Well, I am already known to be some sort of a Sony fan. There is
nothing about the fame, image or marketing of Sony. I love them for
such incredibly honest job they did throughout the eighties and
nineties for HIFI . Almost every products I open up to examine is made
with passion, attention to detail, good practices, good parts, etc. If
they have to cut corners in cheaper models - they do so by means of
intelligently made sacrifices, keeping the general quality.
I like Sony.
The latest CD player in my hands - X55ES - is no different. It has
serious, almost mean looks, no nonsense face plate, with excellent
ergonomics and buttonology. It feels heavy and solid, it just screams -
upper market SONY.
We already know that in their catalogs in the nineties - digits 3 meant
lower model, digit 5 - medium model, and digit 7 - top of the line. The
55 is a mid -ladder player with some pretensions to high end. Wooden
cheeks look positively highendish but lifestylish at the same time.
Inside the player, all is nice and neat but NOWHERE NEAR the top
players like 555ESD, 557ESD 337ESD the 779 or others.
The CD mechanism is from the upper range, model KSS272, very very
similar to the preceeding KSS151A. The laser itself looks good, the
tracking is on magnetic rails, but the motor is a cheap one, not the
massive brushless one as in say KSS253B or KSS190A (BU01).
The DAC - most interesting for us - is a Sony product. After a decade
of using a mix of Philips and Burr Brown DAC chips, Sony started
rolling their own. Unlike other DACS, not an OEM, not even pin
compatible - typical Sony way - EVERYTHING had to be different.
The DAC appears to be internally balanced and of voltage output type
I applied a typical Lampizator just to test the Sony, " my first sony" - remember that
tape recorder under the christmas tree? Well, thats my first sony DAC
to be lampized.
I did not have high expectations, I did not think thats gonna be the
TDA1541A killer. BUT. The stock sound surprized me in a big way -
unlike 99% of players out there, this one without any mods sounds just
great. I can not name one small flaw on the picture. If I did not know
any better - that would have been a keeper. Well - just untill the
XA5ES came and swept the floor with the X55ES. Yess - the more costly
cousin is everything the X55ES is and more. Better looks, better build,
better power supply, better mechanism, and better sound. But
thats another story.
Back to lampized Sony X55ES
I have put two SRPP tubes 6H6P inside the player, and removed the
analog stage completely.
I used the freed up power supply of these opamps (12V) to power the
tube heaters. To adjust the 12,6V exactly - I have lifted the center
leg of the 7812 regulator and I put a cheater N4004 diode to ground in
series with the lifted leg. That produces a 12,5 regulator - a well
known trick. Each series diode in center leg adds 0,5 V to the output
First - the checklist: there is a very tiny residual noise at the DAC
output, and to mute that - I added a shunt from 2 nF capacitor between
tube grid and ground.
The balanced outputs were ignored - I used the good old pure Single
Ended outputs from the DACS.
There is no pops or noises during skip, pause or play, the player
without muting relays or transistors behaves well.
The sound from the Sony X55ES
In one word: good. In two words - very good,
Not TDA1541A killer - as I correctly expected, but a very dynamic
and full sound, with plenty of details, nicely blown scene - deep and
wide. With natural voices, clear bass notes - a really good allrounder
without major flaws. What do the top dacs do which this Sony does not?
Well,... eee..... I dont know,. They do that "something" perhaps
the last 5% of narural reproduction of live voices - which do not
belong in the case of Sony in the strong goosebump category. I could
live with that - only because I am spoiled - I even dare to complain.
Besides - Sony operates like a dream machine, PLUS the digital output
SP/DIF is just great.
Go for the sony - you won't regret it.