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A day with the CDP 101

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PMWas

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Hi again!

My desire for collecting things and passion for old, vintage pieces made me end up having another 1st-generation CD player. Yes, this time it's - it had to be - the very first model available on the market, the famous Sony CDP-101. I've been searching for a week or two and soon a beautiful specimen in very desirable condition appeared on a listing. There was no doubt I was going to win this one, as someone really cared for this player and one can see it on his first glance. I won't be posting pics, because everyone knows what the 101 looks like, so just believe me, the front panell, the buttons, the display look good as new.on this one. Frankly - minor wiping scratches, nothing more! The top cover is a bit scratched, but not badly as well. A lovely piece that had an easy life. Even more, that the seller claimed it had perfect, 'analogue' sound. Oh my... Does the 101 sound so perfect? I've heared something else, so... hese comes, the tough day, little one!

On examination, after taking it out of the box, I found one of the front panell screws missing and one loose. I corrected thate easily, but as I turned the player I heard something rattling inside! Not the screw, though, it was one of the plastic bands holding the wires together, cut during servicing, and apparently left inside. The mechanism and the electronics look good, no harm done to them so far.

Just for some technical details, the player has just the basic functions, no programmable memory, 'no nothing', not even a stop button (there is a 'reset' instead. It also has an accessory connector, that never proved useful, and anti-shock, shockingly. And a headphone socket, with high power phones amplifier, so begin with low levels on the regulator, trust me on that :) !!!

As for build quality - this thing does NOT look like a 1982 product. I'm looking at my Marants CD-82 right now, and this Sony looks like a player younger by a decade! The refined soft touch buttons, some with built in LEDs (I love the repeat buttons!), the lovely, elegant display with thin digits, the paint quality on the front panell... It's beautiful, inviting and - so to say - friendly in a way. Quite unlike the ugly Marantz ;)

Inside there is a single 16 bit Sony DAC, contrary to th 14 bit double DAC in Philips' 1st Gens. Some say Sony sounds much better thanks to it's DAC, but I fail to believe (ain't dual mono better anyway???). We'll see...

But to the merit - how this sounds? I connected it to the TA-FE710R Sony's amplifier and I used the AKG K66s and Beyerdynamic DT880s for tests. The tray rattles like hell when it opens and similarly when it closes. I thought it's defective, but seeing the players on youtube - it seems to be working fine, interestingly.

After you insert a disc, the player will just leave the red 'DISC' sigh lit, to confirm it's there. No tracks number, no total time, just '1' on the diplay. Weird, but... have it your way, then...

For the initial test I chose a lovely 'Troubadoures of the Rhine' album by Loreena McKennitt to listen to the wonderful harp and cello heared there and I 'nearly got a heart attack'. the player wold skip tracks, go forth and then back a bit, and could not read this disc at all! I was so sure it had been damaged on delivery... It's not even about the money, but it was such a shame - a beautiful player like that...

Still, I did not give up and tried some other albums. Checking some 20 other discs, I've not yet found another one that would cause any trouble. at all. The 30 year old machine works like a new one. reads the discs quickly and finds tracks in no time. Looks like the 'Troubadoures' just doesn't suit it for some reason. I thought maybe there was some minor malfunction that's gone, but no - the problem with the very album persists... Call that luck - chosing a wrong CD nearly made me panic!

OK - the sound. First word coming to my mind? Unrefined. Totally unrefined. Once again I believe people often hear what the expect to hear, rahter than what they really hear. So I've read CDP-101 sound better than the TDA1540 players, or that Marantz CD-84 sounds like crap... Well - there is no aspect of 101's sound I'd call even close to what CD-84 has to offer. What I loved about the 84 was the lovely, warm - even if slightly distorted - middle range, solid, deep bass with a slightly dry, but correct treble. The CDP-101, however, has no real advantage to speak of. Yes, it's a CD player, so it will sound more or less correct, especially with the DT-880s, that don't add their own flaws to the overall quality, but the bass is unpleasant, dominates too often and lacks the low-most range I believe, the mid-range is weak and 'matte', with vocals sounding like from behind a curtain and the treble is bone dry (for a CD player, that is). On the other hand - I can't hear the famous noise, somehow...

This player sound back with some pop-rock albums, like Elton John's 'reg Strikes Back' or 'The One', where it's major flaws get covered a bit. Also, Satriani's Revelation (one of my favorite electric guitar pieces ever :) ) sound well and turns pleasant to listen. But usually listening to CDP-101 on phones ends up with a headache. What it did to Tim Renwick's Privateer, so pleasant to listen to, usually, is even hard to believe, and classical music is out of the question here.

Some will probably disagree, but those are my thoughts after a whole afternoon spent with CDP-101. If I was to summarize my experience in just one sentence, I'd say that I love the player, but don't like how it sounds. The sound quality can get as high as 'correct' on some discs, but usually it's way below expectations. Still - it's the first CD player, after all...
 

nopiano

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Feb 15, 2009
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Very interesting, thanks! No wonder many were doubtful this was perfect sound forever. Sony did make good mechanical designs, which you seem to confirm. These were six hundred quid if I recall correctly, so that must be several grand in 2014 money.
 

Vladimir

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It is a 30 year old home aplance with unknown number of faulty parts or just parts out of specs. Unless fully refurbished, it is not reasonable to expect it perform very well.

Herbert Von Karajan's comment when he first heard CD was ''Everything else is gaslight.''
 

matthewpiano

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Nov 23, 2007
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You do have to keep in mind that Karajan stood to gain a great deal from the success of CD. He was very commercially aware and would have known that he stood to do rather nicely out of re-selling his older recordings as well as the capacity for future new releases. I wouldn't take him as a neutral witness on that issue, any more than I would take him as a neutral guide to most music. There was only a small handful of composers who he did the justice of which he was so very capable, without KARAJAN getting in the way.
 

JamesMellor

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My first CD player was a Sony CDP 35 bought in '86 it cost me 200 quid I was at college earning less than 35 quid a week for 20 hours part time that works out at 3 months wages or more today , dam my entire systen today costs less.

James
 

Vladimir

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Matt,

I realize it's like when Michael Jordan endorses Nike shoes. However, do you think someone like Karajan who has large reputation and credibility to maintain will endorse something substandard?
 

hifikrazy

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Vladimir said:
Matt,

I realize it's like when Michael Jordan endorses Nike shoes. However, do you think someone like Karajan who has large reputation and credibility to maintain will endorse something substandard?
But when credible music and recording professionals endorse cables, the folks here will accuse them of being commercially driven. Seems like the same arguments for and against are being used at their convenience.

I'm quite sure if anybody bothered to search, we'll find that many living conductors today use vinyl as the primary source in their home systems, even 30 years after the introduction of CD.

Moral of the story is that there's room for both sides to live in this world.
 

Vladimir

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Dec 26, 2013
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hifikrazy said:
Vladimir said:
Matt,

I realize it's like when Michael Jordan endorses Nike shoes. However, do you think someone like Karajan who has large reputation and credibility to maintain will endorse something substandard?
But when credible music and recording professionals endorse cables, the folks here will accuse them of being commercially driven. Seems like the same arguments for and against are being used at their convenience.

I'm quite sure if anybody bothered to search, we'll find that many living conductors today use vinyl as the primary source in their home systems, even 30 years after the introduction of CD.

Moral of the story is that there's room for both sides to live in this world.
To a classically trained musician music is discrete like math so most don't bother with nuances of analogue reproduction. To them it doesn't matter if a violin is rich in timbre through the speakers. As long as it sounds like a violin, it'll do. They are also not imune to placebo, limitations of human hearing and laws of psychoacoustics.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZtlTJkbUqkA
 

PMWas

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Jun 20, 2014
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Vladimir said:
It is a 30 year old home aplance with unknown number of faulty parts or just parts out of specs. Unless fully refurbished, it is not reasonable to expect it perform very well.

Herbert Von Karajan's comment when he first heard CD was ''Everything else is gaslight.''
Yes, I always consider some old parts distorting the sound in a vintage player - partly we can avoid that by buying a not much used, serviced piece (which mine CDP-101 is) and partly it will still impair the quality - no way to replace half of it's components, and surely, if we made some measurements, - I agree an awful lot of them could be at least a bit out of specs... . Also checking for obvious differences between both channels help a bit and this one has none (on line out, because the phones amplifier has some more noise on right channel, not present when I connect the phones to the TA-FE710 amplifier).

However, the player obviously is unrefined, and as for Karajan - I don't know what he heard, but if it was a Philips' design - it surely was a better sound. The CD-84 (OK, I know the CD-84 was a bit improved already compared to the Philips CD-100) sounds incomaprably well compared to the CDP-101. Completely different class. Also - Karajan was very fond of technical novelties, which would make him exaggarate a bit ;)

It's not that CDP-101 sounds horrible, it IS a CD player, with all it's advantages (low noise, no crackling, hissing, etc.), and on some discs it will sound well. But for example classical music lacks brightness, it's matte, dark and I get the 'tape deck' impression while I listen. Also notice, I don't like too dark sound. I prefer a bit too light and too bright players (like Philips CD-753, which is not perfect, but good enough) to players soundigh heavier than expected. With the Beyerdynamics DT880s it sounds correct - like I said, mostly because they sound nearly perfect themselves and - unlike the K66s, they don't add their own mess to the sound quality, but probably also partly because they lean towards bright, detailed sound - a feature the CDP 101 lacks. But still, the mid-range, the vocals is not what I'd look for. The same piece presented by CD-84 (with the DT880s) nearly makes one 'feel' the singing person in your head - it's so close, so clear and so real in a way. While in CDP 101 it's farther away, standing behind some sort of curtain. But the - not 10 years old - CD-753 (or Marantz CD-5000 which was the same) mentioned above also can't make it sound like the CD-84, believe it or not) .

And to conclude - notice that the 101 is never commented 'high-end' by anyone but some unaware enthusiasts and auction sellers.

Concluding - yes, Id gladly listen to another one of those to compare, maybe there will be an opportunity some day. But I'm quite sure 101 never was much better than that :)
 

Neptune_Twilight

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Apr 14, 2014
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It was one of the directors up at Castle Acoustics who advised me to go CD when I took as I remember my Clyde’s & my fathers Kendal’s to have the drivers replaced due to the roll surround deteriorating - The first CDP I bought was an early Sony, can't remember the year though.
 

Vladimir

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Dec 26, 2013
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@PM

Electrolytic capacitors have a shelf life regardless if being used. The electrolyte evaporates, increases ESR, lowers ripple current, reduces capacity etc. Using the unit just speeds up the process.

Average working life on those old caps would be 5,000 hours at 50C. At room temperature double that at 10,000 h. Lets be generous and say the unit wasn't used at all and up the capacitor lifespan to 50,000h. That is equivalent of 5.7 years shelf life. In your CDP-101 they have 280,000 hours. Even if they all measure capacitance within spec, their ESR must be significantly out of spec.

I'm not claiming that the Sony CDP-101 should sound equally good as a today's dCS Scarlatti, I'm just parroting what I know from my vintage buying experience (read a lot about refurbishing).
 

chebby

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Jun 2, 2008
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Deutsche Gramophone pioneered the launch of mass market classical music CDs in 1983. The debut disks were all performances conducted by Herbert Von Karajan. He'd have still promoted them even if they'd been produced on rolls of punched paper tape. (So long as it was 'the latest thing'.)

I'm not saying that he was wrong to do so. It was just good old fashioned capitalism and natural self-interest and wanting to be seen as 'modern'.
 

Vladimir

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chebby said:
Deutsche Gramophone pioneered the launch of mass market classical music CDs in 1983. The debut disks were all performances conducted by Herbert Von Karajan. He'd have still promoted them even if they'd been produced on rolls of punched paper tape. (So long as it was 'the latest thing'.)

I'm not saying that he was wrong to do so. It was just good old fashioned capitalism and natural self-interest and wanting to be seen as 'modern'.
If he only knew that CD-R sounded better. *pleasantry*
 

namefail

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Jul 31, 2013
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I’m sure it sounded better when new, I’ve very fond memories of my old Mission DAD 7000.
 

nopiano

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Vladimir said:
chebby said:
Deutsche Gramophone pioneered the launch of mass market classical music CDs in 1983. The debut disks were all performances conducted by Herbert Von Karajan. He'd have still promoted them even if they'd been produced on rolls of punched paper tape. (So long as it was 'the latest thing'.)

I'm not saying that he was wrong to do so. It was just good old fashioned capitalism and natural self-interest and wanting to be seen as 'modern'.
If he only knew that CD-R sounded better. *pleasantry*
. ...and he doubtless would have said that too, except they weren't available for many more years!
 

karenruffner

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Jul 17, 2020
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My first CD player was a Sony CDP 35 bought in '86 it cost me 200 quid I was at college earning less than 35 quid a week for 20 hours part time that works out at 3 months wages or more today , dam my entire systen today costs less.
Oh, I also remember how expensive Sony players and CD were when I studied at school and we used to exchange them in my class! This was the way how we were opening new tracks and music bands.

 

plus 1

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Holy thread resurrection - the mangling of language in this thread makes my head hurt...
i like it when old threads are resurrected !

i find it (strangely) interesting to see which posters used to use the forum, what they had to say, and if they have now gone.

if threads above a certain age can not be resurrected i don't see any point of them being stored on the forum !
 
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millennia_one

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A pound (or even just a penny) for every spelling mistake on this forum would be nice wouldn't it?
There are quite a few foreigners knocking about, but UK members have got no excuses.
That’s a little rude. There’s many on here from all walks of life. Some don’t spend there days writing at all, some have learning difficulties and so on. Not to mention many write on there phones on this forum. And possibly while there walking around and on the move.
 
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