. It is still pretty astounding how nice either of these players sounds, especially at their given price point.