October   1 9 9 4 october 1994
1 9 9 9 1999

A more than excellent unit, the CDP-XA7ES was however a luxurious double repackaging made for changing times.

Re-pack #1 :
Even if unknown to almost everybody back in 1994, the Fixed Pickup Mechanism wasn't all that new as Sony already had launched it in... 1982 !
First in the professional CDP-5000 player then in its replacement as studio player/remote combo, the CDP-3000 / CDS-3000.

FPM was intended to suppress vibrations where there are more in the first place (the spinning CD) rather than try to minimize those which have a much lower magnitude - in the laser pickup itself.
So the disc's spinning motor and rotor become the moving parts (one big moving part), and the laser block remains... fixed on its base.

The result amounts to about the same final quality but the FPM had one big advantage in those days of ailing high-end manufacturing : it was far less costly to make than the 1987 aluminium BU-1 drive and its magnetic linear rails.

Re-pack #2 :
Structure-wise, despite its very different looks, the CDP-XA7ES is nothing more than a CDP-X707ES with a different drive :
same basic chassis structure (sans sideburns), same Twin R-Core transformer, same copper-all-over style, almost equivalent power-supply section and barely different boards - with a few mods, one could put the guts of an CDP-XA7ES into the chassis of a CDP-X707ES (or CDP-X779ES), and vice versa !

Unlike what was done for the accompanying TA-FA7ES integrated amplifier, it just cost too much to design an entirely new chassis for the new looks and drive of the CDP-XA-7ES : that was done later on and it wasn't redesigning, it was downsizing.
So the chassis itself takes a slightly different turn than any of the previous X7s : Frame & Beam came in to suppress vibrations and resonances by the use of variying materials and thicknesses... No more triple steel plates to make the sides - just double-plates :-)

This second "re-pack" is however what made the CDP-XA7ES remain available much longer than expected in Japan and cost still more than newer CD players : it still was built in "old school" style.
The same happened to the TA-2000F or ST-5000F which remained available right through the late ES-II series, until 1976, and still cost more than the newer lineups' top components !

It is only after the CDP-XA-7ES that build-quality stopped being on the level of the previous X7 CD players.
There was no "7" replacement to the CDP-XA7ES but only "5" like the XA50ES or XA55ES - case in point.

The CDP-XA7ES transforms pits and bits into human music with updated Pulse and Current Pulse d/a chips but no filters, yet, to alter the low-pass filter's output response curve - old school I tell you ;-)

Pulse digital-to-analogue converters are here in quantity (four stereo processors in one CXD-2562Q) with a CXA-8042S added, the latter being the Current Pulse current switcher triggered by the main Pulse converter.
By switching prefectly regulated and accurate current levels, this duet system was (is) to avoid any non-linear or fluctuating current levels.

It is however on the 20bit Full Feed Forward CXD-8504 digital filter on which time really was spent.
Oversampling is done at 8fs (only) but in two steps and aided by side ICs which process in real-time the digital signal with a 47bit resolution to isolate any re-sampling errors and shift them up above 20Khz.

The first result of this is a noise floor remaining below -280dB up to 20Khz and "rising" to a maximum of -160dB at 100Khz - interstellar noise levels !
The second result of this two-step system is that the digital signal is extremely clean with superb square-wave response and extremely low jitter levels.

The output stage is made of a small push-pull power amp with pnp/npn Mos-Fets for a lot of current capability and also less influence of the cables' impedance.
As for the previous X7s equipped with balanced and unbalanced analogue outputs, your own ears will tell which you prefer.

The rest is typical of high-end Sony throughout the 1980s and (early) 1990s : ELNA for Audio, Nichicon MUSE and Roederstein caps, generous copper heatsinking and bus bars.

Drive-wise, the FPM system is quite efficient although differences between it and the old aluminium BU-1 are finally slight indeed - but the old one proved to be much longer lasting than the new one.

The CDP-XA7ES was nevertheless very very well received by audiophiles and the press alike and sold in significant numbers, despite a typically "7" pricetag.
If you have one, do secure if you still can a spare KSS-273A laser !

All about the chips inside the XA7ES here and a real (black) one here.

Sony CDP-XA7ES, image 1 Sony CDP-XA7ES, image 2 Sony CDP-XA7ES, image 3 Sony CDP-XA7ES, image 4
Sony CDP-XA7ES specifications
Title Value
Frequency response : 2Hz...20Khz (± 0,3dB)
THD : 0,0015% (EIAJ)
S/N ratio : 119dB (EIAJ)
Dynamic range : 100dB (EIAJ)
Separation : 110dB (EIAJ)
Analogue outputs : 2V / 50kOhm (fixed RCA ; 10kOhm load)
0V...2V / 50kOhm (variable RCA ; 50kOhm load)
5V / 50kOhm (balanced XLR ; 600 Ohm load)
100mW / 32 Ohm (headphones)
Digital outputs : 0,5V p-p / 75 Ohm (coaxial)
-18dBm / 660nm (TOS optical)
PC : 28W
Dimensions : 43 x 12,5 x 37,5cm
Weight : 15kg.
List price : 250,000¥ (1994)
18,000FF (1996)
Sony CDP-XA7ES : 2 topics
(last updated topic shows up first)
  • Sony XA7ES CD Player                             (5)last updated by sirotseta - 01/12/2010, 18H34
  • Sony CDP-X779/707ES & other models using the same transport                             (2)last updated by jshowalter - 26/06/2011, 20H22
page online since : february 2007
page updated : june 2010
page type : LGT / KNB
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