The original Sony PlayStation hit Western shelves in late 1995 and took the gaming world by storm, selling over 100 million units worldwide.
It was my personal introduction to the world of gaming and not only did many people love the little grey machine for its games but also its ability to play audio CDs, despite the awkward user interface.
The first three Sony consoles all provided some of the most affordable ways to enjoy digital media for their time. The original PlayStation played CDs, the PS2 played DVDs, and the PS3 helped introduce Blu-ray to the masses.
In the decades since its release, the original Sony PlayStation has gained a reputation as being a bit of a hidden gem in the budget hi-fi world, with countless users online showcasing their modded units sat lovingly alongside their other separates.
Some mods I’ve seen online are as simple as adding a custom clear lid so you can see the CD spinning inside as it plays or adding a spirit-level bubble into the chassis to help tell if the unit is on a level surface.
Others have gone absolutely whole-hog and turned their humble gaming system into an integrated amplifier lookalike, tubes-n-all.
In some online circles, you’ll hear talk of how the earliest editions of Sony PlayStation are very capable, smooth-sounding CD players. To others, it’s all a bit of an urban myth that rears its head every so often, clouded by collective nostalgia for the machine.
So why the original model? I own a few later models of PlayStation myself, with these revised versions generally performing better and having fewer playback issues in-game. The original models such as the SCPH-1001 (USA) or SCPH-1002 (UK and Europe), however, feature different internal components as well as RCA audio outputs, meaning you could use your own audio cables to incorporate the PS1 into your wider system.
Another reason some users state is that the early models supposedly included a higher quality internal DAC than their successors, with Sony possibly opting to focus on components that would improve visual performance, rather than audio performance. This would seem logical – it is a video game console, after all.
Some users claim that the original PlayStation performs as well as a contemporary CD player worth many thousands of pounds... While claims of this magnitude may be slightly exaggerated, there’s no doubt the now-classic Sony PlayStation has a place in many people’s hearts (and some hi-fi racks) as a decent little CD player in its own right. Paired with the handy wireless PS2 remote, the original PlayStation becomes a nifty little player.
In recent years, music streaming and wireless headphones have taken over from entry-level hi-fi separates. Considering this gap in the market, it’s no wonder people are still looking for fun, affordable, and creative solutions to get their CD fix.
We reviewed the PS1 back when it originally launched, judging it solely on its audio CD-playing capabilities – which was of course its secondary function. Granted, our opinion of the PlayStation as a CD player wasn’t the highest back in '95, we gave it a two-star review at the time, but if you know where to look you could find yourself a bargain unit for a fun passion project.
Even if you don’t like how your favourite CDs sound on the Sony PlayStation, at least the startup sound will still blow your head off.
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