Esoteric SA-50 SACD player, Is it for me?

I am currently using a Mark Levinson 39, which I like.

But I am interested in trying High Resolution digital.

The SA-50 seems to offer may features that I am looking for, balanced variable output and digital inputs for PC audio and a SqueezeBox, USB , etc.

I listen to classical only, use ML331 amp direct ,no preamp.
Speakers, Ariel 10T.

Does anyone know how the variable output on the SA-10 is implemented? Analog like the ML or digitally?

Would this be a good choice? Are there other units I should consider?

Thanks for any input.

Ken, I can only say that I find the SA-50 sonically superior to the M-L. BTW, I also listen to classical.Having said this, I do find the Esoteric somewhat "dry"... as a matter of fact, all teac machines sound dry to me. Despite their typically extended frequency response.

Frankly I don't know of other cdp's to consider -- the Linn Akurate cdp sounds very good, but does not offer the Esoteric's inputs & flexibility. in this day & age, you'd probably be considering h-disks instead:)!
The Esoterics take an incredibly long time to break in, easilly over 500 hours and some, over 1,000 hours. They may not sound dry after break in (mine doesn't). Also, power cable and IC matching a must. They do sound better using balanced out.
"Does anyone know how the variable output on the SA-10 is implemented? Analog like the ML or digitally? "

Digitally. However, if its true that they use 32 bit D/A then you have plenty bits to sacrifice before you may "hear" anything at all.

I use Joule-Electra LA-300 preamp which, I believe is the best preamp in the world and sound directly from Digital Player is lean, has luck of body not vivid and thus luck any life likeness I appreciate so much in the listening or recorded music

Good Luck
Turns out that the Esoteric is not for me.

The lack of a fire wire input, and the 16/44 limitation on the USB input make the SA-50 unsuitable for exploring High Resolution audio.

There is no way to properly connect to a computer for HiRez.
Hello Kenyonbm,

It is your decision, of course. However, your logic seems to me strange a bit.

I bought SA-50 and have it for two weeks - extraordinary sound, particularly highs and midrange. Bass is a bit shy but is inmproving everyday so in 500 hours or so I will have better opinion.

Next, technical specs. Its S/PDIF inputs are of highest resolution matched only by $8K Cary Pro 306 (but I can't stand Cary sound and its personal) and next level is at $15k - a few SACD Players there.

Regarding USB you wrote:

"the 16/44 limitation on the USB input make the SA-50 unsuitable for exploring High Resolution audio"

Well, its depends on the definition of "High Resolution Audio" If its "24/96" then yes, you can find Ayre and Wavelengh DAC's which accept them ( but then why to ask about SACD Player if you are looking for DAC with very specific requirment).

"24/96" is not the HighEST Resolution Audio available to consumer, today. Reference Recording, Chesky, 2L etc produce 24/176 and 24/192 software and no USB today is capable to accept it (Ayre promised it by the end of this year - but we are not there yet). You could nicely use Weiss DAC-2 which accept firewire as a part of your music server and then send true hi-res info to your SACD Player capable of accepting it. If there is no money for DAC-2 then RME sound card and if too expensive as well then Lynx.

At any rate, good luck with your choice.

I just ordered a SA50 SACD player. The options for playback are quite numerous.

Has anyone used the player enough to evaluate the best play options for optimized sound reproduction?

CD's: Up conversion or not, if yes how much. Also FIR and D_SLY filters (the latter supposed to be similar to Meridian and Ayre MP filters)

SACD: Basic processing or upconversion?

Re bandwidth limitations with USB...I think that will not be a problem in my case. I bring digital signals to my DAC's via SPDIF and TOSLINK (for internet radio, iTunes library, and XM radio).

Just spent two days listening to the SA-50 in my rig, (SimAudio/JmLab Focal). Didnt do it for me. I accept that the unit was not fully broken-in (dealer had been playing it on repeat for the past week before I got my hands on it) but I suspect that the overall sound would not change enough for my ears. Very detailed, good frequency extension but for my tastes relatively uninvolving and lacking emotion. Sounded a little harsh on the top and lacked some drive and impact on recordings like Brubecks "Take Five" (you know, when the drums kick in). Many things no doubt would improve (especially the slight harshness) as the player was broken-in but the lack of synergy with my set-up was the killer. I really wanted to like it!
PS, it improved quite a lot with a power regenerator, more focus and separation of instruments. Seems more sensitive to power supply than other players I've used.
Hello Glenn,

In my subjective opinion:

1 D_SLY filter is much better then FIR. Not even close

2 CD: No upconversion - get more "air" in the top but lifeless presentation. Genkides wrote: "...for my tastes relatively uninvolving and lacking emotion" but did not say what set up he used... If CD and upconverting then I agree..

3 CD - processed as SACD - loosing PRAT, very bad

SACD - best to be left alonse as PCM convesion intoduces piercing sound (for my ears) in the highs...

All The Best
My Esoteric (X03SE) sounded horrible until I went to over 1,000 hours. It is also very dependent on good power cord and conditioner. Genkides-I wouldn't sent it back, yet. Also, balanced out is the way to go. You do need good IC's.
Thanks Raphael.

Cerrot. Re balanced out...I have read many threads on Esoteric mid price models (SA10, SA50, X-03, and X-05) and one of those threads dealt with bal'd vs. SE out. The writer said he found SE better sound wise. Also that he checked that out with Esoteric reps and they agreed.

Wish I could recall what thread or model was the subject. And I agree, most people feel balanced is better.

FWIW, I used bal'd and SE'd between my Marantz SA11S1 and Jeff Rowland Capri preamp...I cannot tell any difference.
Gsherwood53-could be system synergy. I run balanced throughout. I used Tara labs The One balanced & single ended and the sound was, to me, better with balannced. Background was dead black, highs more extended and deeper soundstage. The SE sounded very good but the balanced just sounded better, in my system. The placements of instruments was better and it was much easier to hear separate violins within a group of four with the balanced.
Hi guys, a few comments in relation to the above posts. Very interesting discussion by the way!

Dob, I had the unit at home on dealer demo and am embarrassed to say I didnt take any notes on which settings I used. I did not play around too much though as it was busy enough doing A/B testing of various tracks with my current cdp. Maybe you are right on the use of CD upconversion.

Cerrot, I have sent the SA 50 back to the dealers, but he is going to let me listen again after it has had more break-in time. In the meantime I am listening to a Sim Audio SuperNova as the next home demo. I also run balanced throughout (amp is fully balanced). I used Acoustic Zen Matrix Ref2 with the SA-50.

Gsherwood53. Ha, I have a Marantz SA11s1 as well. Let me know what differences you hear between the two players. My comments above were generally formed by my A/B testing between the SA50 and the Marantz. YMMV.

Anyway, it's not quite game set and match yet. As I said, I really wanted to like this player, especially given it's flexibility. We'll see what the next round of testing brings.
Well I certainly will run both Bal'd and SE'd when I get my SA50. With the SA11S1 into JRDG Capri, I used Kimber Hero XLR's and Furutech Evo I's for SE'd. Most of my cables are Furutech, but I bought the Kimber Heros mostly because TAS always says they are the best buy, sonically and price wise.

Would appreciate any comments on my use of KK Hero XLR's.

I will report on the SA50 vs. the SA11S1, but with upwards of 1000 hours needed for best sonics, it will be a while.
I know this thread is rather old, but the SA-50 is on my shortlist. I'd be using a SB Touch as a transport and connect the SA-50 directly to my Gryphon amp. Has anyone hear had any experience with Esoteric-Gryphon?
Glenn and Genkides: how did your auditioning go?
Best regards
Hi, I'd love to chat with you about lev 39 and how it compares to stuff from this century (lol) can you buzz me at axysguru at yahoo?