First, stop trying to confuse yourself. This isn't a technology choice. It's a software choice. Where is the music you want to listen to? Vinyl? SACD? No, it's in CDs. A vinyl rig won't play that, and a SACD player won't play it any better than a CD player will (in general). Do you want a vinyl rig? Are you looking forward to spending your weekends at flea markets and garage sales scouring bins for old records? If yes, then definitely go for the vinyl--it's a lot of fun, and there's a helluva lot more LPs out there than there are SACDs. (There may be more LPs out there than there will ever be SACDs.) If not, then maybe you'll have more fun playing with a new technology. But I'll bet you that no matter which way you go, five years from now you'll still have more CDs than anything else.
This is a tough call.
The first thing I would not do is abandon digital altogether. You have hundreds of CDs, no sense not being able to play those.
Your real problem is that you do not have a linestage or phono preamp now. These can be a bit pricy depending on the quality. If you had a linestage and phono preamp, the following advice would be different.
Frankly, here is what I would do:
Keep what you have and save your money for a nice preamp that has a phono stage in it. You might want to consider a used Krell preamp with phono built in. They are a good value, and will be good with the Plinius amp.
The next item on the list you need to get is some better IC's to connect your Preamp to your amp.
The next item you need to save for is a Turntable/Tonearm/Cartridge combination. Lots of good ones out there. Just set a budget and work within that budget.
I was in pretty much the same place as you so I'll tell you what I did even though that may be no help whatsoever in figuring out what you should do! I was a fairly early adopter of SACD and bought a SCD-1 and eagerly awaited the flood of new titles that would surely come with this clearly superior technology. The flood never even became a trickle. I had throroughly scoured the available discs and bought about 40, all of which sounded fantastic, and only about four of which contained music I actually liked. Eventually I sold the player and most of the discs and bought a relatively cheap vinyl rig (Rega P3 and Benz Micro Glider cartridge) and now have access to thousands of dirt cheap titles, albeit not a lot of new stuff. However, I live in NY and there are quite a few easy sources for records. If you live in the sticks it may make more sense to enhance your CD rig and forgo vinyl.
Bomarc makes alot of sense, but pragmatism is not always a strong suit around these parts. If it's any consolation, there are hundreds of cd tiles on ECM, CMP, Tzadik, Intuition, Hat, Enja and other labels that sound better than most SACD releases. Vinyl has its virtues, but it's often beat up and expensive when you can find the stuff you want. And it's FRAGILE! Don't let anyone kid you, a stylus does not ride the groove in a clean low friction environment. The contact surface area to weight ratio is about a ton per sq inch. A record isn't the same and doesn't sound the same after a stylus has been dragged through it a few times.
When you have an exceptional piece of vinyl, a great table, arm, cartridge, and stylus that are set up perfectly (they never stay properly set up for long) you can hear some %#@*/:>} GOOD STUFF!!. You can get way more than 99% of the way there w/ the best digital front ends. Sometimes the last .05% or so really matters. I think groovier'n hell that some guys go at it that way all the time. Unfortunately, they'll miss out on most of the incredibly good music and recordings that have come out in the last 10 to 15 years.
One possibility, since you already have a Sony CD player and are used to its sound, is to get one of the more inexpensive Sony SACD players, as I'm sure you have plenty of CDs and these players offer decent sound, even on redbook CD, from all I've read, and use the rest for your analog front end. After all, you have a lot of music on CD you'll want to listen to, no need to give that up completely. KF is right, you'll want a preamp with a decent phono stage, or a standalone phono unit (many of which can be had used for a song) if you have a line stage, but even a modest analog front end (one of the MMF tables, for example) will outperform an inexpensive CD player and give you a lot of listening enjoyment. Don't feel you can't get good analog for less than $3K, or even $2500, I've heard analog rigs for under that price that sound terrific, even using revealing speakers such as the Innersounds.
Here is a twist. What artist that would come out on SACD would convince you to get a SACD player (even a cheap one)?
There is no doubt in my mind that a TT rig will sound better at your price point. There is also a ton more records out there than SACDs. The downside to a TT is that its more of a pain in the ass, and a larger investment in time, money and attention than beginners anticipate. Envision setting it up, cleaning records, and being a little more anal.
I had a $3k TT rig that I sold because I am just too busy and college-like to deal with it. I really like my $3k CDP, but that TT beat the hell out of it.
I have a Sony SCD-777ES, and a Michell Gyrodec/SME 309/Micro Benz Glider/ARC PH3SE. I personally prefer the sound of my vinyl rig on most LPs to the sound of the SACD player on most SACDs. BUT...
I have a few hundred LPs from "the old days", and getting additional LPs is a chore. New vinyl is available, but expensive. Used LPs are around in larger cities, but in varying condition. Despite owning nice vinyl gear, I find I purchase very few LPs each year.
After purchasing the SACD player, I decided that I would only purchase SACDs, and no red book CDs. Right!! While the SACD offerings are growing, I keep finding the music I want to purchase on CDs, and not SACDs or LPs. It's not clear to me that SACD will "make it". Look at Betamax. It was a better video system than VHS, but it died. Ten years from now, my SACDs may be like 8 tracks, reel to reel, and cassettes.
I have many times more red book CDs than my SACDs and LPs combined. I find I listen to CDs 90% of the time because that's what I own.
If I were you, I would spend my money on improving my red book CD sound, whether that means a new CD player, a DAC, or even some other link in your system. You can go to any decent high end audio shop and hear stunning sound from red book CDs. I think it is too soon to spend money on SACD, and too late to get started with vinyl, all because of the software available at this time.
Bomarc makes a lot of sense. Duanegoosen mentions what vinylphiles gloss over: every time an lp is played it becomes noisier. Heck, they will say gleefully that they like this noise since it lives in another sonic plane! In pre-cd days, brand new vinyl was bad at least two out of three times. The worst culprits: American pressings, with CBS at the top of the list. I can just imagine what used vinyl is like. Went to a local shop that specializes in used vinyl last week (although they sell new vinyl, the choice is almost as limited as SACD), the records I looked at were scuffed and scratched. My vinyl collection was pampered. A visual inspection of any disc taken at random will show nothing awry at least 95% of the time. Put it on the turntable and half the time (approximately) the disc is noisy. I can just imagine how noisy the ones in that shop are, if you can see on a quick visual examination that the record is just so so. If you want a tt so you can buy recordings not otherwise available, go ahead. Don't expect it to replace your cd player though, despite all the bad press cd is getting these days. They are two different approaches. Some good can be said of either. Something that can't be said though is that abandoning cd will settle all your reproduced music issues.
In my opinion, a good TT setup will sound better than a very good SACD player. I have a nice SACD player that I used to use in my listening room and after a while, I moved it to my home theater room. I purchase a couple of LP's each week for around $3.50 from one of the many used cd stores in town. The albums are usually older material, but that is what most SACD's are also. If it were me, I would get a very nice cd player/transport/dac you can afford and then go out and purchase a decent TT setup with the rest of the money to see if you like using albums. A nice start would be a Music Hall model 5 or model 7 setup. You can get a Creek phono amp for a couple hundred dollars that would be compatible with the Music Hall TT's.
Gary (Gdolin) makes some very good points pertaining to the various musical formats and has obviously experience the pluses and minuses of vinly ownership.
I don't see why you need to make a choice; unless money is the concern. If it is then I would suggest you go with the digital format for reasons Gary suggests.
However; I would buy the Sony and if you are not satisfied with is redbook performance, which by the way is quite excellent, you could always have it modded by the likes of Richard Kern (Audiomod). At which point you will have one of the finest sounding players on redbook(IMO) and SACD to boot.
Pbb it's a shame that you never had a decent record playing rig. Either that or you have a personal problem about analog.
I don't think there has ever been a thread at Audiogon where you don't go ballistic complaining about noise and problems with LP. I'm sincerely sorry that you never got it together and made it work, but it gets tiring to have you knock everyone who even considers the format.
If you lived near me I could embarrass you with the facts simply by listening. If you cannot make the visit I will give you the names of about a dozen high end manufacturers that have heard my system and can testify that not only does my analog destroy CD and SACD, it is about as silent on 70% of my 6,000 LP library.
My response to the poster of this thread is to keep your CD library and get a SACD player that plays Redbook well and enjoy what you have.
I would save up for that Linn analog set-up you lust after, buy LP's as you have the chance and enjoy what each has to offer. You may then decide that you want to keep both or decide only one is the best for your situation. I will say that for young people it is very difficult to begin a library comprised of recent releases and popular artists in LP format. There are however, tens of thousand of Jazz, classical and rock titles available for those who seek it.
I am a bit taken back by Pbb's comments as well. I buy 6 or 8 used lps a week from ebay or gemm.com. Maybe 1 or so are a bit noisy, so i clean it on a wet vac, the rest I play and do not even clean. They average 5 or 6 bucks a piece, so 9 or 10 with shipping. I have a good turntable and a smart and quiet cartridge, a Dynavector xx-2. I also have a 3k cdp. The cdp sound is very good, but just does not have the life that the analog setup has. I think it never will. I find used records very easy and fun and cheap, I also do not find analog that difficult to deal with.
Analogue. Hands down. As for the 'noise issue', buy a VPI 16.5, problem solved. The amount of software available in LP's versus SACD's really doesn't even make this a question. Ad in the superior sound quality, analogue wins, case closed.
I have found that I enjoy my analog set-up much more for listening to music, when that is all I am doing. For background music while working, tieing flies, doing the dishes, etc., the digital is much more convenient. There is nothing worse than running to the TT with wet, dirty, soapy, greasy, etc., hands, to rescue your cartridge, because you spaced out regarding the last cut on a LP.
For me, analog is magical and greatly prefered (clean those LP's!), but the CD is more convenient.
Alberporter, I have no desire to have this as a saga of digital vs. analogue, tt vs. CD, and on and on. The question posed by the gentleman was put as if he were at a crossroads. My answer to him was not to look at it this way and to keep CD playback even if he chooses to get a tt. I see nothing ballistic is what I said. Granted I have never heard anything close to the expensive equipment you have, so I may have no idea how gentle your set-up might be on the fragile grooves. Insofar as a cleaning machine, which was one of the suggestions made by another poster, granted dirt and grunge in the grooves is not a good thing, but the groove once damaged never heals, unlike biological systems. The gentlemen here was not asking what to buy for 50K but with 3k, preamp included. This should give very good playback capability if he buys in the used market and if his purchases are carefully thought out. In closing, yes, I find that a noisy record is not enchantment, ticks and pops break the spell for me, and I find it disingenuous when people do not mention the shortcomings of vinyl when someone too young to remember (I presume here) when it was all that was available inquires as to taking the tt plunge, and even more so when the person intends to do away with CD altogether. I take good note of your admission that at least thirty percent (30%) of you record library is noisier than CD or SACD. It is very hard to embarrass me BTW. I take you at your word that your record playing equipment is topnotch. At this stage SACD is not a substitute for CD. At least an SACD player can play CDs, which the last time I checked is not the case for a turntable. Let's not make any of this personal. Good day.
You will definitely get better sound from a good analog setup.
Maybe I'm missing something here regarding what you would like to accomplish on a $3000 budget. Get a used LP12 (Valhalla) with an arm (Ittok) and buy a Denon 103 cartridge. Get an SACD player and have it modified to excel at Redbook playback also. There are a number of inexpensive phono stages selling for $100-200 used, that together with the described analog setup will just blow you away.
As I have stated many times before in similar threads here at Audiogon I am analog based because of my age. Knowing what I know, I would do exactly what I have recommended in the preceeding paragraph if I were in your shoes. I would, however, probably buy more used Redbook CD's because of the huge selection available and the fact that used CD's are so cheap. Used vinyl isn't getting any cheaper and that's about the only drawback with adding an analog front end.
There are some urban legends that get perpetuated even here at Audiogon. Make these falsehoods work in your favor:
#1. The Linn turntable design is dated and better performance is easily and cheaply attained...NOT. There are better tables to be had but for the price of a used LP12 you simply can't go wrong. Also keep in mind that many posters to these threads have an anti-Linn bias and simply refuse to give credit where it is due. I'm no fan of Ivor or his network of retailers. However, the LP12 pushed the envelope of performance to a level where the other pieces of hardware had to catch up with it's performance. The truth is that few pieces in the rest of the music chain demand a turntable of higher performance than the Linn.
#2. All used vinyl is noisy...NOT. Further, they do not degrade with age as stated previously. If the vinyl looks good it probably is good as long as the cartridge that previously played the record didn't damage it. Most flaws in records are accentuated by inferior turntable design.
#3. There isn't much quality used vinyl left to buy...NOT. This is a lot like the NOS tube rolling crowd. Collections will be found, bought and sold for a very long time. They will not run out of tubes (or vinyl) even after all the old ones are gone. Markets will spring up where there is a demand. Contrary to popular belief, new vinyl will only be better than before. I know that some of the tubers here are going to smoke me for that comment but think about it. Should all the wonderful old tubes be gone there will be a huge demand for quality new tubes with emphasis placed on tube characteristics for the sound and the free market will fill this need.
#4. Turntables require constant tweaking, especially the Linn...NOT. The truth is: if it's set up correctly there isn't much to do but enjoy the music. One occasionally must clean the stylus and replace it once in a blue moon.
#5. The care and feeding of vinyl is a huge problem...NOT. If you use a cleaning machine once it's a rare occurance that it needs to be cleaned again. So, you buy a new record, clean it on a machine, place the vinyl in a protective sleeve, protect the jacket if you desire and clean it with a carbon fiber brush before and after each play. What's the big deal?
#6. Repeated playings wear a record out...NOT. I suppose that there is some merit to this urban legend but not in the real sense of owning a record. I have a hand full of records that I never tire of listening to and have played hundreds of times. I can't hear any loss of fidelity or increase in the noise floor.
There are other urban legends of lesser proportion that aren't worthy of the time to discuss them. The following is my view based on a lifetime of turntable ownership. For your reference I will list all the turntables I have owned since 1970: Thorens TD-? with a Shure V15? (This has been so long ago that I can't remember the model numbers) Original LP12, Newer design LP12 with Ittok in 1984, Beogram 1900 purchased for my mother and used extensively in my system prior to giving it to her.
Suspension turntables (IMHO) are less hassle but need either a concrete floor or wall mounting for best results. Get a table/arm with VTA adjustment. Get an arm with anti-skate adjustment. You will want to replace a cartridge (human nature) sooner than it needs to be replaced. Remove the platter and lock the arm if you move the turntable to a new location in your home. Keep the original box and use it if you move to a new home. Dirt is the enemy. Keep things clean.
The bottom line is that I suggest keeping your options open and accomodate most software. Whatever happens in the digital world with new and improved formats is of very little concern if you concentrate on Redbook and analog. There will always be quality playback equipment and support due to the sheer volume of existing software. SACD and DVDA may be the best formats but may go the way of BETA for whatever reason.
average price of vinyl (either near-mint used or new) $5
average price of red-book CD (either near-mint used or new) $8
average price of SACD (near-mint used or new) $20.
vinyl is cheaper but performance is on the top of any any any CD, HDCD, SACD, XRCD blahblahblahCD.
so I also make a point there.
SACD is just another digital toy to play with if it interests you too much from the infantile point of view.
Vinyl is for serious listeners.
I envy you being able to find near mint or new vinyl for an average of $5. My experience is that desireable recordings by preferred artists in near mint or new condition are a minimum of $10 excluding shipping costs. Please share with us your source(s) for used vinyl.
I usually go for records in downdown NYC or I know a few places in Brooklyn and Queens.
I've established my following classic rock collections of Jethro Tull $4/per album; Yes $2 per album, Led Zeppelin $3 per album, Dire Straits $2.50 per album, Roxy Music and its members solos $2 per album... You're not going to beleive but I've grabbed the Metallica albums and singles for as low as $2 per piece that looked basically brand-new from garage sale but due to my age I had to sell it on ebay right the next day after I bought them :*). I thought that I would live them for myself to listen to it again for a while but I realized that I couldn't stand for 15 min to listen to it. They sounded superb on my Michell.
Progressive rock I've acquired in Germany along with the bunch of sophisticated electronics, european jazz-rock for the average of $6. Please note that German pressings in general are superior to US since they produce less noise and more clarity.
There are some original albums in my collection that only a few hundreds of copies were made. Some of them never released on CDs. Most of these albums will die with me or live after me and will never be sold.
So whenever you'll be in NYC just shoot me a note and I'll tell you a few different places where to sweep the cheap and mint records maybe we'll meet than on some of these stores. Or the best thing you can do right now is to give me a list of wanted artists and I'll bring you the pricing in NYC and if you're agreed I'll buy them and ship them to you.
In my opinion you are going to need to purchase half speed 180 gm masters or better to get the full benefits of analog over SACD. Standard vinyl, while very good at times, is not, again in my experience, going to outerform SACD at least to a significant degree; given the hassles.
A friend of mine who is into vinyl almost exclusively pays upwards of $50.00 plus and sometimes even north of $150 for high quality vinyl. Even then some of those he has to send back because of quality issues. He goes through a pretty rigorous cleaning method before he ever plays them as he is a very detail oriented individual. Even he complains about the difficulties in maintaining and finding good quality viny.
I have listened to his system and good quality vinyl does sound excellent, admittedly out performing SACD in most instances. But standard vinyl simply isn't there especially considering the hassles.
Again just my opinion
The postings following mine say everything that needs to be said about the performance and value of LP.
It is clear that many others at this site, who like me, own both digital and analog find the LP a superior format.
My comments to firstname.lastname@example.org did not discourage him from enjoying his CD collection. I advised him to follow his attraction to analog, advice that would give him a wider range of content to choose from and an opportunity to decide what made him happy.
iloxi, let us know what you decide.
I would tend to agree with Albert. I have a Sony SCD 777es and a Sota STar Sapphire. With arm and cartridge the cost is virtually identical. I enjoy SACD as it is much better than redbook CDs, but the sound of vinyl is far superior. I have not experienced the noise problems of which others have complained.
Much of the answer to your question though will be based on your choice of music. New music is obviously more difficult to find on vinyl, BUT not impossible. If you prefer older (pre 90's) all of it will be available on LP. Used vinyl is a treasure trove of beautiful music regardless of your tastes!!!
The real question is: to what do you want to listen?
Thanks to ALL for your help! I decided to go with SACD and keep Cd's and also analog as some of you suggested. I will be looking for used Rega 3 and Rb300 arm. And will wait for pre-am and MC cartridge. I am running out of funds as it is.
Another satisfied customer. Enjoy both, enjoy the tunes. Good day.
anolog. I have a scd-1 SACD and have not turned it on in a month, digital is convenient, although it does sound good, when compared to a good anolog rig it sounds DIGITAL. I beleive the question you should ask yourself is do I want convenance or sound quality.