I searched the forum's archives and didn't find any up to date information regarding the current state of SACD playback equipment vs current CD playback equipment.
I figure the next step-up in sound quality improvement after receiving the ordered set of headphone cables for the HD-650
I have a set of HD-650's and I would highly recommend getting a SACD player to go with it. I bought a Marantz SA-8003 ... and there is new model coming out next month called the SA-8004 I think. Sony has just announced their new model due August - taking the price entry point into a newly accessible ballpark.
Basically, CD as a high-end audio format is dead ... Serious high-end companies like Mark Levinson, Esoteric, Krell etc ... have all stopped selling CD players and have moved to SACD (which can still play your old CDs) but take advantage of hi-rez SACD discs which contain at least 4 times more information than a CD. If a recording is made in hi-rez and stuck on a CD, the CD basically throws out masses of information ... which is retained on the SACD.
Sony no longer make a standalone CD player - their new models are all SACD. Almost everything Marantz is producing is SACD. Yamaha is SACD. Pioneer is SACD. Basically, the standalone CD player is gone as a high-end device, replaced by SACD for hard-format or music servers for the download market.
That leaves the download vs SACD issue. Downloads are all PCM ... there are only a tiny number of hi-rez ones available ... in the hundreds last time I checked ... and most max out at 96kHz / 24 bit. Not much available with the big artists. By contrast, there about 6500 SACD titles ... especially strong in Classical and Jazz, ... with about 600 new releases per year ... and many are pure DSD recordings which is the closest thing you will ever get to pure analog in a digital format. Hi-rez downloads also have the disavantage that you can't resell them and bizarrely they usually cost more than SACDs ... which sucks if you don't like your $20 download and you get stuck with it.
The SACD 'software' market is surprisingly bouyant ... some of the early discs brought out by Sony and DG have now sold out ... and they now sell on eBay or Amazon for HUNDREDS of dollars! I'm thinking of re-selling my Ludacris SACD for $$$ - lol. Over at Acoustic Sounds, the top selling items are not vinyl ... they are all SACDs. Sony Japan has just re-released a whole batch of cool stuff that had previously sold out.
Oddly enough, in my view anyway --- the thing that has kept the SACD market bouyant *is* the DRM ... it means labels can release their studio quality masters in the highest rez available and not really worry about copying or downloads. You can always rip the CD layer of the SACD if you want to ... but not the hi-rez layer. I think this also keeps the re-sale market for SACDs very very healthy ... Compare the re-sale price of CD (basically $1) with the re-sale price of an SACD! I think it's also partly why you see so many more titles on SACD than you do as hi-rez downloads.
I got my new SACD player about a year ago ... so I'm a new-comer still .. and I'd say it's the best new kit I've purchased in at least 15 years. Most exciting thing since CD itself. Get a few great discs and you will be amazed at how natural and pure the sound is. Perfect with my HD-650s!
Edited by rapunzel - 7/20/10 at 1:18pm