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REVIEW: Vacuum State Electronics VSE modified Sony SCD-XA5400ES with Terra Firma Lite SACD Player (Modded)

24.219.30.145

Posted on August 9, 2009 at 15:49:59
Metralla
Audiophile

Posts: 7683
Location: San Jose, California
Joined: January 30, 2001
Model: VSE modified Sony SCD-XA5400ES with Terra Firma Lite
Category: SACD Player (Modded)
Suggested Retail Price: $2500 (modifications only - approximate price)
Description: Sony SCD-XA5400ES with Terra Firma Lite clock and custom VSE output board
Manufacturer URL: Vacuum State Electronics

Review by Metralla on August 09, 2009 at 15:50:00
IP Address: 24.219.30.145
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for the VSE modified Sony SCD-XA5400ES with Terra Firma Lite


Introduction



Last Saturday I went to visit Allen Wright of Vacuum State Electronics at his office and workshop in Schaffhausen, Switzerland to listen to the newly modified Sony SCD-XA5400ES.

How this Came About



I had visited Allen a few weeks prior to this to listen to a Sony SCD-1 that had been modified with the latest VSE mods (Level 7) including the Terra Firma Lite bit clock. I posted regarding my visit here at Audio Asylum on June 28

I listened to an upgraded Sony SCD-1 on Saturday ...

and my listening impressions on July 21

SCD-1

While at VSE I noticed the SCD-XA5400ES on his workbench which had the top removed and I could see the Terra Firma Light clock in place, although the leads had yet to be attached, and the new modification board was not in sight.

I was looking at the interior of a 5400 yesterday at Vacuum State Electronics in Schaffhausen

If you recall, Allen posted on May 13 that VSE was interested in modifying the SCD-XA5400ES and that “the first person to send us one here in Switzerland will get the job for free”.

RE: Sony 5400-Allen Wright

Of course, someone took Allen up on his offer and that was the machine I was checking out.

Then, about 10 days ago, Allen emailed me while I was in Liechtenstein that the modifications to the SCD-XA5400ES were finished and asked me if I would like to hear it in his system. I was due to fly back to the USA (Zurich-Frankfurt-SFO) on the Saturday, but due to, shall we say “immigration issues” I had to change my travel arrangements to the Sunday night train to Croatia, then Zagreb-London-Washington DC-Denver-San Jose; which gave me Saturday afternoon free, and I duly drove from Feldkirch, Austria where I had been staying to beautiful Schaffhausen.

The Modifications



As I noted, the SCD-XA5400ES had the Terra Firma Lite fitted. This is a relatively easy modification, but it had been done very nicely with custom standoffs positioning the tan-coloured clock board above the main rectification board to the right of the transport mechanism, as you can see in the photo. The leads go to the power supply and a special warm-up switch that enables the clock on a lesser power supply while the capacitors in the main supply charge during initial turn on. After 30 minutes or so you can throw the switch and play music. The power to the clock does not go through the Sony power switch, so as long as your player is plugged in, the clock is under power. You only need to use the warm-up switch if the unit has been unplugged from the mains.

Obviously, the switch will be mounted on the back panel when the unit is complete, but that had not been done at the time I listened to it.


VSE modified Sony SCD-XA5400ES with Terra Firma Lite


The other modification that you cannot see is the newly developed VSE output board that is mounted at the back underneath the half-width Sony board visible in the photo. The VSE board is about a third the size of that board, and is neatly mounted underneath and quite close to the existing board. I really had to get down to eye level at the back of the unit to see the custom board that had been added. Again, a very professional installation with custom standoffs and mounting hardware.

Being quite used to the way my Ric Schultz modified Sony SCD-XA777ES looks (it’s a bit of a science project in appearance), the VSE modifications are extremely neat and in keeping with the unit’s architecture.


VSE modified SCD-XA5400ES from the rear

Although you can't see the VSE board, the red and black leads at the very bottom of the photo above are flying leads to the RCA jacks. These will, of course, be mounted on the back panel.

I can’t say that much about the way the new board works, because although I asked questions, I get quickly lost when Allen starts describing all things digital. But the main point to take away is that this is a totally new board that is quite different to the VSE board that has been around for quite some time. As mentioned on the VSE web site and in reviews such as the one on Positive Feedback, the original modification was designed for certain Sony players (SCD-1, SCD-777ES, SCD-555ES EU, SCD-C333ES and DVP-S9000ES) that used the bitstream VC24 chip set. VSE did modify other players, but their modified Sony SCD-1 and Sony SCD-777ES get the most attention.

The digital processing in the SCD-XA5400ES is handled in a different way, by a monolithic DAC/filter and the DSD stream cannot be tapped in the same way. Now we have a current-based DAC, rather than a voltage-based DAC so Allen had to develop a new modification design, which was then turned into a circuit board manufactured externally, then stuffed by VSE technicians.

Given that Allen had raved in print on the ease in which the pure DSD stream could be tapped in the old models, I was skeptical that the sound of the modified SCD-XA5400ES could compete with the SCD-1 I had heard, or Allen’s own SCD-777ES that was sitting in the equipment rack under the SCD-XA5400ES. But more of that later.

The System



Apart from the front end, Allen’s system was the same one I listened to previously. The next photo is a view from near the listening position.


VSE system from a distance


It comprises the magnificent two-box Realtime RTP3D preamp, the differentially balanced DPA-300B monobloc power amps, VSE silver foil interconnects and VSE copper foil speaker cables. The speakers are modified Acoustat Model 11s with Allen’s DIY dipole bass unit, custom passive crossover set for 50Hz.

There was, of course, the SCD-XA5400ES with the top off and flying leads for the RCA sockets (the back panel had not been finished), and below that on the rack was Allen’s own Level 7 Sony SCD-777ES fitted with the Terra Firma Uber clock which was sitting on the floor. Both sources were connected to the RTP3D preamp with identical foil ICs so that comparisons could be easily performed. Well, Murphy’s Law had something to say about that.

The electronics are sited on a very sturdy skeletal cabinet which is pulled forward into the room allowing easy access to the rear of the units. Behind the “cabinet” are the power sockets and some associated power line “stuff” that I forgot to ask about. The power cords are nothing special. Mounted at one end of the rack is a custom-made turntable with a SEAC arm and Koetsu cartridge, but we did not listen to it.

The room itself is very well isolated from the surroundings, although Allen’s workshop is in a very quiet outer part of Schaffhausen, almost in farm country. The walls and (quite low) ceiling appear to be of concrete construction and the dimensions are a lucky combination, right on the Golden Ratio.

The Acoustats are pulled quite a long way forward, around about a third of the length and are right against the side walls. I’d estimate that the room is 7.5 feet high, 12 feet wide and 20 feet long. There are a couple of light framed sling back chairs to listen from close to the far end of the room, and the usual mess of CDs, LPs and other stuff that seems to accumulate in the listening rooms of all but the most fastidious of audiophiles.

Here is a closer look at the equipment rack.



VSE system from closer in

The Music



I had heard this system previously with a SCD-1 that Allen had modified for a customer and it had made a huge impression on me with it’s musicality, realism and sense of life. I had brought with me the same SACD I listened to that day, the wonderful “Stardust” by Willie Nelson (Columbia/Legacy CS 65946).

I like using this disc for reviewing for a couple of reasons. It’s an early Sony non-hybrid engineered by Joe Palmaccio and, although I don’t know this for sure, I bet Sony pulled out their master tape for this transfer. It has quite a range of instrumental textures, a natural and precise soundstage, some stuff that is quite low in the mix, and the hillbilly himself doing some of my favourite songs. It is Willie’s exquisite timing and phrasing that get me on this disc – when it’s right, it’s right and you know it. The recording from 1977 was done in a large ranch house in Southern California using a mobile recording studio, and has that holistic feel of a live session that hasn’t been futzed with too much.

SACD on the VSE Modified SCD-XA5400ES



When I arrived, the system was running and warming up, and Allen made me a cup of tea and we sat down and chatted for a while. Cello music was playing, and I recognized the Pieter Wispelwey disc as I also own it (made a mess of the pronunciation of his name). The SACD was Channel Classics CCS SA 16501 – containing Saint-Saens: Cello Concerto, Tchaikovsky: Andante Cantabile, Variations on a Rococo Theme and Bruch: Kol Nidrei. This was very expressive and lovelingly rendered, with a smooth and deep cello sound filling the room, prompting occasional lapses in the conversation as we stopped to listen more closely. Since I had heard Allen’s system previously, it did not disarm me as much as the first encounter, and this was even more apparent when I put on “Stardust”.

From the opening notes as Willie fingers the strings on “Trigger” (his battered acoustic guitar), I knew this was going to be good. You could hear precisely the initial attack of his fingers on the strings, then as the song develops his left hand technique, bending the notes just so. Underneath, the low level organ of Booker T. Jones providing structure, and the understated drums – delightful; and Willie is right there in the room. This is much as I remembered it sounding a few weeks previously with the big SCD-1, but this was a new player.

When the harmonica comes in “Georgia On My Mind” like a howl from the distant prairies, Willie holding back on the beat, it was very impressive. The piano figure at the end of the song had just that percussive ringing of a real piano.

In “All of Me” we get a totally different guitar sound from Jody Payne on his electric semi-acoustic, and I could hear excellent transient detail as the plectrum hit the string.

Towards the middle of the song, the drummer gets a chance to work a few little frills that made me sit up a bit – that sounded better than my memory of the SCD-1, I thought. A similar thing happened in “September Song”, where the drumming is mostly brush work and these just “popped” brilliantly, and we both went “wow”. I did not get that same reaction when I heard this track on the SCD-1.

“On the Sunny Side of the Street” opens with the bass walking up and down with the drummer and the bass was really good, coming to the fore more than I recall. Again, a beautiful piano sound and really nice “swing” to the song – is this PRaT I’m referring to?

You can’t get much better than Willie singing “Moonlight In Vermont”, one of his favourite songs, and he gives it the old college try – immaculate timing. After a bit of fun we come to one of my all-time killer songs – “Someone to Watch Over Me”. I got a huge rush of emotion listening to this on the SCD-XA5400ES – giant goose-bumps up my arms, and tears in my eyes. Holy smoke.

Comparisons to the VSE Modified SCD-777ES



What we wanted to do was play the same disc on Allen’s own player, but the Gods conspired against us, as when “Stardust” opened, it was obvious that there was only one channel.

The silver foil interconnects are a little fragile right were they join the RCA plugs, and this one had been through the mill, stepped on and otherwise mistreated and it decided to retire. So Allen had to hunt around for some other leads and needed some longer ones than were on the SCD-XA5400ES, so we could not use those. He found some silver wire interconnects (as opposed to silver foils) and we hooked them up.

So that put the VSE Level 7 SCD-777ES at a bit of a disadvantage compared to the newer player, since the foils are really good. But to balance the sheet, the SCD-777ES was fitted with the Uber Clock, and not the Terra Firma Lite. Hopefully, a wash, but slightly unsatisfactory since we were looking for a comparison between the SCD-XA5400ES and one of the best players around.

I observed a remarkably similar presentation though. Through the 777ES, the sound was a little smoother, maybe a little more expansive in the sound stage. Everything I heard through the SCD-XA5400ES I could hear through this different unit, but there were subtle differences – but nothing of note. But then I heard the brush work on “September Song” and it did not have quite the same “pop” and the bass line on “On the Sunny Side of the Street” did not make the same impression. The drumming seemed a little reticent. Could this be that the SCD-XA5400ES is actually better?

After playing the whole SACD, we replayed just a couple of songs, first on the 777ES and then on the 5400, and the differences I just mentioned were clear. The drumming and bass on the SCD-XA5400ES was, in my mind, better – tighter, more supple, more part of the timing, propelling the song forward with a little more excitement. These are small differences, for sure, but I would have to say, for the sort of music I listen to, the new Vacuum State SCD-XA5400ES had dethroned the king.

CD on the VSE Modified SCD-XA5400ES



There have been a few posts on the various audio forums regarding the SCD-XA5400ES. I can’t recall any posts that were critical of the sound on SACD, but I do recall a number of posters that were not impressed with RedBook, so I particularly wanted to listen to CD on the VSE SCD-XA5400ES.

Again, we played a disc that I had heard on my last visit to Schaffhausen when we used the Level 7 Sony SCD-1. The CD is Bill Morrissey and Greg Brown - "Friend of Mine" (Philo CD PH 1151 - Rounder Records 1993).

Friend of Mine

This is one of Allen’s favourite CDs, mainly because the recording and mastering is so good – but it’s also a fun record. Two acoustic guitarists with quite different voices singing some interesting songs in a folk style. I dug it last time and I enjoyed it again.

Was I expecting a huge drop off in sound quality as we changed from a high resolution source (SACD) to CD ? I think I was.

But it did not happen. The singing was expressive, the difference between the two voices obvious, the soundstage natural and the lack of grain and grit took me back a bit. The sound was pure and crystalline and very enjoyable. I listened to the whole CD, through great songs like “Little Red Rooster”, “You Can't Always Get What You Want” (yes, The Rolling Stones number), and the fun “Duncan and Brady”. Allen enjoyed it too.

I don’t know what a bog-standard SCD-XA5400ES sounds like on Redbook, but the VSE modified 5400 with Terra Firma Lite sounded just terrific.

Conclusion



I apologize that I did not hear any full-on orchestral music, or driving rock or frenetic electric jazz, so there are plenty of areas to be explored. But what I did hear of the VSE modified SCD-XA5400ES impressed the hell out of me. The owner of this unit is going to be a very happy audiophile when he or she gets the player home.

The base unit is not expensive (it lists at $1500 and some astute shoppers have gotten deals as low as $1100) and it’s a current model, so reasonably easy to get.

The modification prices are not yet known to me, but according to the Positive Feedback review of the Uber Clock, the Terra Firma Lite is under $900. And I’m guessing at the 5400 mods (using the Level 7 as a comparison) might be $1600.

I reckon you could get the whole shebang for under $4000. With that, you get a player that can compete with the best SACD players out there – the heavy-hitters like the Meitner two-box, the Playback Design, the big Esoteric and the APL. These are 3-8 times the price of the VSE modified SCD-XA5400ES.

I don’t know who would win a shoot-out like this, but from what I heard at Schaffausen, I’d be happy to back the little guy. And count me in when it happens.

Disclaimer



I have no financial involvement with Vacuum State Electronics. But I like Allen Wright, maybe because he comes from Down Under like me, though he’s a Kiwi originally. He once worked for a number of years at HP, where I’m employed. He modified (actually – rebuilt) a Laurie Cohen preamp for me in 1983 out of his Sydney shop – but he doesn’t remember.

He’s a straight talker and a very talented designer and his preamp and power amp can mix it with the best in the world. I reckon he deserves to be noticed by the mainstream press like Stereophile and TAS. Hopefully, the modifications he can do to the SCD-XA5400ES will keep him in beer and chips for a while.


Product Weakness: waiting list
Product Strengths: very high performance / price ratio


Associated Equipment for this Review:

Amplifier: VSE DPA-300B monoblocs
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): VSE Realtime RTP3D
Sources (CDP/Turntable): VSE modified Sony SCD-XA5400ES
Speakers: VSE modified Acoustat Model 11s with subwoofer
Cables/Interconnects: VSE silver ribbon i/c and VSE copper ribbon cables
Music Used (Genre/Selections): see review
Room Size (LxWxH): 20 x 12 x 7.5
Room Comments/Treatments: see photo
Time Period/Length of Audition: Saturday afternoon
Other (Power Conditioner etc.): not sure - no special power cords
Type of Audition/Review: Dealer Demo
Your System (if other than home audition): <A HREF=%22http://cgi.audioasylum.com/systems/1178.html%22>My System</A>



Regards,
Geoff

 

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RE: REVIEW: Vacuum State Electronics VSE modified Sony SCD-XA5400ES with Terra Firma Lite SACD Player (Modded), posted on August 9, 2009 at 16:31:28
Mali
Audiophile

Posts: 1704
Location: Wyoming
Joined: June 12, 2003
Thanks for the nice review. This may be a dumb question, likely it is, but are the balanced outs of the player still functional after the mods are complete?

 

Coincidentially, I was just going to take my SCD-1 to one of Allens reps next week..., posted on August 9, 2009 at 16:49:42
rich121
Audiophile

Posts: 5335
Location: Washington State
Joined: March 8, 2003
and have all the mods done...
Now, maybe I will just buy a new 5400 instead, and look at investing in one of the current DSD recorders to use with the 5400, and then save up for whatever the "current" mod is next year or when I decide to mod...

Rick
It's all about the music!
Support Asylum Trader

 

Balanced Outs... ?, posted on August 9, 2009 at 17:45:06
Joe Rasmussen
Manufacturer

Posts: 133
Location: Sydney Australia
Joined: October 25, 2005

I knew that question was coming. Answer no. But be assured it can be done... but will simply cost extra, just as the old(er?) VSE players did.
If you were mad, would you know it?

 

RE: Balanced Outs... ?, posted on August 9, 2009 at 17:53:46
Mali
Audiophile

Posts: 1704
Location: Wyoming
Joined: June 12, 2003
Disappointed about that.

 

Thanks I have been anticipating this review...., posted on August 9, 2009 at 19:09:47
T NUC
Audiophile

Posts: 103
Joined: October 31, 2002
... now I need to find that 230V version of the 5400ES, sigh....

 

RE: REVIEW: Vacuum State Electronics VSE modified Sony SCD-XA5400ES with Terra Firma Lite SACD Player (Modded), posted on August 9, 2009 at 20:07:59
Ric Schultz
Manufacturer

Posts: 621
Joined: August 7, 2000
Good review. I am sure it is great but you say it competes with other heavy hitters.....yet, none of these were there to compare against.....so how do you know that? Are there reviews of the modded Sonys versus these other players?.....if so, where?

 

RE: REVIEW: Vacuum State Electronics VSE modified Sony SCD-XA5400ES with Terra Firma Lite SACD Player (Modded), posted on August 9, 2009 at 20:14:19
Karltoo
Reviewer

Posts: 211
Location: South Florida
Joined: November 25, 2005
Hi; I found your review to be outstandingly thorough with great clarity.
As you know I did the PFO review though did not have the new 5400 model
available. I sent Bill Thalmann one of my DVPS-9000 models to have the
Lite Clock installed and it should return shortly. Should I assume Allen
was surprised at the bass performance of the 5400+Lite? He and I both
have assumed it would be tough to do that with other players compared to
the SCD-1/777 with their massive build and weight. Your comments seem
to almost imply the Lite equalling the Uber overall? The effects of
Allen's superb clocks must be many and perhaps not easily understood?
Did you hear improvement in the other channels of SACD with the Lite?
If convenient, give me a call or send me your number.

 

RE: REVIEW: Vacuum State Electronics VSE modified Sony SCD-XA5400ES with Terra Firma Lite SACD Player (Modded), posted on August 9, 2009 at 21:14:16
Joe Rasmussen
Manufacturer

Posts: 133
Location: Sydney Australia
Joined: October 25, 2005

> Your comments seem to almost imply the Lite equalling the Uber overall?

I have compared the UberClock and the Lite installed in the very same player, a DVP-9000ES (not at the same time of course). The Lite is not quite the equal of the UberClock but it is less expensive and the Terra Firma 'effect' is there all the same. Bill too has heard both and would agree I am sure. But, whichever way the decision goes, they'll end up happy.
If you were mad, would you know it?

 

Try this...., posted on August 9, 2009 at 21:50:27
Joe Rasmussen
Manufacturer

Posts: 133
Location: Sydney Australia
Joined: October 25, 2005
> I am sure it is great but you say it competes with other heavy hitters.....yet

Try the link below, this is a Terra Firma Lite upgraded Rega Saturn (the Lite plus by-passing the analogue stages and some of our power supply tricks, 1V RMS outs).

Note:

"Yet I can unequivocally say that regardless of price, IMHO, my Saturn now sounds more pleasing and connects me more to the recorded artists than any of the other players which I have recently auditioned, amongst which include the Audio Aero Prestige, Nagra CDP, Ayre CX5e and EMM CDSA."

See complete article: www.audioasylum.com/audio/digital/messages/14/142994.html

Once these reviews come out in greater numbers, an overall idea of what to expect from Terra Firma upgrades should become apparent. There is a definite repeated pattern, like "more analog" and "more relaxed" as well as the usual comments about PRAT, instrumental separation, more defined acoustic space, better image stability and finally just how much more the soul of the music comes through. It also sounds less electronic and less digital, more detailed and yet less hyped up detailed, IYKWIM.

Best of all, this is quoting guys well known to be in the vinyl camp. "I found myself talking to a friend, saying things and then feeling I should have cut my tongue out" by Walter B-H who custom makes his own stupendous turntables (Allen also knows him). He had just said "Unless you can afford 100K on a vinyl system it is hard to be bothered when digital can sound this good." Ouch!

If you were mad, would you know it?

 

RE: Balanced Outs... ?, posted on August 9, 2009 at 21:52:38
Joe Rasmussen
Manufacturer

Posts: 133
Location: Sydney Australia
Joined: October 25, 2005

Balanced out, done properly, has never been cheap.

If you were mad, would you know it?

 

RE: Balanced Outs... ?, posted on August 9, 2009 at 22:45:06
jazz1
Audiophile

Posts: 2683
Joined: October 30, 2000
I think that this is critical, since I've got my 5400 I tried different interconnects and the balance line do sound better, more depth in the sound stage, and better feel of instrument positioning. Thus I went an bought some balance line interconnects.

 

RE: REVIEW: Vacuum State Electronics VSE modified Sony SCD-XA5400ES with Terra Firma Lite SACD Player (Modded), posted on August 9, 2009 at 23:09:55
jazz1
Audiophile

Posts: 2683
Joined: October 30, 2000
Thanks for the detailed review it is very much appreciated.
I am also glad that the results are so spectacular.
As you may know I bought a 5400 about 5 weeks ago and at first I was a little disapointed as although very good in some aspects it did sound
a little hifihish but after 4/5 weeks of running the machine has improved
beyond expectation, the new balanced line interconnects also helped.
Thus an improvement on this would be great.
Just to comment on how good the 5400 is in its standard form is that last week I sold my Pathos Endorphin (7000$) which was a very musical player on RBCD's but now the Sony which was bought as a standby player outperform the Endorphin in most aspects.
In an ideal world and for most people that own a 5400 they would like to see a review of the modded machine against a fully run in 5400.
(Maybe Kal could do that??)
I would also imagine that the majority of people that bought a 5400
at 1100$-1500$ may not be able to afford the full mods (2600$)on the 5400 thus a separate review of the player with just the clock upgrade and then a comparaison adding the VSE mods would be welcomed.
I am sure that in time this will happen.

 

230VAC versions are available in Europe. (NT), posted on August 10, 2009 at 02:35:48
Allen Wright
Manufacturer

Posts: 5652
Location: Schaffhausen
Joined: January 31, 2002

 

Sorry, no., posted on August 10, 2009 at 02:37:50
Allen Wright
Manufacturer

Posts: 5652
Location: Schaffhausen
Joined: January 31, 2002
At least on this particular machine, the new outputs are unbalanced. But providing balanced outputs can be done, with the same sound quality.

Regards, Allen (Vacuum State)

 

RE: Balanced Outs... ?, posted on August 10, 2009 at 02:42:18
Allen Wright
Manufacturer

Posts: 5652
Location: Schaffhausen
Joined: January 31, 2002
Are the preamp and poweramps you are using also balanced? If so, then having the SACD player balanced is an advantage, if they are only unbalanced, then whatever you are hearing is not a logical connection.

But as I said above, we will be able to do balanced out, and the machine is more than good enough to support this.

Regards, Allen (Vacuum State)

 

Geoff, thanks for this huge work, but we had a misunderstanding, posted on August 10, 2009 at 02:49:08
Allen Wright
Manufacturer

Posts: 5652
Location: Schaffhausen
Joined: January 31, 2002
on the pricing.

I cannot and will not set pricing worldwide for my agents, who will have completely different pricing structures from me in Switzerland, so higher, some lower. So to get an accurate price quote one would have to ask your closest agent. But I would ESTIMATE that the price of the Upgrade at $2600 is quite a lot higher than it will turn out to be.

We will have accurate pricing by the end of the week, but (again) I would estimate that we could do a balanced output Upgrade for the quote $2600, with the unbalanced version some hundreds of $$ lower.

Regards, Allen (Vacuum State)

 

RE: Balanced Outs... ?, posted on August 10, 2009 at 02:50:27
jazz1
Audiophile

Posts: 2683
Joined: October 30, 2000
The Pathos TT annyversary is fully balanced.
This model main improvement over the previous one was the balanced inputs. The difference is quite obvious

 

Rick, there WAS a heavy hitter there for comparison., posted on August 10, 2009 at 03:03:14
Allen Wright
Manufacturer

Posts: 5652
Location: Schaffhausen
Joined: January 31, 2002
What whould you suggest we try out our new baby against? What do you consider to be a "heavy hitter".

Geoff compared the 5400 to my Level 7 Upgraded SCD-777ES with UberClock, and actually preferred the 5400.

This Level 7 SCD-777ES has been the focus of a series of reviews done by Karl Lozier, for this forum and for Positive FeedBack magazine, and I believe he considers it a heavy hitter.

Another reviewer in the US compared his own Level 6 DVP-S9000ES against a fully Meitner system and said the Upgraded SONY was clearly superior, and Karl says the SCD-1/SCD-777ES is superior in many ways to a similarly Upgraded DVP-S900ES. This comparison has been done by several owners around the world, all are happy the Upgraded unit is better sounding than the Meitner.

Geoff has a XA-777ES as modified by yourself, he told me it's not in the same arena, although we haven't been able to do a head to head comparison. I am always interesting checking out my work against that of the big guys, what do you suggest?

Regards, Allen (Vacuum State)

 

RE: REVIEW: Vacuum State Electronics VSE modified Sony SCD-XA5400ES with Terra Firma Lite SACD Player (Modded), posted on August 10, 2009 at 03:16:58
jazz1
Audiophile

Posts: 2683
Joined: October 30, 2000
On your website you say

"Mods to the new Oppo BDP-83 Blue Ray Player.....the only game in town.

All other mods are discontinued......just not worth it. This machine sets a new precedent! I might do some mods to the new Sony 5400 SACD/CD player but really don't expect it to be much better than the Oppo"

How do you knoww that?? did you do any comparison??

Just curious!!

 

Whoops - yes, I was just guessing on the prices, posted on August 10, 2009 at 06:41:06
Metralla
Audiophile

Posts: 7683
Location: San Jose, California
Joined: January 30, 2001
I saw the Terra Firma Lite price on Karl Lozier's review at Positive Feedback, so I figured that was a reasonable source.

As for the mods, I was extrapolating from the current Level 7 prices. Good to know it will be cheaper.
Regards,
Geoff

 

Great review Met! but a proviso Downunder--, posted on August 10, 2009 at 07:51:44
Des
Audiophile

Posts: 1498
Location: Great Barrier Reef
Joined: August 3, 2000
Contributor
  Since:
August 2, 2000

Some time ago I enquired via e-mail to send my SCD to the Aust Agent to have Allens mods done.

I never even had the courtesy of a reply.

I mentioned to Allen and after a boot up the bum to this gentleman an email was begrudingly sent my way. A bit late and rather left the feeling of slow attitude to enquires--gave the feeling of unbusinesslike manner from his rep here.

Needless to say the adage --"you only get one chance to make a good impression' rather
dampened my enthusiasm for the upgrades-would my Player if I sent it be treated with the same diffident response?

I never followed this up--so just a note I hope Aust/NZ customers are now treated in the manner which I feel Allen demands and is merited.

My best to him for the continuing success of the obviously lauded program.

Good listening,

Des (Fellow K/one and previous owner of the magical Wright AM tuner!)

 

RE: REVIEW: Vacuum State Electronics VSE modified Sony SCD-XA5400ES with Terra Firma Lite SACD Player (Modded), posted on August 10, 2009 at 07:59:34
Karltoo
Reviewer

Posts: 211
Location: South Florida
Joined: November 25, 2005
Hi Rick;
Let me jump in here please! Send the $15,000--$20,000 heavy hitter to me
I will pay shipping. Quality parts? aside, the business world tells me
these sometimes,not always, flagship models are attention getters and
lead hopefully into a trickle down sales effect. Do you REALLY believe
any owner of the heavy hitters or his few dealers would send or loan
the player to me for possible in depth review?? If I were the company
owner I would forbid any dealer to even let you bring a VSEI upgraded
player into the store for a brief comparison! As the owner I am in
business to make some money not to satisfy some audiophile nuts that
think they hear a little difference on one CD! Rick, we are hobbyists
and a few of us are real music lovers. Real music lovers go to hear
live music concerts with unamplified instruments!! Why do they have
to be unamplified--because different amps sound different and are not
a reference to our recordings. When may I expect delivery of a real
heavy hitter? I notice in this thread of posts a list of them,
half of which are NOT heavy hitters-just expensive.

 

RE: Great write up, posted on August 10, 2009 at 08:03:44
navman
Audiophile

Posts: 1121
Location: U.S.A.
Joined: January 26, 2009
I have always shied away from doing upgrades on my players unless they were DIY projects from the start.....but this might tempt me to do the mod on the 5400.
navman

 

RE: Great write up, posted on August 10, 2009 at 08:20:26
oldmkvi
Audiophile

Posts: 4404
Joined: April 12, 2002
I'm thinking of starting with the Clock. And I can deliver and pickup, as the Rep is near by.

 

RE: REVIEW: Vacuum State Electronics VSE modified Sony SCD-XA5400ES with Terra Firma Lite SACD Player (Modded), posted on August 10, 2009 at 09:09:43
Posts: 10307
Location: Lancashire.
Joined: January 21, 2001
"Do you REALLY believe any owner of the heavy hitters or his few dealers would send or loan the player to me for possible in depth review?? If I were the company owner I would forbid any dealer to even let you bring a VSEI upgraded player into the store for a brief comparison!"


That's not the point and you know it.

If I wrote a review of a SET amp I thought was as good as it got, and to reinforce my opinion I stated that it competed with the Audio Note Ongaku and other heavy hitters, it wouldn't mean diddly squat if I'd never heard the Ongaku or other similarly priced SET amps.

I've no doubt whatsoever that this latest modded player is excellent and wouldn't say that it couldn't compete with the 'big hitters' as I'd back a well modified player against a stock player any day with only a couple of exceptions.

Making comparisons to competitors that the reviewer has no experience of, at least not in a similar system, is a massive turn-off to me and casts the rest of the review in a different light.

If the reviewer would stick to saying he hasn't heard a better player at any price this would get the message across and could not be questioned in any way by sceptic like myself who don't necessarily believe a player's quality is being exaggerated, just that other players shouldn't be used to hype a player with comparisons which have never been made.

Finally, off-hand I can think of Alex at APL who is always keen on 'shoot-outs' with competing players, and I bought my first Audio Note DAC when Peter Qvortrup offered to send one to Rich to compare against his Sony SCD-1/777ES if memory serves me right.




Today is a gift - that's why it's called the Present.

Best Regards,
Chris Redmond.

 

RE: REVIEW: Vacuum State Electronics VSE modified Sony SCD-XA5400ES with Terra Firma Lite SACD Player (Modded), posted on August 10, 2009 at 09:42:46
Ric Schultz
Manufacturer

Posts: 621
Joined: August 7, 2000
No, I have not A/Bed a fully modifed Oppo versus a fully modified 5400. It would be interesting. You see I did say.....did not expect it to be much better. Maybe it is....maybe it isn't. But the Oppo is $500 and sounds outrageous modified, plays DVDAs, DADs, HDCDs, Video DVD, Blue Rays and mutltichannel via analog....none of which the Sony can do. And for the price of the Terra Firma Lite clock you get a ton of tweaks, EVSclock, super output stages, modified super low impedance regulators, etc., that make is sound amazing.

As Allen did and stated here, I will give a free mod to the first person that sends me a 5400 to have me work up a mod on. I will also have a superclock and discrete output stage...it would be fun to see which one is better. My clock, discrete output stages, transport mods, damping, etc. would be less than $1000 once the mod is set.....and yes, it could be made balanced for a few more coins.

 

RE: Rick, there WAS a heavy hitter there for comparison., posted on August 10, 2009 at 09:56:49
Ric Schultz
Manufacturer

Posts: 621
Joined: August 7, 2000
Allen,
I have read Karl's reviews and he does not compare them to any other machines execpt yours.

So where is this review by someone who prefered your machine over the Meitner?.....of course, Meitner has upgraded their machines recently and many also prefer the Playback Design and other machines.

I totally respect your work and I am sure your machines sound outrageous. However, when someone says that they are as good as something they never heard or compared then the flag goes up. No doubt, after several reviews by people who actually compare your modded 5400 to other stock and modified machines (and not just other units by yourself) we will all get an actual picture of where it stands. I have been recommending your mods to Sony owners for years as I know by what you are doing that it must be spectacular.

 

RE: REVIEW: Vacuum State Electronics VSE modified Sony SCD-XA5400ES with Terra Firma Lite SACD Player (Modded), posted on August 10, 2009 at 10:13:00
Ozzie
Audiophile

Posts: 3122
Joined: August 1, 2002
I have seen the fabled Audio Note Ongaku two or three times. In not one instance was it connected and playing music. Fabled indeed.

 

RE: REVIEW: Vacuum State Electronics VSE modified Sony SCD-XA5400ES with Terra Firma Lite SACD Player (Modded), posted on August 10, 2009 at 10:32:18
Karltoo
Reviewer

Posts: 211
Location: South Florida
Joined: November 25, 2005
Chris; Yes, I have had experience with heavy hitters in systems that
their manufacturers would consider superior to mine year after
year at CES and THE SHOW plus have had manufacturers come to my home
in sunny Florida in the winter months to make certain all is correct
to properly evaluate their components.After my surprise introduction to VSEI'upgrades, I would have preferred shelling out for any single chassis player instead of purchasing the four Sony players I now own plus an Esoteric and have a OPPO waiting for Bill Thalmann to do the VSEI magic
to it to add another BluRay machine for my use. As you can tell my logic
was following a promising person/outlook for years. It was not a money
saving decision! I simply having been chasing the potential best for a long time plus backup player. Tell me which single chassis player is
better sounding. As you may have noticed,now I try, exception coming,
to review components as little as possible because I spend months for
one and then tend to get static from any that do not really know me.
Brief music reviews "pushing classical music" interests me so much
more though my offer to pay for shipping a heavy-hitter to me still
stands. What more can I do than listen at manufacturers' demonstrations??

 

Oppo modified versus std Sony 5400, posted on August 10, 2009 at 10:32:25
jazz1
Audiophile

Posts: 2683
Joined: October 30, 2000
That would be an interesting comparison as total pricing would be similar.
Obviously the 5400 would be a fully run in machine.

 

RE: REVIEW: Vacuum State Electronics VSE modified Sony SCD-XA5400ES with Terra Firma Lite SACD Player (Modded), posted on August 10, 2009 at 10:53:49
Posts: 10307
Location: Lancashire.
Joined: January 21, 2001
That's all I needed to know so thanks for the response - puts the review in a better light for me and like I said, I'd never under-estimate how well an expertly modified player will compare to the 'established' marque brands.

In fact I've just bought an old modified dual TDA1541S1 Sony for my second system which is apparently a world-beater after having a 'proper' valve output fitted among other changes, though I've yet to hear it for myself.

It is a healthy state of affairs however when we're getting increasingly excited about digital front ends, rather than comparing them unfavourably to vinyl.


Today is a gift - that's why it's called the Present.

Best Regards,
Chris Redmond.

 

RE: REVIEW: Vacuum State Electronics VSE modified Sony SCD-XA5400ES with Terra Firma Lite SACD Player (Modded), posted on August 10, 2009 at 11:00:24
Posts: 10307
Location: Lancashire.
Joined: January 21, 2001
I'd have taken an accomplice, created a diversion and hooked it up myself.

You've got no sense of adventure Ozzie.


Today is a gift - that's why it's called the Present.

Best Regards,
Chris Redmond.

 

Point taken, posted on August 10, 2009 at 11:20:17
Metralla
Audiophile

Posts: 7683
Location: San Jose, California
Joined: January 30, 2001
You are correct - I made no comparison. Looking at what I wrote:

With that, you get a player that can compete with the best SACD players out there – the heavy-hitters like the Meitner two-box, the Playback Design, the big Esoteric and the APL.

In my defence, I wrote that the player "CAN COMPETE WITH". Perhaps I should have written "MAY COMPETE WITH" to make it clearer that it was somewhat hypothetical.
Regards,
Geoff

 

Wow! Now that is a comeback for the ages., posted on August 10, 2009 at 11:38:25
Robert C. Lang
Audiophile

Posts: 3586
Joined: March 1, 2001
****Just to comment on how good the 5400 is in its standard form is that last week I sold my Pathos Endorphin (7000$) which was a very musical player on RBCD's but now the Sony which was bought as a standby player outperform the Endorphin in most aspects. *****

I'm glad you hung in there. It's clear you are glad too! Based on your preliminary comments about the Sony 5400 I thought it was doomed in your view and would never win you over.

I do agree that a direct comparison (subjective and objective; not just one or the other) would be something even I would be interested in (I rarely closely follow gear vs. gear discussions).

Thanks for sharing

Robert C. Lang

 

Rick, I welcome all and any comparisons..., posted on August 10, 2009 at 13:39:05
Allen Wright
Manufacturer

Posts: 5652
Location: Schaffhausen
Joined: January 31, 2002
...as how else can I push myself to do even better?

But here in Switzerland we are not exactly at the technical crossroads of hi-end heaven, and I get very few chances to test against other really good machines.

But our Upgraded players are in a completely different price category to them anyway, so it could even be two different markets. But I am very happy with the way this 5400 has turned out!

Regards, Allen (Vacuum State)

 

We will have balanced outputs for the 5400 available very soon., posted on August 10, 2009 at 13:41:29
Allen Wright
Manufacturer

Posts: 5652
Location: Schaffhausen
Joined: January 31, 2002
And the price increase over the unbanced version will be much less than for the big SONY machines.

Regards, Allen (Vacuum State)

 

RE: REVIEW: Vacuum State Electronics VSE modified Sony SCD-XA5400ES with Terra Firma Lite SACD Player (Modded), posted on August 10, 2009 at 15:22:23
egidius
Audiophile

Posts: 56
Location: centre of europe, center of sound
Joined: May 28, 2009
hi geoff,

great review - if I am not mistaken, i am the owner of the modified SCD1 you mentioned; which I am eager to hear, as it has not come my way, except that Allen pointed out that somebody from the States has heaped praise on it.
I am fully excited and hope to get the real thing! Can you elaborate more on these two sessions' difference?
egidius

 

Addendum., posted on August 10, 2009 at 16:24:46
Posts: 10307
Location: Lancashire.
Joined: January 21, 2001
I replied to you mistaking you for the reviewer of the VSE player when you said "Yes, I have had experience with heavy hitters in systems that
their manufacturers would consider superior to mine year after
year at CES".

The point I made was that the reviewer didn't appear to make any comparisons to the 'big hitters' he claimed the modded player competed with, and the point still stands.

I see Metralla acknowledges he should perhaps have used different phrasing and fair play to him for that.


Today is a gift - that's why it's called the Present.

Best Regards,
Chris Redmond.

 

RE: Great review Met! but a proviso Downunder--, posted on August 10, 2009 at 20:05:43
Mali
Audiophile

Posts: 1704
Location: Wyoming
Joined: June 12, 2003
You should have called instead of e-mailing. That way you are sure to get a response. Unless he doesn't answer his phone!

 

...Downunder -- are you talking about me?, posted on August 10, 2009 at 22:32:06
Joe Rasmussen
Manufacturer

Posts: 133
Location: Sydney Australia
Joined: October 25, 2005
I am a little perplexed, much of the Terra Firma beta testing was done in Australia and we are talking up near 50 in the last 12 months. If you emailed me and didn't get a response, I am not sure why. A few months ago I had a major computer melt-down and maybe it was just bad timing as I did loose some emails I had read but hadn't yet responded to. I have also had spam filter problems where it seemed that audiophile gobbledeegook wasn't considered legimate? :-(

So call me on 02-96074650 or 0412-203382, would love to have a chat as many do - or if you email again, I will do my best to respond as I usually try to. The development of the 5400 VSE prototype reviewed here was spread across two countries/continents.
If you were mad, would you know it?

 

RE: Wow! Now that is a comeback for the ages., posted on August 10, 2009 at 23:41:41
jazz1
Audiophile

Posts: 2683
Joined: October 30, 2000
Yes at the begining the new 5400 had this Hifi ish sound that was not very musical. Especially on RBCD's but I was not too worried as I basically bought it as a standby. It has been running constantly for 5 weeks and during the last 2 weeks the sound improved dramatically, on some tracks it sounded as good as the Endorphin on some better, my only reservation was on solo instruments like the piano where it still did not sound as round and organic as the Pathos, at the time I put this down to the fact that the Pathos had a very good valve output stage. Then things got even better especially after trying different interconnects and fitting the balanced line interconnect to the 5400.
I was never able to compare simultaneously the 2 machines with both having the balanced line interconnects as my amp has only one set of balanced input. Then a week ago I did a serious comparison using 2 identical RBCD and switching from one to the other and the conclusion was that the 5400 was at least the equal or better than the Pathos, obviously a good SACD sounded better, thus I said to myself why should I keep the Pathos, it is only 2 years old and maybe this was the time to still get a decent price for it, which I did. So I have money in the bank, good sound and if required could do a mod upgrade.
A win win situation. Since the Pathos is gone I placed the 5400 on the Pathos rack which was better anyway, run it with balanced lines and I am really enjoying the sound, especially on big orchestral works where it can sound spectacular.
As you said a direct comparison between a modified and a new unit is needed so that 5400 owners know exactly what to expect.
I now need to buy a cheap standby machine like a Yamaha!!!
Any advice?? 250$ max.

 

RE: Wow! Now that is a comeback for the ages., posted on August 11, 2009 at 04:34:56
tannoyd
Audiophile

Posts: 46
Location: London
Joined: April 8, 2006
What balanced lead are you using?

 

RE: Wow! Now that is a comeback for the ages., posted on August 11, 2009 at 06:54:33
jazz1
Audiophile

Posts: 2683
Joined: October 30, 2000
Wireworld Eclipse 6

 

Nice report, posted on August 11, 2009 at 08:02:46
Metralla
Audiophile

Posts: 7683
Location: San Jose, California
Joined: January 30, 2001
From your posts, we know you have a critical ear. Quite a fascinating development, and congrats on selling the Pathos so quickly - well done in these tough economic times.
Regards,
Geoff

 

RE: Rick, I welcome all and any comparisons..., posted on August 11, 2009 at 08:11:09
jazz1
Audiophile

Posts: 2683
Joined: October 30, 2000
" But here in Switzerland we are not exactly at the technical crossroads of hi-end heaven, and I get very few chances to test against other really good machines."

Nagra makes a good machine and just accross the border in Autria Ayon.
I have heard the Ayon machines and I am impressed.
All I can say is that even in it standard form the 5400 compare's with them favorably.

 

Two Questions to Allen Wright:, posted on August 11, 2009 at 08:22:36
RafaelDob
Audiophile

Posts: 75
Location: Philadelphia
Joined: June 23, 2007
Dear Allen,

As I am sure most if not all in the land of SACD are very impressed by your multi-year work's results. My congratulations. I have two questions and I suspect that number of members of this forum would be interested in your reply:

1 - It is very appealing idea to combine our SACD collections with available Hi-Rez software (e.g. 24 bit 176 kHz WAV, Reference Recording etc). The simplest and most elegant way to do it - at least seems to me is via SACD Player with very good transport, best quality possible under the budget DAC ...and digital inputs capable of accepting hi-res data from computer or stand alone music server.

The modded Sony 5400 has all of the above but digital inputs. So my question is: can you take out board(s) with unnecessary outputs ( as far I am concern - all but one) and install one high quality digital input capable of accepting hi-rez data?

2 Some SACD Players are made with all three component together: relatively good transport, DAC and hi-res inputs. I feel the best is Esoteric SA-50 but there is Cary 306 Pro and few more at $15k - $21k level which I cannot reach financially.

The question is: can your Uberclock and/or level X(?) modification be installed in other players e.g. SA-50.

SACD owners again - are the best audiophile subpolulation to be attrackted to non-SACD Hi-Res files now avaialble - because we did it already with SACD and many today's hi-res files are of "noble" heritage and legacy as well as of exceptional sonic qualities.

Thank you
Rafael

 

RE: Two Questions to Allen Wright:, posted on August 11, 2009 at 08:56:53
Allen Wright
Manufacturer

Posts: 5652
Location: Schaffhausen
Joined: January 31, 2002
>> So my question is: can you take out board(s) with unnecessary outputs ( as far I am concern - all but one) and install one high quality digital input capable of accepting hi-rez data?<<

No idea. It would require considerable modification to the digital signalpaths of the SONY, and I'm an analog guy. But we will look into it.

>The question is: can your Uberclock and/or level X(?) modification be installed in other players e.g. SA-50<

Yes, either the TeraFirma UberClock or the TeraFirma "Lite" can be fitted to almost all digital products. I say almost all, but don't know of any exceptions.

>>SACD owners again - are the best audiophile subpolulation to be attrackted to non-SACD Hi-Res files now avaialble - because we did it already with SACD and many today's hi-res files are of "noble" heritage and legacy as well as of exceptional sonic qualities<<

Sorry, I don't understand the question.

Regards, Allen (Vacuum State)

 

Thank you Allen, posted on August 11, 2009 at 09:58:37
RafaelDob
Audiophile

Posts: 75
Location: Philadelphia
Joined: June 23, 2007
...for your kind reply.

My last paragraph was not a 3d question but my attempt to emphesize again that more and more people will be very interested in utilizing your wonderfully sounding SACD Player, specifically its DAC for playback of non-SACD hi-res software files from music servers.

Thank you again

Rafael

 

Yep-, posted on August 11, 2009 at 18:16:52
Des
Audiophile

Posts: 1498
Location: Great Barrier Reef
Joined: August 3, 2000
Contributor
  Since:
August 2, 2000
Hi Joe, All cool now --Allen buzzed me offline-- I know how Email can be unreliable at times --I'm at present on a photo book assignment in the US till Sept I shall give you a call when I return and discuss where we go from there.
What's past is History--keep up the good work.

DesW

 

I'll look forward to November... (nt), posted on August 11, 2009 at 23:09:44
Joe Rasmussen
Manufacturer

Posts: 133
Location: Sydney Australia
Joined: October 25, 2005

(nt)
If you were mad, would you know it?

 

RE: Coincidentially, I was just going to take my SCD-1 to one of Allens reps next week..., posted on August 16, 2009 at 14:36:06
Allen Wright
Manufacturer

Posts: 5652
Location: Schaffhausen
Joined: January 31, 2002
Rich,
What DSD recorder can one use with a 5400?

To the best of my knowledge, a SACD player will not play DSD discs recorded in a machine such as the Tascam recorder, and unless you own a hugely expensive SACD disc pressing plant, I'm not aware of being able to make actual SACDs.

Regards, Allen (Vacuum State0

 

RE: Coincidentially, I was just going to take my SCD-1 to one of Allens reps next week..., posted on August 16, 2009 at 16:40:42
tannoyd
Audiophile

Posts: 46
Location: London
Joined: April 8, 2006
You can make DSD discs using Korg's audiogate s/w recorded with their recorders (MR-1000, MR-2000S). These discs will play in the 5400.

 

RE: REVIEW: Vacuum State Electronics VSE modified Sony SCD-XA5400ES with Terra Firma Lite SACD Player (Modded), posted on August 17, 2009 at 06:04:27
I have been unable to access the review for the modded XA5400ES. However the review should be compared to a review of the XA5400ES with its partner receiver STR-DA6400ES or 5400ES (UK) fully utilising H.A.T.S. enabled low jitter transfer via HDMI which I find sounds superior to any analogue interconnects. Tino complains about the HF response of the XA5400ES but this is probably because he uis using antique tubes. The HF response of the XA5400ES is absolutely pristine the best you can get.

 

RE: Coincidentially, I was just going to take my SCD-1 to one of Allens reps next week..., posted on August 17, 2009 at 06:19:23
rich121
Audiophile

Posts: 5335
Location: Washington State
Joined: March 8, 2003
Just as Tannoyd said, there are a few members here recording with the Korg and using the 5400 for playback of the finished disk.

Rick
It's all about the music!
Support Asylum Trader

 

RE: REVIEW: Vacuum State Electronics VSE modified Sony SCD-XA5400ES with Terra Firma Lite SACD Player (Modded), posted on August 17, 2009 at 06:45:38
The XA5400ES sounds best via HDMI with low jitter H.A.T.S. enabled into the partner Sony AV amplifier STR-DA5400ES (UK) or DA6400ES(U.S) Also the HDMI connection sounds better than any expensive analogue leads which I now find redundant. Until a comparision has been made with the modded XA5400ES IMO it is not worth spending any money on the mod. Furthermore the Sony AV amplifier incoporates Digital Legato Link which makes old CD's sound better.

 

Are you running a multi-channel system?, posted on August 17, 2009 at 07:15:29
Metralla
Audiophile

Posts: 7683
Location: San Jose, California
Joined: January 30, 2001
just wondering.
Regards,
Geoff

 

I suspect..., posted on August 17, 2009 at 07:44:48
Allen Wright
Manufacturer

Posts: 5652
Location: Schaffhausen
Joined: January 31, 2002
...most of the people here who are interested in getting a state of the art SACD/CD player have far better sounding electronics than a SONY receiver - far better.

Hence the HDMI connection while interesting is rather a red herring to bring up in this context.

Why would SONY have fitted a receiver with a better DAC package than in their current top of the line player, the 5400? Equal maybe, but not better.

If you are running multichannel, far enough, but most here have considerable investment with pure two channel.

Regards, Allen (Vacuum State)

 

RE: REVIEW: Vacuum State Electronics VSE modified Sony SCD-XA5400ES with Terra Firma Lite SACD Player (Modded), posted on August 17, 2009 at 08:13:53
ABSOLUTELY I AM RUNNING A MCH SACD system as it sounds far better than old STEREO. TINO there is absolutely nothing wrong with the HF performance of the XA5400ES that you complain about I suspect it is due to your speakers as Vince has pointed out plus ANTIQUE tube distortion artifacts.

 

"ABSOLUTELY I AM RUNNING A MCH SACD", posted on August 17, 2009 at 09:19:37
Metralla
Audiophile

Posts: 7683
Location: San Jose, California
Joined: January 30, 2001
Then your HDMI connection makes perfect sense. Be happy with what you have.
Regards,
Geoff

 

RE: "ABSOLUTELY I AM RUNNING A MCH SACD", posted on August 17, 2009 at 11:51:34
Metralla I do not think you get it.like all the 2 channel only backwoodsmen HDMI connection is better for Stereo than expensive analogue cables.

 

Sorry, I have no experience with HDMI, posted on August 17, 2009 at 15:02:22
Metralla
Audiophile

Posts: 7683
Location: San Jose, California
Joined: January 30, 2001
"2 channel only backwoodsmen"

You're a funny guy.
Regards,
Geoff

 

RE: Sorry, I have no experience with HDMI, posted on August 17, 2009 at 23:56:48
Audio Asylum is a very well named Forum however you should experience HDMI which on the Sony combo is superior to analogue interconnects especially for Stereo & obviously essential for MCH. It is probably only a matter of time before the so-called High end incorporates HDMI.

 

RE: REVIEW: Vacuum State Electronics VSE modified Sony SCD-XA5400ES with Terra Firma Lite SACD Player (Modded), posted on August 24, 2009 at 23:58:04
The only question that matters is how does a very expensive Wright modded XA5400ES sound compared with a stock one ? Are the Wright modders related ?

 

RE: REVIEW: Vacuum State Electronics VSE modified Sony SCD-XA5400ES with Terra Firma Lite SACD Player (Modded), posted on August 25, 2009 at 05:21:40
Allen Wright
Manufacturer

Posts: 5652
Location: Schaffhausen
Joined: January 31, 2002
We don't have a second 5400 here Un-Upgraded to compare with. But we listened extensively before working on it, and for a stock machine thought it was very good.

To say it's VERY expensive is rather off the mark - Metralla got the pricing incorrect, I would estimate the Upgrade could come in around $1500, which even with a new machine included, still is not more expensive than a Marantz K1 pearl!

There is no family connection between Allen Wright of vacuum State and Dan Wright of ModWright. I'm a new Zealander living in Switzerland, he's an American.

Regards, Allen (Vacuum State0

 

Have you played around getting balanced output from your board yet?, posted on August 25, 2009 at 22:54:56
Metralla
Audiophile

Posts: 7683
Location: San Jose, California
Joined: January 30, 2001
Allen,

My 5400 is here now - just arrived tonight. It has balanced outputs so I could plug it right into my BAT VK50SE using balanced interconnects.

I'd like to stay that way with the VSE modification - well, the BAT has no RCA inputs at all. You mentioned that you might be looking at that.
Regards,
Geoff

 

Yes., posted on August 26, 2009 at 02:54:04
Allen Wright
Manufacturer

Posts: 5652
Location: Schaffhausen
Joined: January 31, 2002
The player is the first sensible player we have seen, in that it doesn't go balanced to unbalanced, then back to balanced again in the audio path.

The DACs are balanced output, and SONY keep it balanced throughout - although with opamps.

We are just taking the balanced signal out of the DAc and also treating it fully balanced all the way to the XLR sockets...but using our own fully balanced non opamp, non negative feedback unique circuit.

Regards, Allen (Vacuum State)

 

RE: REVIEW: Vacuum State Electronics VSE modified Sony SCD-XA5400ES with Terra Firma Lite SACD Player (Modded), posted on September 13, 2009 at 05:12:34
Without having the opportunity to compare a modified Sony to the stock model I believe the performance of the XA5400ES via HDMI is so good that a modification would be a waste of money. Via HDMI the Sony has the lowest measured jitter to date only 0.00015% mid band and at 20 kHz 0.0007% (HFN) used with the Sony DA5400ES(UK version has HATS) receiver biamped the performance is high end without high end prices.

 

RE: Sorry, I have no experience with HDMI, posted on September 13, 2009 at 11:11:57
Posts: 10307
Location: Lancashire.
Joined: January 21, 2001
"You're a funny guy."

Even funnier, he thinks he's the straight man but is really the clown!


Today is a gift - that's why it's called the Present.

Best Regards,
Chris Redmond.

 

Possibly, posted on September 13, 2009 at 11:43:51
Allen Wright
Manufacturer

Posts: 5652
Location: Schaffhausen
Joined: January 31, 2002
Certainly half of the Upgrade would be pointless, because it's a completely new audio section, and if using the HDMI output, that would be redundant.

I believe the TerraFirma clock would improve the sound, even from the HDMI as it is far better than the SONY clock, and sounds it. Jitter numbers are basically meaningless in context, as they are all measured differently - and it's not the DAC's jitter that we are focussing, it's the clocks jitter.

But I have no way to test the HDMI output, and certainly zero interest in buying a SONY receiver to use it when I have $35,000 worth of state of the art tube electrocnics to feed the Upgraded 5400ES analog signal into.

I truly doubt if a receiver could compete...

Regards, Allen (Vacuum State)

 

RE: REVIEW: Vacuum State Electronics VSE modified Sony SCD-XA5400ES with Terra Firma Lite SACD Player (Modded), posted on September 13, 2009 at 22:45:21
I find tube electronics to be antiques gave them up many years ago. Without a comparison via HDMI which sounds better than the analogue ouput from the XA5400ES I would not consider spending money on an unproven upgrade.

 

RE: Possibly, posted on September 15, 2009 at 08:36:19
DISBELIEVER


 
I HAVE NOW HEARD FROM A DIGITAL EXPERT THAT THE SONY CLOCK IS EXCELLENT AND IT IS VERY UNLIKELY THAT ANY OTHER CLOCK WILL IMPROVE THE PERFORMANCE VIA HDMI HOWEVER PROOF OF THE PUDDING IS IN THE EATING AND THIS DOES NOT TO POSSIBLE AT PRESENT>

 

To be BLUNT..., posted on September 15, 2009 at 09:14:02
Allen Wright
Manufacturer

Posts: 5652
Location: Schaffhausen
Joined: January 31, 2002
...the SONY clock in the 5400ES is absolutely BASIC, with a cheap 50 cent xtal driven by a logic gate contained in IC152 in a very conventional two capacitor bridge network. This is obvious from the schematic on page 30 of the PDF Service manual.

How any "Digital Expert" can consider this to be good is beyond me, and many alternate clock manufacturers, not just Vacuum State, have made a good living from suppling much advanced clocks to replace this minimalistic setup in a wide range of players, not just the 5400ES.

Your opinion is your opinion, and maybe someday you will get your hands on an Upgraded 5400ES to test in your SONY receiver setup. Then you will know if it is an improvement or not - until then your comments are just OPINION!

Regards, Allen (vacuum State)

 

RE: To be BLUNT..., posted on September 23, 2009 at 09:08:51
Perhaps you will be good enough to let us know the jitter figures for your Terra Firma clock compared with the low mesured jitter by HFN & RR of ONLY 121 psec CD and ONLY 34 psec for SACD for the Sony BASIC clock ? regds Disbeliever

 

We, as do most audiophiles, consider measurements..., posted on September 23, 2009 at 13:18:42
Allen Wright
Manufacturer

Posts: 5652
Location: Schaffhausen
Joined: January 31, 2002
... to be unimportant if the sonic results are there.

Our basic clock has a published jitter figure of one (ONE!) picosecond, if that's relevant. And that's before it's powered by our ULTRA low noise powersupply.

There is no point in arguing numbers, as they were proven to be irrelevant to sonic results years ago. Remember the battle of the low distorion solid state poweramps of the 70's - 0.001% against 0.0011% etc etc, and all sounding ugly!

But we plan to have an Upgraded 5400ES in England with our UK distributer soon, and maybe you can borrow it and test it with a HDMI setup, against a stock 5400ES. I am not able to make such a test, but would be interested in your feedback.

Regards, Allen (Vacuum State)

 

RE: We, as do most audiophiles, consider measurements..., posted on September 24, 2009 at 01:01:59
Hi Allen
I shall be most interested in comparing your modified player with my stock XA5400ES via HDMI in my system and look forward to hearing from your UK Distibutor . Apart from my Sony receiver I have a very high quality stereo integrated amplifier and room voiced or room compensated transmission line speakers . Regds. Gerald Bearman

 

The 5400ES balanced output Upgrade module is fully working..., posted on November 7, 2009 at 16:33:15
Allen Wright
Manufacturer

Posts: 5652
Location: Schaffhausen
Joined: January 31, 2002
...in our system in Schaffhausen.

Will be available through our agents in a week or two.

Regards, Allen

 

RE: The 5400ES balanced output Upgrade module is fully working..., posted on November 9, 2009 at 15:19:21
egidius
Audiophile

Posts: 56
Location: centre of europe, center of sound
Joined: May 28, 2009
Hi Allen,

I would feel happy to know more about my SCD1??

Egidius

 

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