SONY D-303 vs. Panasonic SL-SW860
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maprik

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Hello,

I just wanted to post my impressions regarding the old SONY D-303 portable CDP. I purchased mine from a head-fi member (Purk) just because I had heard about how great the line out section was and just had to hear it for myself. I've been using a Panasonic SL-SW860 for the past year as portable (all metal very rugged) with a Grado RA-1 amp and Sennheiser HD-580s. Portable and excellent sounding. I sold the Grado and had JMT build me one of his beautiful META42s so my comparison is using the META42, HD-580s connected to the Sony and Pana using a kimber mini-mini.

As a frequent traveller I listen to CDs quite often when I'm in airports, hotels, etc. I listen mostly to vinyl at home so I think my standards for playback are pretty high. I've spent considerable effort trying to get my digital front end to sound analog. My home rig is composed of a Rega P25 w/ RB-600 arm and Benz Micro Glider L2, Black Cube phono pre, Classe CP-20 pre, Music Reference RM-9 amp, Reference 3A MM DeCapo speakers, all connected by Synergistic Research Resolution Reference .5 cables. My digital front end is the Pioneer PD-65 to a Monarchy Audio Super Drive DIP, MSB Full Nelson Link DAC III with Upsampling and P1000 power supply connected to the Classe with Kimber Illuminati D-60 cables.

First of all, the Pana is light, excellent battery life, and built like a tank. The line out section has never bothered me and I have been pleased with the sound and detail of this combination. When I substituted the Sony D-303 into the system I was shocked at the improvement. Everything is better. Guitars are fuller, rounder, with more acoustic tone, pianos are richer, more dynamic, and human voices are just more real. Gong back to the Pana everything sounded thin, less detailed, veiled, and much less dynamic. The soundstage also collapsed into my head. With the SONY the soundstage sounds like it's around my head, not in my head. I had my fellow audio pal Bill come around and do the comparison as well and he heard the same thing. He was mighty impressed with the SONY.

The SONY isn't perfect, however. It's very heavy and bulky. Still portable but twice the weight of the Pana. Also, the DC power jack is right next to the line out jack. With the AC adapter plugged in I can hear an audible buzz. Perhaps I don't have the right adapter but I was told that a 9V 800mA adapter was what I needed. I may have to experiment with that. But with just battery power the SONY is dead quiet and really shines. It's sucks batteries dry so fast though. I'm going to get a couple more AA rechargeables just so I can have 4 pairs to rotate through.

Given these drawbacks, however, the Sony so clearly outshines the Pana in sound that I'm perfectly willing to deal with the drained batteries and hauling around the extra batteries and recharger with me. My next experiment will be to use the D-303s optical out and connect it to my home rig through the Monarchy DIP and MSB Link DAC.

The SONY D-303 isn't easy to find. I was looking for a few weeks before I saw Purk's. If you can find one though I highly recommend it. Granted I haven't heard a lot of other CDPs but the D-303 sounds SO good that it's worth seeking out to compare to your best.

Phil
 
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Hirsch

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I was repairing an ART DI/O today and needed a source to test it. So, I tried my D-303 into a Monarchy DIP, and out to the DI/O. The DI/O did not sound much better than the line output of the D-303...but that isn't the DI/O's fault. Alas, the D-303 may not be the world's best transport. The Rotel that I use is a much better transport for the DI/O. In fact, the difference made by the transport was enough so that I may at some point try the DI/O out of my Creek CD53, and see how the DI/O compares to the DAC in the Creek...
 
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maprik

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Well you can't argue that there won't be limitations placed on the digital signal from a portable compared to a nice low vibration, low jitter full bodied CDP! I'll try it tomorrow night and see what happens. Too bad I don't have a really nice optical cable though...

I suspect that my experience will be much similar to yours.
 
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purk

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Mprik,
Thanks for your review. I couldn't said it myself. Good job on the review. So do u extremely like the player? Hopefully, how about the headphone out?

Thanks,
Purk
 
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purk

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aeberbach ,
B/c I have more than one.....so....I don't mind sharing this perfect Discman.


 
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dowell

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So far as I know

There are still some differences between different shapes of D-303 in sound

I have heard dark silver DBB D-303 and black MEGA BASS D-303

I think dark silver DBB D-303 is the best one


 
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purk

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dowel,

Quote:

So far as I know

There are still some differences between different shapes of D-303 in sound

I have heard dark silver DBB D-303 and black MEGA BASS D-303

I think dark silver DBB D-303 is the best one


I can confirm this that there isn't any difference b/w the silver and the black D-303. Again, I have 2 color. Both D-303s employ analog Megabass system.
 
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maprik

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Hi Purk,

The headphone out is quite good but cannot begin to compare to the line out-JMT META42 combination. I don't anticipate using it. I figure that the D-303 sucks enough battery power turning the CD, why drain additional power pushing the internal amp? The line out will be the most minimal power drain so not only does it sound best it will give me maximum battery life (maybe not noticeable but what the hey...).

I don't notice a difference with the Mega Bass, I guess it doesn't affect the line out, which I think is good. Bass is strong and tight without enhancement!
 
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Eagle_Driver

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Despite the virtues of the D-303, its performance would be unsatisfactory for my particular purposes. Why? Because for one, all of my listening these days is on the move. And I'm sure that the D-303 would skip all the time that I'm walking (unless I walk so slowly that I'll take several hours to cover even one block), because I'm so heavy-footed in my walking motions. Second, batteries are expensive at all of the stores that I shop at (yes, even discount stores). Why should I have to put up with the $2 to $3 cost per set of two AA batteries, only to have that set of batteries poop out after just two CDs?
 
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maprik

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Hi Eagle Driver,

Your points are well taken. The D-303 is not for listening on the go. You definitely want a PCDP with the shock protection for that although there is a definite loss of fidelity when you use shock protection. I use the D-303 because when I'm in a hotel room reading or sitting on a plane for 3 or more hours I like to enjoy music and be able to concentrate on the music. Rechargeable AA batteries are a MUST so that you can have 2 pair charged while 2 pair are charging. The NiMH kind last about twice as long as the standard Duracell battery. Get yourself some for your portable.

The D-303 is a portable CDP but not for listening to while moving. I personally don't like listening while I'm moving because of cords and all that dangling around and I just can't concentrate on the music.
 
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Eagle_Driver

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I personally don't like using headphones at all while sitting still. In that situation, I must use loudspeakers only for listening while stationary.
 
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maprik

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Different portables for different purposes. I also prefer to listen to loudspeakers but I haven't found a pair yet that I can travel with. And I spend at least 2 nights in a hotel every week. With a 3 year old and a 1 year old at home sometimes this is the only time I get to REALLY listen to some music...
 
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maprik

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Eagle-Driver,

What kind of battery life do you get from the D-EJ1000? Has anyone compared it to other players, esp. the line-out?
 
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NotoriousBIG_PJ

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With these old players, you really need 1800mh or better nimh batteries so that you still have the same battery life as alchalines but you can *gasp* recharge them. Plus your not tossing batteries into our landfills and you are saving money.


Hey Purk, how does the battery life of the D-515 compare to the D-303?

Biggie.
 
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