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Sony SCD-333ES with Modwright Level 1 mods review

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
(Note: I've added a post regarding performance with Bybee's below.)

This review is based solely on Redbook CD playback, as there is a glitch with SACD playback that will require me to send the unit back to Modwright for repair. This thread details that situation:
http://www.head-fi.org/forums/showth...&threadid=3062

My system:
Sony CD3000 (best headphones I've heard)
Berning MicroZOTL headphone amp (overall best amp I've owned)

You may recall that although I loved the pure "musicality" of the Sony 333, I felt it had some drawbacks:
1. Somewhat thin sounding
2. Lack of bass impact relative to my reference Denon DVM 3700 DVD player (a shockingly good CD player, BTW).
3. Smaller soundstage than the Denon
4. A bit "woolly" sounding (veiled)
However, I got mine for the bargain price of $399 from Good Guys ($1200 when first introduced) with the intention of mod-ing it through Modwright.

Caveats:
1. The mod-ed unit has less than 25 hours break-in, and the stock unit had "only" 150 hours burn-in prior to shipping to Modwright. It is well documented that the 333 (all Sony SACD players, actually) requires up to 300 hours break-in to sound its best. I have no doubt that further burn-in will yield even more substantial gains with the mod-ed unit.
2. It was 3 weeks in between shipping the unit to Dan and getting it back, so I'm working from memory. However, I still have my trusty Denon DVM3700 to compare the mod-ed unit against, so I still have a reliable baseline.

Review:
There is a thread going on in the Headphone Review section right now that asks you to sum up your headphones with one word. If I had to sum up the 333 with Level 1 mods with one word, that word would be "real".

There was recently a great thread started by Vertigo-1 in which he purchased an expensive ($1800) CDP and failed to notice *much* difference between that unit and his Denon DCM-370. If you are unable to hear the difference between the stock 333 and the mod-ed 333, I would ask you to turn in your ears to the Head-Fi police straight away! That, or go see your doctor.

The level of difference is far, far greater than that you get from upgrading cables or fancy power conditioners. I had my hopes VERY high due to the length of time it took to get the unit back (the anticipation was killing me). Plus, I had some unfortunate "complications" with my mods (see above thread), so I had every reason to be unimpressed and disappointed.

Nevertheless, I feel this upgrade is absolutely essential for anyone who owns this unit. Forget those fancy cables and power cords, save your dough and get the Modwright mods. You absolutely will not regret it. They have increased my pure enjoyment of music by a substantial degree, as things just sound "right".

Bass is back and is taught and well-defined. Soundstage depth is very, very impressive (best I've heard through headphones), as is body and instrument decay. There is no digital "edge" to the sound, yet detail retrieval is stellar, and that's a tough trick to pull off. I'm finding it hard to describe what I'm hearing, because it just sounds like music. Nothing really calls attention to itself, except the sense that you are no longer listening to a recording but an actual event. Dan's mods affect Redbook playback and SACD playback equally. Based on Redbook performance with level 1 mods, I think that hearing SACD with Level 1 mods might cause fainting and heart attacks! I'll keep you posted!

Summary:
I'll be getting two Bybee filters installed after sending the unit back to Dan for repair of SACD. He says this mod will "blow my mind", and I can't wait.
As for Level 1 mods: Way recommended.

markl
post #2 of 11
Your review makes me very happy ( I am having the same mods performed on my unit)!! Thanks for your thoughts!!
post #3 of 11
Cool, glad you like it markl. Dan doesn't have an excellent reputation for nothing, ya know...
post #4 of 11
glad to hear you are enjoying the mods Mark, when do you send the unit back? looking forward to your impressions with more break-in. I hope you realize the dilemma you've put us unmodded 333 owners in!
post #5 of 11
Markl,
Where are you getting the Bybee filters installed at???

Thanks,
Bob
post #6 of 11
post #7 of 11
I think bob was asking where in the unit...

If I'm not mistaken, M. Wright's standard placement of two Bybee filters is right at the mains.
post #8 of 11
Quote:
Originally posted by Jon Beilin
I think bob was asking where in the unit...

If I'm not mistaken, M. Wright's standard placement of two Bybee filters is right at the mains.
Yes, I was asking about where in the unit ... sorry for not being more clear. There are a few different choices and I was wondering which one Markl went with.
post #9 of 11
Thread Starter 
The unit goes back today, so it is likely I'll get it back middle of next week.

Dan recommended the filters be put at the AC mains, so that's what I'm going with.

markl
post #10 of 11
Thread Starter 
Okay, so here's the update with my unit back, SACD functioning properly, and Bybee filters installed. I had a lot of gremlins in my unit, by Dan banished them.

I wish all you 333 owners could hear what I'm hearing. The differeneces between this and the stock unit are really night and day. In sum, the mods amplify what you already like about the unit, rather than changing the sound entirely, if that makes sense.

I expected the Bybee filters would accomplish the following things:

1. Lowered noise floor, resulting in better low-level detail retrieval.
2. An even "smoother" presentation due to lack of distortion in power supply.

Indeed, those are the areas most enhanced by the Bybee's.

In any event, the Level 1 mods alone are probably all that you'll really need. I say go for it!

markl
post #11 of 11
Hey mark,
congrats--glad to hear you got all straightened out--wish i could hear it--i may take the plunge next spring/summer--goto move and since the machine will be in transit anyway. . . .
it would be interesting to hear your impressions after break in as well--jeremy
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