OK, first of all, I did compare it to the Elyse DAC and it is SO close. The Elyse is only a slight bit better in terms of overall resolution and detail.
I have compared the Marantz SA8005 with mods to the Sony XA-5400ES with mods and my entire staff agrees that there is no comparison. The Marantz is so much more open and resolving. Everything just sounds more live and natural.
Now, as this relates to the Oppo 105, the Sony 5400ES and Oppo 105/105D use essentially the same mod board and same tube (6SN7). We ship the Oppo 105/105D with tube regulated and tube rectified PS 9.9, while we ship the Sony with PS 9.0. I have always felt that the Sony and Oppo were very close, giving the edge slightly to the Sony in terms of overall detail and resolution. When asked, I would tell people that if they wanted more detail, and listened to Classical over Jazz, then I would pick the Sony. If customers told me that they listened to more vocals and Jazz, I would recommend the Oppo. It is slight, but the Oppo is just a bit warmer in its overall presentation than the Sony. However, the Sony did not offer a digital input or, USB for DSD playback. The Oppo 105 does and so does the The Marantz!
Having said all of that, the Marantz is simply in a different league! It is all about resolution, clarity and getting closer to the music. It is NOT bright or edgy in the slightest. Soundstage is huge, both wide AND tall. I can't describe it any other way. When comparing the Marantz to the Sony (and by extrapolation, the Oppo), the soundstage is simply MUCH bigger. Kristin commented that she could pinpoint instruments and singers on the stage clearly, while with the Sony it was more diffuse.
The tube stage does use a different tube. The 5687 and 6SN7 have a very different tone. The 6SN7 has a characteristic 'fat tone' which many people like. The 5687 tube is more linear and operates with much lower distortion. Both circuits measure phenomenally in terms of THD and frequency response. The 5687 circuit in the Marantz, borrowing heavily from R&D from our SWL 9.0 Anniversary Edition preamp (5687 based) is elegant and far less complex than the 6SN7 circuit used in the Sony and Oppo mods.
Just to clarify, the reason all of the comparisons are being made to the Sony. I have a modified Sony here but I do not have an Oppo on hand at the moment. Also, the Sony is another Music Only player, and as such, is a relevant comparison to the Marantz. To be clear however, the overall performance of the Sony and Oppo are so close, that I feel the comparison of the Marantz with tube mods to the modified Sony to be equally applicable to the Oppo.
I have learned a lot in the last two years, having worked with the Ambrose tube amp designs, the all-tube PH 150 Reference Phono and new all-tube SWL 9.0 Anniversary Edition preamp. I have applied all of this knowledge to the Marantz SA8005 tube mod. The results are exciting!
I am listening to music via SPDIF input to the Marantz this morning from my computer based music library and it sounds fantastic!
We never stop innovating and this is an exciting new level of performance!