SACD/CD Question

I've got a question for you SACD guys. I don't have SACD, but have a high-quality two-channel system. I recently bought my first so-called hybrid compatible CD/SACD, a Sony recording, made live in the Berlin Philharmonie in 2002, of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto played by Arcadi Volodos, with the Berlin Philharmonic under Seiji Ozawa. I have no idea what this one sounds like on an SACD system, but on my two-channel system the orchestral sound is just conspicuously AWFUL! This was all the more surprising to me because I'd earlier bought the same pianist's performance of the Rachmaninoff Third Piano Concerto, also recorded live, in the same hall, in 1999, with the same orchestra under James Levine, also on Sony (but with a different recording engineer), and this one's NOT a hybrid compatible CD/SACD but a plain stereo CD, and it sounds just fine. Can anyone shed some light on what is going on here? I'm reluctant now to buy any more so-called hybrid compatible CD/SACD discs after getting burned.
I have this hybrid SACD (there's no need to refer to these as "so-called hybrid compatible CD/SACD" - hybrid SACD covers it) and it sounds just fine. I've only played the high resolution layer in stereo (it is a multichannel disc).

Here's a review:

I like Volodos, although I prefer Murray Perahia who is also featured on a number of Sony SACDs.

I don't think that buying hybrids for the CD layer is a great strategy, unless you are positively planning on getting an SACD player in the near future. You will be paying a premium for something you don't need, and most reviews you will see on-line will be for the hi-rez section, so praise could be misleading (as it appears to be in this case). In some cases (The Rolling Stones), there is no corresponding CD - so you have no choice.

I buy SACDs for the high resolution stereo sound, and in fact have never played the Redbook layer on any of the hundreds of SACDs I own.

1. As Metralla says, there's no reason to buy hybrid SACDs for the CD layer if you are not going to get an SACD player in the near future.

2. The differences between those various releases on the same label is not the medium but the mastering.

I don't have this recording so I can't speak about it specifically. However, I would add that Sony is rather inconsistent with their productions. Just look at the packaging. Depending on when they were produced, many CD's and SACD's have different labeling although they are the same recordings. I never cared for Sony in this regard. Blame the mastering and the engineering, not the medium. I have hundreds of hybrid SACD's that sound just fine on my "high-quality" CD-based stereo rig.
Like the previous poster, I don't own this specific recording on SACD, but I do have a number of SACDs in my collection. I'm fortunate enough to have both a dedicated CD player as well as an SACD player and to be quite honest, if you have a high quality CD player you don't need an SACD player. That I found out via direct comparison between the two players (in 2-channel mode) using the same hybrid SACD in both, using electrostatic speakers by Martin Logan (which I believe are best suited for such comparisons as they bring out details that most mid-priced cone speakers are unable to deliver).
In your case I belive it is the recording that suffered not your system and I don't think an SACD player can save it.
For your own information, I found the SACD hype to be just that, more hype than fact. I find slightly better air present with SACD players, better feel for the size of the room where the recording took place but the music is the same, especially orchestral music (I own Beethoven's symphonies 1-9 on SACD and the CD player sounds just as good). For vocals there is slightly (slight is too big, less than that) more natural timbre but that depends on the player you use, as said already a good CD player will correct all that (try Audio Aero products to see what I mean, I use an Audio Refinement CD player which is nowhere near the Audio Aero Prima Cd player and it already matches my Marantz-8300 SACD player).

Good luck.
The acoustics for Berlin recordings are sometimes problematic. For a blazing Tchaikovsky #1 in great sound consider Argerich with Chailly. She sometimes drives the music too hard, but excells with Russian composers. Look for the older edition on Phillips with Rachmaninov #3. I believe the newly remastered version of Rach #3 on Philips 50 has deleted the Tchaikovsky #1.

I also like Pletnev on Virgin, which contains all the Tchaikovsky piano concertos. There's others to consider, but these have great sound. Sell your Volodos on Amazon marketplace.

Also, if you want to get the best out of your redbook CDs, consider Walker Audio Vivid Enhancer.

I disagree with those who say don't buy a sacd hybrid unless you are going to buy a sacd player in the near future. From my experience so far, the cd layer on a hybrid is the best sounding version of the performance (when comparing it to other cd versions). They also can be had for not much more or less than than a regular cd. I bought the Stones hybrids for $ 9.99, the others for prices ranging from $11.99 to $18. Examples of good sounding hybrids, Stones, Dylan, Who, Junior Wells, Coltrane/Monk, and the Animals retrospective. Why would you buy the cd only version of these when the hybrid sounds better, for pretty much the same price? In addition, if you ever decide you want an sacd player, you've already got a start on your collection. I don't understand what the downside is if you don't buy an sacd player? I do understand why you wouldn't want to buy the sacd ONLY version. Then you have to have a sacd player.
Well said Wildoats. I'm currently doing the same in purchasing new music. If there is a hybrid SACD version of the same music, I would choose the hybrid if it means spending $1 or $3 more.
There's no assurance that the CD layer is superior to a contemporary Redbook release. If you want to compare hybrid CD layer with previous/older issues, that's another story.

Without any corroborating evidence, I must mention that in the print media I noticed a story that said these bi-discs would have intentional degradation of the sound quality of the old format, another said that the player would degrade the old sound. This sounds somewhere between an ambush on the writer's side so conspiracy on the issuer side. But I do like my Phillips 963 and buy hybrids or straight sacd or dvd. It is rare that I buy a straight CD anymore. I am afraid of the future of my investment past and future in CD for format turnover. Oddly, I feel much safer buying a new LP.
You wrote: "Without any corroborating evidence, I must mention that in the print media I noticed a story that said these bi-discs would have intentional degradation of the
sound quality of the old format, another said that the player would degrade the old sound."

Sure. There are many reports. Just remember to pay attention to the first four words.

As somebody already said on this it depends on the mastering.

For example the Dylan SACD hybrids have been totally remastered on CD therefore they sound quite a bit better than the original releases.
This is true for most new SACD hybrid releases.

Paradoxically Sony after they released the SACD hybrids then released the Dylan series on CD alone-a marketing strategy bound to damage SACD.

Texasdave has found imho one of the odd anomolies that can exist in buying remastered material-for instance Kind Of Blue sounded worse to me on SACD (not a hybrid)than it did on the remastered CD version,others disagree on that though.
I would bet part of the problem may well have been expectation.

I beg to ask is the redbook layer remastered?
In reply to your post, Ben campbell, you ask is the redbook layer remastered? The recording I asked about is a new release (recorded 2002) and has been issued only in the compatible CD/SACD format. The piano sounds fine, but the orchestral sound is really bad.
Sounds like it's just a recording not to your taste-I might be wrong but I suspect you wouldn't like the SACD layer either.

It would be interesting if you could hear it.
Kr4, why dou you imagine I put in those first four words? I was looking for information, not for you to insinuate that I am too stupid to understand what I typed. Now you make me think that there is something to that story.

My response was only meant to underscore your point that, although such allegations have been made by many, there is no evidence that such has been a policy for any label. I did not intend to admonish or criticize you.

... upgraded system gear has shed some light on the initial question posted here. Having owned a Sony NS999ES with signature truth modifications by Modwright for about 6 months now has defintely shed some light on the benefits of SACD technology ... it is clear to me now that SACD is better than redbook CD playback. Performers are more palpable, bass goes deeper and has better articulation, highs have more extension, etc ... SACD does take you to the venue of the actual recording! (playing both formats through the same player). But you need to spend some money on a good mid-fi to hi-fi SACD player to reap the rewards. I also own an Audio Aero Capitole MKII SE Cd player which is very musical and has outstanding resolution. But SACD playback on the modified Sony player gets awfully close to the performance of the Capitole (for 1/4 of the price).

As far as the sound of the Volodos' recording goes I can tell you for sure it will sound better in SACD format on a good SACD player but I suspect that the poor quality sound you are getting in cd playback may be related to the sound engineering involved (i.e. equipment, mastering ... these are not always the same and can have a profound impact on the final outcome) ... hence even the SACD playback may not sound too good. Have you ever considered taking your hybrid CD to a high-end audio store and trying it out there in both formats? ... that may be the best way to tell.

Not all SACDs sound good. So, I'm sure the CD layer would have the same quality respectively.

The CD layer would not be worse than a typical redbook. It should be the same.