I'd suggest focusing first and foremost on redbook cd playback. And if the unit happens to play one or more of the other formats, all the better.
But it only plays one other format, I'd lean toward SACD as the one alternate format.
I'd get an Esoteric DV-50. This player does redbook amazingly, and does ALL other formats you could fity in there, and will soon have a DVI video output upgrade from TEAC. I'ts been rviewed by many mags/people, and almost all love it, some just really like it, but for the price (I paid $4500 new, they show up for ~$3500-3900 used) you'd be hard pressed to better it!!!
FWIW I also lean towards SACD, seems the mosr supported format, and seems it should be the better of the two, that said, many things I want/own only come in DVD-A, so until much further down the road, IF one format does outdo and eliminate the other, I'd go with a universal player.
FWIW I have had a Philips 963SA and Linn Unidisc 2.1 in my system, and the 963, while a great buy at the $370 new I paid, sounds pretty compressed to me. I guess I could mod it, but it seemed overkill at the time.... I like the sound of the unidisc, but must admit, it seriously lacks bass. It has that smooth A$$ Linn sound (Most of my gear is Linn right now...) but when compared to the DV-%), just was lacking in definition and accuracy....that last one comes from the wife.
So... I guess what I am saying is I would recomend a universal player until something settles out as the ONLY source....
It may be helpful to list the $$ range you will be shopping in. I have not heard the Esoteric X-01 (SACD/CD) or UX-1 (universal) players, so I can't say how they compare with top players doing CD. However, I heard the DV-50. This is a very good universal player, but, it can be bettered by CD players doing only CD. There are inevitable compromises when a machine has to do more than one task. If you are looking in a lower price range, I bet the compromises will be even more extreme.
Even though I own about 70 SACDs, I decided to focus on a very good CD-only player. To me, the advantages of SACD and DVD-A are not that significant, while the limitations in available software further decreases the attractiveness of this format.
Get a good CD player. Otherwise you'll be spending money on SACD chip and DVD-A chip. CD will be the main standard for quite some time. No guarantee either of the new formats will survive. And if it takes over it will be many years from now. It took SACD 4-5 years to get about 2 square feet of shelving at Tower records and other record stores. DVD-A (which sounds the best) is floundering with dismal software.
DVD-A definately does NOT sound best. Both formats are excellent. Since you like classical, clearly more titles are available on SACD.
I think it is sound advice to place Redbook at the top of your criteria list. That is, unless your budget allows you to consider top shelf multi-format players, like the DV-50 mentioned.
In other words, lower priced players, for the most part, compromise one or the other.
I do not know, i wouldn't want to spend more than $1,000. I have modest system as it is. Is there a problem with universal players playing CD's? If they don't (have a problem), wouldn't option of playing SACD and DVD-a's be an advantage? Thanks!
Way things are shaking out get a redbook player.There may be many good DVD/SACD/DVD-A combo bundles this holiday season.
If you are looking for a universal player for $1,000 or under I would seriously consider taking a listen to a Yamaha S2300 universal player. Sure it isn't going to compete with some of the players listed above but should it at a fraction of the cost. I own the S2300 and really think it is a great value. I use it for cd/sacd/dvd-a and dvd movies in my home theater. You can get one used for around $600-$750. I think it will always be a part of my system even when I upgrade to a higher end redbook/sacd player like Sony's scd xa-9000es which is a superb player especially for the money $3000 new $1700 used. I am saving for the Sony and will probably keep the Yamaha for dvd-a and dvd videos. I know some people have said denon's universal player was better than the yamaha for the same price. I don't have first hand experience with the Denon though. IMO I think SACD is the best format available but I do really enjoy DVD-A also. Good luck.
For around $2000 including player and mod, you can have Dan Wright mod a Sony 999ES for you, or for around $2500, you could have an APL Philips SACD1000 from Alex Peychev. Both these players have been recently reviewed. They are both great players on redbook, and for the price of a high quality redbook-only player you can have the benefits of other formats, and probably get better redbook performance...IMO.
First check if the titles you like are available on SACD/DVD-A. That was my mistake - after purchasing an universal player I discovered that I barely have four titles on SACD I would really like to buy.
And, IMHO, Larryi is right: "There are inevitable compromises when a machine has to do more than one task. If you are looking in a lower price range, I bet the compromises will be even more extreme." Anyways, if we're talking SACD, in your price range I would only consider Marantz 8260, though I personally didn't like the coloration of sound it produces. Very good CDP playing a good CD will sound better then average universal player, IMHO.
I have a Marantz SA-12S1 Sacd player. It also does DVD-V as an add-on which I don't use. I plays Sacd's wonderfully well and plays Cd's better than I have yet heard previously. It listed for $3400, but I bought it for $1100. I have 30 Sacd titles and counting and buy hybrid when I can. They are no longer made but are available out there for deals. John
I see I have classical CDs. There are a lot of classical SACDs and some classical DVD-A (from AIX records). the only problem is there isn't much in the way of multiple works, if you like to compare and contrast different conductors, orchestras, soloists, interpretations, etc. That's easy to do with redbook, but you really can't do that yet with SACD. but even still it's good that you like classical, since about the only thing available in numbers on SACD is classical and jazz. http://www.sa-cd.net/
How high of a class is your redbook player? Is is a world-class source? Are you looking for something comparable to your existing player? something better than your existing player? What is your budget?
You guys are right. Not much there that i like on either SACD or DVD-a. I have had Cal Audio Tempest for about 10 years, and would like to believe that new CD players ARE better than the old ones. To spend? Less than $1000.
I admit I haven't heard it in a while, but I like the Roksan Kandy in the less than $1,000 range. Very musical sounding, but excessively rolled-off to sound smooth and relaxed.