I read this a few weeks ago. It seems like SACD was another format doomed by greed.
They could have made it better with 128, 256, or even 512 but didn't. It's pretty clear they made digital output impossible due to copyright fears, limiting playback to the players converter and analog outputs. Finally, instead of releasing all new recordings using the new technology and pricing it the same as CDs they used the same approach that worked with CDs. Re-release old catalogs on the new format to sell the new players, charge double for the new discs, then release new recordings once the player inventory grew enough to support it. The timing didn't work because everyone already had CD players and CD libraries by then and the SACDs didn't offer enough of an improvement for most people to justify investing in a new library and box to play it on. To most people it wasn't a revolutionary new format, it was just a more expensive CD.
That approach worked for CDs because LPs were big, fragile, consumable, and unportable, and cassettes were cassettes. CDs were perfect sound forever. You could store more in less space, take them with you in the car and to the beach, and they lasted forever (well that was the idea). SACDs looked the same as CDs, cost twice as much, and unless you had a great system and player, sounded about the same.
I still have an SACD player with a small library of discs that I also own as LPs, CDs, and downloads. My SACDs rarely get played.
I listen to Classical, the one genre that embraced SACD and has kept it alive. I have well over a hundred SACDs. SACD didn’t fail because it was an improvement, it failed because most people don’t give a damn about audio quality and think that Apple crappy ear buds are all they need
SACD didn’t fail because it was an improvement, it failed because most people don’t give a damn about audio quality and think that Apple crappy ear buds are all they need
Mahler123 Very true, but I believe that greed also helped to kill it. To charge initially over $30 for SACD (vs $15 CD), while media is maybe $1 more and everything else is the same (royalties, box, booklet etc) is not very smart. It killed Sony Beta, Iomega Zip Drive and many others. It is very difficult to establish new standard and overcharging doesn't help.
I agree with Elizabeth! Sony missed a good opportunity to market dual discs together with players by being greedy with overpricing! For most people CD was "good enough" - and they sure weren't going to pay double!
To me, Sony is the fail. "IF" Sony had converted the entire catalog to dual CD/SACD and sold only those. (at near CD prices). Then enough folks would begin having SACDs to decide to buy a SACD machine.
Exactly my point indeed.
A golden opportunity missed on a huge scale by Sony.
A real shame and Sony only have themselves to blame.
Wonder if there were any ritual harikari committed at Sony HQ?
PCM has no issues with high frequencies (unless your DAC has a complete garbage filter). So, DSD is not more accurate, it does have more high frequency noise, you may like it better, that’s not my stance.
EDIT: Not saying it’s a crap format, it’s just that PCM has no shortcomings.
Excellent article, this is the part that rings true to me, every time I come up against it.
When a PCM file is played on a native DSD single-bit converter, the single-bit DAC chip has to convert the PCM to DSD in real-time. This is one of the major reasons people claim DSD sounds better than PCM, when in fact, it is just that the chip in most modern single-bit DACs do a poor job of decoding PCM."
Most SACDs are SQ compromised IMO because they are converted from PCM originals, or PCM intermediate stages even if they are originally recorded in DSD. That is because mastering is a practical impossibility in DSD.
So the best sounding SACDs are often directly from analog material, all the mastering having been done in analog. AAD disks with no PCM involved.
There is not a single DSD recording that did not start off as PCM. Even if worked on in DXD, that’s still PCM (24/352.8). You can’t transfer analog straight to DSD either, at least not to my knowledge.
Still, my claim about it not being better over PCM still stands. There are no downsides to listening to PCM that DSD can fix, as PCM is 100% transparent (given a good enough bitrate/bit-depth/sampling rate of course; a 128Kbps AAC track on YouTube is different than a FLAC transfer from CD).
I am skeptical if recording straight to 1-Bit (DSD) is possible. If you have to do any editing at all, it has to enter PCM, as even DXD (the editing format for DSD) is PCM.
DSD is no more accurate “to the original event” than PCM; the very fundamental of digital audio, Nyquist-Shannon, states so.
The difference between the formats are very insignificant. DSD just records quickly if the waveform is increasing or decreasing (meaning a flat waveform cannot be reproduced accurate, luckily we don’t need to worry about that), whereas PCM takes samples that 100% accurately captures the original waveform.
Thank You for posting an excellent article. I am a big proponent for the SACD format. I am also a big proponent for the original RBCD format. I own a few titles that are 20-bit and 24-bit remasters. As most are finding out with reference to downloads and other files, there can be too much compression and resolution at 24/192. Top tier Audio gear will expose these differences which is not always more musical. Happy Listening!
You continue to display what you don’t know. In addition to the original DSD recordings currently being made available, hundreds of analog titles have been released as AAD SACDs from companies like RCA, Mercury and EMI. All of their editing and mastering is done in analog, NOT PCM. I am more familiar with the classical releases but there are hundreds of pop releases as well. Many record collectors are transferring their LPs directly to DSD using a Tascam DA-3000, for example. No PCM involved.
DXD is just a high rez PCM format Nothing special except that the rez is very high.
In defense of the SQ of SACDs, Sony has restricted the ability to feed the SACD digitally into sophisticated DACs. Only those with special DAC units as from PS Audio, or those who have ripped their SACDs can hear what they can really do. This is not to deny that DACs are becoming so good at reproducing Red Book, that the differences are getting smaller.