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Sony ES

Discussion in 'audio' started by Countryman, May 2, 2021.

  1. Countryman

    Countryman pfm Member

    Afternoon all. In a peak of interest, I was looking to investigate Sony ES amplifiers and CD players. Can anybody signpost me to a guide of the different models, and which ones to seek and avoid? Not wishing to spend a fortune. Just some second system fun. Many thanks.
    Tarzan likes this.
  2. badlyread

    badlyread pfm Member

  3. Mike P

    Mike P pfm Member

    I've had a lot of ES CD players. Ask away.
    Tarzan likes this.
  4. Countryman

    Countryman pfm Member

    So, if I were looking for a amp and cd player for £2-300 each, which are the ones to look for? They seem to be prefixed with either a 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7 which I presume indicates increasingly higher range models. Some models have 2 digits, some have 3.
  5. Mike P

    Mike P pfm Member

    I promise I will write a comprehensive reply to your question in the next day or so but I don't have time right now.

    There is a sort of numbering heirarchy system but but it is so mixed-up and bafflingly complex up that you mustn't go on that alone!
    Snufkin, Tarzan and Sue Pertwee-Tyr like this.
  6. Countryman

    Countryman pfm Member

    Thanks, Mike. Appreciate that. My initial findings concur with yours: it seems to be a complicated minefield!
  7. Mike P

    Mike P pfm Member

    OK, the baby is asleep (for now), so I'm going to write as much as I can until she wakes up.

    First of all, IMHO the 'golden era' for Sony ES players was the mid-late 80's up to the early 90's. That's largely based on build quality observations but also my personal preference is for the older multi-bit DAC chips, which I tend to prefer. After the early 80's the mechanical build quality tailed off a bit, especially that of the laser mechs.

    Sony ES CD players from the era that I'm interested in can be roughly divided into three groups:

    1) Philips TDA1541 based players
    2) Burr Brown DAC chip based players
    3) Sony DAC chip based players

    The above is also my (approximate) personal order of preference as far as the DAC chips go but the DAC chip is just one facet of what makes a CD player good/bad and I'd much rather have a top of the range player with a Sony DAC than the cheapest player with a TDA1541 DAC. Implementation is at least as important as the DAC chip.

    Sony made/make everything from cheap and nasty junk right up to stuff that is just incredible quality that can put even the most exotic kit to shame. The best analogy I can think of is in the car industry were Volkswagen Audi Group (VAG) own Skoda, Seat, VW, Audi, Porsche, Bentley, Lamborghini and Bugatti. Now try and imagine that ALL of the cars that VAG make were all branded Volkswagen and you get some idea of the variance in the quality of Sony kit! ES stands for Elevated Standard and roughly divides the Sony range into two parts. Imagine VAG only had the VW and Audi brands to cover their full range and you get the idea.

    The Sony model numbering system is totally baffling and sometimes I think they just used a random number generator but approximately speaking a higher number within the ES series indicates a superior model and/or a later model. So, for example the 337 is superior to, and came out after, the 333 and the successor to the 337 was the 338. It's is however important to appreciate that newer certainly doesn't always mean better and there are a lot of cases in which the earlier model is superior! The 2xx range is roughly lower in hierarchy than the 3xx range, which is lower than the 5xx range and the 7xx range are top models. However, there are many anomalies and 'gotchas'. For example the 555esd and 557esd are some of the very best ever despite not being in the 7xx range.

    Non ES models do not equate! For example, a CDP-597 is worlds away in quality from an ES CDP-557ESD model.

    I've got to go now. More later.....
    joe9407, Johnjo, Rob998 and 5 others like this.
  8. booja30

    booja30 pfm Member

    I'd recommend a Sony TA-F3000ES for a second system. It's got a nice shoebox form factor, and is built like a tank. Only 35w though. The matching CD player is beautiful as well, top loading, but they go for ridiculous prices these days. The amps are about 250-300 €. They look silver in daylight but are champagne with incandescent lighting.


    We are relocating from the EU to US and I am considering bringing mine back. (If only my Sansui could come too...). These weren't ever offered in the Americas, only Europe and Japan apparently.

    This is the CD that went with it:


    They also made a MD player and tuner in that form factor.
    Last edited: May 2, 2021
  9. schneiderhan

    schneiderhan pfm Member

    Just picking up on Mike's post, according to the vintageknob site the 557 is (confusingly) considered the first in the 7 series of players that followed the 555 (557, X7, X77 etc). But yes the 555 is part of that exalted line. And the 337 is not far behind. I have paired the 337 with the (I think) contemporaneous 530es amplifier (with B&W CDM2s), sounded pretty good. Before the 530/630/730 amp was the 500/700, pretty similar I think. You can sometimes find these for sale for not much more than £100. I am not familiar with the later Mosfet amps like the 770es etc, I see one of these has just been listed on ebay.
    Countryman likes this.
  10. Countryman

    Countryman pfm Member

    Thanks Mike. That’s a really helpful introduction. The range of models is huge and there are obviously gems and lemons. Some are clearly very highly regarded.
  11. Countryman

    Countryman pfm Member

    Had a quick look on eBay. They’re still attracting good prices. They have a CD player listed at £500.
  12. booja30

    booja30 pfm Member

    The CD looks amazing but I don't have any experience with it. For ultimate sound the full width black Sonys are probably more desirable.
    AnilS likes this.
  13. MichaelC

    MichaelC pfm Member

    In the dining room I have a 707 integrated, fed by 707 CD player. Both given the once over by Mike P here, they are pretty good. On the speaker front I have some budget Q Acoustics. Works well as a system.
    Countryman likes this.
  14. Countryman

    Countryman pfm Member

    Worth saying, I once had a TA FB 940 R. Lots of power and it was a fun-sounding if slightly uncivilised amp. Would be interested how the slightly older but higher up the range ES models compare.
  15. wow&flutter

    wow&flutter pfm Member

    I had a TAF700es I think at one point maybe 6 years ago. Great amp, performed flawlessly but as with all the big vintage Japanese amps there’s always the worry it’ll go pop and that the Sony specific spares are unobtainable.
    Pretty sure I sold it locally but I kept the Sony CDP990 and used it for a few years till I found one the top end Denon players.
    Always been a lover of old Sony kit though, going back to the 70’s. In fact I still have a Sony TA1055 with its matching tuner I’m guessing is in the same cupboard as the CD player:D
  16. Mike P

    Mike P pfm Member

    The TA-F770es, 870es, 707es and 808es are pretty much different versions of the same amp and they're excellent. I had a 770es for a few years and it saw off quite a few well respected high-end amps (up to £4K), until a switch to vintage Tannoys prompted me to act on an itch for valves. The Achilles heel of these models is dirty/noisy switches and dry joints, both of which can create intermittent faults that are frustrating to track down.
    I haven't had any first-hand experience with the TA-F730 or 800 but I expect they'd also be excellent.

    You'd be lucky to pick up a 770es within your stated budget of £300 but you might get a 670es or thereabouts. Having said that, I'd recommend that you'd get more 'bang for your buck' by splitting your total budget more like 2/3rds for the amp and 1/3rd for the CD player, which might just about bring a 770es within reach.
  17. G.smith310

    G.smith310 pfm Member

    @Countryman I have a 730ES that I have spoken to the expert @Mike P about.

    I have sent you a message with more details, let me know what you think.
  18. Mike P

    Mike P pfm Member

    Some more thoughts..

    One of the major pitfalls of buying a vintage CD player is that replacement lasers are often unavailable, so when the laser finally weakens to the point of uselessness, you can end up being left with nothing better than a large heavy ornament on your rack.

    The best Sony laser mechs worked on linear motor system, where the whole laser head moves back and forth on a linear motor/magnetic sled. These lasers have lightening fast track selection and they read CDR discs well too, which isn't always the case for older laser mechs. The Philips CDM 0 for example has superb mechanical build quality but tends to struggle with CDR discs. IMHO the best Sony mechs are every bit as good as the best swingarm Philips mechs.

    The days of high quality laser mechs are long gone and high end vintage CD players were blessed with laser mechs that are far far better quality than you can get on modern machines. Yes that's right; the shocking truth is that even very expensive modern CD players use cheap nasty plastic laser mechs that are practically 'disposable' standard in their build quality.
  19. Tarzan

    Tarzan pfm Member

    That would be great Mike.:)

    Enjoy my SONY TAF-770ES from time to time.. and the X55ES CD player all the time- so blooming musical.:cool:
    onespeed, AnilS and Hoopsontoast like this.
  20. Mike P

    Mike P pfm Member

    OK, OK Mike enough already, just give me some recommendations!

    Alright, here is my quick summary of some of the vintage ES and non ES players that I've owned or worked on:

    Sony CDP-555esd - My all-time favourite one-box CD player. Amazing build quality and superb sound quality. TDA1541 DAC. Superb BU-1E laser mech (which is cross compatible with the BU-1C, meaning sensible priced 'donor' players can be picked up).

    Sony CDP-557esd - I think this is my favourite of the Burr Brown DAC based Sony player but I haven't been able to hear one alongside an X7esd. Superb (but unobtanium) KSS-190a laser mech. Twin PCM64 DAC chips. Amazing build quality.

    Sony CDP-X7esd - Possibly the high high water mark for CD quality! Superb but unobtanium KSS-190a laser mech. Twin PCM58 DAC chips. Excellent powerful sound.

    Sony CDP-337esd - Excellent build quality but not quite up to the standard of the above TOTL players. Twin TDA1541 DAC chips. Sound quality is right up there with the best. Superb but unobtanium KSS-190a laser mech.

    Sony CDP-338esd - Poor man's X7esd. Similar build quality to 337esd. Twin PCM58 DAC chips. Very good KSS-151a laser mech (now available at around £200). Very good sound quality.

    CDP-333esd - Very good solid build quality. BU-1E laser mech. TDA1541 DAC. Needs some upgrades to release all of the magic.

    Sony CDP-228esd - Lower spec little brother of the 338.

    Sony - 227esd - Very good KSS-151a laser mech and lovely implementation of twin TDA1541A R1 DAC chips. Cheap feeling plastic chassis. Very good sound quality but needs upgrades to make it really shine (in particular the lower spec R1 chips need to be upgraded).

    Sony CDP-222esd - Similar to the 227 but with a single TDA1541 DAC chip. Lovely implementation. Very good KSS-151a laser mech. Cheap feeling plastic chassis.

    Sony CDP-710 - This is the same player as the 222esd but fitted with a cheaper KSS-150a laser mech (not a linear motor type). For some reason Sony never gave the 710 an ES badge, as because of they they often get overlooked and can be picked up at bargain prices. The laser is cheap and readily available. With upgrades the sound quality can be made to be comparable to the TOTL ES players.

    Sony CDP-552esd - Excellent build quality. BU-1 laser mech. Sony CX20152 DAC. Digital output (unusual for a player this old).

    Sony CDP-502esd - Little brother of the 552. No digital output.

    Sony CDP-552esd II - As 552 but with Burr Brown PCM53 DAC chips.

    Sony CDP-303es - Very good solid build quality. BU-1C laser mech. Sony CX20152 DAC.

    Sony CDP-103 - Basically the same player as the 303 but in a midi-sized chassis.

    CDP-750 - Cheap but very cheerful TDA1541 based player. Sound quality is better than it should be!

    CDP-M75 - Midi sized version of CDP750

    CDP-950 - Slightly better than CDP750

    CDP-910 - Budget relative of the 228esd

    I've got to go again....

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