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My mini-review of the Onkyo C-S5VL SACD Player

post #1 of 31
Thread Starter 

I recently took delivery of an Onkyo C-S5VL SACD/CD player.  I didn't buy it for the SACD playback, but more so for the redbook CD playback.  There aren't many reviews out there, or posts here about it, so I thought I would just post some quick impressions.  These are just quick impressions because I haven't had it all that long, but there are some characteristics that are very obvious to me already.

 

My setup:

Onkyo C-S5VL

Woo 3 OTL amp

Beyerdynamic DT990/600 ohms

 

My old source: Teac "Reference" PD-H300mkIII CD player.  I got it new for $100US.  This wasn't a bad little player, and I definitely think it performed above its price point.  Although, despite it having the word "reference" in its name, I don't think it is on par with true "reference" players.  It seems like just about every manufacturer maker puts the word "reference" in their product descriptions these day without warrant.  Anyway, this player wasn't bad.  It did have a few weaknesses, though, that were highlighted by my amp and cans.  Mainly, it was just a smidge light in the bass.  Just enough to rob a little energy from some good rock recordings.  However, most importantly, vocals were slightly recessed.  They blended into the background a little bit.  Now, I completely think that differences between digital sources are subtle at best.  But, sometimes these subtle differences can synergize with other components in your chain to make things a little more obvious.  In my case, I could easily tell that bass, energy, and vocals were just a tad lacking.  They lacked enough to make we want more.  Another thing left me slightly confused about this player.  It was a smidge laid back, especially in the mids, but also had a hint of digital graininess to it.  I could detect the digital graininess even when played through my tube OTL amp.

 

Enter the Onkyo.  This seems to have corrected the problems mentioned above.  During my first audition of it, I immediately noticed more bass and more PRaT (even though I don't really like that term).  The music, particularly rock, seemed more alive.  It wasn't night and day difference, but just enough to make notice some more energy.

 

I then proceeded to go through many of my favorite albums to reacquaint myself with them through the new player.  It was a similar story: they all seemed to have just a hint more bass than I remember hearing from my old source.

 

After going through several of my favorite CDs and getting a sound imagine stuck in my head, I then hooked up my old source to have a re-listen.

 

The differences were extremely subtle, but they were there.  The Onkyo has a hint more bass, but feels a tad more alive.  There is more energy in some songs.  Rush's "Tom Sawyer" sounds rather pedestrian on the Teac, but it sounds more alive on the Onkyo.  Also, the vocals are slightly more pronounced on the Onkyo, which is a good thing.  They are no longer fighting for space with background instruments.

 

Another neat thing I noticed, which took several times going back and forth between the sources, is that the Onkyo sounds more analog than the Teac.  It's just a little more smooth and musical.  I'm sure this has a lot to do with the digital filters that Onkyo utilizes.  I don't claim to know anything about them, or how they work, but I can say that they do alter the sound slightly.  I settled on Filter 4, which is supposed to be some sort of apodizing filter, because it sounds very analog.  It's the most vinyl-like I've ever heard a CD.  Now, I'm not claiming that CDs are ever going to sound like vinyl; I'm just saying that this is the best I've heard a CD at approaching the smoothness of vinyl.  The gap between vinyl and CDs is till large, but this made it just a tad smaller.  Overall, I like it very much.

 

I still have a lot more listening to do and more observations to think about.  I still can't tell any differences in soundstage width or depth, or even overall detail extracted by the Onkyo compared to the Teac.  But, I can say without a doubt that the Onkyo is slightly better than the Teac in terms or bass, PRaT, vocals, and smoothness.

 

I like it a lot.  Well worth the price.  I'm sure there are better players out there, but this one has made me very happy.

post #2 of 31

I enjoyed reading your review! I'll keep it in mind because my I'm looking to get a SACD/CD player of my own sometime.

post #3 of 31
Thread Starter 

Thanks.  I'm glad you enjoyed the review.

 

Another thing I might add is that I listened to this all day today.  Normally, after a few hours the Teac would make my ears slightly fatigued, even through the tube amp.  All day sessions would flat our wear my earns down.  However, today, not a hint of fatigue.  The smooth sound definitely allows for longer listening periods.  And keep in mind that my cans are Beyer 990s, which are said to be more fatiguing than smoother phones like Sennheisers.

 

Edit and update:

 

I don't really believe in burn in for electronics, but something is happening to my psychoacoustics, methinks.  After listening exclusively to my new Onkyo all weekend and forming a sound image in my head, I went back to the Teac.  The Teac is very grainy.  Then, after going back to the Onkyo, the sound signature was very pronounced.  It is very analog and smooth.  I mean, it's not even close to the Teac anymore.  Burn in?  I doubt it.  My ears have become accustomed to it by now.  It is very smooth, and it does a very good job at bridging the gap between digital harshness and vinyl smoothness.  It is actually kind of freaky how smooth the apodozing filter is at smoothing out the sound.


Edited by hodgjy - 9/5/10 at 4:03pm
post #4 of 31

Thank you for the review, hodjgy!

 

I was just looking at this Onkyo today.  I am thinking of moving away from DVD/Blu-ray based SACD/CD players to a dedicated one, and I'm leaning towards buying this player.

 

Please update if you have time.  Thanks. 

post #5 of 31
Thread Starter 

You're welcome.

 

The only updates I can say so far are in relation to the Teac:

 

The Onkyo is/has:

 

-More bass

-Smoother

-A hint warmer

-About the same soundstage depth and width, but it's less crowded.  Voices don't fight for space.  They are clear and prominent.

-About the same level of detail extracted

-Slightly lower noise floor

-Slower to load discs (because it has to tell if it's SACD or CD)

-Because it's a little smoother, it's just a tad more forgiving with bad recordings

 

I can't stress the smooth analog sound when using the apodizing filter (FIL 4).  It is a really nice effect.

 

That's about it for now.  If something else becomes more obvious, I'll post again.

post #6 of 31

Thanks for the plain text review. Sometimes I see reviews I have a hard time relating to as it seems my ears are not capable of detecting subtitles some reviewers point out and I liked the way you put yours together, very accessible.

 

Anyway...I wanted to put in my two cents about this becasue you mentioned you really like the "analog" flavoring the onkyop provided over the Teac. I did not research the Teac but I am wondering if it might be the DACs.

I recently switched from TI Burr Brown DAC chips in things I have been buying to start looking for Wolfson DACs in things as I have become a lover of the musicality and warmth (analog sounding) of the Wolfson's. My S:Flo2 has dual wolfson 8740 and I love the sound signature of this little DAP. I also bought a DAC Wow which uses the next model up which is the 8524and I just love it. I have it hooked up voa Optical to my HT Omega Claro soundcard which has...you guessed it Wolfson inside.

 

Anyway, thought I would share this since I noticed on the Onkyo site that it is listed as having Wolfson® 192 kHz/24-bit DAC.

 

Not sure if this is your first source with Wolfson's but I am a convert myself...

post #7 of 31
Thread Starter 

I have a Wolfson DAC in my iPod, and actually think it's pretty good.  But, this is my first source that is a little higher end Wolfson DAC.  I really like it.  The Teac doesn't say what theirs is.  It is highly detailed, but a hint grainy and harsh.

 

You are onto something by mentioning the Wolfson.  It is very musical.


Edited by hodgjy - 9/7/10 at 6:30pm
post #8 of 31

Thanks for great review!

post #9 of 31

I have one of these.   It's a nice player.   The headphone socket is surprisingly good for what it is.

post #10 of 31

After reading this post and in the market for an SACD player I decided to try this one out.

 

I also didn't want to go with BD combo as I felt that the less formats the better it should do at them.

 

I've only had about an hour with it so haven't really got much for now:

 

Tried the LCD-2s straight out of the phone out on the player. Even with the volume at 100% it was nowhere near the listening level I normally listen at. Not a problem though. Mainly wanted to use as an A/B soundwise vs. the Burson.

 

Plugged it into the HA-160 which of course remedied the lack of volume problem. Listening to Dire Straits - Brothers In Arms (album, SACD): Honestly I was expecting the universe or something but nothing really jumped out at me. On par with my iMod setup I guess.

 

Perhaps it was the version (20th anniversary ed.) I dunno. Then I put in Elton John - Madman Across The Water (SACD) and maybe it's because I haven't listened to the album in a few years I was thoroughly enjoying Tiny Dancer even though I don't really care for the song.

 

Skipped ahead to the title track and pleasantly fell asleep.

 

Apologies for the threadjack.

 

I'll post some more impressions later. I was playing around with the SACD filters but didn't notice any immediate difference. Anyone have a favorite filter for the SACD on this? Maybe I should RTFM...

 

 

post #11 of 31

Never mind, I listened to Brothers In Arms again today (with the audio buffer in the chain) and it sounds amazing. I can easily hear the increased resolution, everything is crystal clear.

 

Interestingly, now with the audio buffer in the chain, I had to lower the volume to about 10 o'clock. Previously it was at 1 or so.

 

Oh and I RTFM and realized I need to push enter after picking a filter for it to be enabled...

post #12 of 31

I recently bought the C-S5VL and while it plays back normal CD's without problem I am having a problem with SACD playback.

 

I have tried to play the one SACD I own, a Genesis album.  It plays the CD layer fine but when I select the SACD layer I get no sound.  I have the player connected to my amp via analog out.

For some reason when I press the digital out button I can hear the SACD layer but with the digital out disengaged I hear nothing although the disc is spinning.  Has anyone else experienced this or have any idea on what I'm doing wrong?

post #13 of 31
Thread Starter 

Filter 4 for regular CDs is amazing.  I put it there and it stays there.  That's where the magic is.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Permagrin View Post

Never mind, I listened to Brothers In Arms again today (with the audio buffer in the chain) and it sounds amazing. I can easily hear the increased resolution, everything is crystal clear.

 

Interestingly, now with the audio buffer in the chain, I had to lower the volume to about 10 o'clock. Previously it was at 1 or so.

 

Oh and I RTFM and realized I need to push enter after picking a filter for it to be enabled...

post #14 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by fuisce View Post

I recently bought the C-S5VL and while it plays back normal CD's without problem I am having a problem with SACD playback.

 

I have tried to play the one SACD I own, a Genesis album.  It plays the CD layer fine but when I select the SACD layer I get no sound.  I have the player connected to my amp via analog out.

For some reason when I press the digital out button I can hear the SACD layer but with the digital out disengaged I hear nothing although the disc is spinning.  Has anyone else experienced this or have any idea on what I'm doing wrong?

 

Yes, I had the same problem.   I forget the solution, but it's in the manual.   The digital outputs are not 'always on' like you'd think.   I seem to recall you had to enable them with no disc playing or no disc in the drive or something like that.  Like I said, it's in the manual somewhere. 
 

post #15 of 31

I read back over the manual, didn't see anything describing a solution.  It sounds great on CD but it just won't play the SACD area via analog out unless I select digital out on the player.  

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