Sony CDP-X779ES CD player A Trip to Gordon's House

A Trip to Gordon's House, from February 1994 (Vol. 17 No.2)

After living with the SOTA Vanguard CD player for nearly six months, I figured I'd better trundle off to Gordon's listening room, where I could compare the SOTA mano a mano to the Sony CDP-X779ES CD player that JGH reviewed in Vol.16 No.6 (p.154). It was, as are most of my evenings with Gordon, very educational.

First we listened to a brand-new CD I had just received from BBC Music Magazine: Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique, performed by the BBC Symphony directed by Andrew Davis, and recorded live in Tokyo's Hitomi Kinen Kodo Hall. We auditioned it first on the SOTA. Both JGH and I noticed that the sound hardened and lost focus as the music went from f to fff. Gordon said the bass drums lacked weight. We also noticed the almost excessive "hall sound" portrayed by this recording. Since this was our first listen to this disc, we assumed that the recording engineer had chosen a slightly distant mike position, and that perhaps the hall was overloading during dynamic peaks. Then we listened to the same piece through the Sony.

What a transformation! Suddenly there was low bass. Suddenly the hall stopped overloading at dynamic peaks. What we had assumed was "hall sound" on the recording actually appeared to be the SOTA adding a bit of "ambience," as well as hardening slightly on dynamic peaks. Curiouser and curiouser. The $1900 high-end consumer Sony machine was bettering the $2500 audiophile SOTA.

Next we listened to Emma Kirkby and Anthony Rooley on Olympia's Lament (Nonesuch 79125-2). First we used the Sony. Very nice. It was easy to separate Kirkby's voice from the hall reverberation. It was also easy to tell that the recording engineer had used an accent mike on Rooley's chitarrone. When we listened to the same cut on the SOTA, Kirkby's voice lost a bit of midrange warmth. The SOTA seemed to smear and reduce the spaces between her voice and the hall's reverberations. Rooley's chitarrone lost some of its melodiousness, gaining a slightly more percussive signature. In short, the Sony sounded more natural, more like a real musical event.

Finally, we listened to one of Gordon's favorite CDs, a Koss recording of Vaughan Williams's Symphony 7, "Sinfonia Antartica," narrated by Roger Allam and conducted by Raymond Leppard (Koss KC-2214). This is one hell of a recording, with awe-inspiring, dynamic crescendos, silky strings, blustery horns, and tumultuous cymbal crashes. Once more, the Sony ruled, with superior dynamic range, better low bass, and far less congestion and "smokiness" during crescendos. The SOTA sounded as if it ran out of steam during dynamic peaks, and also added a bit of gratuitous space.

Round Three was another clear win for the Sony—point, game, match to the Sony, send the SOTA to the showers—the Sony just sounded better.—Steven Stone

Sony Electronics Inc.
16530 Via Esprillo
San Diego, CA 92127
(858) 942-2400

hollowman's picture

With all the excitement about vinyl these days, it's important to realize how far digital (CD) had progressed in its first decade: from criticism in its first gen. models, to gradual (but universal) praise starting with modded first gen. (Meridian, Mission, etc.)... and so on.
This Sony player still sounds good today.
I'm not sure 16/44.1 playback with the best modern gear (Chord, dCs) is substantially better. If anyone (esp. professional audio reviewers) with Chord/dCS/etc. gear concurrently have access to Sony ES series from early 90s, please spill forth a review.