Redbooks: as good on Sony SACD as on Cary 303?

I have a Cary 303 which does a beautiful job on my standard CDs. However, friends with SACD players insist that their SACD discs are superior to anything else on any other system. I live in the boonies, an audio wasteland, and these friends live in other I can't hear these differences for myself. My CD collection is virtually all standard CDs but I would be willing to invest in some SACDs if I could be certain my redbooks will sound as good. Will you share your experiences with this, please? Thank you.
Hi Pendragn, I suggest you look into the thread "SACD why" here on Audiogon and also put SACD into its search engine for further threads about this topic. I'm sure it will help you along with that very tricky question.
There have been several posts on this. From what I understand, in general (there are always exceptions), the better redbook players WILL make your regular CD's sound better (upsampling can become a critical factor in this as well- but that's a whole other discussion. My CD player (Audio Aero Capitole 24/192) sound so good to me that I have absolutely no desire to go the SACD route.
Depends very much on the SACD player. I broke in my Sony 9000ES for at LEAST 500 hours by leaving it(forgot about it actually)in the basement for almost a month on repeat with the SACD demo running into 10K resisitors. Sounded pretty good. However, when comparing the 9000ES playing the SACD layer to my Muse 9 Signature playing the CD layer on several of my dual layer SACDs, the Muse ate it alive everytime. And I have a couple of eye(ear?)witnesses too. Go figure. Must all depend on how you apply the technology. Good luck
The Cary 303 is an outstanding CD player. I doubt that a mass marketed lower-end SACD player can match it playing standard CD's. The higher-end SACD players *might* have a chance but from what I've read, on standard CD play back, they're not quite up to par with the best CD players.

I would love to get a Sony SCD-777ES or the SCD-1 in here side-by-side with my Cary 306/200 and compare regular CD playback. To me that is the true test in justifying the purchase of an SACD player (for me). If it can't play my 500+ standard CD's to my liking, I can't see buying one. The SACD capability is just icing on the cake but it has to pass the first hurdle of regular CD playback. My 2 cents worth...
Thanks to all for your responses...I'm hoping more folks will be inclined to share their experiences, too. Abecollins, you simply must tell us the results if you ever get the chance to compare your Cary 306 to a quality SACD player. Your comments could be very illuminating! And now I'm also curious about your views on the 303 vs. the 306. Please comment (here or direct to me)if you have the time and inclination. Thanks.
Pendragn, I did not do an A/B comparison between the Cary 303 and the 306/200 but I did listen to them separately about a month apart. I was extremely impressed and pleased with the Cary 303 and could easily live with that player for a long long time. Its a great value. The 306/200 uses 8 DACs and the new PMD-200 digital filter and has 24bit/192KHz upsampling. It does sound a bit better than the 303 especially with upsampling enabled but is it worth the $2000 (LIST) price delta? I can't answer that.

I do like the fact that the 306/200 has digital inputs that allow me to use it as an outboard DAC for my other digital sources. I can select from AES/EBU, Toslink, or Coaxail inputs from the front panel or the remote. I have my Adcom 5-disc changer driving the Coaxial input so I can play the Adcom thru the Cary's DAC's for some awesome sound from an inexpensive changer.

The 24bit/192KHz upsampling is impressive with a noticeable improvement in depth, air, and dynamcis - something that wasn't so noticeable to me in the 24bit/96KHz upsampling MSB Gold Link III DAC. An outstanding DAC for the price, BTW.

I should mention that an audiophile on traded in ther Sony SCD-777ES for a Cary 303. She reported that the Sony sounded flat and boring compared to the Cary's rich and musically engaging sound on regular CD playback.
Thank you, Abecollins, for your very helpful description/information on the Carys. Your last paragraph is very telling and will weigh heavily in the mix as I consider my own answer to my thread's question. Audiophiles like you are much appreciated by those less in the know (i. e. - me).
I just traded in my Sony SCD777es for the new Cary 306/200. I couldn't be more thrilled! After having the Sony for about 6 months, it seemed I was just not satisfied with what I was hearing. I was constantly looking for other players even though I had a brand new one on my shelf. Sony SACD was very detailed and open but still had a digital or bright sound to it (not to mention the lack of available titles)! I never A/B'd them side by side but I have no question as to the improvement I felt with the Cary. I found the musicality I was missing. With the Cary, the warmth and fullness was more present and the detail was there. The biggest surprise was that the sound stage seemed to double in size! Cary blows the Sony redbook out of the water, no doubt. The SACD on the Sony is good but I much prefer the melodiousness of the Cary.

If you want a bright, detailed, hard edged, in-your-face type player, Sony is definately the one for you. If you still want the detail but like a warmer, sweeter, enveloping player, you should find a way to audition the Cary 306/200!
In my experience, I've found that THD (total harmonic distortion) and S/N (signal to noise ratio) are the best indicators of sound quality - newer chipsets, increased power supplies and DACs notwithstanding.

For example, the Cary 303 has a spec'd THD of 0.0008%(1 kHz) and a S/N of 120 dB(1 kHz). The Cary 306 has a spec'd THD of 0.0008%(1 kHz) and a S/N of 122 dB(1 kHz). On paper, the 306 should sound a tad better because of the higher S/N - the THD is the same. This appears to be the consensus of posts I've read about the two players. I've heard both myself in a side by side comparison and the 306 was just a little bit better, but not much - IMHO the sonic differences were so slight that the 306 didn't merit the increased cost.

I think folks get so caught up in the chipset/power supply/DAC "thing" that they disregard basic sonic measurements. These measurements are quite palpable. IMHO, all the commotion about SACD vs. DVD-A vs. HDCD vs. Redbook CD is just a bunch of hooey. I don't think format should be the deciding issue. In fact, one can read about many instances where a high-quality CD player (playing Redbook CDs) sounds better than a lower quality SACD player. Most times, the quality differential is in the sonic measurements of the machines, NOT the chipsets, etc.

In short, first look to the specs. of the player(s) you have in mind(regardless of format) to weed out inferior machines. Then, A/B audition (if possible) to choose what sounds best to your ears.
People get caught in the hype. That's spelled BS. You're right. The upsampling vs oversampling vs this chip vs that chip is all marketing crap trying to get people to blow their money on different products and then spending absurd money on the software. Since CD is the "perfect" media, why do we need any more?
Blues_man, you are joking aren't you? To a certain extent I agree that its marketing crap but on the other hand there have been significant improvements in the digital domain over the past few years. 18-bit DAC's vs 24-bit DACs. Improvements to the digital filters like the Burr-Brown DF1704 vs Pacific Microsonics PMD-100 and PMD-200. CD isn't "perfect" media and if all CD players were the same, I'd be using a $99 Emerson or other brand from JC Penny or Sears.
There have been some improvements in hardware, but mostly hardware has become cheaper not better. I still think that the HDCD system is the best and should be used by all manufacturers for CDs. Digital filters are getting better. They couldn't get much worse. How is a 24 bit DAC better than a 20 bit or an 18 or a 16. Again just marketing. CDs are 16 bit. CDs ARE THE perfect media. The audio industry wouldn't lie to us would they? They told us 20 years ago that this would be perfect sound. Do you think then that this was all marketing hype?
Has anyone had an A/B comparison with the Cary 303/306 against the Sonic Frontier SFCD-1?
Blues_man, marketing hype or not many modern CD players do sound a lot better than early models from the late 80's or early 90's. Most improvements are due to higher resolution DAC's and better digital filters, not analog electronics.
After 10 - 12 years or more, they had better sound better. The improvements aren't that great though. Most less expensive models still have a hard time with dynamics and low level detail. My DAC is the Spectral which hasn't changed in about 8 years, simply because there hasn't been much improvement in the technology
Blues Man, I assume the point you're making is that players have become better (sonic) value for money? i.e. incorporating now, & at an "affordable" price, quality/technology that only very expensive units offered years ago (bar a few advances in playback tech)?

As you're running a Spectral, I wouldn't doubt your view -- rather, compliment you on the choice that I, for one, did not make when I could!

Tight finances often steer us up a slow "upgrading" path. By the time we're near to "getting there", hype & corporate diversification enters the scene to confuse the issue further. Hence Pen's dilemma...

BTW, am I correct in assuming that PCM is really 15 bit info + 1 bit control??

Cheers all!
There is no control bit. There is additional data in the packet. Being an engineer, I pick well engineered components , instead of components based on really esoteric designs. I remember when I first got into CDs in the early 90s, companies were selling CD players with DSPs to create different effects. In high end audio, someone from StereoShill says something and thousands of audiophiles spend huge amounts of money for things that are grossly over-priced. I know someone who spent more money on his speaker cables, than on his speakers, amp and pre-amp combined. People spend thousands of $$$ on power cables (just for one). That's absurd. You can buy hospital grade power cables and power generators that are as good or better than any audiophile product for a fraction of the cost. The hype will never end as long as people will throw their money away.
Blues_man, we agree to some extent. I am an engineer and can't see spending more than $50 or so for a power cord. My favorite cord I made myself using parts from Home Depot!

But I also feel that digital component technologies have improved significantly in just the past few years making it worth while auditioning some of the newer gear, CD players and DACs in particular. I disagree with your quote "this chip vs that chip is all marketing crap". The newer "chips" HAVE made an improvement in the quality of sound from recent model CD players and DACs.

Some info on "chips" from Jeff Chan, another engineer and audiophile. And he's not in the audio business:
Blues_man, you commented about early CD players using DSP's to create different effects. Some of the latest digital filters used in the best sounding CD players and DACs are based on modern DSP chips.... Sony uses DSP in their SACD models and any players that use HDCD decoder/filter from PMD.... PMD HDCD decoder/filters are based on DSP chips. Just a thought since you seem to like HDCD.
The comment about DSPs was in their use to create audio effects. I tried one out, and found that on certain recordings, certain settings produced subjectively pleasing results, but for the most part it just got in the way of the recording. As far as DACs getting better, I just don't buy it. Now I haven't listened to that many different DAC chips lately ( besides, you can't separate the DAC from the rest of the hardware to make a fair comparison ). At home I listen to LPs 90+% of the time. So I'll just keep my old Spectral and hope that everything gets remastered in HDCD.