Studio analog staple, Sony CDR-W33


I know, I know, but before you tell me how old these machines are, hear me out!  24 bit A/D, D/A converters, Sony’s well-received Super Bit Mapping filter, on board digital EQ and limiter, along with a bunch of other CD burning goodies like CD-text, track marking, along with fades in and out.  Remember, this was years before Alesis’s Masterlink CD burner.

Unfortunately for Sony, these machines were launched right before all the digital file transfer, sharing, and hard disk recording went wild.  It’s funny how everyone disliked the “sterile” sound of early digital recordings and analog transfers, but this unit was ahead of its time for just that remedy.   The recorder is PC keyboard compatible for all functions.  This thing is a jewel.  So much so, I have since read how some well-known artists and engineers still use it for its converters alone.

I see the secret has been out for awhile now, and it is getting harder to find at lower prices on Ebay.   I snatched up three for a song and a dance some time ago,  and they all work fine.  They are fantastic for converting any vinyl you may want to get in the digital domain, as well.  They also made its big brother, the CDR-W66, which had a few digital clock options, as well as XLR inputs/outputs.  Catch one while you still can!

26 thoughts on “Studio analog staple, Sony CDR-W33”

  1. Hi Skip,

    It is gratifying — and even kind of exciting — to see you validate an old piece of hardware that I bought in 2001, i.e. the last time I made a go of putting together a home studio. Looks like I chose well at the time in getting the CDR-W33 and a Mackie 1202VLZ-PRO mixer as my foundation. I still have my receipts: I paid $450 for the CDR-W33 in 2001!

    I’m more determined this time, am making another go of it, and would much appreciate your opinion on the feasibility of using the the digital limiter and EQ on the CDR-W33 for initial mix down from mic sources (mixer –> CDR-W33 –> optical input on Mac). You noted the good A/D converter, but have you used the DSP features for mix down and, if so, is it sufficient and flexible enough for semi-pro results? Should I just use the A/D converter and look at getting an external digital compressor and EQ (which I don’t have)? I don’t want to spend hours trying to use it for compression and EQ if you think there’s better prosumer gear (hardware or plug-ins) for that that I should spend my time learning on, such as ART or PreSonus.

    P.S. I love the small studio feel you’ve brought to the website.

  2. Hi Bryce, I think you made a great decision! Despite living in the age of Mp3’s, memory sticks and convenient portable file storage, CD’s are still hanging in there as a choice for many independent musicians and performers for promotion. Ironically, Sony was a little too late but certainly not too little when it released the CDR-W33.

    I have three, and they are still humming along. I really think their super bit mapping magic made a difference when converting 24bit to 16bit for CD. I have had several ways of completing that task, but my files have always sounded better through the Sony’s set of convertors. I also have an Alesis Masterlink (another forgotten relic), but the Sony has always done the job better, in my opinion. I have used the DSP for eq and compression which is a bit clunky to use, but the results are good. Though, I think it’s most useful for these digital adjustments while mixing to the finished two track recording to CD. I will say that since I am a real analog proponent I prefer to do those adjustments with analog equipment, then mix my tracks down to 16bit 44.1 through the Sony.

    I record to a stand alone 24 track digital hard disk recorder and only edit in the box, occasionally some mixing as well. Like you, I still much prefer an analog mixer to do my mixing, when it’s feasible. I think you are on the right track, but remember, you will need to use the digital outputs (Toslink or coaxial) from the Sony into the Mac in order to use the converters! You might find it more convenient (and more fun) to add an analog compressor and eq to your chain after the Mackie and before going through the Sony’s converters (if you are using the Sony only for A/D conversion to the Mac), instead of using any digital processing. Once you are in the Mac you can do as much digital shaping as you like with software, so I would see no need to purchase any stand alone digital equipment. It’s coming back out of the Mac and mixing down to stereo two track for CD (16 bit 44.1) where the Sony provides its magic! So if you have no need to mix down to CD for your finished product, then the Sony can’t provide you with its real advantage! It’s in the bit conversion (dithering process) to CD where that magic happens with this machine!

    ART makes a very affordable tube compressor (Pro VLA) and the older models, if in good shape, are actually quite good. Analog eq’s can get expensive, although from what I have read the Mackie will most likely be great for broad adjustments, which may be all you will need. Thanks for posting your question and good luck with rebuilding your studio! Feel free to comment or ask questions anytime,


  3. I too am into recording at home and have also bought a Sony cd rw33 cd burner paid just over $100. I have had lower end Sony burners and am curious how this cd rw33 will do. I have an hhb 800 and 830 model. The laser just don’t hold up very long.I am currently working a cassette deck that can convert mono recordings into stereo recordings and so far I have manage to remove 90 percent of the vocals on the Beatles Love me Do, then double track. Why a cassette deck? (1) the deck is analog (2) it wont cost an arm and a leg to replace it if I fry it.Thanks for your insight.

    1. Hi Victor,
      It sounds like you got a deal on the Sony CDR-W33. They are getting harder to find in good shape. I still standby the converters in these units and the SBM Sony came up with for these machines is pretty cool. Once these units are gone there will be nothing of its kind that will replace them. Mixing down from analog to these units is a wonderful experience!
      Thanks for your comments!

  4. Skip,

    I have one of these units that I have been using as a mixdown deck since I bought it new in 2002 or so. Lately I have been having trouble with the drawer, opening when i turn the unit on, refusing to stay closed when I close it. Also the sound seems to be deteriorating. I have loved the machine, but am wondering if it’s time to replace it. Are these simple repairs my local authorized Sony guy can do. Am I going down the rabbit hole with a machine this old? Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks.


    1. Hi Bob,
      Given that most of these machines are now more than 15 years old, its no surprise that many are starting to have issues of some kind. I have acquired 3 units over the years because of various problems and issues. Sometimes belts, some times the drives but the usually the bulk of the electronics are fine. Best that you can do is to find a competent repair person, but that may not be easy. If you do, let me know!! Having said that, I have be through a few myself and there is not a lot to them and they are set up to repair in modules. Pretty easy to swap parts and pieces and go on your way.

      Lately I am starting to realize that it may be prudent to find a new champion to use on mixdown because time is not on our side. I am still dragging my feet though because I know that nothing can replace these wonderful machines!

      1. Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. I am in Western Mass, and not knowing where you are located, well… do you know anyone out here?


        1. Hi Bob, apologizes for the late reply. The only place that I see this machine pop up fairly often is Ebay. Many are past studio units which might be overworked given their age but occasionally I see privately owned units for sale. Knowing if all functions still work is the main concern when purchasing. Its a crap shot for sure…..


  5. Skip,

    I have a CDR-W33 that I have loved using for years. Lately, I have had trouble with the drawer. It opens when I turn the unit on, and seems not to want to stay closed. I have coaxed it into working in different ways, but it is worsening. It also seems that the sound is deteriorating on recordings. I am wondering if it is time to replace it, or if these are simple fixes that my local Sony guy can do. I worry about going down the rabbit hole with subsequent repairs, etc. Thanks,


    1. Bob, I apologize as know this is an old post but I will answer anyway. The drawer issue is not unusual for these units. Its easy to gain access to the transport and once you do it would be good to lubricate the rails the tray and draw rides on. It sounds as if the unit is not closing all the way, therefore reopening.

      The sound deterioration issue may not be as simple. These units are old enough at this point that there is really no support for repairs. I have never had one with issues with sound playback. I would check the front end devices you are using for both input and output and make sure there isn’t another piece of equipment in the chain causing the sound problem. If you do indeed have a Sony tech to help, I think it is worth the cost to repair. There is no longer anything being made that equals this machine in performance!

  6. Any clue how to manually release the tray on a CDR-W33 when the drive belt has failed? Not sure if the belt is broken, or simply loose. Not having much luck figuring how to manually opening the tray.

    Many thanks!

    1. Hi Bob, The only way I know of opening the tray manually is by removing the cover off the unit. The disk drive is fairly typical and once you gain access you can check on the belt. If it is the original then most likely it needs a new one. I have actually been able to use a rubber band as a temporary drive belt to great success!
      The most difficult part of this procedure is removing all the tiny screws that hold the unit cover on!

  7. Cover off is where I’m having trouble with further progress. I have the cover off with the drive exposed, tray fully retracted and inside the CDR-W33 drive. I’m unable to release the tray to gain access to the belt.

    I’m not finding any of the tray release features I’m used to… a hole to insert a pin, an exposed gear to turn, a slot with a catch to slide to open.

    Is there possibly a way I can show you a photo or two, or better still, meet you for a quick chat with video on Zoom? I’m thinking we might take the discussion off line for just a bit and I can post the solution here when resolved.

    Stay safe and well!

  8. Figured out how to open the tray…

    There’s a small slot located about 1-1/2″ in from the left edge of the CD tray. The slot is in the gap between the bottom of the CD tray and the top of the control panel with “Continue”, “Shuffle” and related buttons.

    Find the slot and use a thin tool such as a dental pick to turn the pully assembly visible inside the slot… Turn the mechanism to the right.

    Good eyes and light really help finding the slot and the mechanism to turn.

    Best regards,

  9. I should make it clear.. the is no need to remove the drive cover or to do any other disassembly. All access is with the unit fully assembled.

  10. Thanks for posting your findings with your belt replacing adventure Bob. Glad the Sony is back in service.

  11. Always nice to pass along the discoveries! Hope to save the next person some time!

    Many thanks as well for your acknowledgement!

    Stay safe and well,

  12. I have one of these magnificent beasts, still working well, except… the sound quality of my recordings seems to be deteriorating over time. This is most noticeable in A-B tests pitting the Sony against a Tascam RW-901 Mk II. I took it to my local electronics guy, and he could not hear the degradation (older ears than mine I suppose), and offered no help. Any thoughts on this, and on whether there is something I can do to get the recorded sound closer to original quality levels?

  13. There are getting older and have multiple electrolytic capacitors on the pcb. These would be suspect in my experience.

    I’ve re-capped a Symetrix 528E with noticeable reduction in hum and noise. I’ve replaced selected failed electrolytic caps in similar vintage amateur radio gear. Some caps failed with leakage onto the pcb eroding traces… others have had significantly reduced capacitance.

    Your luck may vary!

    Good luck,

  14. Hi Bob,
    Filter caps are always a good place to start but not being an electronics specialist, its just an educated guess. There could be countless components that could be the culprit. This is the sad reality with these machines being 20 years old or more.

    Filters caps last for very long periods of time if they remain in service and charged from time to time over the years. If the unit was stored for a very long period of time without the caps being charged, they can suffer and dry out from lack of use.

  15. Bob L. here again… I made the anonymous post including reference to the re-capped Symetrix 528E above.

    Please don’t limit your investigation of electrolytic caps to just the filter caps…

    Using a photo found here for reference:

    Loads of filter caps on the left side of the pcb. A sprinkling of others more to the center of the board. It appears that Sony may have used a few electrolytic caps as AC coupling caps in the signal path as well. In any case, the pcb is liberally sprinkled with electrolytics.

    If taking the trouble to replace some of these, I’d replace all of them. Not that much additional cost or effort once you have access to the bottom of the pcb as required to replace even one cap..

    In my experience, replacing all is worth doing if you plan to keep the device long term. This is true especially if the via where the caps are soldered are sufficiently large to make removal possibly without undue risk to pcb traces.

    The Sony pcb appears to be single sided which also makes the remove and replace VERY MUCH easier. You can probably get by using just solder wick and a bit of patience!

    Anyway, you need to decide how much effort you want to put into the task… I’ve fully re-capped the Symetrix, a 1970 vintage Drake TR4 transceiver and power supply, a similar vintage Autek audio filter and several other devices… It’s always remarkably satisfying to have a vintage device that looks and performs as new… and that is likely to last for another couple of decades without issues.

    Good luck! Please let us know what you decide and how it goes for you?


  16. Want to thank all of you for your responses. My next step is to look into the cost of replacing all the capacitors. I’ll keep you posted.

    Bob C.

  17. Hi folks,

    I’ve sold my CDR-W33… it has moved on to a good new home and an excellent buyer!

    That said, I just listed my other recorder on ebay, a CDR-W66… user name c310driver,

    Contact me here if you are interested in a sale off of ebay.

    Many thanks!

Leave a Reply