SACD and an audiophile question



I recently bought a DVD player that is also an SACD
player. Denon 1930CI. It has some nice features, including one called Direct digital. It basically turns off everything not needed, display etc.
I ordered a 2 channel single layer SACD. Boston's first album. I compared it to the normal CD you would buy at any walmart. I can hear a difference, but its very little difference.
First thing that came to mind is my system isn't really an "audiophile" system: The Denon mentioned above, Anthem TLP-1 Pre-amp, and Rotel RB960BX Dual mono 60w/ch amp, currently using Paradigm Studio 60's V3(stereophile class B rated)(Have a Linn Genki CD player, being repaired, and Magnepan 2.7's as well, not currently hooked up.)
While some would snub their nose at this system, it's still leaps and bounds better than anything you buy at BB or CC type stores. If I had $50k to spend on an audio system I would, but I'm married with children..enough said there...
I read sterophile and other mags about audio, and I noticed that they test equipment with really old CD/LP that I've never heard of. I always have wondered, Why do audiophiles test equipment with recordings from 1945 and 1964 etc. Recording techniques couldn't possibly be as good as what is possible today. Why would you not want the Best recording possible when doing a critical listening test. Seems to me you would be able to tell a piece of equipments limit if you had a recording that would expose those limits. Since the Boston CD was originally recorded in 1976, is it the recording a factor in only hearing minute differences or is my system so crappy that I "should" have a hard time telling the difference between a normal CD and a SACD?
audio_ala
Your Boston SACD is a poor test disc for a couple of reasons. First off, rock music doesn't benefit from the SACD format like classical or acoustic recordings do because rock music doesn't have the inherent subtleties of acoustic music. Second is the question of whether your Boston SACD was made from the original master tapes or from a CD.

Overall, I not a fan of rock recordings on SACD. Even the really excellent rock recordings on SACD (Dire Straits - "Brothers in Arms" for example) somehow lack the drive and punch of their redbook CD counterparts. IMO, DVD-A is far superior to SACD when it comes to hi-rez rock recordings.
you raise a lot of points.

from my own experience, i don't necessarily believe that newer recordings are better than older recordings.

a very good, or excellent recording is in my opinion, not a good test of a stereo system. i prefer an "average" recording, to reveal the flaws in a stereo system.

a great recording will be evident when played on any stereo system.

i also believe your stereo system has sufficient resolution to reveal differences in recordings.
Interesting, "...rock music doesn't have the inherent subtleties of acoustic music." I wonder if the subtleties referred to are related to the stunted harmonic envelope of electrified instruments, the limited vocal range of the singers, the rudimentary meters commonly used or just the banality of the lyrics.
My player does specify it plays DVD-A. Are DVD-A's all 5.1 surround CD's? My system is strictly 2 channel, would I lose sound info playing it that way?
I really don't know anything about DVD-A, SACD, HDCD etc. I have always just used normal redbook CD's.
Any clarification would be appreciated.
Mike
12-05-06: Audio_ala
My player does specify it plays DVD-A. Are DVD-A's all 5.1 surround CD's? My system is strictly 2 channel, would I lose sound info playing it that way?
I really don't know anything about DVD-A, SACD, HDCD etc. I have always just used normal redbook CD's.
Any clarification would be appreciated.
Mike

DVD-A discs can be played in stereo or multi-channel. I listen exclusively in stereo on my Denon 3910. You do not lose any sound info playing in two channel unless the original recording was done for multi channel. Frankly, I'm not aware of any DVD-A recordings done originally for multi-channel although I am certain a few exist. Even in the rare situation of an original multi-channel recording re-mixed for two channel, I expect all the information will be on the two channel tracks, but the recording won't be presented in it's best playback format. Don't worry about it . DVD-A rocks. Just know that it's a dead format and shop accordingly.
There are some DVDAs that lose information when played in stereo. Porcupine Tree's Stupid Dream is one.

12-05-06: Rwwear
There are some DVDAs that lose information when played in stereo. Porcupine Tree's Stupid Dream is one.
The stereo DVD-A loses info compared to what...DVD-A multichannel, CD...?

Your comment is based on listening or published specs/info?

Just curious. I own "Stupid Dream" on CD. Wasn't it recorded originally as two channel?
As you can read, not all SACDs (audiophools) are created equal. A good one/great one, is worth the expense for me. I only have a few DVD-As. Not a loser in the pack. Wonderful sound.
SACD has the technical potential to be better than CD, and, of course, it also offers multichannel which, when properly implemented with good speakers all around, is a leap forward. However, not all SACD discs are well mastered, and may sound inferior to well done CDs. IMHO, if you don't go multichannel SACD isn't worth the trouble and expense.

DVDA potential for quality sound is at least as good as SACD. I also note that my very best discs are DVDA. Is this just chance? In addition to quality multichannel sound DVDA often include a lot of video which is interesting to watch once or twice.

In summary, the audio quality improvement from SACD and from DVDA is real but small. The important payoff is multichannel, and between the two DVDA wins.
I heard that Boston SACD last week on a friend's really fine-sounding system. Pretty dreadful recording. That said, many SACDs -- rock or otherwise -- show little improvement over comparable CDs (and especialliy, LPs). But some are truly excellent by comparison, e.g., the Abko-remastered Rolling Stones discs, unfortunately now hard to find.

As others have noted, you're wrong about newer recordings being inherently better-sounding than older ones. Some are, but many aren't. Depends on the skill of the recording engineers as much as anything else.
gentlemen, ask kevin halvorsen of muse what he thinks about sacd. it may surprise you. you may want to rethink the assumption that sacd is preferable to cd.

12-06-06: Mrtennis
gentlemen, ask kevin halvorsen of muse what he thinks about sacd. it may surprise you. you may want to rethink the assumption that sacd is preferable to cd.

With due respect to Mr. Halvorsen, why is his opinion any more valid than the opinions of those who support SACD?
If you listen to a good acoustic recording with no over-dubbing, the difference between SACD and RB-CD is dramatic. The soundstage is way more three-dimensional on a good SACD recording. If you like jazz, listen to the SACD and CD layers of "Way Out West" by Sonny Rollins on your system. Then come back and tell us what you think.
Talking strictly two channel....the recording and mastering have a much bigger impact on what you hear than the actual format, CD, DVD-A or SACD.

IMHO, the industry is struggling to find a compelling reason to drive people to another music format and away from CD's. This problem is exemplified by the iTunes success with lossy 128 Kbit AAC files; unfortunately the CD format was more than good enough for many people and now slightly inferior compressed files are widely accepted.

In theory, only the recording studios need the kind of resolution and Signal to Noise available with these newer formats....as they play with gains in a serious way and have long audio chains in the production process....just my two cents.
kevin halvorsen is a recording engineer and digital designer. i think his resume gives him credibility on this subject. oh yes, he is a major proponent of dvda.
12-06-06: Mrtennis
kevin halvorsen is a recording engineer and digital designer. i think his resume gives him credibility on this subject. oh yes, he is a major proponent of dvda.

Indeed. My point...made obliquely...was that there are others with qualifications equal to that of Mr. Halvorsen (those who record, produce and release SACD discs for example) who undoubtedly would have opposing viewpoints. Both are valid and worthy of attention, but neither is necessarily more significant than the other.

Sadly, we are discussing dinosaur formats in SACD and DVD-A. Both will be relegated to a tiny niche of music loving audiophiles.
I have the new version of Stupid Dream on DVDA. When played back in it's best quality DVDA format which is in surround there are parts missing in the music that can only be heard when playing the disc in a surround system which I do not have. To be specific, the slide guitar at the beginning of Evan Less is not there when played in stereo. This is true even though my player is set to mix down surround to stereo.
12-07-06: Rwwear
I have the new version of Stupid Dream on DVDA. When played back in it's best quality DVDA format which is in surround there are parts missing in the music that can only be heard when playing the disc in a surround system which I do not have. To be specific, the slide guitar at the beginning of Evan Less is not there when played in stereo. This is true even though my player is set to mix down surround to stereo.
Hmmm. That's odd. First, because every DVD-A disc I own has a dedicated two channel layer in addition to the multi channel layer. No mix down is required. Have you investigated to be certain you have your player set to play the DVD-A's two channel mix? BTW, I have heard an effect similar to what you describe. It happened when I played all my DVD-A discs that have multi channel mixes because my Denon defaulted to the multi channel layer. I have to select the stereo mix on the DVD-A's audio menu. Then, voila! Stunning sound.

Check it out. This really sounds like the problem, IMO.

I'd be very curious to check out this disc myself to test the theory, but I recently sold my Denon Universal player.
I think that some DVDA disallow the stereo downmix. These may be the ones with a stereo track. (I am just guessing because my system is multichannel).
While it is true the disc has a stereo layer. There are two bonus tracks that will only play back in surround one of which is the full length version of Even Less.
12-07-06: Rwwear
While it is true the disc has a stereo layer. There are two bonus tracks that will only play back in surround one of which is the full length version of Even Less.
As you have discovered, DVD-A surround mixes will not play back satisfactorily in two channel. My point was that dedicated DVD-A two channel mixes do not give up anything in the realm of resolution to multi channel mixes, and I believe you likely agree with this, yes?
Yes, I agree most of the time.
To the original Poster -

I like Boston too, but unfortunately their recordings are bad on all formats. I have vinyl, CD, and SACD. The music is great, but the recordings are among the worst. So I don't think this is a good test for SACD. Get some more SACDs, granted, most of SACD is classical so hopefully you like classical.

With regard to recording date... logic would dictate that new technology = better recordings. Unfortunately, this is not the case. That is why turntables and vinyl are still the preferred audiophile choice.

Some of the best classical recordings (and performances) are from the 50s and 60s on mercury, rca, etc. Of course there are some good ones that are newer too, but the argument that newer = better recording does not hold true