Quality is as quality does...


I'm having great fun modifying my Marantz CD63SE CD player. Many folks have great write-ups on how to upgrade this player, with minimum outlay of $$. Do a Google on "CD63" and it'll lead you there. No point for me to repeat the above.

Many of the mods are really simple, consisting of replacing inferior parts with higher quality parts etc. The mods are basically:

All very simple mods. Definitely recommended as it transforms a good sounding player to a great player! The gain in sonics is simply amazing! The modified player should cost couple times more, just by virtue of parts that don't cost more than RM100.

What? RM100? And you get a player that could rival players costing couple times more?

I'm afraid so. 

I don't know what happened in Marantz as they designed/built this player. Were they aiming for the budget market? Or is it Ken Ishiwata's team designed a very good player but then had to "lower down the performance" as instructed by the marketing department? I don't know about you but I worked in an R&D environment before and one of my pet peeve is hearing the marketing folks go... "we need to cost down this product". I'm wondering this as not only the CD63 has inferior parts here and there, not to mention terrible PCB layout, but there's even an unused slot for a common mode choke! Yes! This part has been jumpered off and the first common mode choke I found sits in perfectly! Could it be that this part was taken off just before production in the name of cost-savings OR Marantz just felt that it doesn't matter to the sound? (actually there are empty PCB slots EVERYWHERE, all nicely jumpered off. most probably a full-blown PCB was designed, then all the cost-cutting measures came in...)

Okay, perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself. I mean, I should be rejoicing that folks around the world don't need to pay big bucks for the CD63. Just spend a twiddly amount and you could upgrade it to a great sounding player. I should be appreciating the genius of these designers who make great sound with minimal cost. But this is not my point. My point is about the quality of their work, and its effects on YOUR sonic chain, not some manufacturers' bottom line. Yeah, it looks good on their balance sheet but it doesn't do good to YOU.

It's almost a general rule that every $1 rise in parts cost will cost a proportionate $4 rise in selling price. (it's not scary if your CDP cost RM1000, but it's REALLY scary if your CDP cost RM20k.) Thus budget equipment definitely appreciate better quality parts. 

Open up your speakers and inspect your crossover. See any electrolytics there? Mine has one and I replaced this cap with some GE metallized polypropylene. (I don't think it matters whether this cap is GE or Solen) Guess what? The sonic character is still there but the tonal balance changed for the better! Before this, the midrange is more emphasized than the rest of the spectrum but now it's more even. Better still, I hear more bass now. Better defined as well! Dang! Just a RM20 cap!

See what I mean? Now take a look at the insides of your CD player, amp, speakers. See any corner cutting? Better still, want to try put in some better quality parts?

Ellis Audio has this to say about speaker crossover components in general. Cheap speakers (below USD600) use non-polarized electrolytics or mylars inside. Next up like "B&W Nautilus $2k-$8k" uses made-in-Taiwan Bennic polypropylene. Metallized polypropylene like Solen etc is found in "Tannoy Churchill $14k". More expensive makes will go for oil or even better quality (and expensive) polypropylene. Care to give your speaker the high end treatment with better parts? Then tell me how it sounds!

Open up your tube amp and see what are the coupling capacitors inside. Do you see audiophile-approved boutique parts? Names like Jensen, Auricap, Hovland, MIT... Or do you see some non-recognizable make that the manufacturer claims to be "specially selected after careful audition"? You can easily test their claims by substituting the said component with better ones. Then let me know! 

The point is, there's definitely room for improvement inside your CDP/amp/speaker. All it takes is a willingness to void warranties and itchy hands. It doesn't matter whether you bought budget or damn-bloody-expensive equipment as manufacturers still need to reap big profits off you to stuff their coffers. You CAN get the better of them.  

If you want to be El Cheapo like me, buy used equipment and go hacking! I bought a used problematic CD63 and has never looked back! 


*However, at the end of the day, I don't recommend going overboard. If you have a RM1500 CD player, and you intend to splurge RM1000 on upgrading it, I would suggest you forget it. As much impact as parts have on sonics, circuitry plays a more important role. A good circuit with cheap parts will sound better than a bad circuit with expensive parts. Be sensible.

On the other hand, I don't understand why folks complain about high-priced boutique parts. They don't mind paying RM1000 for some interconnects that has LESS impact on your sonics than some RM50 cap. Go figure...