Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Review: Sony D-111 (1992)

Sony D-111
This review is part of a larger comparison containing seven eight vintage portable CD players and the penultimate of these reviews. You can find the final conclusion here.


The Sony D-111 hit the market in 1992 and was the successor to the D-202, at least here in Europe where the D-101 wasn´t available. The D-111 was part of the famous product line celebrating the tenth anniversary of the CD. All members of this line-up, the D-111, D-211, D-311, featured a curved design scheme, alluding to the circular CD. In my personal opinion the D-111 and the D-311 are the beauties of this set, the D-211 isn´t up to the standard of the others. A sidemark: I´d have loved to include the D-311 for this large comparison of several portable CD players... but I cannot. Oh, I own a D-311 - but it´s broken, either its drive or the mainboard are to fault, I don´t know. The display lights up, the disc starts to spin but the player is unable to find it and shuts off after ten seconds. It is rumored to sound wonderful but the only thing I´m able to say about this pure-metal-thingy is that its product finish is the best I´ve ever seen. Which cannot be said about the D-111. The plastic shell feels cheap, buttons and the lid creak, switches wobble. And the size of it... this thing is huge! Sony could have easily designed a smaller housing, its PCB and drive would fit perfectly into the much smaller D-202.

Sony D-111, side view
Being the cheapest model, it didn´t come with a cabled remote like its predecessor. It also lacked rechargable batteries. Apart from that it shares many parts with the other aforementionend models. The drive (KSS-330) is also used on the D-202 and the D-211. Line-out amp (NJM2100M) and signal processor (CXD2500AQ) are shared with the D-202, D-211, D-311 & D-515. D/A-converter (CXD8426M) and headphone amp (BA3570FS) differ though. I don´t know if these things were responsible for its audio performance. You know, I buy these things to find something unique, something with character or something that is the epitome of perfection. This model however has been a huge disappointment.

Sony D-111, close-up
Listening test

Blown-up upper bass / lower mids are the first things readily audible, I think I´d even go as far and call this player bloated & veiled. Sub-bass is diminished, mids are recessed, very high frequencies are muted. All of this impacts dynamics: bass is soft like a sofa cushion, misses snap, punch and tightness, the same goes for treble. Stage is opaque, lacking transparency and focus. Size and position of instruments are lost in the mix. Everything that´s placed to the center seems to step back a few inches... which produces the weird effect of witnessing something akin to a 'hole in the stage'. Madonna and Jay Kay sound fairly distant, as if coming from far away, the same fate meets solo instruments. General width is exaggerated at the cost of impression of depth... but not for every frequency area. Especially bass and lower mids are very wide and spacious, frequencies above aren´t. Sounds uneven and weird. I cannot even talk about resolution, definition or intelligibility, they´re almost absent. All of this should have produced a calm and pleasant sounding player; not so. Despite its lack of precision and attack it still sounds nervous and slightly sibilant. I cannot recommend it for anyone, it is one of the worst sounding players I´ve ever encountered.

Sonic Balance:
Stage / Ambiance:

Listen for yourself!

In this section you can compare my reference files to the recorded output of the Sony D-111. I´ve uploaded several 30-seconds excerpts (fully legal) to Soundcloud for you to compare. This an example of transparency you won´t find anywhere else; what magazine offers audio examples of the device it reviews? These examples also serve to show how close to the source itself any device sounds when level differences are eliminated. I fully expect that some of my assessments might sound arbitrary to you, that is because differences with sources are tiny in reality. But please remember that EVERY other reviewer in the world faces the same problem. When you hit 'play' the files will be streamed to you in 128 kBit/s mp3, badly encoded. Therefore, I strongly advise you to download the files, they´re in 24/96 FLAC. With these files you not only have the highest quality possible, you´re also able to have a look at the aliasing performance of the Sony D-111 if you want.

Update 30.03.15: Soundcloud used to host the audiofile containing the compression artifacts. But just this day, Soundcloud decided to delete everything I ever uploaded because their automated content protection system detected several breaches of copyright.
Well, of course it did! For my reviews I need to listen to music and in order to make sound differences available to you, dear Reader, I uploaded several samples, each of them - at max - 30 seconds long. Naturally, this isn´t a breach of copyright, because a) I don´t have a commercial agenda nor background for this blog and b) I don´t advertise filesharers nor do I encourage to download things illegally. I don´t even want to mention, that only 30 seconds (!) of a particular song or piece are far too short to be enjoyed properly by anyone who attempts to be an illegal asshole. Yet Soundcloud fears the lables and their paranoia of copyright breaches which in turn prompts them to be paranoid and incompetent ninnies themselves.
I hate paranoia, I don´t want to have anything to do with stupid people / companies and everything was deleted anyway... so I decided to delete my Soundcloud account. Sorry for that, dear Reader.

Sony D-111

Fancy graphs (measurements)


Sony D-111, chart with RMAA quality assessments
Sony D-111, noise level
Sony D-111, total harmonic distortions + noise
Frequency response on the line-out is uninteresting and therefore not shown. More informative are the graphs for noise floor and THD + noise. RMAA is correct in assessing the latter as 'Poor', the amount of distortions generated is probably audible. The noise floor reveals a slight channel imbalance for the high midrange, while it don´t show on the frequency response graph it hints at flaws of the mainboard design.

Sony D-111, CCIF intermodulation distortions
As you can see on the graph above the IC responsible for digital-to-analogue converting and digital filtering sucks at aliasing rejection. Strong aliases at 24.100 Hz and 25.100 Hz won´t be audible but might create distortions in amplifiers susceptible to them... like tube amps for example. Since tubed amps are a stupid idea anyway (inefficient, heat-dissipating & accelerated ageing) I´d avoid them with the D-111.

Sony D-111, jitter
This amount of jitter will be audible. High frequency distortions are below -110 dB, low frequency jitter artifacts are an entirely different thing. The spread around the sine at 11.025 Hz is wide and reaches up to -90 dB, singular peaks go even higher. Bad.

Sony D-111, impulses
Symmetrical pre- and post ringing, tip pointing upwards: correct absolute phase combined with linear phase filtering. Not very successful filtering though, as exemplified by the CCIF IMD graph above. But you can see for yourself with the downloadable files above.

Headphone out

Sony D-111, frequency response, headphone out, several impedances
Sony D-111, total harmonic distortions + noise, headphone out, several impedances
Sony D-111, intermodulation distortions, headphone out, several impedances
Only one word about the headphone output: awful. The D-111 is equipped with a rotary wheel for changing the volume, this test was performed with the volume-setting-mark at '8'. I don´t know how this translates into voltages but you can see the effect for yourself on the graphs above. BTW, distortions are lower at mark '5' or '6', but since the method of turning a wheel lacks precision I wouldn´t count on them being distortion free. I think we have a headphone output with a high output impedance here; the 16 Ohm Sony MDR-W08 lacks bass while the Koss PortaPro shows its typical 80 Hz bass bump. It also causes the output to distort and while the headphones with higher impedance distort less they are still far away from good.

Sony D-111
Last update: 13.08.2013


  1. hello i found this model in mexico me only 3 dollars, and I have 7 different discman and for me this is the best sound in your audio output, but its output is horrible headphones, greetings from guadalajara, jalisco mexico

  2. Hi, guadalajara, jalisco, mexico, I found the model Panasonic SL-NP1A I found it to $ 10 in a flea market (bazaar) and woooowwwww, the other models that I have is the best sound out of headphones has, if one day you find you recommend, I have given the task of searching here in the flea market, some models and now one finds at the lowest prices. greetings from guadalajara, jalisco mexico atte. porfirio jaso villalobos

    1. :)

      I can assure you that I´ll never buy the SL-NP1A, it´s technically similar to the Technics SL-XP1. Which is worse sonically than the XP300 or the XP505. And right now, I´ve stopped reviewing CD players.


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