Modwright Sony XA5400ES SACD player?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Peter Harrar, Apr 17, 2009.

  1. Peter Harrar

    Peter Harrar Member

    Location:
    Connecticut
    I have been corresponding with Dan Wright about possible new units to mod, and asked him last night about the Sony XA5400ES SACD player, which has gotten a positive preliminary write-up by Kal Rubinson in the May 2009 issue of Stereophile. (Rubinson says, in comparing the 5400 to the earlier flagship, the XA9000ES, that "it was a clear victory for the newcomer.")

    Dan told me that he is "keen" to develop a 2ch tube mod for the 5400, but that polling on his board at Audio Circle hasn't generated much interest yet. (Posters there are evidently more Transporter-oriented and are less interested in a disc-based source component, though they have shown enthusiasm for a modded OPPO Blu-ray player (no tubestage), which Dan is already developing.)

    Anyway, since I myself would be interested in one, I was wondering if there would be any interest here. Our host favorably reviewed in Tone Audio and has had on his equipment list the Modwright 9100ES Platinum Signature Truth SACD/DVD player.

    Here is how Dan described to me what he contemplates for the 5400: "The mod that I would LIKE to develop for the Sony would be a 2CH, RCA and XLR, fully balanced, tube output stage with an even more advanced analog stage than we have used in the past, along with our new/improved PS 9.0 power supply. Such a mod would be in the $2K range." He also describes it on Audio Circle in this thread: http://www.audiocircle.com/circles/index.php?topic=64231.msg619573;topicseen

    I'll report back to him if anyone here expresses interest.
  2. LeeS

    LeeS Sovtek 6550WE

    Location:
    Atlanta
    It already sounds very good without mods. It might be fun to see what Dan can do with it.
  3. SamS

    SamS Forum Legend

    Location:
    Texas
    This information is particularly noteworthy.

    As an owner of a heavily modified Sony SCD-1 (Audiomod/Richard Kern), I can appreciate the sonic improvements and know-how of these experienced modders.

    However, I am pretty confident I will never consider future mods to an expensive (think $500+) disc spinner. I own a Logitech Squeezebox + DAC, and hope to get a Transporter one day. I just don't feel comfortable spending several thousand for something that has several points of failure due to a disc-spinning mechanism. We've already witnessed the "scramble" for owners of the popular SCD-1/SCD-777ES to hunt down gears, chips and motors to replace failed parts or as future backup. The appeal of the Transporter lies with it's ability to play hi-rez files, infinite configuations of display and plugins, ease of modifications, and reliability.

    For SACD playback, and Blu-ray music/concert videos, I would consider a Modwright version of the OPPO BDP-83. For the cheap price, it's easy to keep a spare on hand to replace the transport or loader if required.
  4. dale 88

    dale 88 Errand Boy for Rhythm

    Location:
    west of sun valley
    It is possible I would be interested in such a mod. I have the Sony XA5400ES SACD player on order. Until I can break it in and make some judgments about it, I can't say for sure. I don't have any experience with mods, but have certainly heard good things about Modwright.
  5. TONEPUB

    TONEPUB Forum Resident

    Location:
    Portland, Oregon
    Excellent point.

    It's one thing to have a modder put a couple hundred bucks worth of parts in an aging player to get some more miles out of it. It's quite another to take a $1500-$2500 player and spend the amount of the device again on mods.

    It's all good if it never breaks, but once it does, the Orig Mfr. won't touch it and the modder doesn't know how to fix it. Then you have a $3000 door stop.
  6. Peter Harrar

    Peter Harrar Member

    Location:
    Connecticut
    The latter scenario hasn't been my experience, fortunately. I had Denon repair a laser assembly on a modded unit (not a Modwright mod), and while it wasn't under warranty, the cost was under $200. I've also had a local tech do a loose connection repair on another modded unit at a similar cost. Finally, Modwright offers its own 1 year warranty and states on its website that it can do some repairs that would otherwise be done by Sony. So while any mod voids a manufacturer's warranty, that doesn't automatically make it a ticking door stop, so to speak.
  7. LeeS

    LeeS Sovtek 6550WE

    Location:
    Atlanta
    It really depends as well on when the warranty ends. If the unit is out of warranty, getting mods is even less of a gamble.
  8. KeithH

    KeithH Success With Honor...then and now

    Location:
    Beaver Stadium
    From what I've read, it may not need mods.
  9. Peter Harrar

    Peter Harrar Member

    Location:
    Connecticut
    Unless you want the tubestage, like what Steve Hoffman has on his 9100es. It makes it a different product altogether, not simply adding a few parts to extend the life of an aging player, to use Tonepub's phrase.
  10. BigE

    BigE Well-Known Member

    One of the big advantages to the new Sony as Kal pointed out in his article, was the HDMI output, making this machine particularly directed toward a receiver based system. I'm no electrical engineer, but could a 2 channel tube output stage work without disabling the HDMI output? If I remember correctly, this machine also plays SACDs. I'd never buy a multichannel capable machine and then disable the mutichannel capability.

    I'm guessing that if one is going to spend $4000 on a modded piece of $2000 equipment then you'd need to compare it to what is available for $4000 that doesn't need the modification.

    Eric
  11. Peter Harrar

    Peter Harrar Member

    Location:
    Connecticut
    I do know that the Modwright 3910 leaves both the HDMI circuitry and multichannel output untouched, so that if you leave the external power supply turned off, you still have a Denon 3910. I'll ask Dan, though.

    BTW, I've seen the 5400 priced as low as $1000, and the mod would be $2000, so the comparison would be with a $3000 unit. Is there a tubestaged cd/sacd player with balanced outputs at $3000 anywhere on the market?
  12. TONEPUB

    TONEPUB Forum Resident

    Location:
    Portland, Oregon
    I meant extend the life more in terms of say you have a $1000 CD player that you've had for a while and you are deciding whether to get rid of it and upgrade, or mod it and keep it another few years, hence extending the life of that unit.

    It's always a crap shoot with modded gear. If it works fine and nothing breaks that the modder can't fix, you beat the odds and come out ahead. If it breaks and is beyond the modders ability to fix it when the mfr will not, you lose and you do have a door stop.

    Also, if you are someone who tends to keep gear for a fairly long time, it's not as big of an issue, however if you like to trade gear more often, the modded stuff doesn't hold it's value as well in the short term.

    Just depends on what you want to gamble with.

    Even some of the majors only fix digital hardware for so long...

    I have a Proceed CDP that is still in excellent shape, but now needs some service after 15 years. When it was 8 years old and required minor service, it only set me back a couple hundred bucks. However Levinson wants a minimum of $900 to open it up and look at it. So now I have a door stop.
  13. darkmatter

    darkmatter Gort Astronomer Staff

    :agree:

    That is what prevented me getting my SCD-1 modded, though I may of been lucky and had some real fun with it, that is my loss.

    I am interested in seeing how the Modwright Sony XA5400ES SACD player turns out though :)

    Simon :)
  14. Peter Harrar

    Peter Harrar Member

    Location:
    Connecticut
    Well, everything becomes a door stop eventually, modded or unmodded. Except my MC-30s. :)

    I do find that there is a market for used modded gear on sites like Audiogon. It's like the market for vintage houses: only a minority of buyers are willing to put up with the idiosyncracies, but since there are fewer out there, those that do like them tend to snap them up.
  15. JA Fant

    JA Fant New Member

    I cannot wait to see whom mods this player!
  16. Peter Harrar

    Peter Harrar Member

    Location:
    Connecticut
    Well, Dan will do it if there's enough interest.

    Dan's answer to Eric's question about the HDMI circuit: "no, the HDMI MCH outs would not be disabled at all. The unit likely has a separate stereo circuit and MCH HDMI databus. We don't disable ANY features for any of the players that we mod."
  17. SamS

    SamS Forum Legend

    Location:
    Texas
    I can confirm this.
  18. dwmann

    dwmann Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Houston TX
    I would buy a used McIntosh MCD500 instead.
  19. TommyTunes

    TommyTunes Forum Resident

    The 5400 is a fine sounding player that performs at two to three times it's price. However spending $2K in upgrading it sounds foolish. Once you start looking in the $4K range there are better alternatives.

    CD Players are complex mechanical devices. They all have a finite lifespans. Let's face it the 5400 transport is not exactly a Esoteric VRDS. Sony's transports have had reliability problems in the past.

    I have never been a fan of non-manufacter modifications, my personal opinion is that they devalue the product for resale. My thinking is buy the best at the price point you can afford then when funds permit sell it and a buy better.
  20. Peter Harrar

    Peter Harrar Member

    Location:
    Connecticut
    It may often be foolish, but that wasn't Steve Hoffman's view of the Modwright Sony 9100ES that he reviewed in Tone Audio issue #5. Here's the summary of Steve's review on Tone Audio's index page:

    It may seem strange to see a couple of 5687 tubes sticking out of the top of this Sony digital player, but Dan Wright’s mods make the 9100ES a “world-class digital playback machine.” Using the tube circuit from the ModWright SWL 9.0SE preamp and a new copper umbilical for the new outboard tube supply, this player has midrange magic and is “groovy and well worth the money.”

    Attached Files:

  21. KeithH

    KeithH Success With Honor...then and now

    Location:
    Beaver Stadium
    Kal Rubinson said that the 'XA5400ES was smoother in the treble than the 'XA9000ES, which was double the price of the new model. Now, this was a preliminary evaluation by Rubinson, but if the 'XA5400ES is as smooth as he said, it still may not need the tube stage.
  22. Peter Harrar

    Peter Harrar Member

    Location:
    Connecticut
    This Rubinson write-up is precisely why Dan wants to take one last shot at generating interest in this. The platform needs to be excellent in the first place to be worth adding this kind of tubestage.
  23. Peter Harrar

    Peter Harrar Member

    Location:
    Connecticut
    Here's my question to all of you who say it would be more prudent to go with a comparable unmodded source component in an equivalent price range of the cost of the stock unit plus the mod (here, $1500+$2000). So what tubestaged SACD/CD players are there out there at or under $3,500? Feel free to included tubestaged universal players, but not redbook only.

    I suppose a used Musical Fidelity TriVista might fall under that price level. But that's a limited run, long discontinued model, so I would think the repair/parts issue people have raised is a big red flag. Otherwise, I'm only aware of Chinese units -- the Cayin SCD-50T and the Shanling SCD200. I've had both, and they are nice players, but not in the "breath of life" class of, say, the Modwright Denon 3910 (which I have and remains a keeper). There are other 3910 tube modders -- APL, Exemplar. I'm guessing that since the XA5400ES is, based on its press, a better-sounding platform than the 3910, the Modwright 5400 should sound better than the any of the modded 3910s for SACD and Redbook.
  24. mknappe

    mknappe Active Member

    Location:
    Sunnyvale, CA, USA
    I have a Marantz SA-11S1 that I've never been really happy about the sound - a bit flat and lifeless. Always been interested in the Ayre C-5xeMP with its ability to play both DVD-A and SACD, but the price tag (5K+) is steep. Always wanted to hear a comparison between that and the Marantz for SACD playback, but now the 5400ES looks really interesting too. Any first hand experience between any or all of the three would be really appreciated.
  25. KeithH

    KeithH Success With Honor...then and now

    Location:
    Beaver Stadium
    Why limit yourself to a tube stage?

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