Jul 132015
 

It seems an eternity ago when I wrote about the Sony PlayStation 1 SCPH-1001 back in 2007 at 6Moons as part of a ‘Music Lovers’ system. Keith Aschenbrenner of  Auditorium 23 fame told me about SCPH-1001, and how it sounded ridiculously good compared to even very expensive DACs and CD players of the time. 

I said about it then, “Certainly the most unconventional part of this system has to be the Sony Playstation 1 used as a digital source. The PlayStation 1 was launched in Japan on December 3, 1994 and about a year later in the rest of the world. There is only one model worth considering – the SCPH-100x. The ‘x’ depends on where in the world you live. In the US and Canada it’s a SCPH-1001, in Japan the last digit is 0, in Europe its 2 and its 3 in Asia. None of the other Playstation models sound good I’m told so stick with the SCPH-100x versions. The underground buzz says the newer versions of the Playstation suck for music but I haven’t checked ’em out myself. There’s a lot of technology and computing power in that cheap looking little grey plastic box that no high-end audio firm could ever afford to pay the development costs for but Sony knew they had a couple of hundred million or so parents that would make the intense R&D pay off in a big way. It did too and Sony sold over a 100 million units, meaning there are plenty of them around for us HiFi nuts. I was able to pick up one locally in mint condition for $25.

There are a number of audio insiders that use the Playstation as a reference but they don’t admit to it. They’re too embarrassed! Check your local used computer gaming store and it’s likely they’ll have number of them in stock ready for you to purchase. Make sure it has the RCA jacks on the back for audio. Until you actually try it, itl’l seem ridiculous that you could get this kind of audio performance from what is essentially an inexpensive child’s toy but it’s the truth. A PS1 SCPH-1001 will hold you over in grand style until I get a chance to survey the latest crop of one-box players and other interesting digital devices for you. In fact, the PS1 is so good that it wouldn’t surprise me at all if you never felt the need for something else. Really!

There is a bit of a quirk to the Playstation that you should know about in case you encounter it with your own: it can overheat if not placed in a well-ventilated area due to poorly placed vents in its chassis. Apparently the plastic moldings inside the player can warp slightly, causing the laser mechanism to skip if it gets too hot. If you have trouble with overheating and skipping, I am told the solution is to put them up on tip toes so there is plenty of airflow underneath or to leave them on top of a cabinet where they get plenty of cool air.

You’ll want to leave your PS1 on all the time and it will take it about a week to come up to its considerable performance potential. A cold Playstation merely sounds okay but after a week, you’ll be treated to perhaps the best digital you’ve ever heard. The PS1 does a wonderful job with tone color and has a very analog quality that no other digital source I’ve yet heard can match. It really excels in the linearity of micro to macro dynamics much like the Miyabi 47 phono cartridge does. The PS1 comes with a controller that plugs into the chassis which is a bit of a nuisance to use if you’re used to a wireless remote. I’ve got a Logitech wireless controller on order which I’m assuming will correct that little inconvenience.

You might think it a bit looney to use a $950 Shindo silver interconnect for a used $25 Playstation. Until you hear it that is. Then you’ll get it. If it makes you feel better, you can pretend that the Playstation costs $6000, which is what I’m guessing it would cost to get a one-box CD player that could outperform it musically and sonically.”

Sony PS SC1001

My Sony PlayStation 1 SCPH-1001 is now 21 years old! Ok, maybe that doesn’t qualify as vintage in the same way as my vintage McIntosh components do, but for digital that’s the Jurassic period!

I’ve been wanting a good sounding CD player to listen to my huge Red Book CD collection for a while now, something that I could just pop a CD into and get unapologetically good music out of. As a step in that direction I almost bought a really good DAC awhile back that a friend enjoys, but I didn’t follow through.

I just remembered that I had the Sony tucked away in a closet in a back room and decided to get it out and give it a listen. I am sure glad that I did, I had forgotten how ridiculously good the Sony PlayStation 1 SCPH-1001 is! Ridiculously good!

My buddies Ron & Leo are coming by in about 45 minutes for a little session, as Ron’s finished up the MC30 Resistor Adventure that Mr. Yazaki-san is coaching us on, and were going to give it a listen.

I’m also going to have Ron & Leo listen to my vintage Sony PlayStation 1 SCPH-1001 just for fun. Really, you won’t believe how good that original Sony PlayStation 1 SCPH-1001 is!

More later!

 Posted by at 12:18 pm

  13 Responses to “Revisiting an old friend: The ‘Vintage’ Sony PlayStation 1 SCPH-1001”

  1. Hi there Jeff. About 4 or 5 years ago after getting back into our hobby I learned about the Sony PS 1001. I soon there after found one on eBay and purchased it and began a new adventure. I found a web site (dogbreath.de/PS1) that showed how to modify the PS 1001. Being an old guy I wanted to learn some new tricks. So off I went and taught myself how to solder and desolder. I used the PS 1001 as a test bed. Well I did pretty darn good with the iron. No smoke nor flames when I plugged in the pc to the newly installed IEC connector. I transferred the power supply to a external enclosure and again no smoke nor flames. All in all I modified three of the little beauties and sold them. It was a great learning experience for me and a delight to my ears.

    Happy listening to you,
    Marvin

    • Hi Marvin,

      That’s an awesome story, and I’ll bet it was a lot of fun. I’ve really been having fun with DIY projects like cables, the Duelund CAST crossovers (those are really amazing), and now the ‘capacitor adventure’ and ‘resistor adventure’ with my vintage Mac MC30s. The ‘power’ of the soldering iron and changing out of few parts is truly profound, as I have learned with Mr. Yazaki-san’s & Ron-san’s help.

      The ability to solder in a few well chosen parts can turn a competent component into a “Wow!” and change how you view the hobby and getting your system dialed in. It is perhaps the ultimate tool to make a system perform exactly the way you want it to!

      Thanks for the comment, Marvin!

      Kind regards,

      Jeff

  2. The SCPH-5501 uses the same Asahi Kasei AK4309AVM DAC and also sounds very good but does not have the RCA jacks so it must be modified to add them or you must [somehow] connect to the 12-pin Sony A/V Multiport jack.

  3. I have to give all credit to you Jeff for enlightening me to the audiophile sound quality of the Sony Playstation 1. Like Marvin, I also learned to modify the Playstation 1 using Mick Feuerbacher’s detailed instructions. I have sold a few modified units as well. In researching the Playstation 1 as a CD player, I also learned that Model SCPH-5501 is worthy of modification too. It has the same, exact AKM4309 DAC as the referenced Model SCPH-1001, except it does not have the RCA jacks at the rear of the chassis for analog output. With some modification of the chassis and output circuitry, one can add higher quality RCA jacks and route the DAC’s analog output through a high pass filter.

    Why all the hassle? The laser unit in Model SCPH-5501 is superior to the laser in Model SCPH-1001 in that it is self-calibrating and it is oriented furthest away from the switching power supply to minimize noise radiating from the power supply. The orientation of the laser transport mechanism also keeps it away from the power supply’s heat, which can cause thermal expansion of the mechanism’s components leading to skipping and errant tracking. One guy actually measured and tested a modified SCPH-5501:

    http://archimago.blogspot.com/2013/03/measurements-sony-playstation-1-scph.html

    With either model, the output stage modifications are worth the effort. Replacing the stock DC blocking capacitors, and bypassing the muting transistors and stock op amp output stage maintains all the analog-like sonic virtues of the stock unit while improving the transparency and frequency response. Perhaps Yazaki-san can recommend some Arizona capacitor upgrades for the analog output stage.

    • Hi Rich,

      Sounds like you and Craig really like the SCPH-5501, and the improvements it offers over the SCPH-1001. It’s amazing what can be accomplished with these vintage PlayStations!

      Kind regards,

      Jeff

      • Hi Jeff,

        In one of your Six Moons articles discussing the virtues of the Playstation 1, you used a Furutech G-320Ag-18F8 as a power cable. This is a great power cable for the Playstation 1 with its F8 connector. I’ve compared it to another power cable with the Playstation 1 and the Playstation sounded more dynamic and weighty with the Furutech cable.

        Rich

        • Hi Rich,

          I’m still using the Furutech power cable on my PlayStation, and it is a wonderful match!

          Cheers,

          Jeff

        • Rich, I’m glad you brought that up, I had jumped to the conclusion of the article ( White Lightning Moonshine NOT great for power cords) but didn’t catch the recommendation for the Furutech for the Playstation.

  4. Hello Jeff Rich and Craig,

    After read all of your comments, I’ve select to bought SCPH-5501 version of Sony Playstation.

    And do modification inside with replace some components on both mainboard and PSU board.

    Also brought direct signal from DAC chip pass through 0.47uF Arizona Capacitor.

    Thank you all for suggest PS1, it is valuable item that make me and another reader so happy.

    It’s sound natural, analog feeling and still more detail in every kind of music.

    Please see my blog for more detail.

    http://mellowgroovy.blogspot.com/2015/12/sony-playstation-scph-5501-001.html

    http://mellowgroovy.blogspot.com/2015/12/sony-playstation-scph-5501-002.html

    Thanks again,
    Nattawut

    • Hi Nattawut,

      I’m glad you’re enjoying your hot-rodded SCPH-5501, and thank you for posting the links with the details.

      You really did a beautiful job on the mods with the Arizona Capacitors and the Tepro resistors, and everything really fit into the chassis nicely.

      Merry Christmas!

      Kind regards,

      Jeff

  5. Jeff,

    I’d just like to first say that your blog has been a very welcome find for me in the world of hi-fi writing. As a vintage McIntosh C28 and MC225 owner I have found countless articles of interest while browsing here. Not to mention all the great information about vintage cabling, electrical components, and more. This PS1 entry has especially gotten my attention, as I first came to the PS1 through the Art Dudley article for Stereophile that referenced the 6 Moons piece. I have owned a PS1 for years and enjoyed it a great deal, but I have always wondered about the amount of operating noise I notice with my unit. On an audio rack positioned slightly behind my speakers, I sometimes hear the disc spinning in the tray when listening at low to moderate volumes. Have you encountered anything similar with your own unit?

    Many thanks!

    Mike

    • Hi Mike,

      Thank you so much for the kind words, I really appreciate it.

      That’s some great kit you’ve got there with the McIntosh C28 and MC225, be sure not to let those get away from you!

      It was fun introducing the PS1 to hi-fi buffs through my 6 Moons article way back when. I don’t hear the PS1 disc spinning, but then mine is inside a cabinet, so I probably wouldn’t hear it. Next time I fire it up I’ll listen for that and report back.

      Kind regards,

      Jeff

      • Jeff,

        Thanks so much for the feedback, and I’m curious to hear what you find the next time you use the PS1.

        Have a great week!

        Mike

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