SACDmods 555ES first impressions!
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meech

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Well, it's been a long wait but it's finally here. I've waiting since January to have my 555 modded by Matthew of SACDmods. Was the wait frustrating? Absolutely. Was is worth it,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,OH HELL YES!!!!!!

First, I have to say a quick thank you to Markl, Sacd Lover, Nightfall and others who have recommended this player. I would have never considered this player without their words of enthusiasm. Through their recommendation, I have taken a huge step towards my own audio nirvana. Thanks a million! Also, thanks to Matthew Anker of SACDmods. He was very cooperative and answered all of my questions. He did the entire mod on my unit in two days once he received all the necessary components to do so. I can tell he's very efficient and that he takes pride in his work. Definately a good guy!
Here's a couple of pics:


rear shot left:

rear shot right:

close-up Cardas jacks and IEC input:


INITIAL IMPRESSIONS:

Ok, on to the fun stuff. Let me start by saying that I've been listening to a stock 555es for about 6 months now. I had a pretty good idea of what it sounded like and I assure you, the modded player is a definate improvement.
Unlike many of the others, I had a different initial experience with the modded unit. I started out by plugging the Hot Rod up to my 2 channel stereo rig. This system is powered by a pair of 7 watt SET monoblocks. Between the tight fitting bullet plugs on my ICs and the HUGE Cardas rca jacks Matthew installed, I didn't think I was ever going to be able to ICs off of the 555. I loaded up John Coltrane "A Love Supreme" sacd. The first thing I said to myself after about 20 seconds into the music was "DAMN,,,,,,,,,,who turned up the volume"? To start off, the Hot Rod's output voltage is very high as it is. You definately have to get used to using a lot less of your volume knob. But anyway, this wasn't what I meant when I said "who turned up the volume". I swear it seemed like the volume got louder 20 seconds into the music. Hmmmmm,,,,,,,,,,,,this is wierd
,,,,,,,,,could it be what I think it is
,,,,,,,,,,,is it,,,,,,,,,,,I think it is,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,that's right folks,,,,,,,,,,,you guessed it,,,,,,,,I've just been formally introduced to Mr. Dynamics. So that's they mean by dynamics. Ahhhhh. Nice!
!
And this wouldn't be the last time Mr. Dynamics would slap me in the face. Usually, when you're listen to a familiar piece of music that has it's slow moments,,,,,you're prepared for the burst when things pick up. Well not with this beast. This thing goes from silent to headbanging in any instant. No warning at all,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,better buckle up
. This player gets louder and busier than anything I've ever heard before. The strange part is that even when things get nuts, nothing draws attention to itself. It's just all of the instruments out there on display for you to enjoy. Everything in complete harmony. The HD650s introduced my to this kind of 'keeping it together' trick a few weeks ago but the 555 takes it to a whole different level. I found myself cringing as the volume increased (or so it seemed) because I'm used to brightness at that volume. Not here!!!!! As loud as it gets,,,,it still greets you with a warm and inviting sound and a complete picture. Totally amazing
!!! The 555 Hot Rod spits out so much information that you are thoroughly convinced that there's nothing left behind on your disc. You literally get it all,,,,,,,like it or not! I would later learn that on some recordings I kinda preferred to be lied to. But the Hot Rod didn't care. It just brutally revealed the truth about every disc I fed it. I hate to admit this but there are now a handful of disc that I used to like but I can't listen to them anymore. These were the discs that have really good music but were recorded horribly. There's nowhere to hide with this player. If you're ugly, it's gonna call you ugly,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,right in front of the entire junior high cafeteria!!!!


Later on that evening I loaded up Diana Krall sacd "The girl in the other room". This was my first true experience with real high frequency extension. Cymbals were absolutely fantastic. They would tap and splash forever. It seemed as if they just never vanished. The splash was always there just floating in the air. You didn't stop hearing the decay until you stopped listening to it. FREAKIN AMAZING
!!!!!! This thing breathes air around every object. It's kinda spooky in a way because you really do forget that you're listening to speakers. For the first time ever, I really did have the band in my room. This is by far, the single best improvement that my 2 channel system has seen.

Ok, on to the headphone rig. I plugged the Hot Rod up to my RA-1 and my HD650's. After about 5 disc, I realized that something wasn't right. Although I was loving this new level of detail I was hearing, something was still off. There was a strained sound to all of the CD's. Something was being overworked. It was like having a V12 Ferrari engine on a Hyundai. Yeah that's one hell of an engine, but way too much for a Hyundai. I think you see what I'm getting at. I could be wrong, but I think the Hot Rod was too much for the RA-1. The bass was very thin and the mids/highs were a little messy. I wanted to believe that this wasn't the case but I couldn't ignore it. I could tell that the 555 was trying to work it's magic but the RA-1 was not letting all of that information through. This was really strange because when I used the RA-1 with the RS1s and an inferior source, it sounded ten times better. It had a little less detail but it was definately a cleaner more cohesive sound with much better bass response. I have a feeling that this could be caused by either one of the following problem: A) The Hot Rod is too much source for the RA-1 or B) The 650s need a lot more power to get them going up to the Hot Rod's capabilities. Needless to say, I was not too happy with this combination. After about the tenth CD, I decided that maybe I should try a fresh pair of batteries in the RA-1. This rendered very minor improvements in cleaning up the midrange but the bass was still inadequate.


I have to admit, I was a little disappointed with the bass output up to this point. I didn't get that heart pounding bass that I was hoping for. I decided, just for fun, to go back to my 2 channel rig with a different amp. I have a 200 watt solid state Parasound amp that I haven't used sice I got hooked on tubes. I fired up the Hot Rod with 'YES------Tales From Topographic Oceans'. I skipped to the last section, 'The Ritual' (which happens to be my favorite part) and let it rip. All I can say is WOW! It's amazing what the Hot Rod can do with a little power behind it. Although the solid state brightness was there, it was still a much livelier sound now. I felf the drums in my chest. There's the heart pounding bass I've read about. The bass wasn't overwhelming, just sharp and very articulate. Not just MORE BASS,,,,,,,,,,,,,,but MORE GOOD BASS!!!! Mind you this is all after only less than 20 hours on the unit. My 2 channel speakers are monitors with one 6in. driver per speaker. I swear it sound like I had a subwoofer now. Needless to say, I'm very happy with this new player. I hate to give impressions this soon since I know the sound is going to change a lot over the next few weeks. Even at this early stage I'm already sure of one thing,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,this player needs a powerful amp to really get rockin'. I'm a few weeks away from getting a pretty powerful headphone amp. By that time the Hot Rod should be broken in and I can give you guys better headphone listen impression.

Thanks for reading,

Stay tuned
 
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qwerty870

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Sounds interesting, let us know if it continues to change.

I cant wait to get mine.

I think I'll remove the entire output PCB on mine and wire the zapfilter directly to the cardas jacks, perhaps with some premium resistors to lower the gain (my preamp sounds a little better towards the higher part of the volume knob.)
 
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sacd lover

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Nice job with the impressions meech. By the way the 555es didnt take as long to break in as my 222es did. Thats surprising the RA-1 doesnt work well with the 555es.
The 555es makes the bass better on any setup I have tried. Oh well, thats a good reason to upgrade your headamp. Are you still getting a maestro?
 
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meech

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Quote:

Originally Posted by sacd lover
Nice job with the impressions meech. By the way the 555es didnt take as long to break in as my 222es did. Thats surprising the RA-1 doesnt work well with the 555es.
The 555es makes the bass better on any setup I have tried. Oh well, thats a good reason to upgrade your headamp. Are you still getting a maestro?



Thanks Earl,

Yes, I am still getting the Maestro. Those impressions were from Friday night. I gave the 555 another listen last night and things are already changing. I played a couple of really well recorded disc through the RA-1 and found some real improvements. I went with an Alison Krauss cd. I think I may have to retract some of my comments about the RA-1. Maybe it was too soon on Friday or maybe the disc that I tried weren't up to snuff but I was definately impressed last night. It portrayed so much space and speed that I caught myself with my mouth open a couple of times. When I get home tonight, I'm going to give those discs I tried on Friday another spin. Maybe the Hot Rod wasn't ready,,,,,,,,,but I think it is now. I'll talk to you guys tonight.
 
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markl

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Congrats, meech, sounds like you're having a ball! I definitely agree that the ZapFilter is an extremely powerful (but *clean* and *controlled*) output section. Or maybe a better way to look at it is that it's at the correct output level, where most mass-produced CDPs are just way too feeble and wimpy. When you hear what those extra dynamics can do, you may come to feel as I did that they are an essential part of the musical information contained on your CDs that other pieces have simply denied you in the past. Should be interesting to hear what happens when you switch headamps to something other than the RA-1.

Quote:

I think I'll remove the entire output PCB on mine and wire the zapfilter directly to the cardas jacks, perhaps with some premium resistors to lower the gain (my preamp sounds a little better towards the higher part of the volume knob.)


Hey qwerty, why don't you try the Zap Filter first without any extra attenuation and see how you like it. For me, in my set-up, it's the incredible dynamics and sheer grunt force of the Hot Rod that adds so much to it's enjoyability. Unless it was really necessary for practical reasons, seems like adding resistors might defeat a lot of what makes it so great in the first place. The extra detail you can hear and dimensionality of the sound is enhanced when the output section can keep those soft sounds low, and loud sounds loud rather than compacting and compressing them into a narrow band.
 
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qwerty870

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Quote:

Originally Posted by markl
Hey qwerty, why don't you try the Zap Filter first without any extra attenuation and see how you like it.



I will definitely try it without attenuation first. I think that wiring the jacks straight from the Zapfilter and bypassing the output PCB entirely would still be a good idea though.
 
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mjg

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Meech, first congrats on the 555es! Great player, i love mine as well. Question for you. What do you think of your signal cable HC digital power cable with the 555es. I own one one as well, but i've been using a ps audio lab cable on the system. I know the cable was designed specifically for digital gear, and I was wondering if you also had other power cables to roll with the unit for a base of comparison? I'm probablly going to try this as well, but I'm studying for finals atm. Let us know all the details, After the mods break in. Agreed, the ra1 is the hyundai that you need to dump,and the maestro should surely impress. I heard it at gradolabs last year. Real nice amp.

Not to discount franks IC's, but I feel you can bump up to a higher end IC and notice a significant improvement, when you go with the maestro. I'd say their ic's are great, but I would rather use a higher end cable on that sort of gear. I've ran cardas golden reference on mine since this winter, and I can say the improvement is obvious, and I'd say dramatic. I also ran voodoo reference on this setup, as did markl I believe. Great combo too.
 
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Quote:

Originally Posted by qwerty870
I will definitely try it without attenuation first. I think that wiring the jacks straight from the Zapfilter and bypassing the output PCB entirely would still be a good idea though.


It already is bypassed. The zap filter is connected directly to the dac at one end and the output jacks at the other.
 
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qwerty870

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Quote:

Originally Posted by sacd lover
It already is bypassed. The zap filter is connected directly to the dac at one end and the output jacks at the other.


If its like the pictures on the website then it is not bypassed.
 
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sacd lover

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The 2 channel/ main rca's are chassis mount and they are wired to the zap filter board, so the 2 channel/ main outs are bypassed. The op amp stages remain to feed the other multi-channel outputs. He disconnects the headphone output as well.
 
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Quote:

Originally Posted by sacd lover
The 2 channel/ main rca's are chassis mount and they are wired to the zap filter board, so the 2 channel/ main outs are bypassed. The op amp stages remain to feed the other multi-channel outputs. He disconnects the headphone output as well.


Ill show you pictures of what I mean when I get mine back. It will be clear when you see it.
 
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sacd lover

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Quote:

Originally Posted by qwerty870
Ill show you pictures of what I mean when I get mine back. It will be clear when you see it.


Ok!
I dont think we are defining bypassed the same way.
 
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Quote:

If its like the pictures on the website then it is not bypassed.


Qwerty870'

I thought I'd better comment on this one.

The ZapFilter board is conected directly to to the PCM1738 DAC by way of one of the resistors that would have led to the I-V converter opamp. The signal does not pass through this resistor, but the connection is made at the pad on the pad the resistor used to occupy. The signal than passes to the ZapFilter through AudioConsulting's silver wire in teflon tubing. The reason I use the silver is mearly because it is soft and does not put any strain on the circuit board.

After the signal leaves the ZapFilter, it travels through a twisted pair of Neglex OFC copper (I discontinued the use of CC copper because the Neglex sounded better and is easier to work with). The twisted pair is connected directly to the new Cardas jacks on the back panel. It does not pass through the signal splitter/mute relay board. The pictures on the website would appear to show it that way, but that is mearly because the wire takes a nose dive to get to the level of the right channel RCA. If necessary, you may insert a resistor in the signal path to attenuate, although it would be better placed on your preamp input.

UPS shows that your player will be arriving tomorrow.

sacd lover/Earl,

Your 963SA went under the knife this afternoon. I'll have it done in a few days.
 
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meech

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Ok guys, here's the update:

Well after burning the Hot Rod in on repeat for about 2 days in a row, I'm happy to report that there have been significant improvements (if that's possible
). I decided to give the RA-1 a second chance since I had some problems with the sound initially. Remember that messy midrange and mediocre bass impact that I mentioned before. Well boy have things changed,,,,,,,FOR THE BETTER! First of all, it was way too soon to do any critical listening to the Hot Rod. Secondly, I forgot to take one very important factor into consideration. The Signal Cable power cord was brand new and hadn't been broken in either. Although I don't have anything to compare the Signal Cable to, I do know that power cords have a major effect on source components. This cable had only been warmed up for about two hours when I was listening to the RA-1 on Friday. Now that the PC, along with the Hot Rod have about 50 to 60 hours on them, it's a whole different ball game.

Although I have very little experience with the best headphone systems, I will make this statement regarding what I'm hearing now. THIS IS BY FAR THE BEST SOURCE THAT I HAVE EVER HEARD
. Don't get me wrong, I'm well aware that there are probably other players out there that are much better than this. I'm just stating that this is the best that I've ever heard. It'll be nice to see how it stacks up to the big boys at the NYC meet in a few weeks.

The word I'm going to use to describe 555 Hot Rod's sound is 'Clean'. It portrays an image that's so vivid that everything is exposed. Nothing overlaps anything else on the recording. Every instrument is in it's place and very well balanced. It's kind of weird because you really do find yourself waiting for the sound breakup,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,but it never does
. As loud as it gets, it's always under control. I'm guessing that this is what the megabucks players do. Even the extreme highs are always clear and understandable. And let's not talk about that bass.
The Hot Rod delivers bass like nothing I've heard before. It's enough impact to really get rockin' but just shy of smothering the mids and highs. My problem was that I had the wrong expectations of the Hot Rod. I was looking for subwoofer bass but what I got instead was the most articulate bass reproduction I've ever heard. I loaded up the Beyonce cd just to see what the Hot Rod can do with R&B. I skipped to track #2 and pressed play. OMG,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,talk about BASS impact
!!!! This put that wide, tight smile on my face
. You know the one that hurts your cheekbones as your trying to wipe if off of your face.
. I had never realized how many effects the engineers had mixed into this song. I heard it all for the first time and all i could do was smile.
Great experience!

To say that I'm totally happy with my new source is an understatement. Not only am I happy with it, I'm grateful to it. It has given me a much better interpretation of what a good source can do for your system.
 
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