Review: Sony D-555 Portable CD Player: The King
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ian

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The Sony D-555 Portable CD Player
by Ian McFarlane

I first read about the 555 in posts by folks like Purk here on Head-Fi - very interesting. A CD player from the early '90's that competes with anything Sony has ever made? When I found a good deal on a D-555 with a slightly damaged front LCD display ($125), I had to jump on it (just for curiosity at first).

When I first got the 555, it didn't have a DC adapter with it. So all I could do is drool while I made the trip to Radio Shack to find a suitable adapter. The first thing you notice is the INCREDIBLE build quality. This thing is made completely of metal. You could literally drive over it with a truck. It's a large sized player, but it looks very cool sitting on your desk:


The LCD's catch the eye at first - not just one, but two! The front LCD (Which was a little damaged on my unit) display the regular track/time information:


The top LCD is the graphic equalizer and volume display. Here you get the neat bars that go up and down depending on the sound level. Ok, so I just think it's neat to watch:


As seen in the pictures both LCDs light up when the unit is connected to DC power.

The front display has a little volume bar on the right side that shows exactly what volume the unit is set at. To the left are the equalization modes:
EQ: can be adjusted 10 steps above and 10 steps below at each frequency: 63Hz, 250Hz, 1kHz, 4kHz, 10kHz.
Surround: 10 steps to max, 10 steps to min
Bass boost: 10 steps to max, 10 steps to min
DDS: 10 steps to max, 10 steps to min
All in all, there are a TON of equalization options so this unit can be adjust to fit ANY situation.

The other controls on the top is the open button, volume +/- (note, these are digital controls, not analog), forward and backwards, stop, and play/pause.

On the front of the unit there is a hold switch, and enter/remain, mode: play/key buttons - for adjusting play modes. Without a manual I didn't bother with these buttons.

The left side of the unit has the optical digital output and the remote port:



The right side just has the phones output, which is nicely gold plated (along with all the other ports):


The back has the line out and DC 9V power jack:


Ok, so I've had enough typing about how it runs. This is how it sounds:

All comparisons were made with Grado SR125's and Sony MDR-CD1700s. The CDs used included various rock, classical, and jazz selections - the one I used the most was Bruce Springsteen's Greatest Hits (one of my favorite CD's!). The D-555 was compared with the Radio Shack CD-3904 (a very nice sounding CD player, but also very cheap).

In a nutshell, the D-555 blows away every portable unit I have ever heard. Absolutely everything about it is better. The 555 has this incredible treble extension that is far from harsh or scratchy yet provides plenty of detail, even with the Grados. The 3904 sounded stingy and dry in the treble in comparisons. The 555 also had a much more lush and smooth midrange, whereas the 3904 sounded dry and boring. The bass was also a huge difference: the 555 had far more bass extension, weight (impact), and clarity. The 3904 was boomy and weak. There was also a large difference in the soundstage, because the 555 sounded far more open and clear. The instruments weren't nearly as jumbled together. Finally, the D-555 has a clean headphone output. The 3904 had a little hiss. There was simply no competition.

The 3904 does have a redeeming quality - it plays many more discs than the 555 (Which is very picky about dirty/scratched discs). But once the D-555 gets going, it sounds fabulous.

Well, now that I love the sound of the D-555, I'm selling it. What?? Well, I need a more portable discman. I hope to track down a D-777 or D-E905. The D-555 could be portable with the battery, but it's very old and the memory effect will have the battery life down to 20 minutes within weeks.

If you’re looking for the ultimate in not-so-portable CD players, I believe this may be it. I haven’t heard the other highly regarded Sonys (777 or E905), but simply read around on Head-Fi. The 555 is generally regarded to as the King. And now I see why.
 
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Duncan

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Hi Ian,

Great review, and loads of pictures makes interesting reading


I'm really going to have to A/B a D555 and my E905... I'm presuming you're using the EQ settings at flat?

There is one thing that makes me slightly skeptical that the D555 beats the E905... but, that is not for this thread... I'm glad you're happy with your purchase, even if you are selling it so quickly... and, if the D555 IS as good as you say (which i'm not doubting) then... I think you'd be disappointed with the D777!!

Keep your eye out for the E905 instead
 
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ian

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Duncan-
Thanks!
Yup, I didnt mess with the EQ much, although I made sure it worked...I prefered it all flat.

Im afraid I really want the E905 too...I know the E905 line out is a bit better and I plan to use an amp part of the time...
Darn audiocubes (Hyperjack) just sold their last E905 that they had lying in the back of their warehouse. Acidtripwow got the 2nd to last one! I'm still trying...
 
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purk

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Ian,
D-555 line out sound significantly better than the D-905's to my ears. Still, it is up to your preference. If you love flat response, please, get yourself a D-303 or D-515. They are excellent on their line out.


Purk
 
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ian

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Ahh, I meant that the line out on the 905 was better than the 777 - didn't know about the 555 vs 905. Very interesting though.

And nooo, I don't need any more discman's
 
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Duncan

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Purk,

please can you be descriptive of differences? knowing that the D555 more than likely uses a DAC inferior to the TC9404FN, being that the D555 is three years older than a D777, if the D555 can pull off a better sound, and without the aid of all those DSP gadgets, great
... but, how... why?

Is it something that is boosted in the D555, that makes it sound better than the E905?

At the end of the day, most of this is immaterial to me, i'm using my main rig more and more... but, it really would be interesting, and something which seems to be missing from Head-Fi, to see a side by side comparison of the two players

Thanks
 
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andrzejpw

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Did you take the pics off?
 
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ian

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Nah, the damn Yahoo photo thing doesn't like being public so it went offline. I'll try to find a better place to plop all these pictures.
 
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Randius

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Quote:
Are folks still looking for these?

You can take a look for yourself on eBay and see just what crazy prices people are willing to pay for this one.
 
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