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SACD vs CD a true difference or simply Placebo?

post #1 of 48
Thread Starter 
Title states the question:

SACD vs CD a true difference or simply Placebo?

and one other question, will a macbook pro super drive play SACD's?
post #2 of 48
SACD has a 24 bit mastering compared to the 16 bit on a Redbook CD. Whether or not your ears can detect the difference is another story. I think most people can. Most SACD's have surround sound capability as well.
post #3 of 48
It's very difficult to set up a direct A/B comparison between SACD and CD. SACD players have a 8 to 10 second delay as they switch layers and the mastering can be different on different layers, even on the same hybrid SACD. I sampled a bunch of SACDs and kept finding differences that were attributable to different mastering and remixing- different balances of vocals to track, different reverb levels, different equalization. It was very difficult to find an SACD that had the same mastering as redbook.

I struggled for over a month to set up a fair test. Here's what I did...

I found a hybrid DSD SACD that had no redbook release... There was no reason for the company to do different mastering for each layer... Pentatone's Stravinsky chamber music by Jaarvi. I ripped the redbook layer and burned it to a CD-R. I lined up the same track in a midrange Yamaha CD player and my Philips 963sa SACD player and balanced the line levels using a preamp. Then I did direct A/B switching back and forth. Both sources sounded incredibly good. (It's a wonderful recording.) I couldn't detect any difference between the two using two different sound systems, my own and the reference rig used by a sound engineer friend of mine. Our conclusion was that for 2 channel audio SACD is a bust.

Go ahead and set up the comparison yourself and see what you find. It's a lot of work to do properly though.

Macs will not play SACDs.

See ya
Steve
post #4 of 48
I have mixed feelings about SACD. I can be far better than standard cds, but only if they are recorded well and mastered right. I have several SACDs that sound no better than CD, mostly because of lousy recording. Engineers get thrilled by the sense of space and record in highly reverberant settings, and the sound just sucks.

But if a great recording is made, the sound can be thrilling in SACD. I've demonstrated to people several times using the Paray recording of Symphonie Fantastique on Mercury using both the cd and sacd versions. Once you get them synced accurately (no small task), then rapidly switching between players reveals startling differences in detal. With speakers the differences are less noticeable because of ambient sound, etc. But with headphones (I use Senn 650s) it's amazing. There's so much more life in some of those older recordings made my Mercury, RCA and a few others. Pentatone is remastering many older recordings in sacd and the improvement in sound can be tremendous.

Having said that, there are other things. First, for most people, sacd offers no improvement. Metal, Rock, Country probably don't improve noticeably. It takes more subtle, detailed music to really benefit. That's why sacd has survived in the classical area. Then, when most younger people listen today with mp3 ear buds stuck in their heads, they have no idea what true hi-fi can bring to music -- and they don't care. The lower quality is ok to them.

SACD will eventually go away, sorry to say. The primary reason is the greed of the industry. They needed to make reliable, good sounding sacd players available for under $100. But they didn't and the public didn't hear the value added as being worth the huge prices that Sony, Denon and others charged. I just bought a new sacd player from Oppodigital, and it's great, but not being a mass market product, it's too little too late.

This Oppo player also plays HDCD. I have several dozen disks in that format, but never had a player, and I have been stunned to hear just how great HDCD sounds. In fact, those recordings for the most part sound better than the sacds I have. The impact of sound, the presence and the bass are thrilling. Of course, the recording processes have a lot to do with it.
post #5 of 48
I have SACD's that sound amazing.
I have Redbook CD's that sound amazing.
The ratio of great sounding SACD's to poor, in my library of around 100 hi-rez discs, is very high (ie. high percentage of great sound).
The ratio of great sounding Redbook CD's to poor, in my library of around 600 discs, is fairly low (ie. comparatively low percentage of great sound).

Conclusion: More care is taken in all aspects of the recording/production process when SACD technology is part of the chain.

Take from that way you wish.
post #6 of 48

SACD blues

noremedy,

I've got an excellent Cd player (Philips LHH1000) and a Sony SACD/DVD/CD player (Sony DVP-S9000ES). I can tell the differnce between the Philips and the Sony on CD (the Philips is more musical; the Sony more digital sounding and I suspect more accurate). With SACD, the Sony rivals the Philips and a difference can be heard. I'm not sure that SACD is worth the lolly though. The difference is subtle, but it is there. Now my stereo kit is only 2 channel. Maybe a surround sound SACD setup may be really cool; however, given the mass market Yamaha home theatre receiver and modest speakers in my surround setup, I bet I would get much better fidelity from my reference 2 channel rig (Quad 12L active speakers, Adcom 565 preamp or Music Reference 2000 when I'm in the mood for something different).

So yes, there is a difference, but I'm not sure that it's worth the bother.
Howerver, SACD can sound really good, so if you have the lolly, the right stereo components, like classical and jazz, then it might be worthwhile.

Still I prefer vinyl--snap, crackle, and pop and all. But the conveniance and availability of CD has won me over.
post #7 of 48
When listening to classical music on nearfield monitor speakers, SACDs produce a three dimensional sound stage, while Redbook CDs provide no depth to the sound stage. The sound of regular CDs emerges from the front (left, right and center) only, and nothing from further back. SACDs, and vinyl, produce a wonderful broad and deep sound image/stage. The sound of regular CDs is crude, rough, and cold, while that of SACDs if much more refined. But, the sound of SACDs is not as refined as that produced by vinyl.
post #8 of 48
There was a paper published in September 2007 in the Journal of the AES, showing that in properly level matched double blind tests, there are no audible differences between a SACD's stereo mix and the Redbook version.
post #9 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by mikeg View Post
When listening to classical music on nearfield monitor speakers, SACDs produce a three dimensional sound stage, while Redbook CDs provide no depth to the sound stage. The sound of regular CDs emerges from the front (left, right and center) only, and nothing from further back. SACDs, and vinyl, produce a wonderful broad and deep sound image/stage. The sound of regular CDs is crude, rough, and cold, while that of SACDs if much more refined. But, the sound of SACDs is not as refined as that produced by vinyl.
That's a perfect description of the effects of the differences in mastering between redbook CDs and vinyl/SACDs.
post #10 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by mikeg View Post
When listening to classical music on nearfield monitor speakers, SACDs produce a three dimensional sound stage, while Redbook CDs provide no depth to the sound stage. The sound of regular CDs emerges from the front (left, right and center) only, and nothing from further back. SACDs, and vinyl, produce a wonderful broad and deep sound image/stage. The sound of regular CDs is crude, rough, and cold, while that of SACDs if much more refined. But, the sound of SACDs is not as refined as that produced by vinyl.
Quote:
Originally Posted by monolith View Post
That's a perfect description of the effects of the differences in mastering between redbook CDs and vinyl/SACDs.
Agreed on both counts, and I think this is what jpelg and others have expressed: the idea is that, more or less on average, SACDs will sound better than CDs. Not in all cases, and not necessarily for technical differences that can be readily explained away by the mere fact that they are SACDs as opposed to CDs. But yet, for a number of reasons, on average, SACDs are better sounding. Be it because they are better produced or mastered or whatever, who really cares? But if you want the best sound overall, vinyl in the way to go.
post #11 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by majid View Post
There was a paper published in September 2007 in the Journal of the AES, showing that in properly level matched double blind tests, there are no audible differences between a SACD's stereo mix and the Redbook version.
I read studies like this and it's hard for me to believe. WHO did the listening? And what source material? What price range of system did they use? I have a relatively high-end set up, and there are some cds where the strings are playing very high and loud, that the sound quality is edgy, and irritating. Play the sacd version, and the problems aren't there.
post #12 of 48
You can't do a fair comparison with a legacy analogue title. There are so many master tapes and submaster tapes and a million different variations in mastering, it's impossible to know if you're hearing a difference in the mastering or in the format itself. To do a fair test, you need to use a high bitrate DDD DSD recording that was released only in SACD hybrid format. Then rip the redbook layer and line it up in a separate line level matched machine. THEN you know you are hearing the difference in format, not the difference in recordings. I've done this and my results match the test majid cites. There is no audible difference between redbook and SACD as formats.

See ya
Steve
post #13 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by majid View Post
There was a paper published in September 2007 in the Journal of the AES, showing that in properly level matched double blind tests, there are no audible differences between a SACD's stereo mix and the Redbook version.
I am not surprised. I did an a/b on two titles - Kind of blue, and Getz/Gilberto.

My set up was really a "budget" but "decent" AV surround. Nothing expensive. The player is a DVD/SACD 5 disc changer. I play the tracks back and forth using the changer and hear no real difference to my ears. The miles SACD is in multi channel. Other than that the sound quality is too close to tell. The Getz cd may have a treble but I am not sure if this is just different mastering.
post #14 of 48
Just ask yourself whether a movie soundtrack has more punch when in 2 speakers or 5. When you have only 2 speaker stereo versions for comparison, there's very little to choose from between SACD and redbook, although there are some very subtle differences discernible on the highest quality systems. However, as soon as you listen to a great recording in 5 track SACD, the differences are much more discernible. There is just more sculptural volume to sound that is produced from 5 speakers than from 2 speakers, and it's not because you feel as if you are in the middle of the orchestra rather than in front of it. When you are in a concert hall with excellent accoustics, the music inhabits the space in the hall because those sound waves bounce off everything around you and the hall itself vibrates sympathetically. This effect is reproduced better with 5 or more speakers than with only front speakers. Two stereo speakers just don't get the job done as accurately, no matter how good the system or the recording. I'm sure that when SACD dies, and it will die, it will be replaced by multitrack dvd recording technologies because for great orchestral music, you need to be surrounded by the sound.
post #15 of 48
My sony cdp's sacd output is vastly superior to its cd output in 2 channel mode. This is why I like the format, and enjoy listening to 2 channel mode in sacd's cos they sound good on my rig. It really doesnt bother me if there is no discernable difference between some high end cdp and sacd player cos I cant afford those anyway, for 100 bucks, the sony 595 simply sounds fantastic playing SACD's. Thats enough for me.
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