Pros: 400 disc capacity, CD Text Support, MP3 playback
Cons: Unit Scrambles Artist Name Assignments Making This Feature Unusable
You can read my original rating/review for this unit after this update. UPDATE: The CX455 has a design flaw that results in scrambling of artist name assignments which make this function unusable. I've had two of the CX455's, from different vendors, exhibit this flaw. Sony doesn't want to acknowledge the problem but it is almost a certainty that this is an overall design flaw--not a specific unit defect. If you are looking for the ability to assign artist names to your CD library then do not purchase the CX455: that feature doesn't work. Note that we own FIVE Sony Megachanger CD players and know what we are talking about whenever we say the CX455 is flawed. Read more if you aren't interested in artist mode assignment....
Sony owns the market for 400 disc CD changers so if you are in the market for a large capacity player then you are going to end up with a Sony unit. The Sony Mega CD Changers have been on the market now almost three years and offer great features for music lovers with lots of CD's. Before I point out the basis for my gripe on the latest model, let me tell you about its good points:
You can put up to 400 discs in this critter and never need to take them out again--especially if you take the time to manually input an album name and artist name for each CD. This can be done with the controls provided with the unit but is much easier if you temporarily attach your PC keyboard to the keyboard port provided on the front of the unit. If you've made your own copies of CD's (or purchased a Sony/Columbia CD) then you'll be able to see the album name and track names automatically. You cannot, however, manually enter track names into this unit. Artist names MUST be entered manually even if they are included on your CD Text enabled CD's. Once the album titles and artist names are entered you can then do a rough (first letter only) search for album titles. The same is true for artist names plus there is an "Artist Mode" that allows you to turn on a filter to play only albums for one particular artist--provided of course that you've manually entered the artist name for those albums. Up to eight artist names can be assigned to "Top Artist" buttons on the front panel for even quicker access to music by your favorite artists.
The unit is supposed to now playback music recorded on CD/RW media, however, I've not tried that with my unit.
MP3 files can now be decoded and played on this unit. The benefit of having MP3 files on your CD's is that you can squeeze more music onto each CD. The downside is that when you have multiple albums on one CD then you have to make a compromise as to what title you'll give that CD--Sony only allows you to enter a single title for each CD slot. Sony does include a function to skip from one album to the next (within the same MP3 CD) but you'll still have to know on which CD those multiple MP3 encoded albums are located. By the way, titles and artist names are assigned to the physical slot location--not the actual CD--so if you move a CD to another slot (there are 400 of them) the player has to be reprogrammed for that change (delete the old info, re-enter the new).
The unit has one button which provides access to three program modes for custom selection of up to 42 selections of music--either track by track, album by album or even a mix of the two. Of course if you program selections across multiple CD's then you'll have to wait for the somewhat slow changer to swap among the CD's between your songs. It takes about 10 - 20 seconds for the CD player to swap between two CD's, the time depending upon how far the carousel has to rotate. Accordingly, I find I rarely choose to play in shuffle mode "all" CD's; instead, I select "Shuffle One CD" mode.
One nice feature of the unit is the ability to scroll thru various albums (using the display) while an album is playing. In this manner you can select the "Next" album to be played without stopping the current one. You cannot "hot swap" discs while one is playing. Opening the carousel door to add or remove CD's requires that no CD's be playing. I find this a bit annoying.
The unit has all basic functions you'd expect on a CD player: Play one, play all, shuffle one, shuffle all, repeat one, repeat all, repeat off and a switchable time display for track cummulative, track remaining and album remaining. It also displays the slot number for the selected CD along with a display that can be switched between album title and track title. Again, you have to have a CD with CD Text support to see track titles. The remote control for the unit provides for most common functions but you cannot use the remote to scan ahead for the next album to be played--you must go to the unit and rotate the "Disc Jog" dial for this function.
These units have proven to be reliable for me and my friends. I now own three units (one is nearly three years old and my 2nd is going on age two) and my friends have multiple units. No one, to my knowledge, has had one fail. My oldest unit does sometimes have to be unplugged briefly, presumably to reset the microprocessor, whenever it fails to play a selected CD. This hasn't been a problem with the newer units.
I'll caution you that these are very large in size--the front width is a standard component size but the front to back size (depth) is larger than most picture-tube type TV's. Make sure you have room for one of these before purchase. They are not heavy and do not seem to generate much heat.
You can purchase a simple A1 control cable at some place like Radio Shack and connect two of the Sony units together. This will give you a few added functions like the ability to quickly transition from one track to another with minimum delay and to have only one input to your amplifier (the two units daisy chain their audio connections thru one unit) but for the most part I've found this option to seem more useful than it really is. I've had two units connected for nearly two years now and I rarely use the "Mega Control" function.
Those people who don't already own a Sony Mega Changer probably will think this new unit is the cat's meow--actually it is a fantastic piece of technology that eliminates the need for constant exchange of CD's from jewel case storage to their CD player. Unfortunately, the changes Sony made eliminated one of the functions most used by me on my other Sony Mega CD Changers. Had I read about this change before purchase I would have probably opted to pay more for one of the few remaining "older" players that remain among some store's older stocks.
Those of you who, like me, already have one or more of the Sony Mega Changers--BEWARE OF THIS NEW MODEL: It no longer has the function that allows assigning disc slots to one of 8 "Group" buttons. The Model CDP CX-455 provides for three new features over its predecessors the CX-400 and CX-450: MP3 functionality, CD/RW read compatibility and an enhanced time display for track & disc time data. Unfortunately, the player eliminates one of the three custom files that were available on earlier models: the "Group" file.
It was a major surprise to me to open the box containing our CX-455, look at the small print above what looked to be identical "Group" buttons only to find that Sony had made a major change in the unit's function options. The eight "Group" buttons now only allow fast access to a particular artist. For those of you not familiar with the Sony players, note that Sony allows you to manually input up to 200 artist names in the player's memory and then assign one of these names to each CD slot. You can then enter the "Artist Mode" and search/filter your collection by artist name. The older units offered an additional option: the ability to assign one of eight customizable group names (jazz, rock, folk, etc.) to any one of eight buttons on the front panel of the CD player. Selection of one of these "groups" resulted in the CD player showing only CD's that fit into that group--in effect it was an instant filter. Those eight buttons have been changed on the new CX-455 to allow only assignment of an artist name--the group filter is no longer present. This option is merely a duplication of the artist mode function that is on the player. The long and short of it is that Sony has eliminated one of the custom files previously available to assist users in organizing their music library. Granted, you could substitute a music category like jazz, rock, folk, etc. for the artist name but then you'd lose the ability to search/filter by artist name for those albums.
Note that Sony appears to have discontinued distribution of the older players like CDP CX-400 and CDP CX-450 so if you want the function of the older units you'd better hurry! Earlier models offered the ability to assign one of eight customizable category buttons to each CD slot (400 slots). This allowed for quick filtering of play selections into custom "categories" of music such as pop, rock, jazz, folk, etc. The new CX-455 eliminated that function. Those eight buttons now just provide for fast access to a particular artist name--a function that is mostly a duplication of the existing artist mode selection that existed on earlier models and still exists on this one. All the 8 buttons do now is to provide for faster access to one of eight "Top Artist" names. No more category files--a major loss of functionality for lovers of a wide variety of music types.
I wonder if anyone at Sony asked the public what they wanted before making these product changes?