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SACD Advantage for Headphones

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 

I listen to a lot of classical music, and when purchasing cds, I have always seen SACDs for sale.  From what I have read, SACDs played on SACD players offer 5.1 channel surround sound, but that is only applicable for stereo systems, correct?  Is there any advantage of listening to SACDs with headphones? Any info is appreciated, thanks!

post #2 of 24

Not every SACD offers multichannel tracks, some of them are stereo only.  The net benefits of the extended resolution the format offers vary by recording, but they usually require an high-end, ultra-resolving system for these benefits to be audible over the standard CD (Redbook audio) version.  On a budget system you may not hear any difference, so in a sense, you maybe wasting your money buying them.

 

The purpose of this format originally was to give discerning audiophile listeners an alternative to vinyl, while retaining the benefits of the digital media.  Depending on who you talk to, they have succeeded, but SACD isn't the only way you can obtain high-resolution music, there are download sites such as HDTracks.com and others that allow you to experience this without having an SACD-player.  The biggest stumbling block SACD has is that you can't rip from it the way you can from a standard CD due to a hardware-based encryption/copy protection circuit in place.

post #3 of 24

SACD uses DVD media but incorporates multiple layers of copy protection from non-standard tracking servo in the read mechanism on up to the bitstream going into SACD licensed DAC chips

 

most DVD-A hi-Res pcm formats draw the frequency response-dynamic range edges differently but are arguably more "efficient" in encoding information in the audible frequency range

post #4 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by bflatfinesse View Post

I listen to a lot of classical music, and when purchasing cds, I have always seen SACDs for sale.  From what I have read, SACDs played on SACD players offer 5.1 channel surround sound, but that is only applicable for stereo systems, correct?  Is there any advantage of listening to SACDs with headphones? Any info is appreciated, thanks!


SACD's can be either Hybrid SACD's or SACD only.

 

With a Hybrid SACD, you can play it on a regular CD player. SACD only media can only be played on SACD players.

 

Either of the above can have a mono, stereo, three channel, four channel, five channel or 5.1 surround sound. The combination of the formats depends on the media and what the producers / artists wanted.

 

There is an advantage to listening to some SACD's with headphones because some SACD's contain binaural tracks. See my blog for some of these SACD's.

 

For the most part, the advantage of SACD is the extended resolution that is provided by the format. Some people can hear the difference immediately while others insist that you need a highly sophisticated and high resolving system to hear the difference. Others claim there is no difference.

 

Based on my experience I have noticed that the SACD's that do indeed have a striking difference and improvement in sound quality are the ones that mastered differently from the CD layer and retail CD's of the same title.

 

While the debate as to whether the resolution matters or not continues, I can tell you that the simple matter that they are mastered better than other formats makes it a worthwhile choice to consider. IMHO, the following make SACD worthy for the price of admission:

 

1) High Resolution,

2) Better Mastering,

3) More Dynamic,

4) Physical Media and

5) They often increase in value

All that said, the choice of course, is up to you. Do some reading and then decide if SACD is right for you.

post #5 of 24
Thread Starter 

So I guess it would be worth it to buy a CD/SACD player.  Unfortunately, I do not have an unlimited budget, and if I were to pay, at most 500 USD, would there be a difference in sound quality between a $500 SACD/CD player and a $500 CD only player?

post #6 of 24

Few of us do here, although I'm apparently one of them.  Just kidding.

 

The player itself is one thing, but to truly hear the difference between the 2 standards, unfortunately, you will need to spend a LOT of money for quality cabling, amplification, power filtering/conditioning, yada, yada, yada.  Otherwise, you will most likely not be able to discern the difference.

 

Opinions on this subject matter widely, but my 2 cents is that ultimately the SACD or high-resolution download formats of studio masters will allow you to experience the music at a higher level than the standard Redbook CD standard allows.  But again this only works if the rest of your equipment is resolving enough.

 

The same goes for a regular CD player vs. an audiophile quality CD player, of course.  You should perhaps visit a Head-Fi meet or a quality audiophile equipment store where they can demo some of this stuff for you to experience it with your own ears.  Only then you can decide how much investment of your hard-earned money is it worth to you to spend on this hobby.

 

You have been warned, though, once you start, it's hard to stop.  Welcome to Head-Fi and sorry about your wallet!

post #7 of 24

I'd like to see Warp prove his claims since this is sound science.

 

The biggest differences will usually be mastering.  In terms of technological advantages 24bit is a lost cause, it's meant for mastering more than anything else.  There's an ongoing debate on sample rate, but it seems 44khz is enough for even many trained professionals if the AES Study on it is a good indicator.

 

According to a study done by the AES, any differences perceived is most likely related to mastering as previously mentioned.  It's like the difference noted with the GH version of Death Magnetic vs. the CD version.  One is mastered with care and the other gets the basic dynamic range compression.

 

LFF does raise a good point about binaural releases, which are a joy when/if you can get a hold of them.

 

For more info on SACD audioxpress has some good info.

 

http://www.audioxpress.com/magsdirx/ax/addenda/media/galo2941.pdf

post #8 of 24
Thread Starter 

warp08, I appreciate your advice, and I agree with you fully.  Since albums recorded and initially produced onto SACD are mastered better, there is a difference in sound quality.  But you're also right that you may not always hear the difference depending on your setup.  I use Sennheiser HD 600s with a Little Dot MKV solid state amp.  I don't know if you or anyone else has had experience with a similar sort of setup, but do you think (now that you know what my setup is) that I would be able to hear a difference?

post #9 of 24

Quote:

Originally Posted by bflatfinesse View Post

warp08, I appreciate your advice, and I agree with you fully.  Since albums recorded and initially produced onto SACD are mastered better, there is a difference in sound quality.  But you're also right that you may not always hear the difference depending on your setup.  I use Sennheiser HD 600s with a Little Dot MKV solid state amp.  I don't know if you or anyone else has had experience with a similar sort of setup, but do you think (now that you know what my setup is) that I would be able to hear a difference?

 

If the difference is measurable (large differences in dynamic range) most definitely.  If they're both overly compressed then no.

 

PS: I don't think warp mentioned mastering, but whatever.
 

post #10 of 24

The main reason for a perceived difference between formats is MASTERING.

 

If all things are equal, then the one with the higher bit rate and sampling rate will sound most like the original master. Interestingly enough, a 16/96 transfer will sound better and closer to the master than a 24/44 transfer. IMHO, sampling rate is more important than bit rate but the higher you can get for both...the better. A large percentage of people can't hear the difference but it's still nice to have.

post #11 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shike View Post

I'd like to see Warp prove his claims since this is sound science.

 


X 2!

post #12 of 24

I really can't say that SACD, as a format, sounds better than CD, but yes, SACDs often get better mastering than their CD layers. A/Bing the Dark Side of the Moon SACD, I easily preferred the SACD layer. It was a lot clearer, especially in the ambient tracks. If I can get an album on SACD for a similar price as a redbook CD, I will, but I'm not about to buy anything that's out of print and overpriced.

 

post #13 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by bflatfinesse View Post

warp08, I appreciate your advice, and I agree with you fully.  Since albums recorded and initially produced onto SACD are mastered better, there is a difference in sound quality.  But you're also right that you may not always hear the difference depending on your setup.  I use Sennheiser HD 600s with a Little Dot MKV solid state amp.  I don't know if you or anyone else has had experience with a similar sort of setup, but do you think (now that you know what my setup is) that I would be able to hear a difference?

 

Sorry, I have never heard the Little Dot MKV, but my guess would be that the sonic improvements would be minor at best, based on what I had to spend on my gear before I could experience some of the potential the format has to offer.  Yes, mastering makes a big difference.  Some SACDs are a lot better than others; while there are some that I can't tell any difference between the Redbook Layer vs. the SACD Layer even on my systems.

 

I also use the TWag recabled HD600s and they sound awesome, well above their price range.

 

DSC_0008.jpgDSC_0006.jpgDSC_0010.jpg

 

Both Linn and HDtracks offer studio master downloads you can play around with a good DAC to see what SACD as a format can offer.
 

post #14 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shike View Post

I'd like to see Warp prove his claims since this is sound science.

 


Claims about what?  That proper systems matching is not important because you have a wonderfully mastered recording in whatever format?  I have heard and have several XRCDs that sonically superior to quite a few all digital reference recordings published on SACDs at least to my ears as delivered on my system.  The 4th edition of Jazz in the Pawnshop on Silver K2HD Mastering produced in JVC Japan by First Impressions Music (FIM) is one of them. It's as close as I've ever heard a digital source sound to an analog recording and it plays in conventional CD players.  Here is the info on the K2HD Mastering process.


Edited by warp08 - 10/2/10 at 2:13pm
post #15 of 24


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by warp08 View Post


Claims about what?  That proper systems matching is not important because you have a wonderfully mastered recording in whatever format? 
 

 

The claims that special cables and tweaks are mandatory to hear SACD benefits.  Quite simply if the SACD is differently mastered from the CD (with the CD usually being done poorly while the SACD being done right) then obviously the SACD will sound superior.  Cables and tweaky audiophilia voodoo need not apply.

 

System matching is entirely different from that.  System matching, to me, means you have gear that measures well and works properly with another stage (amp that meet the power requirements needed by headphones for example).

 

Quote:

 I have heard and have several XRCDs that sonically to quite a few all digital reference recordings published on SACDs at least to my ears on my system. 

 

I fail to see how this has to do with anything, especially with some words missing?

 

 

Quote:
 The 4th edition of Jazz in the Pawnshop on Silver K2HD Mastering produced in JVC Japan by First Impressions Music (FIM) is one of them. It's as close as I've ever heard a digital source sound to an analog recording and it plays in conventional CD players.  Here is the info on the K2HD Mastering process.

 

The mastering on it may be better - has nothing to do with the metals used in them.  Which that would merely confirm the premise that the better sound is a byproduct of mastering and not the format (I believe I said that?).

 

Also, the sounding "analog" phrase bugs me.  If you mean dynamic, then sure I guess.  If you got rid of dynamic compression that would make sense.  If you're referring to the "magic" and musical distortion it adds I'd be a bit weary.  In other words your description is vague and misleading at best.

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