Too many variables, Keis. You've got to hear it in your own system or one with which you're very familiar before you can really make any judgments. A modest system (and I wouldn't term yours as modest) that is properly set up and matched in a properly treated room can easily outperform a more expensive one that is mismatched or in a poor listening environment. FWIW, I got a Sony SCD777ES SACD player, which isn't a bad player but wasn't what I was used to in the way of resolution. It did clearly demonstrate to my satisfaction in my system the superiority of SACD over CD on the same discs. I have since had the unit modified by Jerry Ozment of Audio Logic, whose dac I use, to replace the entire analog side of the Sony with the tubed Audio Logic analog section (including the power supply--another #%!*# power supply and cord) and am VERY pleased with the results--now the player is a much more alive, dynamic, dimensional and high resolution player. Time will tell whether anyone will issue enough software to take advantage of the format; I'm not overly optimistic. I also have 24/96 discs, which also are quite an improvement over standard CD, even upsampled ones; I'm not sure yet about the 24/96 vs. SACD debate yet. And, while these developments are getting digital closer in many respects, I'm not giving up my turntable and vinyl...
I recently demoed a Sony SCD-1 in my system, It did not compare favorably with my Theta Gen Va/Data 3. The sound of the Sony playing standard CDs was more dynamic but too much in your face not delicate or musical I tired of listening to it. SACDs played on the Sony were also fatiguing. SACD may be the next greatest but the Sony is not the unit to prove it.
By comparision, I recently listened to a system, at someone´s home, and that system consisted of a Pass X-350, Pass Aleph P, Wilson system 6,Naim CDS II,SME 20 with Ortofon 7500. Did it sound good? Not at all!Or more correctly, hard to enjoy or evaluate. Conclusion made:Money isn´t enough, skills, knowledge and experience play an important role in our hobby. We always have some expectations when auditioning someting new. And sometimes, our expections are driven to high, which makes a foundation for disappointments. In the example above, I strongly belive that the main reason for the rather mediocre sound of that system, was a nearly acustically undampened listeningroom. I can not make that conclusion though, that the gear in that system was inferior.BTW, I have listen to a Sony SCD-777ES in another system, in an acustically treated room N.B., and that system sounded much better,altough it costed a fraction of what the above system costed.Another conclusion made, all salesmen don´t have the skills or time needed ,but some do have them!
I am 1st and foremost a vinyl fan but have quite a CD collection and and have tried to maximize that format. I drive Eidelon speakers with Pass Aleph 1.2 mono's with XLO limited edition interconnects and speaker cables and previously had a Theta Jade transport and Gen V DAC that I recently replaced with dCS Delius and Purcell which upsamples to 24/192. The sonics were superior to the Theta and quite good. On a whim and thanx to a great deal on Audiogon I purchased a Sony 777 Sacd player and in my particular configuration the SACD sounds fabulous, arguably as good as vinyl on a very good turntable, arm and cart. I must say I was surprised, pleasantly so. But even more amazing was the regular CD playback on the 777, as good or better then the dCS upsampled material. I actually like the 777 better to the extent I'm selling the Delius and Purcell. I went into this endeavor with no expectations, high or low and objectively find the Sony an extraordinary product, especially given the 777 has been reduced from $3500 to $2500. I have a Basis 2500 TT, Graham 2 arm and Miyabi cart with a Klyne phono pre, and the SACD is unequivocally right there, and the regular CD playback is as good or better than the $13000 upsampled dCS gear. Go figure. I'm cautiously optimistic about the SACD format, hoping it won't go the way of Beta, but at the price is definitely worth serious consideration considering the , in my opinion, astounding sonic benefits.
I have had my Sony 777ES for about 11mos. now and I think it is a great player for both CDs and SACDs. I have a decent vinyl collection which I have not sold, although I have sold my TT and phono stage. I never bought many CDs because I never liked the way they sounded overall. I bought music I had to have that was not available like the Mosaic Count Basie live collection (my most prized recordings). I tried various CD players the last being the Wadia 860 which I sold to buy the Sony SACD player. Right away I new that this new format was what I was looking for. There was a wonderful relaxation about the sound that reminded me of analog, but without the distortions of analog. I now have about 50 SACDs and am just hoping this catches on. I still buy a CD here and there for the music but I really don't want to. And I don't want to ever fool with vinyl again. But then I'm 58 and not as patient as I used to be. My system is: Joule LA-100, Clayton M-100s, B&W 802Ns, PS Audio P-300, Harmonic Tech and Analysis Plus wire, and all Shunyata power cords with a King Cobra on the Sony 777 (the cord makes a big difference.)
Seniorm and Allie have hit upon what I consider to be the biggest difference I've heard with SACD, which is the ease and openness of the presentation, particularly when compared with red book CD. For lack of a better analogy, with CD I feel I'm listening to music in a box, with SACD the box is gone. I used to get that feeling only with vinyl and analog. In addition, the highs may seem at first listen to have less energy than their CD counterparts (some people may prefer CDs for that reason, on an initial listen and with particular types of music), but to my ears they are much more natural, extended and fleshed out on SACD (same observation with 24/96 as well). The stock Sony is a very smooth player too, which helps in that regard, although I found it a little too polite, hence my going for the mod mentioned above. One thing I do note is that SACD, and for that matter 24/96, seem to get you much closer to the master tape in your playback; this may not always be a good thing, especially where the master tape isn't all that good. My hope is that Telarc and Delos and Hyperion can get time at the SACD plant to give us future releases in that format.
I, too, was at the Audio Unlimited demo in Denver (I live here) and have counted AU's owner John Barnes as a personal friend for a number of years--so there's no holds barred between us when it comes to audio. I heard the new Accuphase DP-75v 24/196 player (reviewed by S'Phile's J-10) at length in Barnes' reference system: Avalon Eidolons, Accuphase A-50 amps, 290 preamp, Accuphase power conditioner and assorted cables and ICs in his largest dedicated and acoustic-treated listening room. I will say the 75v is spectacular and far above any other RED Book player I've auditioned, including Wadia, Levinson and Krell, among others. The weekend of the audition in question, Art Manzano of Axiss, distributor of Accuphase, brought in the new 100-101 SACD, CD, DVD transport-dac combo for demo. The pair were new and running with minimal breakin, as was the Tara cable and associated wire. I told John later that I felt as Keis and a number of others did--I heard things I liked, but I felt there wasn't enough there to drive me to SACD Nirvana and I felt the lack of break-in time contributed to a less tha top-drawer experience, as it should have been. As an owner of Accuphase equipment (after lengthy auditions of other "name" gear over the years), I can attest (with the usual owner bias) to the incredibly musical presentation associated with that make. Our speakers are Avalon Arcus cabled with SYMO; ICs and PCs are NBS. Quite stunning and most listenable in a non-dedicated living room of 16'x16'-8"x8'--hardly the classic Golden Dimensions for "the serious audiophile" as laid forth by George Cardas and others. That said, my wife (a serious listener and component critic) and I spent more than an hour after most had left Barnes' listening to and through the 100-101 and the 75v. SACDs recorded specifcally for the format were heads and shoulders above anything else, including 24/196, but only if they were SACD direct--they weren't 16-, 20- or 24-bit masters remastered once again for SACD. This is critical, IMO: the SACDs out there NOT freshly done, but reengineered precanned stuff done earlier and maybe more than a few times. Take a look at what's available; it speaks for itself. In the final analysis, I believe the format is valid, but I'd sooner buy the 75v, which immediately upgrades every Red Book CD I've heard into another audio realm, and add an SACD transport later (expensive), or preferably, wait until Accuphase comes out with an SACD, CD one-box player (they're working on it). With all due respect, I'm not buying any SACD gear that needs to be modded to upgrade the sound--I've done that and find it no longer worthwhile. I'll save for better gear and to see what's happening with software. Remember guys, most of our CDs, let alone vinyl, ain't gonna be available in SACD or DVD-A. In the meantime, our system gives us many exceptionally enjoyable hours of music. And I can live with that, especailly when I'm not payong $25 a pop for a disc. Enjoy the music!
Gino makes a good point. Most of the reissues out there on SACD have been from analog tapes. Given my love of vinyl, I don't mind that, although the quality of those tapes is variable, and I'd prefer reissues from the best of the Decca, EMI and RCA catalogs to Columbia's (thank you, Classic Records, Testament and Speakers Corner). If, however, the master tape was made from a 16 bit digital machine, I'd avoid it because I would think that you're sure not going to get any more on an SACD than what was on that tape in the way of information--you'd might as well stick with the CD. As far as waiting for better players, I understand the point but fear that the medium is doomed to failure if there aren't enough sales of hardware and software at this time to justify it, and let's face it, the audiophile market is about all that really cares about the better sound quality. In this regard I'm perplexed at Sony's strategy of high-priced players and SACD-only, as opposed to hybrid, discs. Seems like they want it to fail....but that was another thread, I think.
gino: thank you for saying what i've wanted to express ever since keis first started this thread. i, too, am a friend and loyal customer of john barnes and audio unltd. i was at his openhouse as well. like you, i have an accuphase frontend (dp-90 and dc-300) and also avalon speakers (eidolons). i'm also blown away by the accuphase dp-75v. i'm awaiting an upgrade on my dc-300, which replaces the dac from the 90 to the same upsampling rig as the 75v. i'm planning to hang onto my dp-90 until the whole sacd/dvd-a battle is decided. i've listen extensively, however, to the dp-100 since its pre-usa introduction. not only does it present a magnificant rendering of sacd's (given the same limitations you note) but it also is an incredible deck for playing plain old cd's direct through the amp(s). FWIW, my older son is an internet radio consultant and knows much more than i about cutting-edge technology (he's also a 2nd generation 'phile with his own entry-level accuphase/avalon system). he has told me that an increasing number of pro music sources are on sacd and that portable sacd recorders are being gobbled up by sound studios. i hope this is a harbinger of things to come. if so, we may finally have something to compete head-to-head with our beloved vinyl.
Cornfed-- Much of interest in your post. Also re-read Reprince' re: holding back on the purchase of an SACD player until the dust settles or until more software is available. I think your approach is the best alternative at this point. As I understand it, you will be able to play use the 90 as a 24/196 upsampler--like the 75v--through the 300. Out of curiosity, who's doing the mods-Axiss? In any event, we are in process of moving to new digs in early February, so any audio considerations are on hold. My first order of business is to convert a full basement into a properly set up listening room. It'll be the first time I can open this system up to appreciate its potential! After that, I'll plunge back into it with John and Carl (Audio Unlimited) and see where this 24/196 and SACD thing goes. And it will be Accuphase as I believe nothing out there currently can touch it in either mode. Unfortunately, the 100-101 will always be too spendy for my audio budget, although it is, indeed, absolutely stunning. That's why I'd opt for the one-box player. I very much would like to hear your system, if possible. If interested, 303-751-3269 or firstname.lastname@example.org.