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CD and SACD formats questions

post #1 of 40
Thread Starter 
Hi all. is the difference between sacd and regular cd is really noticeable? or subtle...? i want to know of its worth to get myself an sacd player.

do all SACD recordings sound good, or maybe part of them are not so big improvements over the normal cd recording..?

by the way, i have done some reading on this format on wikipedia,and it says that SACD players don't have a digital output for this format? is it true...?
post #2 of 40
Violator from DM sounds out of this world....whatever other version falls short!
post #3 of 40

Delete


Edited by labrat - 9/13/11 at 9:46am
post #4 of 40
actually you can capture DSD losslessly w/ a Lynx soundcard...I've heard it, and losslessly converted to LPCM it's mind blowing!
post #5 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by plonter View Post
Hi all. is the difference between sacd and regular cd is really noticeable? or subtle...? i want to know of its worth to get myself an sacd player.
There is no real audible difference between CD and SACD. However, SACD players are very expensive compared to most CD players. Therefore, the record industry makes a general assumption that SACD owners are very serious about sound quality. For this reason, record producers and engineers tend to create much higher quality mixes if the final distribution format is SACD. So although there are no audible differences between the formats, in practice, SACD releases are generally mastered to a higher standard and therefore sometimes (not always) sound higher quality than CD releases. However, this extra effort takes more time and costs more money, so SACDs are often more expensive than CDs.

The other point ot bare in mind is that in my opinion I don't think SACD has much of a future. It provides no real technical benefit over CD and cannot compete price-wise with hi-rez audio (even though hi-rez audio is pretty much just a marketing gimmick).

So although you may well experience higher quality sound with SACD, do you really want to invest in what is probably a dying technology?

G
post #6 of 40
Yes, SACD can be wonderful.

However, I'd only get into the format if you're a serious fan of classical and jazz. Those are probably 90% of the SACD catalog - it is a bit thin if you're a rock fan.
post #7 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by gregorio View Post
There is no real audible difference between CD and SACD.
Sorry, but I have to call ******** on this statement. It implies that, given identical recordings in SACD and redbook, there is no difference in playback. I simply don't buy this.

A significant difference in sonics may be easily observed when using relatively inexpensive universal players. I've done it myself with MFSL hybrids, and I seriously doubt that 99 out of 100 head-fi'ers couldn't do the same. In fact, the SACD output of my relatively inexpensive universal player (Denon DVD-2910) approaches the redbook output of the same tracks on my Wadia 830. There are some differences - although the soundstaging and midrange are comparable, there's something to be said for the bass heft that a more substantial power supply can provide.

Now, I'll qualify this by saying that the further up-market that one moves, the difference narrows substantially. This I would attribute more to the cost of making a really top notch CD player, given the limitations of the format. So, perhaps, as one removes the variability of equipment quality, it might be true that there's little to no difference. I would stipulate, however, that for whatever reason, it's easier to make an inexpensive SACD player that really sounds good than a similarly priced CD player.

It's also worth noting that SACD may indeed be a dying format, but that remains to be seen.

To the OP and others, I'd suggest being wary of anyone who deals in absolutes. To suggest that hi-rez is really just a marketing gimick suggests a mind that is already made up, and perhaps even an agenda. Listen for yourself.
post #8 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by elrod-tom View Post
Sorry, but I have to call ******** on this statement. It implies that, given identical recordings in SACD and redbook, there is no difference in playback. I simply don't buy this.
It is of course up to you what you want to believe but your belief does not change the facts.

Quote:
Originally Posted by elrod-tom View Post
Now, I'll qualify this by saying that the further up-market that one moves, the difference narrows substantially.
So in fact you are now saying that there isn't much difference between CD and SACD formats but in the various players?

Quote:
Originally Posted by elrod-tom View Post
To suggest that hi-rez is really just a marketing gimick suggests a mind that is already made up, and perhaps even an agenda. Listen for yourself.
Well I've been working professionally with Hi-Rez audio for about 17 years and yes, I would say my mind is pretty well made up by now. You're also right when you say I have an agenda. My agenda is trying to help consumers not to be ripped-off by companies charging more for hi-rez files or equipment, when it's not going to make any difference to sound quality. Hi-rez is particularly useful for recording but for playback, it's a waste of time (and disk space).

How does listening for yourself help? How do you know that you are listening to diferences in the format or differences in how the player you own plays back the formats?

G
post #9 of 40
I have some SACD and DVD-Audio. I listen to them because they are 5.1. I also have some other DTS 5.1 disks. They can be quite good also !
post #10 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by gregorio View Post
So in fact you are now saying that there isn't much difference between CD and SACD formats but in the various players?
Well, no...I'm sure that if you re-read what I said you'll see THIS sentance (it followed the one you cropped for your post):

Quote:
Originally Posted by elrod-tom
This I would attribute more to the cost of making a really top notch CD player, given the limitations of the format. So, perhaps, as one removes the variability of equipment quality, it might be true that there's little to no difference. I would stipulate, however, that for whatever reason, it's easier to make an inexpensive SACD player that really sounds good than a similarly priced CD player.
So, if I'm right, and one can get better results using an SACD with low-fi or mid-fi equipment, it seems to me that there is substantial difference between the two formats. That is to say, it seems that it costs a LOT more money to construct a player that will extract from a redbook CD sound quality that is similar to an SACD or DVD-A. So, how one would explain this other than as a limitation of the redbook format, I'm not sure. Perhaps you can enlighten us?

Quote:
Originally Posted by gregorio View Post
Hi-rez is particularly useful for recording but for playback, it's a waste of time (and disk space).
I always shake my head a bit when I read comments like this one. If there's NO point in hi-rez for playback, why would it matter for recording?

Quote:
Originally Posted by gregorio View Post
How does listening for yourself help? How do you know that you are listening to diferences in the format or differences in how the player you own plays back the formats?
Well, I'm really not sure that it MATTERS whether there's any actual difference in the two formats. What seems apparent is that, generally speaking, the actual playback on low-fi and mid-fi gear of SACD and DVD-A certainly seems to be superior to redbook CD, and for a lower equipment cost. So, getting back to the question posed by the OP:

Quote:
Originally Posted by plonter
is the difference between sacd and regular cd is really noticeable? or subtle...?
I would respond that chances are pretty good that, for comparable equipment cost (especially on the lower end), SACD will be noticeably better. I've found few people who would disagree with this statement, and I don't think it's because we've all been duped by marketing hype. I've actually gone to the trouble to test it with MOFI hybrid SACD's, and was impressed at just how different it was on my own universal player.

Now, is that the equipment I'm listening to? Maybe...but it really doesn't matter. The COMBINATION of the equipment and the audio software yields a superior result with SACD. It does not produce the same result, which your original statement would seem to suggest. That was my objection to your original statement.
post #11 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by elrod-tom View Post
So, if I'm right, and one can get better results using an SACD with low-fi or mid-fi equipment, it seems to me that there is substantial difference between the two formats.
Exactly, it seems that way to you. The reality is that you are hearing higher quality mastering on the SACD, which has nothing to do with the format.

Quote:
Originally Posted by elrod-tom View Post
I always shake my head a bit when I read comments like this one. If there's NO point in hi-rez for playback, why would it matter for recording?
Instead of shaking your head (and implying I don't know what I'm talking about) maybe you should go and do some research and cure your ignorance. I'm sure you'll find it much more rewarding long term than shaking your head. The simple reason why hi-rez is useful when recording is because 24bit provides a far greater amount of headroom than 16bit. Headroom is not required on playback. In case you are unaware, headroom is the distance between full scale (0dBFS) and the peak value of the signal. As the peak value is unknown until after the musician has been recorded, so a greater headroom allows more leeway for transients while still maintaining a good SNR (signal to noise ratio). Once a recording has been mixed and mastered all the headroom is removed, so the additional dynamic range of 24bit is completely superfluous. There are other reasons why 24bit (and 48bit) is useful in mixing (cumulative serial processor truncation artifacts for example) but none of these advantages apply to playback. The potential dynamic range of CD exceeds both the ability of the ear to hear and the ability of even the highest quality electronics to reproduce.

Quote:
Originally Posted by elrod-tom View Post
I would respond that chances are pretty good that, for comparable equipment cost (especially on the lower end), SACD will be noticeably better. I've found few people who would disagree with this statement, and I don't think it's because we've all been duped by marketing hype. I've actually gone to the trouble to test it with MOFI hybrid SACD's, and was impressed at just how different it was on my own universal player.
How do you know that the difference you are hearing isn't just down to poorer design or cost cutting in the CD circuitry compared to the SACD circuitry in your specific player? Again, you are making judgements about the difference between formats and offering advice based on those judgements but your judgements are not actually based on the difference between formats at all but on the ability of your particular player to reproduce them or on how the two different formats have been mastered on to your SACD/CD media.

You've said that you have found few people who would disagree with your statement. Well I know of no professionals (and I know many) who would agree with you. There have been a number of DBTs (Meyer & Moran for example) with audio professionals between identically mastered CDs and SACDs, differences have not been detected. SACD has some technical advantages over CD and some disadvantages but there is nothing audibly different between the two formats. Of course there are audible differences between players (even of the same format)!

"In the audiophile community, sound from SACD is generally considered substantially higher in quality compared to older format Red Book CD recordings. However, in controlled listening tests over stereo reproduction subjects have not been able to tell SACD recordings from their CD-quality converted version." - Wikipedia

Quote:
Originally Posted by elrod-tom View Post
Now, is that the equipment I'm listening to? Maybe...but it really doesn't matter. The COMBINATION of the equipment and the audio software yields a superior result with SACD. It does not produce the same result, which your original statement would seem to suggest.
It does produce exactly the same audible result providing both the CD and SACD: 1. Have identical mastering and 2. The playback circuitry of your player is of equivalent standard for both formats.

I have provided evidence to support my statement, do you have any evidence (beyond anecdotal) to support yours?

What do you mean that maybe it's your equipment but that doesn't matter? This argument seems absurd to me. Let's say I have an expensive CD player and a cheap one and the expensive one sounds better. Can I conclude from this that there is a difference or problem with the CD format? No, the conclusion has to be that there is difference in how the two players are decoding the format. Yet you are judging (and advising others) the relative merits of the two formats by comparing the outputs of two different players (in one enclosure) and you don't even know if the masters are the same. Am I being thick and missing some obvious logic in your argument?

G
post #12 of 40
I am not qualified to judge the technical merits of SACD, but there are other arguments in its favor.

First, the cost is reasonable, both for the medium and player. Ridiculously priced players are not exclusive to SACD. You can easily spend too much for Red Book only. Implying that you have to pay a premium for SACD players isn't true. There are good players available to high school students flipping burgers.

The medium is not more expensive or only marginally more expensive. The RCA Living Stereo releases are about $10 each and can form the core of a well-recorded, great sounding classical library. Further, other releases might cost a buck or two more than Red Book versions - negligible to this buyer and many others. If I pay an extra $2, I do not think I've been ripped off. Further, quite a few classical releases are SACD/hybrid only. I'll be buying them anyway, so why not have a player that reads them if you aren't paying a premium for the player?

Maybe hi-rez is better, maybe it isn't. We probably can't hear the entire benefit of Red Book, either. I've heard lossy recordings that were good, too. However, I think it's important to strive for the best possible fidelity. SACD, to me, is a mark that the recording was taken seriously and not compressed to hell. Sure, some Red Book is done well, but since the cost of SACD is negligible, I'll choose it instead.

I would also disagree that the format is dying. Sony, as it has many times before, fumbled. Adoption was hampered by idiot policies and terrible corporate judgment. Had they player their hand right, it would be much bigger. Still, SACD seems to have stabilized as a niche format for high quality recordings; it seems to have picked up the spot held by reel-to-reel.

You will also notice rising prices - sometimes sharply - for SACDs on eBay. My collection is worth more that what I paid for it. If there was a sliver of common business sense in Big Music, they'd capitalize on this and sell more discsto those of us who actually pay for music.

I'll keep my rant in check, but this deeply angers me. Big Music puts almost Ll of its resources towards producing garbage (both artistically and sonically) to appeal to those most likely to not pay for the music.

They're putting all of their resources towards getting ripped off.

Meanwhile, those of us who appreciate good recording and fine performances and are willing to pay for that, are either ignored or spit on.

Idiots. I hope they collapse. If they won't sell products to people who want to buy them, they deserve to fail.
post #13 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by gregorio View Post
...The reality is that you are hearing higher quality mastering on the SACD, which has nothing to do with the format.
Your assuption goes too far. You have no insight in the cases at hand. I've occupied myself quite a bit with SACD and the sonic difference to the CD format. Also, I've been aware that many SACDs are produced from a low-rez PCM master (48 or 50 kHz and the like). And I've tried to avoid such recordings, with some success; only a handful of my SACDs are like this. And they are identifiable in that their DSD layer doesn't sound better than their CD layer, actually the opposite. Which tells me that DSD itself isn't a completely neutral format either. Or the specific implementation/conversion hasn't been made properly.

Apart from these exceptions and a few obviously different masters for the two layers, the SACD layer shows a characteristic increase of detail, especially in the treble. It sounds more accurate and airier, but can also exhibit a trace of sharpness. That's why I'm not thoroughly enthusiastic about its sonic characteristic. Although redbook CD sounds comparably smeared and unsharp, it sounds more liquid to my ears. That's why I prefer DVD-A to SACD when it comes to hi-rez: it sounds more similar to the CD and at the same time offers higher resolution and better spatial depth.

My experience with the SACD sound ranges over several different players: my now McCormack UDP-1 universal player, the Philips DVD 963 SA, the first Accuphase SACD player and one of the early generation Marantz flagship SACD players. That's why I'm speaking of a «characteristic» SACD sound independent of the recording.


Quote:
"In the audiophile community, sound from SACD is generally considered substantially higher in quality compared to older format Red Book CD recordings. However, in controlled listening tests over stereo reproduction subjects have not been able to tell SACD recordings from their CD-quality converted version." - Wikipedia
The same applies to cables: All published controlled listening tests so far haven't revealed any sonic differences. But to my ears they do exist nonetheless.
.
post #14 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by JaZZ View Post
Your assuption goes too far.
Why? I've got plenty of professional, personal and anecdotal experience to back up my assertion, plus plenty of scientific evidence. What more do I need?

Quote:
Originally Posted by JaZZ View Post
Apart from these exceptions and a few obviously different masters for the two layers, the SACD layer shows a characteristic increase of detail, especially in the treble. It sounds more accurate and airier, but can also exhibit a trace of sharpness. That's why I'm not thoroughly enthusiastic about its sonic characteristic. Although redbook CD sounds comparably smeared and unsharp, it sounds more liquid to my ears. That's why I prefer DVD-A to SACD when it comes to hi-rez: it sounds more similar to the CD and at the same time offers higher resolution and better spatial depth.
I would say your assumption goes too far. You've provided your own personal experience but this is in conflict with scientific measurement and DBT evidence. Differences can be easily measured between the formats (SACD, CD and Hi-rez) but these differences fall well below the threshold of human hearing.

As I said in my first post in this thread, SACD usually sounds better than red-book because of slight (or sometimes not so slight) differences in the master. For this reason SACD sometimes represents the best quality listening experience available to the consumer at this point in time. This is sometimes also true of Hi-Rez, although at any normal listening level Hi-Rez should be indistinguishable from CD. I say should, because I've come across a number of cases of companies deliberately sabotaging the quality of a 16bit version to make the difference between CD and Hi-Rez audible, thereby justifying an additional charge for the Hi-Rez versions. The whole Hi-Rez thing is superfluous for the audiophile but unfortunately the erroneous belief that Hi-Rez is better is being used and manipulated by distributors to con consumers into spending more for Hi-Rez files and equipment.

You as consumers should be aware of this con. You should also be aware that it actually costs marginally more to create a 16bit version than it does to create a Hi-Rez version! This is because pretty much all recordings are made and produced in Hi-Rez and then mastered down to 16bit. So apart from the larger file size, there are no added cost implications for Hi-Rez files. If this is the case, why aren't all or more recordings available in Hi-Rez? ... Because most professionals know there are no real benefits of hi-rez to the consumer. The majority of Hi-Rez files available are either stolen from the studio or more commonly, distributed by companies after a quick buck at your expense.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Uncle Erik View Post
I would also disagree that the format is dying. Sony, as it has many times before, fumbled. Adoption was hampered by idiot policies and terrible corporate judgment. Had they player their hand right, it would be much bigger. Still, SACD seems to have stabilized as a niche format for high quality recordings; it seems to have picked up the spot held by reel-to-reel.

You will also notice rising prices - sometimes sharply - for SACDs on eBay. My collection is worth more that what I paid for it. If there was a sliver of common business sense in Big Music, they'd capitalize on this and sell more discsto those of us who actually pay for music.
Prices are rising because fewer recordings are being released in SACD format. The rules of supply and demand come into play, hence why prices are rising. As you say, SACD is a niche market and therefore it's more of a financial risk to release SACDs. Furthermore, most SACDs are made from Hi-Rez PCM masters as indeed are most CDs, so my professional opinion is that SACD as a format has a limited life span.

G
post #15 of 40
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the replies guys. i wouldn't mind trying some SACD records,but i won't be able to use my dac because i can't get a digital output from an SACD player. any solution for this?

i am not a huge jazz fan but i listen to steely dan and also classical music in occasions, so SACD can suit me nicely.
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