I just posted this mini review of the three SACD players I have over at http://www.stevehoffman.tv/forums/showthread.php?p=6462019#post6462019. This thread was partially responsible for me getting the SCD-XA5400ES, so I thought I should follow up on how I like it. I did this comparison with my main stereo system, I will do a comparison with my headphone amp and HD800's next.
FWIW, here is my first impressions of comparing the following three players when playing STEREO SACD: SCD-1, DVP-S9000ES and SCD-XA5400ES. I sould say right up front this was a very limited comparison, I hope to do more soon. I switched each player in and out of the exact same position in my main stereo system so each one saw the same power cord and the same interconnects. This meant I could not do very quick AB comparisons, however, I think this method produced the best apples to apples comparison. On each player everything (digital, video, XLR, HDMI) except the RCA out jacks was shut off. I used a Radio Shack analog SPL meter to be sure each payer was producing the same loudness. The SCD-1 and 9000 were identical in loudness and the 5400 required one unit of volume increase on my preamp. According to c-j one unit on the volume setting on my P16 LS is 0.7 dB, so I think the units were matched very closely in the loudness they produced. The measured SPL peaked at 78 dB with one burst to slightly over 80 dB. This is about 4 to 5 dB louder than I normally listen, but I wanted to be sure the volume was loud enough that the system's sound was very open and not muted in any way.
As I said this was a very limited comparison based on just one song. The SACD that I used is Aja and the song is Deacon Blues. As you have already guessed the SACD I am using is from Universal Japan and this is the SHM-SACD released only in Japan, but can be obtained from some US vendors as well as places like cdjapan. This is one of mine and my wife's favorite albums, I have several vinyl versions and I have been playing the SACD about once a week for 4 or 5 months now. I would say I am very familiar with this music. There are four main musical elements in this song: the lead guitar, the sax solos, the band and singers as a group and finally the drums.
First, all three players produced a big and realistic sound stage in both width and depth. All three plays produced excellent images with space (or some people call this air) around each of the instruments. Tonal quality of each of the players was excellent and very musical.
Second, To something like 99%+ the SCD-1 and the DVP-S9000ES sounded identical. I would really be splitting hairs to try to describe any difference I heard between these two players.
Third, I did hear a noticeable (but small) and repeatable difference between the SCD-XA5400ES and the other two players. I cannot explain what causes this difference, but it is there. The 5400 makes the lead guitar appear to be more forward in the sound stage and just a touch louder than the other two players and the other two players produce a firmer, stronger and more realistic acoustic image of the drums than the 5400 does. It was almost as if I was listening to a slightly different mix of the song when I switched to the 5400. Now above I said the first two players were 99%+ identical. I would say that the 5400 and the other two players are 95%+ identical. This difference I hear in the 5400 is not a huge "oh wow" difference, these three players are very close in the sound that they produce.
There is one thing I could not control in this comparison and it must be mentioned here. I estimate that my SCD-1 has 2000 to 3000 hours on it (if anyone knows if and how I can get a readout on it of playing hours please let me know through a PM) and that my 9000 has about 1000 playing hours on it. On the other hand the 5400 has about 25 hours on it, so there may be some change in its sound as it gets more playing hours.
I want say that I think all three of these players are excellent SACD players and anyone who has one of these payers as a source component should be very happy to have such a good SACD player. I do almost all of my use of this type of player listening to SACD's, however, when I get the chance I will do a redbook CD comparison on them. Hope to post more later.