P8i not reading sacd layer

My p8i usually happily defaults to sacd on hybrid discs and duly lights up purple, but today seems to be stuck on the cd layer. With or without a disc, the setup menu ‘layer’ option will only let me choose CD, not showing SACD as an option, and the remote Cd/sacd button similarly does nothing. Any ideas? I don’t normally fiddle with anything, just slide in a disc and go, so hoping it’s something silly…

Hi Roger and welcome to the community. I am sorry to hear of your issue but this is a problem inherent to old silver disc mechanisms. In your case, a slightly more complex situation exists as it is a dual laser CD/SACD mechanism.

The laser in an optical pickup unit is a consumable item like a stylus in an LP spinner. It is just that the average number of hours it is usable for is typically far longer than for a stylus. Read that as lasers plural for proper CD/SACD mechanisms.

As a laser gets older and its total use increases its power decreases. Hybrid CD/SACD discs have two data layers ( one for each medium) and as the lasers age one may continue to read its dedicated layer but not the other.

The usual remedy is to replace the optical pickup unit. That is OK if the type needed is still available but that is not always the case and availability becomes limited as time passes and spares for early mechanisms can be very hard or impossible to locate. Unfortunately the P8i used a Philips mechanism but that company pulled out of the OEM market basically leaving everyone high and dry regarding certain products including this one.

I would contact Support at dCS as see if they can offer any help. Sorry but from here his does not look like a simple fix that you can undertake at home.

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Thanks for that informative response Pete. It doesn’t sound promising. I know he price of the p8i pales into insignificance compared to some other docs products, but at the time I naively thought that £6500 would buy me a player for life whose software would also be kept up to date (but that didn’t happen either - eg the promised software release to enable upsampling of a digital input signal was only made available on mkii). I only recently found out there was a Mkii upgrade option that inter alia replaced the Philips drive with a TEAC - but users had to find out about this somehow - dcs never reached out to owners actively offering it… When Musical Fidelity brought out their trivista amps, they bought out the stock of trivista valves to hold as spares for their users; you’d have thought dcs might have done something similar when the Philips issue arose. I’ll reach out to dcs support to see what options are on the table…

…and basically got a complete brush off from dcs support saying there’s nothing they can do. I’m disgusted.

I am sorry to learn this. However your use of the word “basically” implies that dCS may have made some kind of offer which was, however, possibly not in line with your expectations.

Whatever transpired I do understand their position on spares . As with all mechanisms made by third parties the availability of spares depends upon that third party. This situation applies to virtually all silver disc players from all manufacturers once they become legacy items. These days few dedicated spares are still available for elderly silver disc spinners although Chinese copies of some OPUs have appeared but not for this model. Otherwise once a model is withdrawn and the stock of spares kept by the manufacturer becomes exhausted there is little further to be done. Remember that the P8i went out of production circa 20 years ago.

Firmware upgrades for dCS units are free but only during the production life of the product. This can be, by industry standards, many years. However when products are withdrawn this often means that the platform no longer has the basic technology sufficiently advanced to enable installing the new developments.Hence the need for a replacement model or range. Similar restrictions apply in regard to any hardware upgrades ( though a cost may be involved) with a further limitation regarding parts availability from third parties.

This why I and many others recommend that in most circumstances music storage should now made on a computer ( e.g. using NAS etc.) with replay via a DAC with suitable ports to connect it. Incidentally I made the decision to do this some years ago with my dCS transport now reserved for occasional use, for example when a visiting friend brings round a disc. I would strongly suggest that you look into this aspect. If you want assistance on methods of computer storage replay and how to store your existing CD collection hen feel free to PM me. It can be relatively inexpensive. Nevertheless with digital technology and modern manufacturing technology and methods eventually even such a DAC may need replacement. The situation given modern items where a guy with a soldering iron can replace individual components no longer exists I am afraid.

dCS made no offer of assistance whatsoever, simply saying they can’t get the parts for either mk 1 or 2. They still advertise their products as being upgradeable and lasting for “years and decades” - that was also the expectation at the time I bought into this, but is patently not the case. At the time the mk1 p8i was sold, mine being in 2005, there was also the communication that a software release, at a cost, would enable upsampling from the digital input - I believe that also never materialised as it got bundled into the mk2 (and the potential upgrade from mk1 to mk2 to that was not systematically communicated to customers). Your point about music storage on hard disc is well made and thanks for that, it’s one way forward (though the concentration risk on failure presumably introduces the need for redundancy etc), although my starting point on all of this was in fact a downsizing of my hifi to a two box system with the p8i as its core rather than introducing complexity or spending more.

I think for a high end vendor at premium pricing, dCs has not served its p8i customer base well. They could have come up with a third upgrade package to a current transport (sacd players are still being offered so there must be assemblies in manufacture), or found a way of enabling the upsampling input so that it could at least survive as a more useful DAC. I would contrast them with a luxury car manufacturer, who find ways of keeping their oldest models going despite the parts and technology evolution issues.

Again, thanks for your valuable input on this… I may well seek your advice on disc storage at some point as offered!

I used to own a P8i a long time ago, loved that machine. I eventually sold it to a friend who had similar problems that you seem to be having. He ultimately found a Phillips SD5.2 laser assembly and got it replaced by a local tech in Hong Kong, that seemed to solve his problems. Might be worth giving it a try if you have nothing much to lose;

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Well found. I did mention that there are some Chinese copies becoming available though if this one it is the first I have seen. Either way original or copy it is ,as you say, worthwhile Roger trying as there is nothing to lose.

The issue then becomes getting a tech who can fit it. These do exist in the UK which is where I assume he is. Whilst not exactly cost free it’s going to be well worth the expense given his situation. Just make sure it is someone specialising in audio.

One thing I should mention as it hails from the USA. Since Brexit the rules for personal importation ( i.e. not via a portal such as Amazon) to the UK has been difficult or practically impossible due to the way HMRC had decided to collect VAT . This was that the foreign vendor had to register for UK VAT. Otherwise when the package arrived in the UK it would be returned. Many (most I have approached) just refused to deal with UK customers. I looked at HMRC website recently and it looked as if the old method has returned where the UK carrier e.g. Royal Mail collected duty, VAT and any customs charge from the recipient. Very straightforward in practice. As this seems to me to be a volte face Roger may want to check with HMRC and the vendor first just to make sure I have this correct.

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I think Pete is probably right about personal imports: during 2022 I bought a watch online from a Japanese retailer, and was contacted by the shipping company when it arrived in the UK in order to pay the duty and VAT. It went failrly smoothly. More recently I bought some cables direct from a US company who themselves pay the VAT to HMRC (out of my pocket, not theirs!) and the cables arrived at my door in two days with no stops for customs.

For the cables there was no import duty levied: just VAT on the sum of the cable cost + shipping.

I hope the P8i can be restored to good health. I too have a dCS transport, but I also copy all the CDs and SACDs to a hard drive on the assumption that one day I may not be able to play the discs any more.

A thought: did those HMRC rules about collection of VAT only apply to goods from our EU neighbours, or were they universal?

Your experience seems to reflect my expectations but as some companies outside of the UK with, I suspect ,a reasonably large UK customer base may have registered for UK VAT but others not. I would advise that checks are made in respect of any particular item and vendor concerned.

The rules applied post January 31 2022 ( hope I got the date right) were reported in the papers as being one of the necessary steps relating to Brexit. However the wording of the HMRC rule mentioned no particular states so it seems basically applicable universally. This is the current situation:

As you can see from the opening sentence the old regime where Royal Mail or other courier collects duty and VAT etc. from you is back.

Yes, no duty is payable on cables. Application of the correct Commodity Code makes this clear and I received a refund when I pointed this out.

Do bear in mind that few EU online vendors make a provision that VAT is now paid in the UK and not in their territory. The result being that you pay VAT in the EU country then again in the UK ( the calculation of UK VAT also includes the EU VAT as part of the base sum!).

I do hope that @RogerF ( owner of the P8i) takes up the opportunity to get hold of a new OPU as kindly located by @Anupc earlier in this thread.

Thanks very much Anup for this. I’d seen a mk2 on ebay but not this for my mk1. I’ve ordered it straight away, as it’s well worth the gamble on vat etc… Quite how I find someone who can fit it is another question - I can always ask dCs if they know of independent techs but I won’t hold my breath… I’ll find some auto diy forums and ask around.

This is one of the best known audio repairers. I am still assuming that you are in the UK. He has been doing this for decades:

https://www.londonsound.org/

My friend contacted him a year or so back and although at that time he could not take on the extra work I recall that he was able to suggest substitutes.

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Thanks Pete. Yes, I’m in the UK, ironically not that far from dCs. I’ll contact him…

I can recommend a repairer in Norwich if its any use to you.

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What a wonderful example of the usefulness and friendliness of this forum! To Pete and Anup especially, I have learned a lot from you both and thank you for that.

I had never even heard of a P8i! While I believe that 15+ years is a long lifetime for a CD player (I have an Electrocompaniet ECD-1 and an even older EAD Ultradisc 2000, the latter of which is showing its vintage at times), and can understand dCS’s point of view, I will say that I was mildly disappointed with them based on what Roger stated.

Anyway, great job Pete and Anup! Thank you for your active participation on this forum. Stay well.

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Yes please Graham, that’s actually an easier drive as I’m near Ipswich, and it would be good to have two responses…