After 48 hours of continuous break-in, the player is pouring a fantastic sound. Before elaborating on my own impressions, I'd like to take the liberty to quote here Vinnie Rossi's own comments on the sound of the Toshiba 3950 after his mods:
|The bass is very tight, fast, and clean. Compared to the stock bass, there is some more of it (just the right amount IMHO) and the quality of it has improved a lot.
The highs are now very liquid, detailed, and a pleasure to listen to. There is absolutely NO LISTENER FATIGUE to report here folks, I'm talking about beautiful treble that is very similar to the ack!dack's. It is not rolled off in any way in my system, and it is a joy to listen to! Much improved over the stock treble (changing to the black gates and removing that crappy JRC dual-opamp and putting in the Burr Brown OPA2604 really did the trick!) As mentioned before by Jon Risch, the OPA2604 is a perfect balance between the tube and solid state sound. I agree 100% on this one.
Soundstaging and depth reproduction are superb to me as well. The whole soundstage is push back a bit more than stock (which is what I wanted BTW), and the overall sound is quite 3D. The congestion during complex passages that I noticed with the stock unit is all gone. I think the combination of using lower ESR caps, and using the Black gates and Burr Brown Opamp fixed this problem the most.
Three friends were visiting just now, and we were listening to the modded Toshiba with my speaker rig, playing Audioslave, Rage Against the Machine, Madonna, and some Venezuelan guitar music by John Williams. To my friends the modded Toshiba has bass almost identical to my Sacdmodded Sony NS500V (playing cd's), which wasn't the case for them with the pre-modded Toshiba -they had also come by to compare these players before my finishing the audio mods. I differed on that assessment with respect to bass. Overall the two players sound quite similar in the lows, fast, punchy, and strong, with authoritative slam (the Azur 640C had even more slam than the Sacdmodded Sony, but not too much more either). To me the Sony has a very tiny bit slammier bass than the modded Toshiba in the very lowest frequencies. This is not apparent always of course, depends on whether the song being played goes low enough to expose that small difference. For instance, Madonna's Die another Day is one in which I could perceive this difference. Incidentally, that's one of my bass testing tracks. Sitting at the sweet spot (what my speaker rig is calibrated for) is where I could tell the difference better; standing by and a few feet off, then I couldn't. The "thumps" in Madonna's "Thump-clap-thump-thump-clap" seemed to be a bit bigger/heavier coming from the Sony, as if a slightly heavier giant had taken a mighty step. With the Toshiba it was also a mighty giant taking the step, but probably a few pounds less heavy of a giant. Something along those lines. Don't get the impression the modded Toshiba is at all lean on the bass. Even stock it was stronger than the stock Sony, and these mods made it even stronger. It is powerful and rich and with SLAM.
Speaking of richness, in the upper bass/midrange region, the Toshiba sounds a bit richer and fuller, while the Sony sounds somewhat drier to me. My friends looked at each other with no comment when I made that assessment. I haven't heard the Ack! Dack, but wonder if that richness/smoothness in the Toshiba is among the things Vinnie found particularly alike in them. With respect to treble, the mods did "open up" a bit the treble in the Toshiba, it sounds similar enough to the modded Sony. My friends agreed, treble-wise not much difference, at least with the music we were playing. Actually to them no player appeared brighter or bassier than the other in any significant way. The Sony keeps sounding a tiny bit brighter to me (filter in Sharp mode btw), but not sure if it's true treble difference, or a result of that richness balance difference I perceive in the upper/bass-midrange. Overall both are very non-fatiguing and nice sounding for sure. I should clarify, the comparisons were done using exactly the same interconnects (Monster Interlink 400 MkII, actually all my speaker rig described in my profile). So it wasn't a quick A/B switching though, but playing part of a song with player A, then stopping, reconnecting the ic's, and then playing it with B.
Which one is closer to high-end? Well, cost-wise, the modded Sony for sure
Sound-wise, I really don't know. Would need a higher end player as a reference to compare them to and see where they stand. To my ears, what I'm calling a "richer" midrange in the Toshiba has a special appeal though, vs. the probably more analytical or drier sounding midrange in the Sony. Despite the tiny bit more slam in the Sony, what I'm calling "dryness" in it makes voices sound somewhat a bit thinner compared to how they sound from the Toshiba: a bit richer and fuller, and smoother...
Most likely I'm abusing my use of English to try to express my impressions, and I compared using my speaker rig, not the Grace 901 (courtesy of Agile_one) and my 650's+Zu, which I'm planning to use after more extended break-in of these mods. So take everything with a pound of salt, YMMV. So far I think these differences I perceived are in the domain of taste-dependence rather than true substantial differences in sound quality. Given my exposure and limited experience, to me these two modded players sound both *very* good, and in a similar league.
PS. Would like to take the opportunity to say special thanks to Rick for his Sticky DIY links, to Tangent for his pages and feedback, and to Itzbitz and Morsel for their feedback and suggestions. Thanks very much all!