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First generation CD players - how good?

A.S.

Administrator
Staff member
3 March 1983: the day CD players were launched in the UK, and the day I got out my credit card and paid out around GBP500 (USD750 or so) for one of the only two machines available - the Sony CDP101. The other choice was a Philips top loader, but from memory, it was a much lighter build, I preferred the front loader, the user ergonomics, and was on a Sony-high which lasted until relatively recently and the grim reality of the sound of a new (and top line) Sony TV.

Does my CDP101 still work after 31 years? Almost. It was relegated to the loft about 15 years ago when one audio channel ceased to operate, but as I still have the original carton (also in the loft) I just couldn't bear to part with it. When I powered it up last week, it lit up, but the drawer would not power open. The Ebay unit also powers up, drawer does open, disc is drawn-in, but the motor does not start.

So there she has been for all those summers and winters until last week when out of idle curiosity, I tapped CDP101 into Ebay. And for sale, and bought, was a sister CDP101, partly working, serial number about 1000 on from mine - perhaps only a day or two apart.

So, both are with a genius of an audio equipment restore who performed miracles on my Studer 807 tape machine recently, and fingers crossed, he can make one good machine out of these two. What then?

Well, we can address the convenient marketing tale that has accompanied the CD story, oft repeated, that 'first generation CD players had nasty DACs and a horrible, harsh sound'. Personally, I've never subscribed to that convenient line, but we will see because we certainly have the means here to make audio comparisons for you to decide for yourselves.

Let's hope my man can perform another miracle.

Video here
Info here
Inside story here

(Useful info on the drawer mechanism, misspelled throughout as 'draw')
 

DSRANCE

Guest
Reminiscences over the CDP101

Reminiscences over the CDP101

It's a very long time ago for me now and a very subjective thing for me, so apologies in advance, but I do have vivid memories of trying out the new fangled CD players at the time. The first Philips players used to give me a headache, there being something very 'odd' about the treble on pop/rock and jazz material available at the time (since discovered the discs were NOT at fault here). Whether this was a filter (preamp and CD player) mis-match I don't know (Naim and DNM preamps of the period), but it took me a couple of years before I found my first friendly CD players - Mission DAD700 and Philips CD104 (both versions of the same thing), B&O CDX (a delightful ergonomic play on the aforementioned players) and the one I ended up buying, the Meridian MCD-Pro. I remember all but bankrupting myself on CD purchases at the time (mid 1980's).

Now to the Sony 101 under discussion above. Listening to several samples later on, I discovered that for whatever reason, the headache inducing characteristics in the very first top loading Philips players (also the standard Meridian MCD for me) didn't exist in the Sony, but ALL of these '14 bit' players tended to all but remove subtle ambient clues that have subsequently been proved to be there in the discs themselves. The sound was rather 'flat' spatially, the decay of reverb all in the speaker plane, rather than front-to-back. My own experiences of subsequent Sony players - 502ES, 505ES and the rather splendid 555 and 700 series 'ES' machines showed, for me anyway, a substantial improvement in reproduction of venue acoustics (real or artificial) and in the 700 series, a refinement in treble reproduction too, the slightly 'whiter than white' character of the 500ES models being replaced by something a little more refined.

Obviously the above is from personal 30 year old experiences and the gear at the time, both in the shop and at a reviewer-friend's 'Barbican' flat, but the long term feeling for me is that from the mid to late 80's, domestic CD reproduction matured fully and then as the 90's went on, spread down the price ladder so that now, even sub £50 DAC's can deliver some incredibly good results to my ears (expensive DACs today have loads of facilities and very expensive casework added to cheap and basic electronic 'hearts' in my opinion)..

Good luck with the restoration and repair Alan. there are very few people with the knowledge and expertise to properly align old CD transports, let alone properly carry out laser-pen replacements should they be needed, as the jigs necessary were expensive to buy even then!
 
H

hendrik

Guest
kenwod dp 2050

kenwod dp 2050

Maybe not the first generation but in 1993 I bought a cheap kenwood dp 2050 cd player for my girlfriend .

After I sold my expensive and well respected copland cda 277, the kenwood player is back and it still works perfectly for my girlriend.
I never use it and listen mainly to my Sonos/goldmund dac or Audirvana/Mac/Goldmund combination.

This morning made a comparison between the kenwood player and sonos/goldmund with music from, - marcin wasilewsky trio, faithfull-
(according to audiophiles a recording with tremendous -micro dynamics- ......)
The volume of the sonos was I quess at least 15 % higher !, so first I had to tune this to make a fair A/B comparison.

It is a first impression and I didn't try other cd's but I hear no differences and I wish I did ! maybe small differences but I could not tell you exactly what and from what source.

I always thougt the sound of this cheap player was flat and boring but there must be something wrong with my ears, sonos, goldund,brain or compact 7.
 
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Jeff_C

Member
14 bit and 16 bit early CD players

14 bit and 16 bit early CD players

...but it took me a couple of years before I found my first friendly CD players - Mission DAD700 and Philips CD104 (both versions of the same thing), B&O CDX (a delightful ergonomic play on the aforementioned players) and the one I ended up buying, the Meridian MCD-Pro. I remember all but bankrupting myself on CD purchases at the time (mid 1980's).

Now to the Sony 101 under discussion above. Listening to several samples later on, I discovered that for whatever reason, the headache inducing characteristics in the very first top loading Philips players (also the standard Meridian MCD for me) didn't exist in the Sony, but ALL of these '14 bit' players tended to all but remove subtle ambient clues that have subsequently been proved to be there in the discs themselves. The sound was rather 'flat' spatially, the decay of reverb all in the speaker plane, rather than front-to-back.
This reads to me as though you believe the Sony 101 was 14 bit, it wasn't, it had a 16 bit DAC. The 14 bit Philips DAC usually used oversampling. My first player was the Philips CD104 (14 bit with 4x oversampling IIRC). I never noticed any of the "shortcomings" you mention.

If Alan's experiment goes ahead I think there will be little, if any, difference between the modern and early CDP. I think it is fairly safe to assume that the early players accurately read the audio data from the CD, and accurately fed that data to the DAC without audible amounts of jitter (when does jitter become audible anyway - I don't think I've ever detected jitter but I wouldn't really know what to listen for).

In the end it will be about the difference between a modern DAC and an early DAC. I am in the dark about what to expect but I am pessimistic that I will be able to tell the difference.
 

A.S.

Administrator
Staff member
Great news: thanks Sony

Great news: thanks Sony

The last post prompted me to enquire about the progress my genius engineer friend has made with these 31 year old ladies.

Astonishingly, both machines are now fully functional. Both were repaired without the aid of circuit diagrams. So I now have two CDP101s. That's a tribute to Sony's engineering and the selection of good components from vetted suppliers. That'll do me in CD players for the rest of my life! I can't wait to get back to the five second drawer opening time and the heightened expectation waiting 20-30 seconds or so until music appears. Music seemed to have more value when it was less immediately available, part no doubt, of the theatre of vinyl.

Absolutely fantastic news. The least I can do is take my chum for lunch. More on the listening results over the weeks. My only regret is that when I first pressed those buttons I was 26 years old with a very young family, a little more than half my lifetime ago.

A strange thought: it's still the same me as then, but every cell in my body has been replaced many times over, including, presumably, those in my brain. So where does personality and intellect actually reside in the body, and how has it endured that replication process?
 

Double D

New member
Vintage revival

Vintage revival

Well.. I'm not familiar sonically with the early SONY unit, but an early Phillips unit I bought (and soon resold) left me rather cold at the time, I decided to stick with my vinyl for a while longer. It wasn't until Denon hit the mark with the DCD3520 (and its less spendy sibling the DCD1520) that I thought CD started truly getting some skills that were worth reckoning with. Ironically, a buddy of mine at the time owned the 3520 with a lovely Luxman pre/power combo driving a pair of Harbeth HL1mkIII's ! and I spent many happy hour enjoying that system at his place let me tell you.
Ironic how many things are coming full circle, vintage amps and such are making inroads once again. Vinyl has seen some very strong renewal. Gee, I guess there still is a place for some things of permanence in our use it and toss it world.
 

Pluto

New member
Temporal misalignment?

Temporal misalignment?

Well, we can address the convenient marketing tale that has accompanied the CD story, oft repeated, that 'first generation CD players had nasty DACs and a horrible, harsh sound'.
It will be interesting to see what happens when you mono the output at frequencies above a few kHz – if I remember correctly, the time-shared single DAC in these units caused a small temporal misalignment which might be responsible for the "horrible, harsh sound".
 

DSRANCE

Guest
CDP101 - sonics

CDP101 - sonics

Thanks for correcting me on the Sony using 16 bit chips..

I never ever found the 101 harsh at all, but for whatever reason, the first top loading Philips, Marantz and the Meridian MCD players gave me listening fatigue for whatever reason. The slightly later models I mentioned above didn't in similar systems... Just my experiences obviously.
 

Miles MG

New member
NAIM CD players

NAIM CD players

This reads to me as though you believe the Sony 101 was 14 bit, it wasn't, it had a 16 bit DAC. The 14 bit Philips DAC usually used oversampling. My first player was the Philips CD104 (14 bit with 4x oversampling IIRC). I never noticed any of the "shortcomings" you mention.

If Alan's experiment goes ahead I think there will be little, if any, difference between the modern and early CDP. I think it is fairly safe to assume that the early players accurately read the audio data from the CD, and accurately fed that data to the DAC without audible amounts of jitter (when does jitter become audible anyway - I don't think I've ever detected jitter but I wouldn't really know what to listen for).

In the end it will be about the difference between a modern DAC and an early DAC. I am in the dark about what to expect but I am pessimistic that I will be able to tell the difference.
I was with Jeff_C until I bought a used Naim CD player. I love playing records and the Naim CD gives me a similar experience.

I know what Jeff ( and others ) will say. It has all been said before. Many times...
My experiences are with my own recordings, mainly of spoken voice. Voices I really know.

Compared with a prof. Tascam CD player ( I do recording and PA in a small way ) the Naim gives a naturalness to those voices that's missing from the Tascam.

Martyn Miles.
 

DSRANCE

Guest
Depends on the model

Depends on the model

Depends on the Naim CD player model Martyn. One or two are very good, but one or two others are scrappy and dirty sounding.

I have a Denon 1520 which is hanging on but refuses to play some CD-R's I have. The output appears to invert the phase (not going there with this one) but as a transport on proper red-book CD's it's very good indeed. I was also given a good working Denon 1015 which I knew well from my industry days. A lovely thing that didn't cost the earth in the UK (around £300 I think) and I have to say it sounds really excellent and NEVER draws attention to itself, either as a transport or fully integrated player.

At any rate, I do believe that unless the player has been bodged by the manufacturer to have a particular sonic 'personality,' the players shouldn't sound hugely different to each other once costs and personal bias are taken away as much as possible.
 

A.S.

Administrator
Staff member
Phase?

Phase?

... I have a Denon 1520 which is hanging on but refuses to play some CD-R's I have. The output appears to invert the phase (not going there with this one) but as a transport on proper red-book CD's it's very good indeed....
I'm wondering how you assured yourself that the output is out of phase (what technical equipment?) and what you think that phase reversal might mean at the end of a long audio chain any element of which cannot be assumed to be in-phase with the preceding stage.
 

DSRANCE

Guest
My personal phase story...

My personal phase story...

I knew I'd get that response... I don't feel I can reply in a scientific enough manner without being pulled to shreds and I really don't have the time to go into any depth here. needless to say, the DAC it's wired to and the systems I've tried it in, together with inverting the phase at the speaker end on my two systems in comparisons with the other players and DAC. Wired the way I dislike it, the impact of percussive instruments and the 'feel' of rock bass in general, seems to be altered - lighter in texture is the best way I can describe this. Driving amps were Crown, HH, Quad 303 and a fun little Mini-T amp, this latter good at very low levels but quickly hardening up at normal levels, let alone high ones :)

Lovers of orchestral music don't really need to follow any of this and I remember Decca recordings being so amorphous, that what I thought was first tracking distortion on the vinyl and later, overload distortion on the tapes, was actually 'phase' distortion in the recording process (the closing moment of Solti's Mahler 8)...
 

A.S.

Administrator
Staff member
Phase

Phase

So David, you made a bold assertion that a particular CD player is wired internally as out of phase. Phase is a matter of fact, not an opinion.

I'm confused now. Are you retracting your previous assertion on that basis that you do not have, or did not use, technical equipment to determine whether the player truly is phase reversed? It either is or it isn't.
 

Dougal

New member
Phase Issues

Phase Issues

So David, you made a bold assertion that a particular CD player is wired internally as out of phase. Phase is a matter of fact, not an opinion.

I'm confused now. Are you retracting your previous assertion on that basis that you do not have, or did not use, technical equipment to determine whether the player truly is phase reversed? It either is or it isn't.
Alan, please.... relax and have a scone. I'm sure David's not trying to rile you.

Hopefully this thread will act as a soothing balm on phase-ache:

http://www.harbeth.co.uk/usergroup/showthread.php?409-Phase-invertion
 

A.S.

Administrator
Staff member
Phase myth - or not?

Phase myth - or not?

Alan, please.... relax and have a scone. I'm sure David's not trying to rile you.

Hopefully this thread will act as a soothing balm on phase-ache:

http://www.harbeth.co.uk/usergroup/showthread.php?409-Phase-invertion
Of course David is not trying to irritate anyone. Slipped alongside anecdotal recollections is a bold statement about phase reversal which the casual reader could take as a fact, and then make adjustments to his system, or his thinking, based on that comment. But is it actually a fact, or is it audiophile mythology, and the exact opposite is the technical truth?

The truth actually does matter. We do not exist here to perpetrate and embellish myths, but to get to the truth. So what is the truth? The answer is black or white, and only black or white. As I see it, without basic measuring equipment, (such as a $100 oscilloscope) it is impossible to say for certain.
 

DSRANCE

Guest
Just by ear

Just by ear

Not scientific, but inverting the phase at the speaker end (on both channels) makes the 1520 sound the same as my other players and any supposed differences cease to exist - for me anyway... It's beautifully engineered and has quite a thorough twin op-amp-per-channel output stage (a pair of 5532's each side as I recall).

I can't say any more, since I fully respect the more objective and absolute nature of this forum. Perhaps I shouldn't have mentioned it...
 

chicks

New member
Philips 1010

Philips 1010

Love the looks and ergonomics of my Philips / Magnavox FD-1010, with its 14-bit DACs. Sounds great, too!

You must be registered for see images attach
 
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GregD

New member
Bang & Olufsen CDX - early CD players

Bang & Olufsen CDX - early CD players

It's always fascinating to read about equipment that was the first of it's kind. At home I have with me the B&O CDX my Dad bought in 1986, based on the early Philips models as mentioned above.

I remember seeing it for the first time when I was 6 years old - it was amazingly futuristic. The way the light reflected off the discs in a rainbow pattern and the touch sensitive control panel was totally space age! We played Paul Simon's Graceland CD and compared it with the LP version on my Dad's B&O turntable. My Dad said straight away 'the LP's had it's day!' Or something similar. The way he told me to carefully handle CDs has stayed with me ever since - I NEVER touch the playing surface!

It lasted many years until a dry solder joint required a repair in the 90s, then a new laser was needed at some point too.

He retired it when I gave him my Cyrus CD and amplifier combo but kept it in the loft. I've just taken possession of it but unfortunately, although it powers up and the motorised hatch rises ok, it will not play a disc. I'm looking into getting it fixed when I have the time. I've finally given up 'high-end' audio and it's fun to explore the equipment of the past without silly ideas of 'sound quality' issues getting in the way - these items are perfectly useable.

I've also just bought back my P3ESR pair I sold to a friend last year, so I'm very happy now. Just need an amplifier now...

I wonder if Alan would like to sell me his spare CDP101??
 

pkwba

New member
Class of audio equipment or the class of recordings - which is more meaningful?

Class of audio equipment or the class of recordings - which is more meaningful?

Maybe not the first generation but in 1993 I bought a cheap kenwood dp 2050 cd player for my girlfriend .

After I sold my expensive and well respected copland cda 277, the kenwood player is back and it still works perfectly for my girlriend.
I never use it and listen mainly to my Sonos/goldmund dac or Audirvana/Mac/Goldmund combination.

This morning made a comparison between the kenwood player and sonos/goldmund with music from, - marcin wasilewsky trio, faithfull-
(according to audiophiles a recording with tremendous -micro dynamics- ......)
The volume of the sonos was I quess at least 15 % higher !, so first I had to tune this to make a fair A/B comparison.

It is a first impression and I didn't try other cd's but I hear no differences and I wish I did ! maybe small differences but I could not tell you exactly what and from what source.

I always thougt the sound of this cheap player was flat and boring but there must be something wrong with my ears, sonos, goldund,brain or compact 7.
I have the same impression that listening to today very well recorded classical music or jazz CDs makes the gap between newer and older players or replay sets (transport + dac) substantially smaller. My experience was comparing marantz cd63KI with dCS Scarlatti set (transport - dac - masterclock). In case of playing SACDs and CDs of the same recording the difference was more audible (resolution), but listening to the same CDs in both players (connected to the same amplifying set) gave similar impressions, maybe a bit of microdynamics and soundstage from those painfully expensive and technically very refined dCS blocks were more natural. I think personally that vast group of music lovers, nevertheless the technical advancement of their audio sets, can benefit much more from newer good or very good recordings made in up-to-date digital technology.
 

IMF+TDL

Active member
Update and article on shortcomings of early CD players

Update and article on shortcomings of early CD players

So I now have two CDP101s.
That's a tribute to Sony's engineering and the selection of good components from vetted suppliers. That'll do me in CD players for the rest of my life!

More on the listening results over the weeks.
Was there ever an update on your listening results?

You may find of interest some comments made about the CDP-101 in this article: http://www.stereophile.com/content/meridians-bob-stuart
 
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