The Search for a Playstation

Last week Robert Powell was good enough to post an article on his modifications that transformed a Sony Playstation 1 into an audiophile CD player.  Not only did this spark the interest of many visitors to the site, but it also got me into thinking.  Here's how i got on in my hunt for my own Playstation...



I had read about the Playstation 1 being used as a CD player before, notably on www.diyaudio.comwhere there is an 85 page superthread.  The first time that I read through that thread I had thought to myself that I would build a CD player from a playstation.  However like a lot of projects that I investigate, I had become sidetracked.  About a year ago, I had even dug through my storage cupboard in an effort to find my own playstation that I knew was lurking somewhere.  When I found it it turned out to be a 9000 series, no use to me as a CD player.  I had also been round all of my friends in the search for an older model that I could perhaps swap for my newer version.


However, Robert Powells article re-ignited my interest in the humble Playstation 1.  Yesterday I decided that I would locate one.  My justification for the new purchase is several fold:


  1. I have been enjoying my DDDAC for a while now, and it was definitely an improvement on my last setup, A Cambridge Audio CD4 and Dacmagic (transport and separate DAC) combination.  However, I want to try a well rated CD source against my USB DDDAC to satisfy myself that USB is the correct way to go.  I am considering re-homing my DDDAC, and adding more modules to it, I want to make sure that I am on the right lines.
  2. I am in the middle of building a new amplifier.  My source for testing purposes so far has been my laptop.  I would benefit from having a high quality source that is easy to plug in for testing purposes.
  3. My fascination for the playstation conversion
  4. The playstation will serve as a source for my bedroom eventually.

With my mind made up, I had to make some more decisions.  What model was I going to aim for?


The Playstation 1 has been through various internal changes, and one major external restyle in its lifetime.  The articles that discuss modifying the Playstation tend to centre around the very first version labelled SCPH-1001 or SCPH-1002 (model numbers varied between markets).  The SCPH-1002 would be what I would be looking for in the UK if I were to pursue an original machine. 


Reasons why people go for the very first of the Playstation are that it has the AKM4309 DAC chip, and that it was the only model in the Playstation 1 series that came equipped with RCA outputs at the rear of the machine.  In the later series, Sony ditched the RCA outputs as well as the op-amp output stages that drove them.  Looking round at the recommended modifications, most modifiers would appear to favour bypassing the op-amp stages. 


Advantages for going for the SCPH-1002 were as I saw it:

  1. It has the right DAC
  2. More of the modifications detailed on websites are based on this model, making it easy to find step by step info on the mods
  3. No case mods required letting me focus on the electronics

However I also saw some disadvantages. 

  1. The very first playstations had a reputation for CD failures.  Some blamed the original design and its heat dispersion capabilities.
  2. With its status as a good CD player well published on the web, good examples are fetching higher prices.
  3. Not so many of them around.

I decided to look around at some other models and was drawn to the SCPH-5xxx series.  These models have the same DAC as the SCPH-100x models, though don't have the RCA outputs or the op-amps.  However I decided that I would target myself for one of these models.  In particular I wanted the last of the SCPH-5xxxx models, the SCPH-5552.  I reasoned that the model was more modern, so hopefully more plentiful.  I also reckoned that it would be less likely to be prone to wear on account that the CD transports have metal CD laser guides.  Finally, with less interest in this model from audiophiles, this model is fetching less of a premium.


I started to look at the usual sources of second hand goods.  Fleabay.  Certainly, Playstation 1s are plentiful on Ebay.  Ranging in price from 99p to £24.99 (for a coveted SCPH-1002) there are loads to choose from.  However unless the vendor is a savvy dealer in possession of a SCPH-1002 and intent on profiting from the audiofool market, most sellers do not list the model number in their adverts.  Sending off a few e-mails revealed that the SCPH-5xxxx models were on the day I was searching very popular.  One person had a SCPH-1002 model and were clearly oblivious to the premium that they could command if they mentioned it on their listing.  If you have your heart set on a 1000 model, it clearly pays to send of e-mails to the sellers.


On ebay, Playstations would appear to fetching around £5-10 with £5 carriage being the norm (obviously for UK machines). 


{include_content_item 45}It being a nice day (a rarity this year in Scotland) I decided on Saturday morning to try out Glasgow City Centre to see if I could track down a Playstation.  I thought that some of the games stores, who typically offer trade in on old equipment may have a few models kicking around that hey would be anxious to part with.  In Glasgow, there are several stores that offer this

  • Game
  • GameStation
  • G-Force

Game, proved to be a dead end.  Due to the age of the product, Game (a helpful salesman informed me) considers the Playstation 1 as a "retro" machine and do not trade in them. 


The first GameStation store I visited did have one in their window.  Bundled with a pack of "rare" games they were asking £89.99 for the package.  I enquired within to see if they had any single units they wanted to sell me, but the store only had the one in the window.  I asked what they charged for a single unit if they had them in stock.  £4.99 was the price quoted.


In the second Gamestation store, the store had several units in stock.  Model number wise, there were SCPH-9xxx, 7xxxx and a SCPH 1002 which looked pretty manky.  Even so I considered taking it, thinking that for £4.99, I could clean it up and re-case it.  However the salesman was asking £24.99 for it and a pack of 18 games!  Even though I did not need the games, and as I pointed out, the appearance of the machine would mean only a loony would buy it (ie me) the salesman would not budge.


G-Force proved a no-no, though the manager did have a look in his parts dump to see if he had any.  i got the impression that if he did he would have charged little or nothing for my playstation disposal services.


Next i tried a store we have round here called Cash Generator.  one of these modern pawn shop places.  They indeed had several playstations in stock and were happy to search through them for a SCPH-5552 for me.  Price wise they were asking £14.99.  Again this was bundled with two games and the salesman refused to budge, either on the price or on the insistence of selling me the games. 


Rather despondent by now i tried another of the pawn broker style stores, another Cash generator.  I was aware that Cash generator stores are quite often franchised operations, so I wondered if selling conditions may vary between stores.  I was right.  This store had several playstations to choose from, and the salesman found me a SCPH-5552 from the store.  A brief examination revealed that the unit was in good condition, and showed no sign of wear.  The laser was clean as well.  the controller had clearly had a juice spill on it at some point, but the buttons showed little wear.


£9.99 was the price, which I consider on par with Ebay prices.  The benefit was that I had a chance to give the goods a look over as well.  I thought I could perhaps have saved a few pounds if I put some Ebay work in, but why bother....


So there it is.  Two hours shopping around and I got myself a playstation 1 in good nick and for a reasonable price.  If it passes my listening tests and gives a few hours entertainment to my soldering iron I don't think I can say fairer than that.


If your hunting for your own Playstation, some hints  have picked up:


  • On ebay, email the sellers.  You can pick up a SCPH-1002 model without paying the premiums that the savvy dealers are asking.  It is likely that the seller wont know how sought after their machine is if no model number is quoted in the listing.
  • If you are prepared to mod them anyway, go for a SCPH-5552.  You can add your own better quality RCA's to the machine anyway.  Or even captive leads of good quality.
  • No two stores are the same, even if the name above the door is.  They will charge you what they think you will pay and will try to bundle the abundance of games they have in stock for extra profit.
  • Good machines are out there and they are plentiful!  Don't feel pressured into a deal that gives you more than you want or a machine in less than very good condition.