Sony SCD-555ES


I was looking for a new transport after the MicroMega 3.1 was acting up with skipping, not reading the CD etc. The spindle was of the cheap plastic kind that you could push down while placing a CD, hence requiring the entire spindle be aligned again to achieve the proper distance from the lens. First class bummer!!!

A disappointment with acquiring a CDP-X5000 transport from the far east left me wondering what to do. I found this great CD player in Japan for a very nice price, but the guy sold it to someone else when he had already promised it to me. What's a guy to do!!

 


Sony CDP-X5000

 

While browsing though a list of some cd's I wanted to get, I came across the phrase SACD. Never thought about that for some reason. I'd heard a few SACD players before and knew they could sound better than CD's, even heard an Allen Wright modified 777ES at the 2002 Triode Festival. Damn, why didn't I think of this before. If I have to get a new player, might as well go for SACD.

Looking around the second hand market and reading reviews, the majority of good reports went towards the Sony players. Checking out the XB940 and some of the newer models revealed a lot of down grading in terms of chassis. The first SACD players weighed in at at least 6kg, the new units are 3-4kg at most. Metal has given way to plastic, quality to quantity. The new XA333/555/777 models left me looking deep into my wallet only to find out the well wasn't wet enough to go for the newer top players. Allen mentioned the 777ES and 555ES were becoming scarce, he wasn't kidding. Trying to find one of these was quite a task. Sure, I can find them for eu2000, a dozen at a time. But affordable?!  (Hey, I'm dutch!).

A SCD-555ES popped up on the place I least expected it to, on a dutch HiFi site (www.hifi.nl). An ad was placed on friday, I reacted early saturday morning (that alone is a great feat for me), visited the seller on sunday and I am left grinning from ear to ear after hauling this 14kg monster out of the car :]  No need to say there are a bunch of SACDs heading towards my mailbox as I type this.

 


Sony SCD-555ES

 

 

 

26-04-2003
Hooked up and warming up for an hour or so, let's hear this thing. Popping in my first SACD and selecting CD mode. The tray closes without any noise at all, niiiice... The music is new to me so I have no comparison yet to my MicroMega. Lils Mackintosh on an STS recording, live, jazz, good voice. The on-board DAC is very refined compared to my own PCM63 DAC, although not as powerful. The mids are clearer and the overall balance is quite good. Damn, time for a new DAC???

After three songs the SACD layer is selected and the music starts again. I hate to use silly words that everyone knows from hifi magazine (harghllm)... but, wow!!! The music becomes three dimensional and loose from the system. More detail in the HF (or less coarse is a better phrase). Going back to CD is like pressing the music between two books, totally flat. Placing is more precise with the SACD, it's a different world all together.

This makes you wonder if they actually sabotaged the CD layer to give SACD a better rep... but if the difference is genuine, then I should have made the switch to SACD a lot sooner. A real recommendation to anyone who loves music and is having second thoughts on going vinyl because of all the hassles.

Prices for SACD software (music) is getting to the level of normal CDs and there are more titles now then when SACD was only a few months old. Sony claims to only be making SACD hybrids by the end of the year, hope this is true...

30-04-2003
Took a look inside today, fearing the worst. To my wonderful surprise, the 555 uses excellent components compared to the stuff I am used to seeing in "high end" drives. The Sony uses Elna Silmic capacitors and Riken Ohm resistors, who'd have thunk it?! A heavy transport/frame with tank-like qualities are found in the frame of this player. At first I thought they just put a piece on concrete inside to give it the extra weight ;)))

 


Inside view

 


Riken Ohm and Elna Silmic (yummy!)

 


DSD board, the heart of this machine.

 


Power supply

 


Double R-core transformers

 


Close-up

 

10-01-04
The comparison between the MicroMega CD and Sony CD playback was left out during my DIY black-out, so here goes...

The question remaining is if the Sony will also replace my current MicroMega F1 CD transport. The only way to find out was to do a one-to-one comparison between the two using the digital output on both units to make it a fair trial. The difference is very obvious from the start, the MicroMega is more balanced and has more life than the Sony. On every CD I played this would become obvious. So I will be sticking with my F1 for CD playback and using the Sony only for SACD discs.