SACD... can you hear the difference?


I'm fairly new to SACD as it's only been a month since I purchased my first player that takes advantage of the format. Some say even on a good system which is set up properly that they can not notice a difference between SACD and standard CD.

For example my Wife is a huge James Taylor fan. A couple weeks ago I found 2 original master recording SACD disks from a company called Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs. Both James Taylor just as she has on CD. I dialed them in perfect and OH MAN! To me the difference was like night and day, but she couldn't tell the difference in sound quality.

So either I'm imagining things or I'm able to pick up on musical pitch and clarity much better than her. I'm sure of what I'm hearing with no doubt, but she thinks I'm crazy.

Can anyone here notice how much better SACD sounds on their system verses a standard CD.
pigchild
I do, but I find the differences to be subtle though musically significant. Some others here don't hear an improvement, if past threads are an indication. One thing, if your wife's CD isn't an MSFL disc, a large part of the difference you're hearing would be the difference in mastering by MSFL vs. the standard disc.
"Some say even on a good system which is set up properly that they can not notice a difference between SACD and standard CD."

That could mean just about anything. SACD's do sound different than CD's. The problem with most people is they don't do it right. Quite often someone will have a really good, high end CD player but go out and buy something cheap to try SACD. They figure the format will be so much better than CD they can get started with something very entry level. That's a lot to ask. Under those conditions, you may very well like the CD better. A much better way to compare is to get a player that supports both formats, and use that for testing. That way, you're more likely to hear differences in the format and not the players themselves.
At times I have thought that I heard a difference, but more recently I am less convinced of there being a difference. What I have noticed is that SACDs almost always have great recordings on both layers. If they make the effort to uses SACD they are going for a quality recording.
I prefer redbook to SACD. To me SACD lacks the impact and presence of redbook assuming identical masters. I also find that there is something wrong with high frequencies with SACD. Can't quite put my finger on it..I use a Sony 5400 for sacd or a Mytek dac for DSD files and an Audio Note dac for redbook. To me SACD is highly over rated
Alan
Sometimes you can, sometimes you can't.....many of my Redbook CD's are better than SACD's
Don't forget the old standby argument:
"If you can't hear the difference, your system isn't good enough".
"Can't quite put my finger on it..I use a Sony 5400 for sacd or a Mytek dac for DSD files and an Audio Note dac for redbook. To me SACD is highly over rated"

Why not try SACD and CD on one player like your Sony? That way you hear the differences you need to hear instead of the differences between players.

"09-06-14: Dweller
Don't forget the old standby argument:
"If you can't hear the difference, your system isn't good enough"."

That maybe true, but you also need to consider the fact that your system may be good enough, but the fault may lie with you. Not having good listening skills, bias, not using the equipment properly..., that type of thing.
Some redbook CDs sound much better than most any SACDs I've tried--admittedly that is very few (under 10). I have a Modwright 5400 with all the upgrades and it plays both formats beautifully. However, as with vinyl, there are some cds that sound better than the records and usually vice versa. There are some cds that were remastered that sound much better, and some are very thin sounding with zero dynamics. Music is exactly the same, but the sound can be another animal better or worse. I tried a Bob Dylan SACD and the sound was really not too good. IMO SACDs need to be listened to prior to buying as there is a BIG difference in sound quality from one album to the next. Due to the fact there as many excellent sounding CDs of music I really like, I only have 2 SACDs that I actually own--1 of which I don't really love the music but it sounds phenominal/the other sounds good for what it is, music from the 60's with a couple good cuts that I bought used and cheap. It sounds good compared to what I remember growing up and having a cheap record player and speakers--it ought to compared to the system I finally own. Music that has both great sound and is great music are a low percentage in any format.

Lastly, there is the possibility that your wife is so against your interest in listening to music on YOUR stereo that she SAYS she can't hear any difference so you don't feel compelled to buy any more expensive stuff. Why do I know this? Hummmm. Could it be personal experience? My wife can hear the difference on our less good sounding home theater system vs. the regular TV--but often says, "I can't hear any difference in the sound between OUR home theater and YOUR stereo downstairs." There is a night and day difference a tone deaf person would hear.
I have150 SACDs and in each case they MAY be better sounding than the equivalent CD On the other hand, I have CDs that sound as good to me as any of them. Talking strictly sound quality here. My player is an Oppo 105 with full Modwright modifications, playing into an Aesthetix Calypso linestage. It's anyone's guess whether my listening skills, etc. are equal to the task, but i've been honing them for a long time.
totaly agree. if you cant discern a difference between a mofi sacd and a standard, your system is not revealing enouhg. It should be easy to hear the dramatic improvement of sacd.
I find it very from disc to disc. You said your disc player is new, the sound may change as you get more hours on it. then might see(hear) a difference. Not all SACD are great but i do like them.
enjoy Pete
It depends on the source material and mastering, I think that sacds sound airier and more resonant with a good dac. I know this sounds anal and silly, but 24/88.2 sounds more natural than either 24/96 or 24/192. Maybe the recordings that opt to use 24/88.2 are created by more careful producer? Anyway, that's what I've found. Compare a good sacd of a well known chestnut to the cd and I think you will agree. I have one of the oppo universal players and have listened to both on the same player and guests who don't know a thing about audio have remarked on the clarity. My former CD player, a heavily modified behemoth costing six times what the oppo costs, will be going up for sale shortly.
IMO a better comparison is to match up a quality XRCD against the SACD
XRCD is the uncompressed hi-Rez "normal CD pressing" without the max 16/44 format first introduced for airplay.

E.g. Dire Straits - Brothers in Arms discs are issues in both SACD and XRCD pressings.( there are many others including inter alia, The Eagles)

My observations

(1) Any comparison is system dependent sensitive for sure as highlighted by the prior posts . The better the system ...... Yada Yada ....

(2) I've heard both including A-B .

(A) In my system, the XRCD wins out and the difference is not subtle because of (1) above and also because of the preferred results embedded in the actual recording.

(B) I've heard them in more modestly priced audio systems and the the results vary even to the point that the SACD prevails.

(3) in all cases, audio reproduction through a multi channel receiver always lagged far behind the audio performance of hi-end and quality built separates. There is no escaping the time-honoured tenet in this hobby that you only get what you pay for.
It depends. When I first started listening to SACDs about nine years ago, I could certainly hear a significant improvement over CD. Much greater clarity, precision and quality. However, some SACDs are not of such good quality. There's a significant difference between the SACDs of Miles Davis released in the US versus those produced in Japan. The Japanese SACDs are a real marvel. The US pressings are not so much so. You do, however, have to have a decent player to notice the differences.
I use an Ayre C5xemp which plays both CD's and SACD (and DVD's too)...anyway, I've come away with the view that both are good and there is little to distinguish between them. Really depends on how it was produced.
"09-06-14: Stringreen
I use an Ayre C5xemp which plays both CD's and SACD (and DVD's too)...anyway, I've come away with the view that both are good and there is little to distinguish between them. Really depends on how it was produced."

Interesting comment. To be honest, I'm a little surprised. If I had to pick a system to judge CD vs SACD, it would be pretty much exactly what you have. I've read some comments by Charles Hanson where he was being critical of Sony and SACD. I really didn't think much of it, because if I remember correctly, it was in a thread like this and he seemed a little PO'ed at the time. Given your setup, you must have compared CD's and SACD's to DVD-A's. Are they any better?
Yes I can hear the difference. A well recorded and mastered SACD sounds better than a well recorded and mastered cd. I hear more depth to the soundstage and a sense of ease or flow with SACDs, for instance. There are cds that sound better than poorly done SACDS though.

I think that we could see greater improvements in sound quality with improvements in recording and mastering than with improvements in playback. We probably all have favorite recordings that sound much better that run of the mill efforts.
Sometimes, it all depends on the type music and how the SACD was mastered. In most cases mastering is different from the the red book version. I have Miles Blue in every media format ever released, including R2R. Sadly, Blue was never released on Blu-Ray so what could have been the end all of media differences, must await. In my opinion the best sounding version I have is one on R2R, two track, 7.5 ips. Shall we say it is just more musical, yes.
ZD....as I said in my original post, the way the recording is produced has a marked effect on the sound. I have a Jamie Johnson (my favorite country and western guy) recording on Redbook CD....I also got the LP version for a hoped for sound improvement... (I have a very good phono set up) ....the CD kills the vinyl. Just shows to go ya....
I concur with Toncr6:
Yes I can hear the difference. A well recorded and mastered SACD sounds better than a well recorded and mastered cd. I hear more depth to the soundstage and a sense of ease or flow with SACDs, for instance. There are cds that sound better than poorly done SACDS though.

Redbook vs the same SACD, the you-are-there at the studio/hall illusion is better with SACD (DSD).

And yes Dweller, differences are more & less pronounced with different equipment. Imagine that, different equipment produces different results?!
Why is this discussion in the analog section? Personally I'd rather listen to my turntable and records most of the time.
Let me help...if I put ANY cd on my Linn turntable the needle just runs off and nothing but bad noise happens...SACDs or redbook...it just doesn't work at all.
"09-08-14: Wolf_garcia
Let me help...if I put ANY cd on my Linn turntable the needle just runs off and nothing but bad noise happens...SACDs or redbook...it just doesn't work at all."

Are you sure that you're placing the CD with the right side facing up?
Excellent point.
"09-07-14: Stringreen
ZD....as I said in my original post, the way the recording is produced has a marked effect on the sound."

I get that and agree 100%. I was just curious if you took the same exact recording on CD and SACD, and compared them to DVD-A. Just to get an idea as to how the format itself sounds.
I have an Oppo 105 such as one of the responders here has. It's been a good player so far and does take advantage of SACD UHR disks.

as for CD, I am a bit confused as to why some of my CD's deliver great sound and others do not. I should not say some sound better, but for reasons unknown some put out more powerful sound than others. I always thought CD was CD and should be no difference from one store bought copy to the next.
"as for CD, I am a bit confused as to why some of my CD's deliver great sound and others do not. I should not say some sound better, but for reasons unknown some put out more powerful sound than others. I always thought CD was CD and should be no difference from one store bought copy to the next."

You need to make sure that you are getting 2 of exactly the same CD's. Your experience sounds like you may have one original recording and the other a remaster.
A big, but little known, reason for the difference in perceived sound quality of CD's, and records, is the absolute phase of the recording relative to your reproduction equipment, including speakers. The Spectral preamp I use has a "phase reverse" switch-one of the reasons I bought it (and I would never even consider a preamp w/o that feature). Look at the Berkeley Alpha Dac details or the Spectral Audio preamps and you will notice "phase" switches which provide the capacity to "reverse" the absolute phase of the outgoing signal. If equipment wants to provide you "reference" level sound it must allow you to adjust for the general "absolute phase" of each recording!
Ptss - do you need a switch or is it possible to accomplish the same by reversing +/- at the speakers or at input to amp(s)? Honestly don't know...not trying to be provocative.
I use an Ayre C-5xeMP, Oppo BDP-105, and Sony XA5400ES as disc players. It seems to me that the difference between CDs and SACDs depends to an extent on the player. Both CDs and DSD can be excellent when played on the Ayre; DSD is far superior to CDs when played on the Sony, and pretty much equivalent to DSD played on the Ayre. Only the Oppo does analog surround, and DTS on Blu-ray is superb. I prefer either the Ayre or Sony for CDs and SACDs, and strongly prefer the Ayre for CDs.

For stereo, all three go through a Parasound JC-2 that feeds a Proceed HPA 3 that drives a pair of KEF Reference 107/2s.

db
I would say that I can definitely hear a difference on 90% of the SACD's vs. CD's I own. Mastering does make a difference of course. To me, the difference is definition, i.e. seperation of the instruments (voice included). Audiophile SACD recordings such as "Songbirds" and "Seachange" by Beck will convince you. But... not to start a debate, but neither SACD or CD can touch vinyl on a "good" system. IMHO SACD and CD do not have the "air" and breadth of vinyl, though admittedly they are much more convenient.
I think the best vinyl of small groups, e.g., the 45 RPM of the Brubeck Quartet's Time Out, sounds a bit better than DSD, but I'm not sure that extends to large orchestrations.

Thorens TD124, SME Series III arm, Ortofon SME 30H cartridge, Parasound JC-3 phono stage.

db
The best sound quality with vinyl is when the recording and playback is all analog. If you have a modern digital recording on vinyl, it sounds like better digital, but not as good as an all analog recording. At least to me.
SACD ,I don't care much for it .I'm fairly new to digital play back and currently use a EMM labs sacd player ,However my first digital player in a long while which I borrowed was a ModWright ultimate Sony 5400 which after listening to a well recorded CD with the EMM labs for 2 minutes the Sony was packed up and sent back the following day.
The few sacd disks that I do have came highly recommended as must own which I purchased only because I am familiar with and have on vinyl.
This push in the industry for DSD Hi Res down loads as a standard is qurious

I tend to value recording quality production over getting hung up on sample rate topologies , DSD , XYZ and what have you only effecting the listening experience.
Ghost, sorry for delay. YES - you can reverse your absolute phase - by changing the connections of your speaker cables--"either" at the amp or speaker end.(not both because you'd end up with the same as you started). i.e connect the red to the black and black to the red; a very simple switch. NOTE!! I always turned my amp off before doing this to eliminate the chance of accidentally touching the red and black-AND POSSIBLY 'SHORTING YOUR AMP WITH RUINOUS CONSEQUENCES!! Remember to turn amp off please! Try it with some music you really like. The clarity and dynamics really are obvious when you have matched your reproduction phase to that of the recording phase. I've enjoyed this for 35+ years and my ears know if the phase is not right. The music is dulled and slower than if its right. I think the book "The Wood Effect" is about this but I'm not sure as I've never read it. (Of course if there are other inaccuracies within your playback system the difference "may" not show. For example if your plug polarity is incorrect). I'll be happy to help you tune up your system by mailing ptss at shaw dot ca with reference to this.
Ptss - thanks for the reply. Glad I saw it. I'm good on making the switch without shorting things out. Understand very well your advice. Auditioning a CJ Premier that DOES invert phase and have reversed R&L inputs at each speaker. As an experiment, I need to go back and see what things sound like without the channels reversed.
Remember to just play one CD in comparing your sound. Perhaps note what what phase that CD is for future reference.
Hello again - the XLO test & burn in CD has a couple of tracks for testing "phase-correctness". They have multiple versions of the same excerpt of "Stormy Weather" that are done mono, stereo out of phase, stereo out of absolute phase and the full song correct absolute phase.

To my ear, differences between the out of absolute phase and correct phase recordings are difficult to detect...I THINK the out of absolute phase sounds a little less focused but am not sure I could pick it out with my eyes closed. Just to be clear - no such difficulty detecting the out of phase recording...it's diffuse and uncentered.
Regarding absolute phase/polarity, for further discussion see this current thread. I would emphasize two things:

1)When the setting of the phase switch on a preamp is changed, not only is the polarity of the recording being inverted, but the preamp's circuit configuration is being changed. Which in turn may affect the preamp's sonics to some degree, depending on the specific design. In some cases, involving components having unbalanced internal signal paths, an active stage might even be inserted or removed from the signal path when the setting of that switch is changed.

I suspect that point is not applicable to most or all DACs that provide a phase switch, however, such as the Berkeley which was mentioned above. In those cases the inversion may be performed in the digital domain, without any circuit changes that are in the signal path.

2)Polarity differences are most likely to be perceivable on recordings that have been recorded with a minimal number of microphones (e.g., two or three), and that have been subjected to minimal electronic processing during mastering. Most recordings in most genres do not meet those criteria.

Regards,
-- Al
I agree Ghost that it can be hard to detect absolute phase. One big reason is the digital mastering/remastering process. Apparently most digital reissues would sound better if they were never remastered digitally.
Yes, on a universal player, but in double DSD once taken to the raid, it is outstanding.
Under perfect circumstances, SACD provides an incremental improvement over CD. But the dramatic difference occurs in vinyl. Check the numbers; audiophiles have voted decisively with their wallets for vinyl.

Examples:

AcousticSounds offers 1,614 titles on SACD and 28,670 on vinyl. MusicDirect offers 140 titles on SACD and another 20 or so on DVD-A. They offer easily over 1300 audiophile reissues of LPs. Over the last 7-8 years enthusiasts have voted decisively with their wallets for LP as the high-res medium of choice.
Johnnyb53, I think, as is typical, SONY screwed up SACD. But hopefully in going to quad DED to save their master tapes, they will realize that audiophiles would pay a good deal for perfect replicas of those tapes.

More importantly I will soon have the capability to pay those from my music server.

I was going to invest in top notch equipment to put my 45 rpm releases and many outstanding vinyl recording on the server in double DTD, but now think I will await the quad DSD downloads.