I HAVE A 2CH SACD PLAYER. SOMETIMES SACD's sound pretty good, but in several cases, usually with orchestral pieces, for some reason the melody carried by the string section gets drowned out by the horns/brass instruments. the effect is unnerving, like i am hearing the background or supportive musical lines as the dominant voice and the theme as the supportive or background voice. i have tried switching the phase, and even going to the redbook layer (if there is one). Naturally these are Hybrid Multichannel Discs that can be played on a conventional, 2CH SACD, and 6CH SACD. I have even updated the firmware on my SACD player (EMM Labs) but to no avail. Am i the only one who has this problem? Funny thing is, the redbook cd's i have always thought sounded great still sound that way, and small ensembles/chamber music on SACD sound amazing. but it would seem i am getting some of the other channels mixed up with the main-front-L&R channels.
WHAT is wrong with this picture? Thanks for your feedback.
I notice the same thing. My Esoteric player is 2 channel only as well and I have observed the same thing when playing multichannel sacd's on my 2 channel player. Rock sacd's can be even worse. I much prefer the Sony Mastersound Redbook cd of Pink Floyd "Wish you were here" as opposed to the sacd Acoustic Sounds version in multi channel.
I have a Pioneer Elite player and I don't think I have ever noticed this and I tend to listen to mostly classical.
The SACD's you are referring to were probably not recorded in multichannel originally. Its likely that whoever engineered stereo versions to multichannel did a very poor job. They probably don't understand audio very well and approached the job with a theatre mentality. That could easily explain the results you are getting.
I doubt it has anything to do with multichannel mastering since both French_fries and Stereo5 are listening on 2 channel players. Their machines should not ever access the multichannel tracks.
well here's a specific example to demonstrate my point-
HYBRID MULTICHANNEL SACD (compatible with all cd players).
i already had a great redbook copy on Archiv which sounds great, but
i wanted to see if i could get an even better recording. while i am not out by $30 it is still aggravating that i have still ANOTHER CD (along with a couple of dozen others) that sound weird instead of outstanding. Is this some kind of a hoax or what? i looked through the Archiv but this topic was discussed way back a number of years ago, before my CDP was even marketed.
i am going to call EMM on monday but i would suggest that anyone reading this be forwarned about which SACD's you might want to pass over this passover...
Sorry about that. I guess I don't see bold print very well.
I remember saying to a record store guy that I've known for years just how wonderful SACD's sound coming from my computer' hard drive. He totally agreed but then stated that SACD's sound great unless they're played from an SACD player. He went on to explain that every customer that he knows of who owns a SACD player has told him that SACD sounds bad in a SACD player but great in a standard CD player. It doesn't surprise me so much seeing that SACD playback is still relatively new and may require some intense research.
There was a review of sorts, actually more of a rumination, at another online site (PFO?) not too long ago and the reviewer couldn't get his SACD player to sound good despite buying 3 different units, each one more costly than the previous one.

He tried it one more time after finding out that the latest Marantz used an SACD capable DAC that recently came out (or was it just properly implemented?) and now his SACD collection sounds great.

Could it be that the advances made in DSD capable DACs are now being fitted to SACD players and are just overlooked as everyone is going the computer route?

All the best,
Other than this issue just wondering how you like your EMM player? Are you satisfied with redbook performance, soundstage, dynamics, etc.

I'm considering one, and wonder if there are any other issues.

This thread is strange.

First, the comment about SACDs not sounding as good on SACD
players is nonsense. There are good and bad players but CD
players simply cannot play SACDs at all. They can play only
the CD-compatible layer of hybrids (which is really just a

Second, DSD-capable DACs have been implemented in SACD
players for more than a decade so anyone who has an SACD
that forces PCM-conversion bought the wrong player!
However, that conversion will still provide high resolution
signals well more advanced than on CD.

Third, the Brandenburgs on the HM SACD are superb in MCH
SACD and pretty good in stereo (the latter only briefly
auditioned), so if you are having problems you need to see
if you player is really accessing the stereo SACD track or
if you are hearing (1) only the FR/FL channels of the
multichannel track or (2) an ad-hoc mix-down of the
multichannel track.
I agree with Kr4. I have had an SCD-1, 777ES and 5400 all by sony and they played the 2 channel SACD with great results. Some multi channel SACD players require you to go into the menu and select 2 channel SACD playback. If you are listening to 2 channel and have multi-channel aselected you will only get the front two channels of the surround mix. You got to read your manuals
My error, I did mean 'hybrid' SACD and yes, my PentaTone SACD's in a simple 2 channel CD format sounds better to me than most standard Redbook CD's. The other comments of course were just related to me and they may or may not have any real validity. Nevertheless thanks for letting me share.
It boggles the mind that anyone who's invested in an EMM Labs or Esoteric CD/SACD player doesn't know how Hybrid SACDs work. Obviously, you're playing the MCH layer downmixed to 2-channel. As Kr4 points out, you need to make sure (1) your SACD has a 2-channel stereo SACD layer; and (2) you've selected that playing option on the player. I have the Esoteric X-05 (which defaults to the 2-channel layer), and I have not heard any of the problems mentioned by the OP.
My EMM player has a switch that in one mode plays 2CH SACD and in the other mode plays redbook 2CH. there is no specific information on the multichannel disc itself regarding the 2ch layer of sacd and the multichannel layer of sacd.
one would ASSUME there are 3 distinct layers - redbook, 2ch sacd, and 6ch sacd.
another disc- Pentatone Wagner excerpts sounds weird too- also a hybrid.
more a mishmosh of sounds with "almost" no distinct theme- you have to strain to hear it.
How does my EMM player sound on SACD's that don't exhibit problems? Amazing-
they almost spoil the experience of going back to redbook- even very good redbook- discs. such nuances that (mostly) only a very clean LP can deliver. you can really share in the emotions of the artists as they shape each phrase of the composition. It's a great technology, but 3 layers on the same disc could be problematic. My 1st EMM dac (the DAC6E) could have played those 6 tracks (into a 6ch preamp of course) with outputs to 6 mono amps or 3 stereo amps (or a "home theatre" amp) to 6 properly arrayed speakers in a properly configured listening space. not an option for most folks unless the speakers are very small and
you're watching LOTR on Blu-ray.
BUT NO, there has to be an answer to this question, with a possible solution as well.
To French fries,

Could you please tell me about redbook CDs on your EMM. I am considering one to replace my Arcam, and would appreciate your observations on the sound quality.

Have you ever tried the SACD's that are giving you trouble on another player? It only happens once in a while, but sometimes I find that, occasionally, a disc has some compatibility issues or is just defective. You should be able to tell, even if the other player is not a high end unit. Anything that plays the formats should work fine for a test.

Also, you said you checked phase. How did you do that?
Isn't there a readout on the EMM that tells you what track/format is being played? My players do.
Yashu, redbook cd's sound very good on my EMM player. so do most sacd's.
i probably need to label/catalog all the discs that are giving me problems.
there is a phase switch (a circle with a line bisecting it) that reverses phase
on the disc.
the display clearly states "2CH SACD" in the sacd mode when it is playing that format.
I called EMM and spoke to tech support and told them to make a note of the problem, although they responded that the player is working
the way it is supposed to and i am the only one who has called with this specific issue.
Thanks French fries,

I was really looking for the sound character of the EMM CD player. My Arcam has a wrm, detailed sound with an incredible realistic soundstage. Unfortunately it's old and I am looking to replace.

I am concerned that the EMM might not be as smooth. I tend to listen for long periods, and I want to keep away from anything that might be fatiguing.

What do you think?

Thank you.......
Hi Yashu, all i can comment on the EMM "sound" is that one recording is night and day different from the next. if you're not in the best of moods on a given day this might be of some concern- if you want everything to sound equally wonderful. If you're impatient you may find yourself restricting your listening sessions to a set of tried-and-true sources. when you have more time or are in a cheery mood you can settle back and just take the good with the not-as-good.
in a few cases i have had to simply take a disc (that is not Miles Davis or T.Monk, etc.) and put it in my "trade or sell" box in another room. transparency is a bitch, and must be dealt with forthwith. But, Can you blame those engineers that did such an outstanding job for showing up the shortcomings of other more mass-produced recordings?
that is why it sometimes makes sense to have a second system with less resolving ability- a better match for many of the sources widely available today. is it any mystery why, when you go to a demo on an expensive set-up, you will often be encouraged to listen to certain tracks, with the consultant pointing out various qualities as the music is playing?

I don't know what model Arcam you have, but I have an FMJ 33. Its not my main CD player but I do listen to it on occasion. I think its a great CD player and don't see myself selling it. Your description of your Arcam is pretty close to how I would describe mine. I can give you 2 recommendations. 1. Don't get rid of your Arcam until you actually have another CD player that you've had a chance to listen to for a while, and you know for sure that selling it is the right move. 2. I normally don't recommend expensive cables because I feel the money is almost always better spent on active components, but this is an exception. On my Arcam I use an Audioquest Cheetah IC, which is a solid core silver cable, and it makes a very big difference. I find that silver, most of the time, doesn't sound better than copper. On my FMJ 33, it sounds great and is definitely worth the cost. If you look at the model that replaced the Cheetah, its almost the exact same cable. If you find a good deal on a used Cheetah, I think you'll find it money well spent.
Play back the SACD "Wish You Were Here" on a 2 channel only SACD and there is missing information. Such as when the guitar intro starts in one channel, you can hardly hear that sound when played back.

The regular CD has the intro in the right channel.
On my OPPO 95 that guitar intro comes from the rear channels.
Thank you zd542,

My Arcam is the fmjcd23. I love it, but it's getting long in tooth, and I do want a new one. Will never sell it though......

Was interested in EMM, but after French fry comments are no longer interested. Have narrowed it to Cary 303t pro or Ayre c5xemp. Have also posted this under digital for comments. Have Dynaudio c1 speakers with a Roland integrated.

Think either of these will add to the attributes of the Arcam, with even more musicality?

I have an Ayre QB9 DAC and I use High Diamond 'Black Diamond' Interconnects. Anyway, if this Ayre Universal Disc player is of the same sonic quality as my DAC, then there is no reason to not buy the Ayre. However as stated previously but in not so many words, a bad recording is just a bad recording. If you get to test out the Ayre, will you tell us what your impressions are?
OK, an interesting thing happens when i keep pressing the "M" button on the EMM player. one mode is rebook, next mode is 2CH SACD, and there is a THIRD MODE not mentioned in the manual- MULTI-CH SACD. WHICH WORKS- SORT OF.
you get the front 2 tracks of the multi-channel layer. the REDBOOK layer is quite a bit louder than either of the SACD choices. but i found that the player NOW sounds quite a bit better after having experimented by switching amongst the THREE choices. this has to be done while the disc is not moving of course, and SLOWLY to give the machine a chance to perform this function. so anyway, on 2CH SACD the discs i used to have issues with (indistinct sound) sound much better NOW. PRIOR TO THIS i refrained from monkeying around with the switches and just let the player make its selection automatically between redbook and 2ch sacd.
Customer service at EMM didn't know about the multi-ch selection either.
Given the problem, it makes complete sense. Given also that your player is only 2 channel, there is really no way that you could have known. Its amazing how they can have that 3rd option an not mention it.

You mention the volume level differences between CD and SACD. I'm pretty sure thats normal. On most multi format players, the volume differences between formats is dealt with internally so that they are level matched. Doing that degrades sound quality (I have no idea by how much). Ayre gets a lot of complaints about this with their player. People call in thinking that there is something wrong with the machine. Thats just how they make it. I'm not 100% certain its the same with your EMM, but I'm pretty sure it is.
When all else fails, read the instructions.