The first R1 unit to be launched, the CDP-R1 drive was magnificently designed and luxurious in every way : Sony put all its know how about surface, color, finish, and feel to make one of the best CD player ever, one of the most beautiful, too, and probably the better remembered as well.
Introduced when CD was only four years old the CDP-R1 and DAS-R1 immediately became real bestsellers. This was the reference combo in Japan for many years and Sony sold many of them : not only because of said looks and feel of use but because of the sound of the R1 combo.
Although available separately, speaking of the CDP-R1 without its DAS-R1 is difficult - even if quite interesting : Sony didn't go for its own CX chips but for two of Philips' own TDA-1541 S1 !
Outputs rely either on a 75 Ohm coaxial or a the intelligent (but proprietary) Twin Link connection which carries signal and servo/synchro signals separately and in a bi-directional way. Professional background oblige, Sony was among the first (if not the first) to go that route - many others followed soon afterward.
As humans naturally go, it is difficult to "judge" the "sound" of a drive but, at least mechanically, the CDP-R1 drive was and still is one of the best, like all the integrated players which used the same base, whether Sony's own or the various players/drives from Accuphase.
Reliabilty-wise, only the Philips CDM CDM1 can claim a longer lifetime. But my own CDP-R1 still runs on its original 1987 laser : that's twenty-seven years of service ! High-end like that they don't make anymore (and never will again).
The production run was set at about 1500 combos (CDP + DAS), of which at least 100 were 100V / USA models and 250 were 220V / EU models.
Updated in 1989 as CDP-R1a with mainly mechanical refinements, a slightly altered design (less well balanced) and a change of mechanism equivalent to that of the contemporary CDP-R3 ; the CDP-R1a didn't sell nearly as well as the original CDP-R1.
As all of Sony's top components since 1965 and the first ES series, the Sony name isn't printed but engraved in the 7mm extruded aluminium front plates.
Sound-wise, in all fairness, the CDP-R1 paired with the DAS-R1 still sounds unbelievably wide, deep, smooth, lush, sweet, dynamic and inviting. And, over the regular 75 Ohm coaxial connection, the Twin Link system does give even more of the above qualities.