I've seen big Japanese BBS threads where the concensus is that recent Aiwas sound better than both Panasonic and Sonys.
Specifically, they're addressing current Japanese models (XP-V330, V525, R770) and the generation before (V320, V520). These are really cheap and have some features we'd find desirable, e.g. the three current models' anti-shock can be switched between linear and non-linear.
V330's MSRP is 8800 yen, and street price seems to be one grand or two below that - the prices are very low. Here's the URL for the Japanese catalog, in case you need a reference:
Each manufacturers' products in Japan never fully utilize components made by themselves, but use a lot of stuff from their competitors that specialize them, way more cost efficient (or even better performance) than to make everything yourself... based on this original concept, that's part of how the Japanese industry success came about... and started a trend all over the world...
For example, I've opened up an old Sony tape Walkman from the late 80's and I can tell you that the radio board is made by Mitsumi... the design could be Sony's, but they just chose to outsource the manufacturing to others. Also, the machine carries a few Hitachi ICs...
IMHO one can never say who manufacturered the product just by seeing who made the ICs on the board, there is a chance that you're right, but no always for sure tho...
BTW, Sony always had some shares in Aiwa (less than 50%) since the 80's until a couple of years ago they went over 50% and hence took control of the company, and as a result Sony forced Aiwa to make low end products or even clones of Sony ones... so mean! Cuz long long time ago Sony's products are inferior to Aiwa ones (e.g. if you played with Walkmans since the 80's then you'll know what I mean)...
My point is that they don't really share their construction/components with the Sony PCDPs - you don't see that Toshiba headphone amp, for instance.
Aiwa could have just cloned the D-EJ955 or 855 or something else from Sony's lineup, and still sell for less than their Sony counterparts - there are a lot they can do to push the street price down - but they didn't.
On top of that, several Sony PCDPs have been complained of things that never happened on Aiwa PCDPs. Some Japanese owners complained that their Sonys gets interfered and pick up noise when someone's cell phone is in use nearby, for instance, and they're recommending Aiwa as a solution.
I used to own an old Aiwa and I ended up giving it to a friend since it was having trouble with the anti-skip system. I then purchased my Panasonic and I thought the Aiwa had better sound. I was going to pick up another Aiwa but something changed recently and their PCDPs look really cheap now.
I saw an article recently that Sony has received approval to take over Aiwa entirely in a stock swap effective Oct '02.
Regarding the PCDP's of the 2 companies, I do not see present Aiwa & Sony PCDP's to be "clones" of each other in the sense that certain GM or Ford cars are clones (e.g. Pontiac Grand Prix & Buick Regal sharing the same platform). Perhaps these PCDP's will become clones in the future- time will tell.
My original question remains, however. Are any of the current Aiwa branded PCDP's available in the US decent? I hate to buy one then try to rely on the store's return policy if it the unit stinks.
I just got the XP-33 on eBay and was very pleasantly surprised at how good sounding it was. If you have it I would appreciate it if you would post a PDF of its user guide or a scan of its features page. There a a couple of things on the front display which are diffferent from what's usually seen.