Optiarc DVD AD-7560 - audio skipping

I have a Sony Vaio FZ445 which has problems with the Optiarc DVD AD-7560. What happens is that when playing audio CDs, the sound skips playing, but not from playing audio files, eg mp3, etc…

I have tried all the requisite diagnostics, like checking/unistalling/reinstalling the IDE channels to see if the mode is DMA or PIO, and installing and reinstaling the drivers and firmware (DX14) updates for the drive. It still happens and looks like I need a new DVD drive. I have XP Pro and Ubuntu 9 and it does this in both OS’s (which affirms my suspicion that its not a codecs or driver issue)

So, my question is - am I limited to using only a new Sony DVD drive to replace it? and… is it easy to replace these drives yourself?

any guides or links would be greatly appreciated.