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Sony XA-5400ES

photo of Sony XA-5400ES modification by ModWright

ModWright XA-5400ES Ultimate Truth Mod

And then there was music…

Price: $1995 (modification only); Customer must supply player.

Why Modify Rather Than Buy New?

Because our mods are sold factory direct, there is no dealer markup. As a result, we can use the best quality parts and produce a design that FAR surpasses the performance of comparably priced ‘NEW’ manufactured equipment. The performance of all of our mods simply speak for themselves!

I am pretty much obsessed with the quality of the soundstage that my system presents. I had nearly a full year with the stock Sony 5400 and it was OK on soundstage, but I thought something was missing on many of my CDs.

Now I know what a great soundstage sounds like! Your mod places the performers in their exact positions and they are rock solid. One of my favorite CDs is Clapton/Cale “Road to Escondido”, but I always had trouble figuring out exactly where the two performers were on the soundstage and which guitar solo I was hearing, Cale or Clapton. NO mystery anymore! EC is slightly left of center and JJ is slightly to the right of center and so are their guitars! It is so satisfying to hear them play and sing inside a realistic soundstage.

Thanks again. J Atkinson doesn’t know what he’s missing! Keep building great products.

—Dave Drake

ModWright brings over a decade of custom modification experience to the Ultimate Truth SACD mod for the Sony XA-5400ES. The XA5400ES follows the Sony SCD-1, SCD-777ES, XA-777ES, DVD-9000ES, 999ES and 9100ES, all of which have been in our family of ‘Truth’ mods. We have received numerous awards and reviews for all of them. The 5400ES represents the pinnacle of our ‘Truth’ mods.

Our previous SACD Vacuum tube stage mods have challenged and bettered $20K+ digital sources, according to reviewers and customers. We have compared the modified 5400ES to the previous modified Sony 9100ES, modified Slim Devices Transporter and stock 5400ES. The ModWright Sony 5400ES simply takes digital playback to a new realm of sonic realism and musicality. There is a more open and refined presentation, substantially larger soundstage and sense of the LIVE performance. Placement of instruments and performers is spot-on. When you close your eyes, the performance expands in full dimensionality. The lack of noise artifacts and jitter simply allow music to ease and flow into the listening room.

Our four-prong approach addresses weaknesses inherent in every digital source, based on sound engineering, listening and experience:

  • Power Supply Quality.
  • Mechanical Vibration.
  • Jitter.
  • Analog Stage Quality.

We provide a dedicated tube-rectified external power supply for the Vacuum tube analog stage. Power quality is improved for sensitive DACs, digital processing and laser tracking/servo circuits. We employ mass damping of both transport and chassis to reduce vibration. The master clock is replaced with Audiocom’s Superclock 4, powered by our own dedicated clock power supply with heavy filtering, to significantly lower jitter levels. Most importantly, we replace the stock feedback-ridden op-amp based analog stage with our own direct-coupled 6SN7 triode-based differential tube gain/buffer stage, serving balanced XLR and RCA outs.

The power supply is the heart and life of any audio product. Music is produced by the manipulation of voltage and current, to ultimately drive speaker transducers to produce audible sound. The very same electron that travels down speaker cable to driver, originates in the power supply.

Because of this we are serious about power supply design. First off, we provide our own external high-voltage tube-rectified power supply for the new 6SN7 Vacuum tube based balanced analog stage. The supply is housed in an external steel enclosure, tethered by a 5ft umbilical, keeping radiated noise and magnetic fields as far as possible from Highly sensitive digital and analog component stages. The supply is tube-rectified (5AR4) and choke current regulated, with dual-discrete SS voltage regulation circuits for the cleanest possible high-voltage supply. This design has evolved from that used in our first SWL 9.0SE preamp to our LS 36.5 ($5K balanced preamp), including technologies developed in our PS 36.5 supply (for our $9K 2-box balanced preamp). At ModWright, we bring the solid engineering of our manufactured products, to all of our modifications.

Digital power supplies are improved by the lowering of raw power supply noise and filtering high-frequency artifacts right at the critical pins of the DAC, laser, motor and servo/focus/tracking circuits. One source of jitter IS power supply noise and poor power supply quality. Because we provide our own analog stage and remove all op-amps from the signal path, the stock analog supplies are not used. There are however, separate supplies for the DAC, digital processing circuits, laser, and motor control. The internal clock circuits and, VERY importantly, integrated circuits that provide focus, servo and tracking functions for the laser, are also addressed. We painstakingly optimize all digital power circuits, to provide the best possible performance. This includes upgrading to fast recovery diodes and use of Nichicon and ceramic decoupling capacitors in critical locations. All of this has a profound effect on jitter levels and hence overall sonics.

Mechanical vibration is yet another source of jitter, which we address by mass damping the transport itself as well as the stock lid and enclosure. We use sheet damping material on the lid and other resonant portions of the metal enclosure. At the drive itself, we use very-high mass damping modules to lower the resonant frequency of the drive to well below the effected frequencies.

The greatest source of jitter however, is the master clock, which we also upgrade. In addition to extensive on-board voltage regulation and power filtering, we further isolate the clock by providing our own dedicated power source with heavy regulation and supply filtering. The clock, while critical, is but one essential area of improvement in the quest for ultimate sonic realization.

Lastly and most importantly, we replace the stock feedback-inherent op-amp based analog stage and associated electrolytic coupling caps with our own Vacuum tube analog stage. Op-amps are used for active I-V conversion, gain, and buffering in the stock unit. Electrolytic coupling capacitors are also used for DC blocking, throughout the stock circuitry. We replace all of this with a fully balanced, pure passive I-V stage, direct-coupled into a differential 6SN7 triode gain/buffer stage with a single ModWright capacitor in the signal path. XLR outputs are fully balanced and RCA outputs receive the SE component of the balanced signal. Even the headphone circuit is fed via the same Vacuum tube circuit, into a SS buffer to allow for headphone impedance matching. All analog signal outputs are non-phase-inverting.

This new tube circuit is an OTL (output transformer-less) ‘mu’ stage variant, that is fully differential and optimized for the 6SN7 tube. The use of the highest quality Tantalum and Takman Carbon Film resistors in the passive I-V stage and other critical areas of the signal path offer the most natural and musical sound. This circuit represents significant breakthroughs in transparency and EXTREMELY low noise. The use of SS constant current source and buffer circuits, combined with a perfectly voiced 6SN7 Vacuum tube gain stage allow for the best of both tube and SS technologies, using devices according to their strengths. The Vacuum tube serves to amplify voltage, while SS devices provide current regulation and buffering. Vacuum tubes are best for amplifying VOLTAGE and SS devices are best for amplifying CURRENT.

Why Tubes? What About Maintenance? Why The 6SN7?

Vacuum tubes are best for amplifying VOLTAGE and SS devices are best for amplifying CURRENT. In a line-level circuit such as this -opposed to an amplifier, tubes require virtually no maintenance.

We chose the 6SN7 for its sound and general popularity among people who love tubes. It ended up being the tube of choice for our Transporter mod, of which we sold hundreds of units!

The tubes are purposely driven VERY conservatively to give 10,000-12,000 hours + of tube life. The circuit is fully auto-bias, therefore no maintenance required. We chose tube rectification simply BECAUSE IT SOUNDS BETTER!

Recommended Tube Upgrades for the Sony XA-5400ES Mod:

  • Output Tube: Sophia Electric 6SN7 – Galen Carol Audio
  • Rectifier Tube: Mullard, Amperex or Phillips ‘GZ34’

The only capacitors in the signal path, used for final DC blocking, are our own metalized, oil-impregnated poly capacitors (M – Series) that we designed and have manufactured to our exacting standards. These are used extensively in our own products and modifications. The MWI (ModWright Instruments) capacitors are quite simply the best quality available, period. They provide the right balance of body and musicality without sacrificing detail or resolution. Given the necessary capacitance value, our Teflon capacitors (T – Series) would not be feasible here.

We at ModWright have focused all of our engineering and listening experience into the Ultimate Truth mod for the Sony 5400ES. Addressing Power, Vibration, Jitter and Vacuum Tube Analog Stage design, we have succeeded in transforming the Sony XA-5400ES CD/SACD player into a digital source that is the equal of any, regardless of price.

Warranty: 5 years for all ModWright work.

If you are trying to decide which company to choose for your Sony XA-5400ES, consider the following:

Engineering experience, service, quality, value and a holistic approach to the transformation of this fantastic player.

I thank you for taking the time to read this and I welcome your call or email with further questions. Our customers and their satisfaction come first. Our reputation for service and quality speaks for itself.

Original mu stage design credited to Alan Kimmel.

Because of the high demand, a start date for the modification must be scheduled. We require a 50% deposit to confirm a reservation. Our list is growing and we are planning accordingly, to insure a 2-week in-shop time to complete the work.

PLEASE NOTE:
ModWright Modifications are only available factory direct. All MWI (ModWright Instruments) manufactered products are offered exclusively through our dealers.

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    Technical Specs

    • Sony XA-5400ES with Tubes
      Dimensions: “17Wx14.5“Dx7.5“H
      Weight of Sony XA-5400ES: 26 lbs (30 lbs packed)

      External Power Supply
      Dimensions: 8“Wx10“Dx5“H
      Weight of PS 9.0: 16 lbs (18 lbs packed)

      Sony 5400ES Tube Mod w/ PS 9.0
      Shipping Dimensions: 24“Wx24“Dx16“H
      Shipping Weight: 50 lbs packed