Friday, September 16, 2016

Early SACD player reliability

After I first set up my newest acquisition, a Sony DVP-9000ES with new laser (and one spare), it wouldn't read the first hybrid multichannel SACD I put in it.  But after playing a Sony SACD for 15 minutes, I tried the hybrid again and it worked.  This may have been a warmup/settling issue.  I hope I've been charmed to see the first time fail, and every time after succeed...

This player is indeed full of calibration features and I think it may also autocalibrate on every disc.  Despite all that, it appears now that these Vintage SACD players may have reliability problems now.  One longtime modifier says that new lasers only seem to last about 60 days anymore, and he advises people NOT to buy this unit.  Some think it's because of the lack of quality in the current replacement lasers now that Sony no longer makes or sells replacement lasers for this unit.  It could also be some other kind of internal deterioration.

But, I remember the early days of SACD, when I was reading about the first SACD players like the SCD-1 in the pages of Stereophile and The Absolute Sound.  And I remember reading about things like "sudden laser death syndrome."  It seemed like many of these early SACD players would not make it through their warranty period without at least one factory authorized laser change.

I think somewhere along the line I read one commentator, was it HP, who recommended powering the player down after the end of a listening session.  All to hopefully preserve the life of the laser.  (I wonder if players cut off the laser when no disc is playing, or keep it running whenever the player is on.)  If failure corresponds to the number of hours left on, and 60 days being left on all the time is the maximum, I could get as many as 2000 disc plays before failure.  THAT would probably last me 3-5 years, especially as I will only use this player for SACD's which are a tiny fraction of my disc collection now.

I remember reading about all the earliest Sony and Philips SACD players of having premature failures.  Given the history of Philips in making solid stuff, like the CDM-1 transport used in most early Philips players, one would think they wouldn't have reliability issues, but judging by stories in the magazines the SACD-1000 made by Philips was the least reliable player of all.

Here's another discussion of issues with DVP-9000ES, but started by a guy who finds it amazingly good sounding, better sounding than his later and more expensive SCD-XA777ES.  Once again a description of how to enter service menu and do calibrations and check hours.

And, there's really no excuse for not keeping backup parts for at least 10 years, and I think Signature products (like ES or Elite) should have parts available for 20 years.  (Pioneer may have been somewhat better, I think PWY1004 laser required for PD-75/91/93/95 players was still available until recently, or maybe even still, and those are 25 yo players.)

Sony DVP-9000ES owners were complaining about lack of parts in 2006, only 6 years after player was purchased.  They're saying ES stands for Execreable Service.  Not mentioned there, a cache of 9000ES players was discovered in Mexico in 2005 and sold through a major non-dealer, supposedly with original 5 year warranty (I find the latter hard to believe, I think these were Grey Market with any warranty provided for the dealer--for a day or two while the blowout seller still had old stock on hand).  The discussion ends with praise for Oppo who apparently fixed a guy's player long out of warranty--for free.

It does really seem that in the 2000-2010 era, Sony burned their bridges with a lot of people by selling megabuck disc products they failed to back up with good parts and service.

My 9000ES arrived in a pristine factory box and was packed like it just came from the factory, as did the box.  It does indeed look mint as the ad said.  This seller apparently babied this equipment as Japanese do.  But now I'm beginning to wonder how good a deal this was if I have to replace laser every 2 months.  In this case, I'm keeping the box incase I decide to resell after I've had enough.

Here's one endless list of problems with SACD players of all brands.

Now I think I may remember one trick.  Mostly don't leave a disc in the player when powering off.  This engages the auto-calibrate mechanism when the machine is started.  This wastes laser life.  However, If having trouble with a particular kind of disc, you deliberately leave it in the machine, and power cycle.


OK, I've played a lot of discs, then with the Mercury Living Presence Hanson, the 9000ES stopped with C 13 00, which apparently means "dirty disc" (the usual attempt to blame the user for the machines limitations) or, perhaps more correctly, disc read failure.  On a later attempt it had skipped 3 times before reaching that stage, perhaps it had skipped the first time also (I wasn't paying close attention).

So, I think it was precisely regarding Mercury Living Presence releases that I read the trials and tribulations of early SACD players (for those guys, probably mostly SCD 777ES).  In fact it might have been precisely this Hanson disc.

Anway, I found this thread about C 13 00 appearing in 9000ES (and many other Sony players).

Well they they do talk about service menu calibration, but they still don't talk about the simplest form of recalibration, simply leaving disc in machine and power cycling.  I think what this does is re-register the disc.  So it identifies the disc type rather than reading from memory (which apparently it also does) so maybe it doesn't actually do any recalibration, but it might I think.

Anyway, after I first got the error, I tried play again, and now it recognized this disc as a CD.  I put ejected and reloaded and it still recognized it as CD.

So here I put the disc in and cycled the power.  And sure enough, it now recognized the disc as a SACD again.  So I played.  And it failed at what sounded like the same point, second track.

So I played an SACD from Sonoma, also multichannel, which played flawlessly.  Then back to the Mercury Hanson, and, it failed again at the same point.

Later SACD players didn't have these problems.  I don't remember a single read error with my $149 Sony NS500V.  Guess I'll have to keep that, and it also makes me wonder about the possibility of Frankenstein.  Because I do love the sound of the 9000ES better than anything I've heard playing SACD, if it would only play all of them.

On the plus side of reliability, Stephen Sank says he's never seen the laser go bad in a PD-75/91/93/95.  And he's worked on hundreds.  Sure the lens falls out, but he's figured out the intricate procedure of mounting it back on correctly, getting all the correct technical patterns and so on.  Which BTW in the service manual is very very good.  Pioneer has pages of oscilloscope photos accompanying their adjustments.  From what I recall of Sony machines, there may not be so many adjustments, maybe just one, and if that one doesn't fix it, it's cooked.  Now I've read David Rich say the fewer adjustments the better.  But this may not be true in all cases.  I think in the case of something like PD-75 being able to fine tune the system in all different ways is excellent, and prevents having unservicable machines down the line, when situations arise that the onboard computer was not designed to correct.

But those were slow speed CD players.  Once we got into the real of high speed discs like DVD and especially it seems SACD there were a lot of early failures in the first few years, then by about 2004 or so machines could be made which last till today essentially like new, such as the Denon 5910.

Denon btw does seem to create something more like heirloom products generally.  But even they had problems in the early days of SACD, I suspect the laser in my 5900 was replaced by the previous owner.  I have two inoperable 5900's.  And of course my DVD-9000 no longer plays DVD's, only CD, a common problem with DVD-9000.

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