"Beauty is a gift of God, one of the rarest and most precious.
We should be grateful if we have it - and if not, we should be
grateful that others have it for our pleasure."
W. Somerset Maugham
HARD THING REVIEW: SONY CDP 997 CD PLAYER
by Richard Karsmakers
It should be said that people who hate it when other people
brag about having a hotter TV set or similar appliance should
preferably, in order not to get too agi-or irri-tated, quit this
article immediately. If you're not sure, you are advised to read
"Inspiration and My New Audio Equipment", which was featured in
one of the last Volume 3 issues of ST NEWS.
I guess it must have been a year ago that my CD player started
skipping tracks. Maybe you've experienced it, too: You're
peacefully listening to a CD and suddenly it has trouble reading
a track. It then either decides to try and read it again, or it
hops across to the next one (or sometimes just any other one that
happens not to be too far off).
It was my second CD player that had suddenly started doing it
for no apparent reason. It was my second Pioneer CD player, too.
I know that Pioneer can make decent CD players because Stefan has
one is his car that doesn't bloody skip tracks! I was quite agi-
and irri-tated at is. Especially Obituary's "Slowly we Rot" was
played as if moths were attracted to and flying through the CD
player's laser lightbeam. I had bought the CD player in spring or
early summer 1989, less than a year after I had bought my first
one (that had started randomly jumping tracks, too).
And the curious thing was that it had nothing to do with CDs
being dirty, for they weren't.
Some time later I came across a thing that I thought would be
the solution: A CD lens cleaner. Well, perhaps these CD lens
cleaners do work when you really have a dirty lens, but
apparently my lens was totally clean - the CD player kept
Good thing I live together with Miranda, who also has a CD
player. We installed hers (a Philips, against which I have
something out of principle) and lived happily everafter.
Until about half a year ago, that is.
Around that time the Philips player started jumping tracks, too.
Not as much as the Pioneer ones, but enough to be irritating (and
agi, too). Now "Slowly we Rot" played OK, and Megadeth's "Rust in
Pieces" was the main victim.
Perhaps CD player's can't handle too much Heavy Metal? But how
would Stefan's CD player have survived the five years it has been
playing now, without having ever jumped a track that wasn't
dirty? And certainly my environment wasn't that more dusty than
Stefan's - and besides, my CD player is behind glass and his
Frustrated, I went out stalking for CD player info in several of
Utrecht's finest audio/video shops.
And, one beautiful November day, I got a Sony leaflet thrust in
my hands. I leafed through it, slowly but certainly obtaining a
state of electronical bliss. I had wanted to buy Sony equipment
the first time I actually bought my audio equipment but it
happened to be too expensive and Pioneer, well, Pioneer wasn't
The magic word was CDP 997.
I spent a month working on Miranda (who is against spilling
money on things unless they're really necessary ("And a very wise
girl she is!" Miranda quote) and in the middle of December we had
a new CD player.
Indeed, the Sony CDP 997.
Set me back 800 Dutch guilders, it did. But I'd like to think
it's worth while.
Down to Earth
Perhaps it's best if I would just liberally write down the
"Overview" chapter of the manual. It contains about all the hot
little thingies this CD player can do. It's quite a lot, which is
exactly what I wanted because I didn't want to buy a new CD
player for quite a while - which is also the reason why I bought
a 5-year extended warranty that should take care of the
(hopefully) unlikely event of the thing beginning to skip tracks
Enjoy listening in various playing modes
You can select the playing modes among the following:
Continuous play - the entire disk is played once.
Shuffle play - selections are played in a random order.
Delete play - the entire disk is played with the exception of
tracks you specify.
Repeat play - selections or portion are played repeatedly.
Program play - only specific selections are player (opposite of
'delete play', actually).
Well, nothing new so far, I guess. Every CD player has this sort
of thing, perhaps with the exception of 'delete play'. Shuffle
play and that sort of thing works only for the first 24 tracks.
Editing your own tapes
You can start to play from the immediate beginning of a
selection - Auto cue.
This sounds more useful than it is. Sometimes CDs have paused
programmed between the songs. This sortof skips those, as well as
a possible silence before a song really starts but when the
seconds are already counting.
You can fade in or out the play when making your own tape
Once faded out, the CD player enters PAUSE mode. You can even
program the time used for fading and the time after which fading
should start (used in connection with recording on a tape of
which you now the length and when a CD is longer than one tape
Custom Edit functions.
You can program a pause separately on side A and B.
You can confirm the total playing time while choosing the
selections to be programmed.
This basically gets down to you determining how long the target
tape is (up to 99 minutes, which unfortunately leaves out C-110
and C-120 tapes) and the CD player automatically checking how
much fits on each side and entering PAUSE mode when you have to
swap tape sides or when you have to wait for AUTOREVERSE to be
You can designate the playing order of up to six discs.
This is nice for a party, perhaps. You can also determine
exactly how a tape to be recorded can be filled up.
The player can program selection automatically to fit a desired
duration - just edit and time edit.
This also allows you to let the CD player shuffle the order of
songs to be recorded for them to fit even more neatly on a tape.
Just edit as well as plain time edit have EDIT NAVIGATION, which
means that the dot matrix display will scroll texts giving your
instructions between each step of selecting/recording, etc.
Nicely decadent, don't you think?
You can stop the play, fading out at the time desired.
The loudest portion of the disc will be determined and played
repeatedly (peek search).
When you record to a tape you have to determine the recording
level. Peek search will find the loudest portion and play the
four seconds around it repeatedly, allowing you to specify the
recording level on the cassette deck.
Enjoy listening in various acoustic atmospheres
The Digital Signal Processor (DSP) lets you listen to selections
according to various acoustic atmospheres.
My heart aches. The CDP 997 has a DSP 56001 built in, probably
about the same as in the Falcon. This is an incredibly powerful
sound processing chip but unfortunately you cannot install all
parameters. Rather, you can have one of seven PRESETS: Hall,
Church (perhaps something for Bach's "Toccata"), Jazz Club
(excellent for instrumental guitar albums), BGM (Background
Music, for parties), Live Room, Disco (probably house 'music'
will be even less tolerable with this turned on) and Stadium
(great to crank up bootleg recordings or meagrely produced
records - "My Dying Bride" and other Gothic Doom stuff sounds
heavenly with this!). Anyway, the CD player only allows these
presets plus one that's called FLAT and turns everything back to
normal. Further, you can only determine the degree to which the
effect should be performed, with a knob.
You can play the beginning of each selection
You can check the selections by scanning the beginning of each
selection on the disc (music scan).
This plays the first x seconds (amount can be specified to be
10,20 or 30 seconds) of each selection.
Making your disc custom-made - Custom File functions
Now these are some of the reasons why I actually decided to get
down to buying a rather expensive CD player. Remember that all of
the following stuff is STORED INTERNALLY in the CD player's RAM.
When you insert a disc its appropriate settings will be copied
into the current registers.
You can assign a name to a disc, such as the title of the disc
or the date of purchase (disc memo).
You can assign a name of up to 10 characters, for a maximum of
185 CDs. The sign-on message "- NO DISC -" can also be changed (I
have "GIMME DISC" myself).
You can store the programmed playing order for a disc (program
The CD player automatically enters PROGRAM mode and plays only
the tracks you've selected. This works up to track 20, so tough
shit for Sore Throat and old Napalm Death aficionados!
You can keep your undesired selections in memory.
An option that I really love. Never again will I have to listen
to Vangelis' "Glorianna" (on "Direct"), WCW's "Only on MTV" or
Jean Michel Jarre's "September" (on "Revolutions")!
You can assign your own index point to any desired position on a
disc (custom index).
The practical use of this eludes me, although perhaps it's
useful for professionals or people who want to analyse music.
Basically you can assign 10(?) indexes to any spot on a CD and
jump to them whenever you want.
You can store the optimum playback level of each disc (level
Now this is nice and hot! The CD player has a variable line-out
that can be connected to your amp. It also has a nice knob with a
small red LED on it. Turn it around and you have another way to
turn your volume up and down without having to dabble with the
amplifier volume knob (is it 'knob' or 'dial', by the way?).
Anyway, the current setting can be attached to the bit of memory
allocated to the CD currently in the drawer. Some CDs need to be
played back louder than others. Now comes the exciting bit:
Insert a CD and you will see the knob turning itself, the little
red LED flashing while it's doing it. Electronic Orgasm! To me
this is an extremely useful options. Bootleg CDs, for example
need to be played back a bit louder.
You can select and store specific acoustic surround effects (DSP
Another useful option: When I insert, say, Jason Becker's
"Perpetual Burn" in the CD player it will automatically enter
"Jazz Club" DSP mode. My Dying Bride CDs activate "Stadium" DSP
mode. But also if you want to enjoy music like the artist
intended it, you can store "FLAT" DSP mode. Very convenient.
You can make a 3 seconds blank between selections
The blank space enables you to locate selections when using a
tape deck with Automatic Music Search function (after you have
recorded a CD on tape using this function).
The selection number, the playing time, the remaining time and
the disc name (if memo defined) can be alternately displayed on
the dot matrix display. You can also select three major display
modes: 1) Regular display + music calendar, 2) Regular display
only and 3) No display at all. Last, you can also determine the
brightness of the display (three steps).
Nicely decadent touches, don't you agree?
Further bits worth mentioning
It has an option that allows you to use commercially available
timers with it.
It has a 55-key remote control (which Sony calls Remote
Commander) that even allows the line-out volume to be controlled.
In my case this means that I finally don't have to get off my
lazy bum to turn the volume up and down as my amplifier has no
remote control. At least this should work theoretically, but
unfortunately my audio tower and my computer are located thusly
that there is no way that I can successfully aim the remote
control at the CD player.
It has direct music search.
Which means that you only have to press a button labelled "20"
instead of pressing the ">" button 20 times.
It has very fast search, as well as regular speed search (to be
compared with for-and re-winding a cassette tape).
It has an optical output possibility.
This only works if your amplifier accept that kind of input
(which mine doesn't). It's nice if you really want to get down to
unspoiled listening, but variable line-out and DSP don't work
Well, I guess that just about says it all. It's one helluva CD
player that gives you a lot - but that unfortunately costs quite
a bit as well. Sony doesn't make any more ext-and exp-ensive CD
players except those of the "Extremely Standard" series - CD
players that are not standard at all and that start at prices
just above a 1000 Dutch guilders.
Apart from the fact that the CDP 997 has all those fancy
options, it also looks utterly slick. For easily-impressed people
like me there are plenty of bells and whistles, and quite a
number of shiny LEDs to round it all off with.
Sound quality is excellent, although I have to be honest and say
that I wouldn't recognize it if it weren't quite so brilliant.
Frequency response is from 2 Hz to 20 kHz ±0.3 dB, signal to
noise ratio is more than 115 dB, dynamic range is more than 100
dB, harmonic distortion is less than 0.0025% and channel
separation is more than 110 dB (whatever all that may mean, it's
There are a couple of things I don't like about it, however. I
pray to God (in whom I actually disbelieve in a berzerkedly
zealous way) that a Sony chap will ever lay eyes on this, because
most options are easily built in I think.
So here are the cons:
You cannot determine the DSP parameters.
It's a shame that, with such an extremely powerful DSP chip
built in, one cannot actually determine the parameters more
flexibily. The presets are OK, but I want MORE! Other Sony CD
players have a 'karaoke' option which filters out most of the
vocals - I guess this would have been ultra-easy to include as a
preset but alas...
No default setting for custom file.
When you insert a disc that isn't recognized the CD player keeps
the old playback level and DSP mode. It would have been nice to
let the user determine a certain default playback level, a
default playback mode (most likely "FLAT") and a default text
(like "UNKNOWN" or "WHATTAFUK" or "?!*+&").
You can only assign a 10-character name to a disc.
I realise it's basically a memory problem but RAM is very cheap
nowadays - certainly 16 characters would have been possible?
The font size is really odd.
The font size is 7x7. Normally that's no problem but the lower
case characters look like, excuse my words, shit. They shouls
have used 8x8, that way everything could have looked just like
the ST in low res mode.
Tape length cannot exceed two digits.
This is still OK if you want to tape to a C-100 tape - although
these contain something like 102-104 minutes of music rather than
the maximum allowed CDP 997 range of 99. And I'm not even talking
about C-110 and C-120 tapes here.
A movable music calendar (with an ability to scroll up and down
up to, let's say, 64 or 128 items) would have been handy.
This would have required three additional buttons (up, down,
default) and another 44 or 108 bytes of RAM (possibly less).
The music calendar does not actually indicate the song currently
Although the song currently being played is mentioned in the
regular bit of the display, it would have been nice of song
currently being played would blink in the music calender.
Especially in SHUFFLE play mode this is not immediately apparent.
It's splitting hairs, I know, but for such an expensive high-end
CD player I think it would have been nice.
There isn't much more to say. I have bragged enough. I have
criticised enough. Now it the time to call it a day - or, rather,
this an article.
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.