I've got a pretty good setup for vinyl and digital audio files, but I have an opportunity to get a "minty" 10-yr old audiophile-grade CD/SACD player for $350. I am intrigued by it but don't know if it would really give me any better quality for some recordings than what I already have. Also, I know that SACD didn't really catch on, but I see tons of audiophile-quality releases out there from MFSL, etc.
The player I'm looking at seems to be both an amazing, rock solid transport with a Cirrus Logic 32 bit DSD chip.
My digital setup is currently a Bluesound Vault II, pushing out FLAC files of various quality up to 24-bit 192KHz to a Cary DAC-100t tube DAC (which does not have DSD support, so I am guessing that I wouldn't be able to leverage it for the SACD player), using a Creative Cable Green Hornet coax in between the two.
Can anyone chime in with their opinion, both on what I should consider in terms of quality comparing the two as well as music collection availability on SACD vs hi-res files that are sold online through HDtracks and other vendors (like I know some mastering houses have their own releases on SACD but not sure if the same music/mastering is available on digital files).
I'd look to the future, not the past. For high res digital, physical media is dead. I couldn't see investing in dead or dying tech. I'd use that cash for buying music, or stash it for an upgrade to a dsd dac if that is attractive to you.
I'd agree with Mark Tomaras, as for digital, it is changing and improving quite a bit lately. DACs are getting better and better with each new generation and MQA is just now in it's infancy, if it continues down it's current trajectory, having a DAC which does not decode MQA in a short while, might not be the best decision.
If you like classical and jazz, there are many splendid SACDs. My best audio source remains an Ayre C-5xeMP disc player, but at a cost much greater than $350. For $350, why not try it and decide for yourself.
Though I love SACDs (physical discs), I would have to agree with the 2 posters before me. The reason for this is - it seems you do not have a single SACD. In that case, you should simply stick with DSD (if you like SACD sound) and consider a new DAC. And btw, that disc mechanism in that "minty" player might fail at some point, and being slightly older, you might not a replacement part. Good luck.
The real issue is SQ and that includes the recording and mastering, not just how many bits it spits.
I'm told that many early SACDs were originally just upsampled CDs. And some of the ones I have make grungy source material (Stones) sound too sweet, tho I dunno if they were re-mastered or just upsampled.
My view is that you need to be very careful as to what you are paying a premium for over Redbook CD, and get info on each and every release.
Even if high res is an improvement over Redbook that one can hear*, it will be very difficult to show that a difference that is clearly due to SQ is NOT just due to re-mastering. So I don't think anyone can say one is always better than the other, at least not yet.
*And I have never seen a carefully done study showing that.
The overall sound quality of any recording will be far more dependent on mixing and mastering over the nuances of one technology over another. If you had a large physical SACD collection, there would be some sense to obtain a player that can also serves as an external DAC. Otherwise the future is certainly in digital file format.
The thing about SACD and most DSD recordings that has its origins in a digital domain, its almost always except in the rarest of instances, started its life as PCM recording. Its vastly easier to mix and master from a PCM based recording as most packages work mainly on this format. So the last stage of DSD conversion for is somewhat trivial and plays only to the common architecture of modern Sigma-Delta DAC chips, which had often been single bit designs with oversampling. It introduces a bit of noise, but a low pass digital filter is implemented to push it out of the audio band.
But since many recordings were just red book conversions, it was just really people noticing some of the filtering differences and combination with certain analog circuit designs. Not too much of a game changer.
There are a ton of supposed HiRes recordings out there that are nothing but digital upsamples. Total and complete ripoffs and you can only make the determination using an application to make an analysis of the files. I've often noticed that multi track recordings might have one track that was recorded above red book resolution (often a sample) and is used to justify a recording being deemed HiRes. Only analog recordings being reconverted to HiRes format typically contain more content that many supposed modern HiRes digital recordings. HDTracks has been known to sell tracks that are nothing but upsamples (although they state its what had been given to them by the publisher). I have read they check recordings these days, but as I stated, if one track in part of a multi track recording is HiRes, it gets the HiRes label. To me, this is fraud. There should be a standard that shows Redbook, Partial, and Full HiRes music.
So before you get too far down this road of advanced formats, focus on the music and quality of recordings over technology used. Today, the technology is used to fleece the customer in convincing some in getting something they simply are not.
Thanks guys, for all of this perspective. Yeah, I've decided to pass on the SACD player, simply because I don't listen to that much classical, and it seems not worth the investment just to have a few recordings/masters that might not be available elsewhere. I'm satisfied with the quality and collection of lossless files, but truthfully, I listen 85% through vinyl, so my money is probably best spent elsewhere. :)
@mmeysarosh thank you for the illuminating insight into DSD conversion and the introduction of noise. I always thought it was a native format from the start, either from analog masters or new recordings. I had heard about the amount of converted PCM, but never thought that the conversion would add noise. Nonetheless, I wouldn't ever want to buy SACDs that were just converted, upsampled CDs in the first place.
The actual recording can either be good or not so good no matter the format. It depends on the original. Also, in the case of remastered works, the engineer doing the remastering make a difference also. I my limited opinion. I have SACD, DSD, FLAC playback capabilities. Some are good, some bad, a few great!
SACD makes sense for one genre of music - classical. The SACD catalog is deep and diverse in this genre. Also, much of it is 5.1 multi-channel (MCH).
Digital downloads and streaming (Tidal, etc.) are indeed on the upswing, but they still trail CD sales, and there are very few MCH digital downloads. Digital streaming in stereo may someday include embedded 5.1 via DTS Neural, but that has not happened yet.
Also digital downloads are still primarily a US phenomena - much of the rest of the world is still wedded to the silver discs which are cheap to make, not vulnerable to power or RAID failures, and not dependent on fast Internet connections. Considering all of this, if I were a classical fan I would have two "antique" devices in my rig - a vinyl turntable, and an SACD player. (Since I am, I do !)
I have a Meridian 800dvd/cd player and run it to compare with a Bryston bdp2 streamer, streaming wav mainly, which is far superior to flac (imho!!).
The Meridian must be the best second hand value for money ever - superb quality at now almost negligible prices. There is some difference as the Meridian does seem to pick out quite different aspects, and I suppose is generally "warmer, softer" sound.
I suppose the whole thing can be classified as "mood dependent" so it is just nice to be old fashioned from time to time and stick a dvd audio or sacd or cd on and get a slightly different presentation. Probably better or worse is not a call to make at that level of quality - just different.
I also run a high quality analogue set up, but as usual the whole thing is governed by quality of recordings, which is a variable that is flaming irritating.
I agree with many points that others have made. SACD is great for classical--I have over 100- and jazz. If your tastes don't lean in that direction, it may not have a lot to offer for you. one consideration is that the DSD stream from SACD, but it either requires a lot of work--if you use a Play Station- or special gear. I use an Oppo 105 to output the DSD into a Bryston BDA-3