Originally Posted by Welly Wu
To my ears, SA-CD and DVD-Audio do these things really well: resolution, dynamic range, clarity, immediacy, and multi-channel. DVD-Audio is uber hi-rez and it is fatiguing to listen to. It is very dynamic, forward, ultra clear, and precise, but the catalog is essentially very limited at under ~1,000 titles and not all DVD-Audio discs are at 24bit/192kHz. SA-CD is better in that it is an audio only format that has a sort of hybrid "digital & analog" sound. It has the transient speed, resolution, dynamic range of digital and the warmth or "fat sound" of analog together, but it is not that much better than CD.
CDs do dynamic range and transient speed changes with greater realism than SA-CD, but lose out to DVD-Audio. Resolution is its biggest fault compared to both, but with an upsampling CD player it is pretty much on even grounds. Immediacy is just right without being too forward like both hi-rez formats that strive to put you at the edge of your seat. The CD format is here to stay for at least the next five years; I can't be sure that either SA-CD or DVD-Audio will. That alone should be enough to make your decision.
I hope that even redbook standard survives. What recording industry really wants in the future is to sell us compressed MP3 files with Draconian DRM so that no copying/transferring is possible. One step further, they want to not sell the music file to us at all. They would prefer to let us pay a fee every time we stream a song real-time from their servers and not let us download anything to our own hard drives.
In the future, I believe 16/44.1 standard will become the de facto "high resolution" standard in the sea of 192kbps MP3 files that recording industry will use to distribute new albums, cutting down costs by not having actual discs like CD's. SACD, DVD-A? As I said, even redbook will have a tough time surviving, and the only reason it WILL survive is b/c there are already millions and millions of hard-copy CD's out there. There's nothing out there that will help SACD, DVD-A survive, not even the companies that developed them.
I will also add that a properly recorded, mastered redbook CD has a wonderful sound quality, completely good enough for even jaded ears like mine. The problem is that so few are properly recorded/mastered, and many sonic differences among formats (redbook, SACD, DVD-A) that are present on current offerings owe a lot to simply different people/technique used to master/produce these discs.