Review of the Sony SCD-777ES SACD Player (Feb 2000)
After auditioning the simply fabulous SCD-1, a SCD-777ES was subsequently purchased for the living room system. This review will be rather brief as it will focus on the differences between the SCD-777ES and my XA7ES and the SCD-1 (which sadly, is not mine :))
Heavier than the XA7ES, not as heavy as the SCD-1. The SCD-777ES has a simpler (but no less imposing) chassis than the SCD-1 (no bevelled corners). It also lacks balanced outputs and is supposed to have a different transformer. Everything else is supposed to be the same.
So what reason is there for the SCD-777 and SCD-1 to sound different? I dunno...
The 777 is also audibly better than the XA7ES and also worse than the SCD-1 as expected. After careful listening, I would say that the 777 sits almost squarely between the XA7ES and SCD-1 in terms of sound quality: If the SCD-1 was a 10.0 and the XA7ES a 5.0, the 777 would be something like a 7.0. (for CD replay only of course).
Soundstaging and imaging were topnotch as there was greater fullness and solidity in the sound and in the imaging. I'm unable to tell the difference from the SCD-1 in this respect.
Treble extension on the 777ES though better than the XA7ES, is not as good as the SCD-1 (note: on both, I left the 50KHz filter engaged). The absolute top end 'air' on the SCD-1 was a class unto itself.
However, tambourines, cymbals and high frequency percussion on the 777 did have the same brilliant attack and there was better detail.
Bass had better extension and attack compared to the XA7ES. Can't say whether the SCD-1 was superior to the 777 though; too close to call.
The midrange was again good, and the filters did help problematic discs. One recent disc I acquired was Dar Williams' 1995 album, The Honesty Room. Great songwriting, good singing, but mediocre recording quality. On the XA7ES, the recording sounded slightly flat and lifeless (lack of top-end air leading to (1) 'dull' sound (2) voice kinda merges into the music and becomes a bit more hard to pick out). The 777 with filter 2 rescued things somewhat. Particularly interesting with the greater air and depth to the soundstage.
Dynamics (added in April'00)
For some reason, I forgot to add this in the original review. Anyway, the 777ES is of the gentler, sweet, detailed sort like the XA7ES and is not as dynamic as the SCD-1. The SCD-1 has incredible dynamics in CD replay - nearly Krell like (but sweeter as opposed to the sometime 'mechanical'/'quartz clock timing' nature of the Krell sound). I haven't gauged the dynamics of the 777ES and SCD-1 for SACD replay yet.
Well, I complained about the lack of female vocal SACDs and I'm still complaining. Meanwhile, I've got a Mariah Carey SACD (gasp!) with her old No.1 hits. Listening to it, one can clearly hear the potential of SACD... :) The 'air' and 'space' in the SACD recording was totally awesome and the treble extension is in a league of its own.
However, some of the recordings appear to have been upsampled. So you do get better treble extension but because of the lack of density of information in the master, the treble sounds a bit sharp and choppy. Also for some reason, Mariah's voice sounds a bit thin and diffuse on the SACD (when compared to say, any Mary Black CD); even then, the voice is still well placed and defined in the superb sounstage.
If only the SCD-777 sounded nearly the same as the SCD-1 :) But money buys you something. The SCD-777 replaces the XA7ES, but costs considerably more, though I expect that the price should fall 10% by the end of the year and another 10% the following year (if it follows the pattern of the XA7ES).