Review: Sony SC-D777es CD Player

Category: Digital

I was looking to compare a modded Sony to my non-modded Sony in order to determine if I wanted to go that route or go with a better external DAC, or another CDP. The other day, I got the chance to compare my non-modded Sony to the same Sony SCD-777ES with a mod from Jerry Osment, which was a tube analog mod that works for both redbook and SACD playback. I was told that a new clock was also installed and that the mod basically bypassed the Sony analog section so the mod comes directly from the Sony digital front end.

The system is dedicated for classical music but I did bring a Pat Barber and James Taylor CD just to use to compare some music I was more familiar with.

Simply put upon hearing the first notes, the modded Sony made my non-modded Sony sound like the sound was coming through a cardboard tube, like the ones that you get from paper towels. It was a bigger difference that my Sony 777 versus my 10 year old 10 disc Sony ES CD player. Between the 10 disc player I could hear differences such as better high frequencies, better bass, clarity, etc., but not like the entire sound stage caved in. Now I wish I had a modded Sony to bring home to my system to spend more time with and compare again.

So what did it sound like, well, very natural, much more dynamic, and the piano notes, etc., had more weight behind them as well as all other instruments. This was a humbling experience. I would never have beleived this because I never felt the Sony was that far off some of the best players, boy was I wrong, not even on the same planet, really.

I also did get a chance to compare both Sony 777ES players to the Forsell transport through the Purcell upsampler into the Audio Logic tube DAC. That was an even more magical sound on redbook CDs than the modded Sony but not to any great degree, just warmer sounding and more musical. The modded Sony really was modded for classical SACD music reproduction. I was told that the Forsell was a great transport and that it held an edge over using the Sony as a transport into the same Purcell and Audio Logic setup.

Hearing a system with 4 amps and 2 preamps with separate power supplies, cross-overs and separate subs was very eye opening. I had never hear a soundstage or reproduction of depth in a system like that before. The subs were played 6 feet back of the speakers which were placed for nearfield listening. The system was configured for classical music and less for imaging.

The point is, I really undestand what a better front end does in a system and how much the Sony mods can offer me. Probably better to mod the Sony (more cost effective) than to buy a better CD set-up, and if the mod can improve upon the sound of the SACD, even better. BTW, the Osment mod was around $1200. I am not sure if he is even doing the mod anymore but the price would probably be increased.

Hope you enjoyed this and Happy Listening.

Associated gear
Jadis preamps (2) separate power supplies (2), Jadiz tube mono blocks (2), (2) SS mono blocks, customer made speakers with separate subs (2) Sony SCD-777ES modded by Jerry Osment (tube analog mod), TG SLVR power AC, NBS top of the line ICs, Forsell CD transport, Purcell upsampler and Audio Logic DAC. Custom speaker cables tri-wire with custom cross-overs, inner tube tweaks with silicone and sand filled bases. All cables has isolation devices.

Similar products
Standard Sony SCD-777ES
I agree with Bigkidz on the improvement that is available over a stock Sony unit. In my case, I replaced a Krell DT-10 transport and Sonic Frontiers P-3 with the Sony SCD XA-777ES. The stock Sony was not nearly as clear, dynamic or involving as the Krell/SF combo. I sent the Sony to Dan Wright for the full blown $2600 Ultimate Truth mod and the results were far beyond my expectations. The modded Sony now was superior in all aspects (but one) to the old set-up! (The one exception is imaging. The old set-up would give me a pinpoint center image whereas the modded Sony's is a little wider).
I was so impressed that I'm on Dan's waiting list to add a tube output stage to my Philips SACD 1000 for my office.
Nice description of what you heard. One thing I'll note is that while my (Bigkidz paid me a visit) system is more geared to classical and naturally recorded music, the Audio Logic mod to the Sony is not so restricted, it sounds good with all types of music. I'd be curious to hear one of the Kern-modified players to see how much of the special qualities you describe are attributable to the tubed output stage vs. the improved analog stage. The main reason I've liked the Audio Logic DAC has been an "aliveness" to the sound that I have not really heard from a solid-state unit--but hey, I'm a tubehead anyway. In any event, I'm sure the modified units will rank up there with the best you can buy, as you're no longer using a unit that's being built to a price point. Just remember that you'll likely be losing the Sony warranty, but what price glory, right, and the modifiers may have their own warranties, at least on their work.
I'm considering having my 777 modified. I appreciate that putting premium parts in all the right places is a no-brainer, but you are still left with the basic digital architecture of the Sony and not the latest chipset, upsampling, and so forth. How much do those count for in the big scheme of things?