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!

8 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…..


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