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SACD: Is it worth it?

post #1 of 153
Thread Starter 
I'm planning on upgrading my CD player in the near future and have been toying with the idea of buying a SACD player, perhaps one of the Shanling offerings.

My question is, if you had to spend an extra $100 or $200 to get a CD+SACD source instead of just a CD source, and assuming they both sounded similar on CD playback, do you think it's worth forking over the extra for SACD playback?

I have absolutely no experience with SACDs and have heard they're an improvement over CDs, but by how much I'm not sure.
post #2 of 153
SACD players aren't always more expensive than CD players. To be absolutely frank with you, I haven't actually heard the benefits of SACD over CD. I just know from experience that most SACD recordings are better recorded or mastered than CD recordings. However, you don't need a SACD player to benefit from a well recorded SACD recording. A good CD player will still be able make a well recorded SACD recording sound incredible, just not as incredible as it would probably sound on a SACD player of equal quality. I have yet to hear a bad SACD recording, however, that doesn't really say anything about the player. SACDs are supposed to contain more information and hence "higher fidelity".

I'll let those who have actually A-B'ed SACD vs CD on the same SACD player to tell you whether an SACD player is worth it.
post #3 of 153
Quote:
Originally Posted by milkpowder
A good CD player will still be able make a well recorded SACD recording sound incredible
That applies only to a dual-layer recording. Some SACD have only the SACD layer and will not play on a standard CD player. Also, the two layers may not be mixed (at the mastering studio) at the same quality, so it's hard to tell off-hand which would sound better.
I do have to agree that the CD format has a lot of potential and the quality of any format depends not only on the resolution but mainly on the mix (i.e. the talent of the recording engineer!)
In the past I noticed that some SACD/CD players play SACD well but CD not too well. I can't say that's the norm, but you just can't assume that buying an SACD-capable player would get you a good CD sound. You still have to listen for yourself before you make that decision!
post #4 of 153
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ori
In the past I noticed that some SACD/CD players play SACD well but CD not too well. I can't say that's the norm, but you just can't assume that buying an SACD-capable player would get you a good CD sound. You still have to listen for yourself before you make that decision!
True, but it is rare to find a good SACD player that cannot play CD to a good level. It is also interesting to see some people (purists, mainly) that still swear by the red book standard as the ultimate reference. I have auditioned a few CD-only players (Chord Blu/DAC64, Naim CDS3, CDX2, CD5i, Meridian G08, G07, etc...) that really are capable of extracting a surprising amount of information from a CD. I have also auditioned some SACD players that can do the same out from a CD (dCS P8i, Esoteric P-01/D-01, X-01 Limited, etc...).
post #5 of 153
milkpowder: Purists is not the right word for those who advocate the red book standard as the ultimate reference... More like religious fanatics...
You listed very credible players. In the context of players which were considered by Bosk ("if you had to spend an extra $100 or $200 to get a CD+SACD source instead of just a CD source") the quality of CD playback may not be as good. I'd approach this with caution.
post #6 of 153
8
post #7 of 153
Facing this question you want to go here and browse the catalogue. If you see alot of music you find compelling, you should give a few discs a listen. If you are shopping in Shanling waters anyway it probably will not hurt to spend a few bucks more for SACD playback.
post #8 of 153
Wow Welly, that surely is an interesting post.

I won't argue with it cause i'm just too lazy too, but i will say this - You CAN beat the sound of a cheap SACD player with a CD player but you are going to have to spend some big time bucks to do it. SACD is great for someone with a limited budget to hear what hifi is all about.
post #9 of 153
I love, love, love my SACD player. I find SACD disks to usually sound better in general, and better than their direct redbook counterparts. This was true even on a low-end SACD player, as well as my current source.

That being said, I find it difficult to recommend to new buyers for all of the reasons previously cited here. If you can find enough of your musical taste in either hi-rez catalog (SACD or DVD-A), and you don't mind the additional expense & search efforts, then I say go for it. For me, even those few moments of listening to SACD discs makes the effort worthwhile. But I understand why it's not for everyone or why most would opt to not go there.
post #10 of 153
I think the best way to approach it is to find a player that you like, and if it happens to support SACD or DVD-A then thats great get a few of those discs and try them out. But I wouldn't recommend using SACD or DVD-A as a reason for buying a player. I'd consider SACD or DVD-A as an extra feature to consider more so than a major component.
post #11 of 153
Quote:
Originally Posted by jpelg
For me, even those few moments of listening to SACD discs makes the effort worthwhile.
I agree 100%.
post #12 of 153
Quote:
Originally Posted by Welly Wu
At this point, no, it is not worth buying a source component that also plays Super Audio CDs. The biggest problem is that most of the major music labels including SONY have dumped SA-CD so very few new music is being recorded and sold now. The other big problem is that existing SA-CD titles are very limited in selection compared to Red Book CDs, vinyl, and especially legal (and illegal) music downloading services such as Apple iTunes, Napster, etc. You can not access the high resolution SA-CD layer without a dedicated SA-CD player that is for home usage only. Most of the SA-CD and DVD-Audio discs are simply remasters of classic albums; do you want to rebuy existing music titles knowing that the future of DVD-Audio and SA-CD is numbered?

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.

I am now a conservative purist (in the sense of high end audio) and I think that the CD sounds best. It has the largest catalog of music, it is very affordable and downright cheap, there is no copy protection (that can't be defeated), and it has the best sound quality (though far from perfect sound forever). Harry Pearson at The Absolute Sound wrote that it generally takes one generation for any new audio format to be fully exploited and to mature. The CD is at that point now. 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.
Welly, I wonder what SACD players you have listened to, b/c from my experience, the best SACD players do Redbook just as well as any CD player and the best SACDs sound better than CDs. I think CDs sound great, but I'm wondering if you just haven't spent time with a great SACD player. Of course, I am not questioning your conclusions, b/c that may very well be how it sounds to you. In the end, I actually think it has more to do with the attention given to mastering than the higher resolution of SACD.
post #13 of 153
Yes, still worth it to by into SACD. To my ears, the SACD is superior to redbook in everything in sound quality department. The bad part about the SACD is title.

Welly,

The Pioneer is known to be a superior DVD-A to SACD. I've listened to your Modwright Pioneer player and the SACD playback on that unit is still quite behind the SACD playback in my SCD-1.

Purk
post #14 of 153
Quote:
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.
post #15 of 153
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon L
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.
Agreed.
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