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Winno's Sony XA5ES op amp upgrade


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I have a system that is simple and thanks to a well known online auction site, has cost me very little (relatively speaking of course) to set up. Yes, I love a bargain.

In light of this, rather than outlaying what could be a considerable amount of dosh for a new CD player to replace my highly regarded Sony CDP-XA5ES player, I got to thinking about what I could do to make it perform better when only spending a minimal amount of money.

People had mentioned that replacing op amps was one way to improve on a player's performance significantly.

After some help here and elsewhere online, I'd shortlisted the Analogue Devices AD825, and the Burson discrete.

Obviously, they're both very different beasts with the AD825 being an SMD chip (I/C) and the Burson being a much larger board with discrete parts on it. Price was also quite different between the two as well.

After further consideration, and an injection of funds from family as gifts for my birthday, I lumped for the Burson option.

The folks at Burson Audio were extremely helpful along the way and so the order was placed for 2 x singles and 4 x doubles.

They arrived today.

[ATTACH=CONFIG]22837[/ATTACH]

[ATTACH=CONFIG]22835[/ATTACH]

The singles

[ATTACH=CONFIG]22836[/ATTACH]

The doubles

[ATTACH=CONFIG]22834[/ATTACH]

I had ordered them with the longer 100mm insulated wires but they were sent as standard wires which may not be an issue as I'm thinking about changing these out for some individual Kimber TC speaker wire anyway.

This weekend is out for the change over so it'll be a few days after that that the mods will start. Pics will be plentiful though because whilst the XA5ES is fairly 'common', documented mods made to them are not.

Stay posted...

Edited by Winno
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My trusty old XA5ES and I are looking forward to following the details of this caper.

If it looks relatively painless and the results are as good as expected, we might follow suit.

But, maybe I should ask myself if this a project for a beginner solderer - ah well, I guess the promised pics might help answer that. Also, as I use the Sony mainly as a transport, improving the analogue output stage may not be relevant to me unless I'm going to use it as a CDP sometime in the future, which is a bit uncertain at present.

Anyway, will watch with interest - thanks for posting this.

Cheers

Tony

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The singles

[ATTACH=CONFIG]22836[/ATTACH]

The doubles

[ATTACH=CONFIG]22834[/ATTACH]

I had ordered them with the longer 100mm insulated wires but they were sent as standard wires which may not be an issue as I'm thinking about changing these out for some individual Kimber TC speaker wire anyway.

Why would you want to change the wires, except if they were too short?

Cheers,

Alan R.

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Why would you want to change the wires, except if they were too short?

Cheers,

Alan R.

That would have been the only reason Alan. There's some caps that these have to clear so longer wires may be needed.

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My trusty old XA5ES and I are looking forward to following the details of this caper.

If it looks relatively painless and the results are as good as expected, we might follow suit.

But, maybe I should ask myself if this a project for a beginner solderer - ah well, I guess the promised pics might help answer that. Also, as I use the Sony mainly as a transport, improving the analogue output stage may not be relevant to me unless I'm going to use it as a CDP sometime in the future, which is a bit uncertain at present.

Anyway, will watch with interest - thanks for posting this.

Cheers

Tony

Tony, to be honest, if I went down the separate transport/DAC road, I wouldn't be doing this, as this is to improve the analogue output. Accounts (on other ES and many other brand cd players) suggest that this mod, coupled with power supply fortification lifts performance, on what is in essence already a great machine, substantially.

I considered the external DAC option at one stage but various comments made seemed to indicate that the XA5ES DAC was pretty good already, and an external one that would be good enough to warrant adding would probably be quite costly by comparison.

Burson did try to convince me to do a clock mod on my player but I'm not so sure that modding it is as easy as most other players. The trouble is, like I said above, very little is written (in English at least) about what can be done and how it's done on these players.

If I cannot get some concrete advice on the clock mods, the power supply will be next in line to cop some changes.

The good thing about this mod is that IF I do go for an external DAC later, I can remove the Bursons, pop in some AD825's and put the Burson's into the DAC if they are suitable.

Edited by Winno
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The big difference between the XA5 and XA7 is that the 7 already has a discrete output stage along with a slightly better power supply, etc.

So, the 7 has a head start already. I would have loved to pick up a 7 myself but there was a lack of them available on the second hand market at the time.

Chances are though, the Burson may prove to be superior to the set up in the 7...if you believe all the hype, that is.

I'm hoping to have this Sunday free to change everything over.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Ok, after the last few weekends being taken (swimming with the fish at Tangalooma was NOT to be passed up), it's now time for an update.

I have this week off because of school holidays and while the boys amused themselves in front of the tv for a while, I decided that it was a good time for me to fit my Bursons.

This is not what I would call a difficult mod to do. It just takes time (it took me about 3hrs), some soldering skill, the correct tools for the job, and some tips for how to know which way around to mount these little suckers.

Tools for the job are common:

IMG_1824.jpg

Screw drivers

Nippers

Needle nose pliers

Quality soldering iron (mine's a gas powered one)

Good quality solder ( I use a silver content Goot solder)

Solder wick

First up, you'll need to remove the top cover and the right hand side end panel.

IMG_1812.jpg

IMG_1836.jpg

This will then give you access to the internals. The board we're working on is the right hand one to the right of the drawer mechanism.

You'll need to remove the board from the player to work on it. This involves unscrewing the copper screws (about 6 or 7), and also a number of plastic plug and socket type connectors from each end of the board.

IMG_1813.jpg

You'll then be able to carefully extract the board from the player. It will look like this:

IMG_1815.jpg

I'm changing six opamps - 2 x singles for the audio output, and 4 x doubles for other parts of the analogue section of the board. They're circled here:

IMG_1817.jpg

Here's the other side of the board showing the 48 points that need to be desoldered to remove the existing I/C's:

IMG_1818.jpg

Here's me removing the solder cleanly with a clean, hot iron, and some Goot copper braid solder wick.

IMG_1819.jpg

This leaves the pad devoid of any solder and any part then practically falls off from the other side.

Edited by Winno
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Continued

The XA5 is fairly roomy inside but the Burson's are not small by any means. I didn't have the vertical room which meant that the op amps had to be laid over horizontally. Here's me test fitting one of the singles to make sure it clears the RCA pcb.

IMG_1822.jpg

No problem!

Here they are soldered into place.

IMG_1826.jpg

Next up was fitting of the duals. To do this, I had to relocate the two brown Elna caps circled here:

IMG_1827.jpg

They were right where the Burson's would sit as they would replace the four chips just in front of them as shown in the pic. I didn't have the vertical room to sit them above the caps. I removed the caps with the soldering iron and Goot wick, made up some insulated copper extension lead wires, and soldered everything back in.

IMG_1828.jpg

The caps now sit further toward the front of the player as shown here:

IMG_1829.jpg

Here's all the op amps soldered up with the same process used for the singles, and pretty much in position:

IMG_1832.jpg

And the other side of the board. Rather neat, if I do say so myself.

IMG_1831.jpg

After checking that they were all mounted the correct way around one last time (op amps of this kind have 8 pins. I had to make sure that pin 1 was soldered to pad 1, and so on), screwing the board back in place, and connecting up all the little colour coded plugs and sockets, this is what I had:

IMG_1835.jpg

On went the side panel and lid, and it was then slotted back into the system and fired up...

Edited by Winno
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Hi Winno

I just showed SWMBO the pics of your surgical exploits. She went pale at the thought of me trying to emulate your skill with a soldering iron - she knows it would end in tears and the likely demise of a very nice and much-loved old CD player.

So, I'd better stop following this thread - I don't want to know how good it sounds in case I get tempted to give it a go despite my dearth of soldering experience. It really isn't a beginner's project, is it?:P

Cheers

Tony

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Tony M, if you think about it, all I really did was desolder some chips and simply replace them with other 'chips'. I'm not a tech by any means and actually know very little about how things work and why.

If I can do this though, I reckon that anyone can do it.

It's really quite easy.

And although the XA5 has been around for a while now, in stock form, it still holds its own very well against many players of today.

You should hear it though once this mod is in place!

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