PS1 Audiophile CD Player

Playstation 1 Audiophile CD Player

ps1_007Robert Powell tackles the Playstation 1, an unlikely contender in the world of high quality Hi-Fi.  However with a little care, these games machines can be tweaked into serious audio performers.

Modded PS1

The Sony PS1 was launched in Japan on the 3rd December 1994, Europe had to wait another nine months until the 29th September 1995. I had a 15 year old champing at the bit to get his hands on one. I can't imagine how long the nine month wait must have felt to him. The PS1 gained Iconic status very rapidly. As a games console it was expertly designed to serve a new generation of gamers. Small enough to fit into even the tiniest of bedrooms, robust enough to withstand the tantrums of frustrated gamers and the design, so simple and practical to not look out of place many years later. The PS1 continued in production until March 2006 and underwent 48 revisions throughout it's life.

Fast forward 10 years or so. Many knew that the PS1 could play CDs. However the likelihood that it was ever used in earnest as a serious CD player is so remote as to have never happened.

6moons audio review site www.6moons.com contained an article on the PS1 in February 2007. They said that it could beat a standalone CD player up to $6,000. Sensational stuff!

"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"

The unit they reviewed was one of the early 1001 models (1002 in Europe) This model came equipped with phono outs for easy connection to your music playing system of choice.  Although by 2007 many had carried out modifications to the PS1, the unit reviewed was an unmodded original.

Whilst surfing one of my favourite sites www.diyaudio.com I came across a thread dedicated to modding the PS1.  After having taken what seemed to be a lifetime to read the whole thread, I rapidly came to the conclusion that I HAD to have one to see if the claims were true.  My son had at one time written for Playstation magazine and so I suspected he might know a thing or two. He managed to source a "low-mileage" 1002 for £20 plus postage.  A week later it arrived. I got it hooked up, let it warm up and then sat down to listen.

I trawled through many familiar CDs. A couple of hours must have passed and by that time I was no more enlightened as to what Jeff Day (6moons) was hearing when he sat down, than when I had first started. To me the sound was decidedly average. In fact that is complimentary. Dull and uninspiring is a better way to describe it. If $6,000 CD players sound like that, then I am glad I saved my money.

The only thing for it was get it on the operating table and perform life-saving surgery, and quick.  Mick Fuerbacher has a site dedicated to the mods needed to make these things sing, the site is oddly named www.dogbreath.de  This gives you all the information you need to make the direct connections to DAC chip and to make an up-graded power supply which really makes it fly. 

ps1_014There are many photographs on the site which take you step by step through the process. However these do not really prepare you for the reality of how small the components are you have to remove and the delicate surgery required to connect the connections required. The capacitors you have to remove are around the size of a match head.

The modifications shown are to the 1002 (with the factory fitted phono outs). I used a 1002, but felt that it was easier to run new connections to two new phono sockets. You have to fit output capacitors to the new connections. Anything from 1uf  - 15uf will suffice.  I used 4.7uf polypropylene non-polarised.ps1_006

At this stage I was keen to see what difference the modifications had made and used the on-board switch-mode power supply. Instantly I could hear the improvement that these modifications made. In hifi speak it was as though "a veil had been lifted", there was now a vitality to the music, the soundstage had grown in size and it was sounding a whole lot better, a bit like, well errr...a CD player really.

ps1_011I used the PS1 for a week or so with the on-board PS, whilst I put together the up-graded supply. After installing the new PS, this made as much, if not more of an improvement than the original modifications.  It was clear that the addition of a better quality and beefier supply turned the already good PS1 into a very good CD spinner. The sound has, by others, been described as having an "analogue" quality.  It is very full bodied in the way of vinyl, unfatiguing and very musical. If you love music, then you will like the way the PS1 delivers. I sourced two PS1's from ebay, one for £20 (a 1002 model) and another for a fiver!. The second was a 5552 model which has the same AKM DAC chip as the 1002. A third 5552 had been hiding in my sons old bedroom all the time.ps1_008

The modifications will cost you very little, about £10 depending on the quality of the coupling caps you use. The new power supply costs depend on how you go about it. I opted for two adjustable PS's so that I could easily set the 7.6v for the motor and 3.6v for the laser etc. On www.dogbreath.de it suggests using an NPN buffer to the 3.6v feed. This was easily knocked up. So the costs of the new PS were about £40inc transformer.

So there you have it. A bit of fun and a very good CD player for very little money. If anyone can tell me if it beats a £3,000 CD player I would be very interested.