REALLY good cd player - for $70, w/dvd to boot! - diyAudio
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Old 2nd September 2003, 03:53 AM   #1
dorkus is offline dorkus  United States
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Default REALLY good cd player - for $70, w/dvd to boot!

so the other day while visiting my parents in the suburbs, i stopped by Circuit City to pick up a cheap dvd player for the office. i specifically wanted something to play MP3/WMA discs (just for background music after all)... so i got a Panasonic DVD-S35S, which lists for $99. i price matched it to $89.99 (no hassle, the register just rang it up for me after i showed him a web site print-out), and it comes with a $20 manufacturer rebate.

i was curious how it sounded (especially since it boasted 24bit/192khz DACs on the box), so i hooked it up to my father's stereo for a quick listen. i was surprised at how clear it sounded, even in my father's system which is not as high-resolution as mine. i popped the cover to see what was inside - pretty standard cheap affair, a switching power supply, disc transport, just one compact circuit board for everything (!), and a lot of empty space. i must say, the level of circuit integration these days is remarkable... i saw just one large Panasonic LSI chip with dolby/dts markings on it. the DAC chip is a Burr-Brown/TI part (i forget the #), and the output op-amp is a JRC part common with the Japanese players... there are probalby some more ICs under the board but i didn't check.

anyway, i just got back home to my own apartment, so i hooked it up to my own rig, and WOW! this thing sounds damn good... maybe even better than my MSB Link DAC and my modified Sony SACD player! ok it's not perfect, it is a little grainy (no doubt the swithing ps doesn't help), and the bass is a little loose, but it has a remarkably clear and open sound... and for $70 after rebate! this is easily the best CD sound on-the-cheap that i've heard, even my girlfriend (a wind player) remarked that the sound was markedly different from my usual setup, and the winds in particular sounded exceptionally good. and let's not forget it'll play DVDs (progressive scan no less) as well as MP3, WMA, and JPEG data discs... quite a bargain! if you're looking for a cheap cd/dvd player for a 2nd system or just something to play around with, i highly recommend you check this cheapie out.
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Old 2nd September 2003, 06:35 AM   #2
Variac is offline Variac  United States
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Well, this is the kind of thing we can't hear enough about!
I was just thinking about what what system to recommend to DIY wannabees and hi fi neophites and the catch is usually the player-something decent usually costs an arm and a leg.

I remember the Headroom guys used to like the Panasonic cheap portable CD players.

Wonder if you'll attack the power supply someday.
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Old 2nd September 2003, 02:27 PM   #3
dorkus is offline dorkus  United States
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if i'm looking to get someone started on hifi i almost always recommend cheap digital. it just isn't worth it to spend a lot on an "audiophile" player for someone that is just getting their feet wet... in a couple years when their player is "obsolete" and they're out a lot of money, they won't be thanking you.

i have a friend who bought the top-of-the-line Arcam CD player ($2000) a couple years ago for his first real rig. he had never been an audiophile before but he was definitely into gear and had cash to spare. so he got that player, a Krell integrated amp, and Meadowlark speakers, altogether about $8k worth of gear from a big-name rip-off joint here in NYC. he was very disappointed with the sound. i told him it's because his gear sucked, but he would not believe it, til he heard my system of course. then, for x-mas he got a $150 Sony DVD/SACD player, and was shocked when it sounded better than his Arcam. well, not completely better (the Arcam obviously does some things better), but the Sony had so much more life to the sound - the Arcam is so, so dry and uninvolving. it was a very sobering experience for him, poor fellow.

now, this $70 player i just got sounds even better than that Sony he got - it only gets cheaper and better! i'm not sure why it sounds good, obviously the latest-generation DACs keep improving, but i think it may have something to do with the ridiculously high level of integration as well... very short signal paths, very little parasitics. because of the compact layout, the drive transport is connected almost directly to the very tightly laid-out multi-layer PCB - the entire affair is maybe 3" x 4".

i'm going to burn in the player some more, make sure it doesn't break down in the first 30 days (never know with this cheap stuff!), then perhaps tackle some mods... obviously an op-amp swap, some mechanical damping and component upgrades (though there really isn't much to upgrade here!). i would think about a wholesale power supply rework (there's plenty of room in the chassis too, though it is rather thin) except i always wonder which player is worth the trouble to mod... i was just about to tackle a wholesale mod of my Sony SACD player until this beauty came along! i guess i'll have to pull the trigger sometime though...
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Old 2nd September 2003, 02:35 PM   #4
dorkus is offline dorkus  United States
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p.s. some early morning listening to some different material confirms that i wasn't totally whacko last night when i thought this player sounded good - it really does! if you're used to a "high-end" player it'll take some adjusting to its weaknesses (some grain, response from top to bottom a little uneven, imaging/soundstaing not really stellar) but relax and listen to the music and you'll be startled at how much information this thing can deliver. last night it was some Rimsky-Korsakov Scheherezade and Holst Planets that impressed, this morning some pop music from New Zealand is sounding mighty good... while the female vocals are not as meaty and palpable as my usual setup, the background guitar strumming has a very realistic "twang" and resonance to it that i don't normally hear from this CD... bass pitch and tunefulness are also really good, though it is a little loose and bloated (damn capacitor coupling). still, very promising! i also left it in repeat overnight and so far it hasnt' broken down, also a good sign.
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Old 4th September 2003, 10:21 AM   #5
ack1 is offline ack1  Poland
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Default keep us informed...

Hi there
This is very promissing description.
Please keep us informed about modifications of this player.
I am going to buy this stuff.
If you have already choosed power supply replacement
please keep me informed
Best
regards

ACK
Poland
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Old 9th September 2003, 05:57 AM   #6
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Hey,

I can attest to the qulaity of the new round of Panasonic players!

I bought an F-85 (5disc, progressive scan, dvd, cd, mp3, wma, and DVD-Audio ). I had planned to buy the old CP-72 changer, but they disappeared off the face of teh earth. One day, roaming around circuit city, i found the F-85... the manager was putting the first unit out on the floor. I saw the price, choked, looked again, asked the manager if it was the correct price, and he checked the computer. All was well... for $149. Unbeleivable. For that price, I decided its worth a shot... and even if its not the best thing in the world, it was still a fair deal.

First thing I did when I got home was take it out of the box, and grab a screw-driver. My girlfriend and roommate thought I was nuts. I agreed, and kept unscrewing. For those not accustomed to changers, don't make this player your first attempt at disassembly. Tip: mark the gear fingers for the tray with a felt marker to check the placement when putting the unit back to gether. The locking mechanism on the gears is actually pretty nifty, IMO... another story though

Just as dorkus says, all the processing is done on one little multi-layer PCB. I swapped out the opamps for some AD8620's on the 6-channel outputs, pulled the muting transistors, and removed the DC blocking caps. Oh, and the mutl-channel Burr Brown DAC is a PCM1607K... that's right - a "K" series DAC. I was frickin' impressed! Also of note, Panasonic used ELNA caps for decoupling in the stock arrangement!

The Pansasonic LSI chip is marked "MN2DS0002AP1" in my F-85. I also recently disassembled my RP-62, and it also has a remarkably similar inside. The DAC's in my RP-62 is an ADV7199...which cross-references to the Analog DAC8426 quad 8 bit DAC chip. They must integrate this into two 16 bit DACs somehow... haven't read through the spec sheets on it yet, but don't much care about this my RP-62 as it is strictly used for its video performance with the digital audio output.

Anyhoo, just thought I'd throw in my $0.02...

Happy shopping to all!

By the way - the sound is unbelievable. I love DVD-A!!! STP, Creep - GREAT album and track! I can't get enought of DVD-A now...

For reference, I've got Scan Speak 9500 tweeters, Vifa PL14 mid, Scan Speak 10" woofers, LEAP designed Xover, and all Crescendo caps. Powered by Parasound amp and Adcom GTP-555 preamp (definetly the weakest link in the chain right now, but that's the next project... )
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Old 9th September 2003, 06:37 AM   #7
cowanrg is offline cowanrg  United States
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i work at a store that carries that player, and i sell them like its going out of style. if you get a chance, hook it up to a tv and check its image quality. the progressive scan is excellent at the price, or just about any entry level price.

they have the 55s model too, which plays dvd-audio at only $129 - $30 rebate.
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Old 11th September 2003, 01:20 AM   #8
dorkus is offline dorkus  United States
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the progressive video on the S35 is not bad at all. not sure if i prefer it to the interlaced output of my Sony S7700 (upconverted by my Sony HDTV), and not quite as good as the Denon DVD-1600, but not bad at all.

Tief, you may want to check the DC output w/o the blocking caps there. due to the output stage opamp configuration there may be some very significant DC offset w/o them. more on this later.
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Old 11th September 2003, 01:23 AM   #9
dorkus is offline dorkus  United States
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Quote:
Originally posted by Tieftoener
The DAC's in my RP-62 is an ADV7199...which cross-references to the Analog DAC8426 quad 8 bit DAC chip. They must integrate this into two 16 bit DACs somehow...
actually, those are most likely the video DACs. 4 of them for Y/Pb/Cr components + composite perhaps.
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Old 11th September 2003, 02:49 AM   #10
dorkus is offline dorkus  United States
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some more info on the player, and some mods...

the DAC is a BB/TI PCM1752K, which is not listed on the TI site... closest thing i could find that was 24/192 in same package (16SSOP) was the PCM1742, at least the pin-out matches up. the stock output opamp was a JRC 4585. clock signals are derived from a crystal oscillator feeding a NPC SM8706C divider/generator

interestingly, the output opamp is operated in inverting mode. at first i was impressed with panasonic's care here - maybe they believe inverting mode sounds better! as it turns out however, this is just a byproduct of one of the suggested circuit configurations for the DAC. from the PCM1742 datasheet, it shows that the output is DC biased by about 1/2 Vcc, and you can source this bias voltage from a pin labelled Vcom. thus you can use Vcom to feed the noninverting input of an opamp and get a zero-bias output (see attached graphic below). however, in practice i still measured a strong DC bias before the coupling caps - about 2.5V per channel. so AC coupling is still required.

most of the stock caps in the audio section are decent-looking Nichicon, at first i thought they were Gold or Muse grade due to the gold sleeve but on closer inspection they are FW grade, which are a lower-grade miniaturized version of FG (the lowest grade Muse). on the plus side, FW is still considered an "audio-grade" capacitor by Nichicon, so they are bound to be better than the ubiquitious cheapie Nichicons in the navy blue sleeves...

now for mods...

first thing was to replace opamp of course... AD8260 is an obvious candidate, since it's dual and sounds good. i don't consider it a "drop-in" replacement as some do however, as it doesn't always sound good in every circuit... it tends to be a little thinner and more analytical than the cheaper, lower-speed chips, and some care must be taken with power supply decoupling and so forth. but in this case it seemed to work out ok.

next were the caps. bear in mind i had to work with what i have on-hand (a mixed batch of smaller Nichicon Muse, Panasonic HFQ and FC, some leftover Elna Cerafines and Silmics, and a couple Black Gates) so a lot of substitutions are convenient rather than ideal. initially i started with just the opamp swap and changing the opamp supply decoupling from 220uF 25V FW to 100uF 35V Elna Cerafines. wasn't happy with the reduced storage, but it would have to do for now. i left in the stock output caps. the sound was improved, crisper, more detailed and open, but with a bit of thinning out as i was expecting with the AD8620. actually this could have just been the Cerafines needing break-in, as 48 hours later it was sounding better.

after those promising results, i targetted some more caps. the 10uF decoupling Vcom/opamp + input in the diagram below was a 220uF 25V FW, the value chosen by panasonic merely for convenience. a Black Gate would have been warranted in this critical position, but i settled for a 47uF 35V Cerafine. a small 22uF on DAC Vdd was replaced with 100uF 10V Pana HFQ. i augmented a 1000uF 6.3V on DAC Vcc with a 10uF 50V Pana FC. two low-grade decoupling caps on the digital side were replaced with 120uF 25V HFQ. most critically, the 47uF polarized output caps were replaced with 10uF 50V Black Gate N. i did not remove muting transistors yet, as the player has EnergyStar features that will power it down automatically and potentially cause a nasty transient when i'm not looking.

i'm about to put the machine back together and fire it up in a minute, i'll report back how it all sounds now.
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