SACD or vinyl? Looking for great sound and mid $$

I'm planning to upgrade my system and software as I find myself enjoying listening to music as I never have previously. The music that I plan to add is more jazz and classical which I am just starting to appreciate and therefore have a limited collection. Perhaps, I should provide a little background:

I began my quest for musical nirvana listening to a great number of speakers (B&W cdm, reference 3a, totem, opera, pro-ac, etc.) in shops with vastly different amplification and sources. I started to question the validity of the auditions when I began noticing my dislike of different systems that had the same sources (e.g. Music Hall cd 25 and the cambridge 500).

Reading all the while that I should start my upgrade path with the source, I thought a hybrid cd/sacd player would be the place. I heard a DSD recorded SACD that blew me away but I became sidetracked when I couldn't find a single sacd that I wanted available at my local store. I then thought I should just get the best cd player my money could buy (enjoyed the audio note 2.1x), and then I heard vinyl...

My question is should I get a SACD based system or vinyl? I've heard some of the most lifelike sounds ever in SACD (the cymbals and snare drum in Bennie Wallace's, "Moodsville" were sensational). On the other hand, the vinyl version of Johnny Cash's guitar strings in American Recordings was also stunningly lifelike and gripping.

I understand that the number SACD releases is increasing and the number of vinyl releases is decreasing, however we have a great used record store locally and the software is quite reasonably priced. On the other hand the convenience of SACDs is very attractive - my wife won't laugh at me or begrudge the fact that I am washing my LP's instead of the dishes :)

I'm also curious about price points. With a good LP, where does one need to start price wise for a tt/arm/cartridge to get the equivalent of an SACD playback of say the Shanling scd-s200?

I hope you can help a soul in search of good sounds.
I also tried SACD, thinking that it would be the answer. However, I was disappointed at the lack of selection in the titles available. More were promised soon, but it really didn't happen. The sound was still not nearly as good as vinyl either. So, in the end, I just sold the digital gear and bought a new turntable, and alot of records. Now I'm happy.

A nice used Linn Sondek LP12 or Sota Sapphire for around $800 will do nicely. Or there are others. Take your pick.
Since you like jazz and classical, I would suggest you go with vinyl because most of the great performances are available on vinyl not on SACD.
I am also of the opinion vinyl is still better sounding, besides it will take some time before SACD can catch up as far as availability of albums is concerned. I have seen a long list and only few I personally was interested in getting. There is no point in getting albums you cannot relate to even if everyone is ranting and raving about them. It is after all a matter of personal taste and one listens to music to enjoy it. There is something in vinyl that I think is missing from SACD but I am still not quite able to understand what it is.

For those who are looking for a good source for SACD check, looks like they list every album currently avialable on SACD. As for the reviews on the site I advise caution, some of the reviews are plain garbage.
One benefit of going with vinyl is that classical vinyl is dirt cheap ('shaded dogs', mercury living presence, etc. excepted). Hit the garage sales and you'll be able to pick the stuff up for a buck a pop. That being said, if you're into opera, the pain in the butt factor of changing records 26 times for a single opera vs., say 3 or 4 cds could be a factor. Also, even though vinyl sounds better than digital, the dynamic range on lps can be problematic (i.e.the noise level on the soft parts is as loud as the music and the loud parts are not as loud as they're really played). For jazz on vinyl, the OJC reissues are great: well made, great sounding and cheap!
Forget the sonic differences for a second on a $500 SACD player vs a $500 turntable/cartridge combo. Concentrate on the medium.

Vinyl for $1-5 each. SACD for $20-25 each.
Vinyl with gads of music. SACD with limited selection.

Your choice should be easy..
Great point Bob. The enormous supply of affordable jazz and classical LP's should clinch the decision. Unless he's into new jazz, everything he likes is available now. Who knows when or if much of it will be reissued on SACD, or at what price?

I'll respectfully disagree with Musicslug about dynamic range, since the experience in my system is decidedly the other way around. LP's contain musical information at much lower levels than CD's, and also contain dynamic peaks that can relocate the sofa. Whether you can reproduce either or both is a function of your system and how well you clean your records. Ms. Concious should be pleased if he starts washing anything. That's more than most guys do!

The Shanling scd-s200 retails for about $1900. Lots of decent analog front ends could be had for that budget.
I'll offer a different perspective. I am a vinyl-addict. My system is all-vinyl, and I have a record collection of over 6000 LPs. I'd love nothing better than to see more people heavily involved with vinyl. But, would I recommend someone else dive into vinyl as their primary playback medium? Hmmmm, I'm not so sure.

Yes, I think vinyl sounds better than CD, SACD, DVD, etc. But, good digital playback can be pretty satisfying, it is a hell of a lot easier to use and maintain, CDs are also reasonably cheap and plentiful on the used market even if SACD is not. In many cases, good CD playback can sound better than SACD.

This is not an easy equation, and I would not presume a choice on this matter for someone else. For me, the additional effort and care needed to maintain a high-quality vinyl playback system is well worth it. But, it does require extra care: Extra care of the software, extra care of the equipment, replacement of cartridges that deteriorate over time and usage, setup and alignment that requires some knowledge and experience to accomplish...

I'm also of a somewhat different opinion about the cost of a vinyl front end. You can get some good deals in the used market on a turntable and tonearm. But there is some risk that they are functioning correctly, that the bearings have not worn, that the tonearm can be properly aligned, etc. These issues are not trivila and should not be ignored. If you are not already a knowledgable user who is able to evaluate this for yourself, be sure to have an acquaintance you can rely on for these things. Assuming you are comfortable here, be mindful that there is a higher risk in buying a used cartridge. Some people I know have done this successfully and been very pleased with the outcome. I'm sure there will be other who can attest to their experience in this forum. But that is one piece of equipment I've never been brave enough to buy used - and I've been doing this for over 30 years. If you share my reservations, you're talking about buying a new cartridge. So, my cost calculation places me easily over $1200 and proably closer to $1800-2200. As is so many things related to audio, YMMV. But I thought an alternative view needed to be expressed in this thread.

Good luck in your search for the right solution for you. If it turns out to be vinyl, then WELCOME!
Wow! Thanks for the quick responses all. I think I was leaning in the way most of you suggested: with the abundance of affordable media, LPs certainly have the advantage. I appreciate the caveats mentioned by Rushton and can't see buying a used cartridge in my future.

As it would happen I stopped by my (sorta) local mid-fi today and listened to his only turntable - Rega P3, with RB 300 arm and Rega Super Bias cartridge. Amplification was the Arcam 75 integrated and speakers were the Tannoy M2's or Totem Sttaf's. Since I don't own any LPs, I had to use the stores but most of them were records I was familiar with.

Comparing John Coltrane's Blue Train with a Cambridge D500 cd player was night and day. Even the comparably priced Music Hall cd 25 couldn't reproduce the shimmer of the ride cymbal or the depth of harmonics from the sax. The guitar in Dire Straits "Why worry" had the "wave" sound of the sustained chord with a chorus pedal, where it was nowhere to be found on either cd player. Jennifer Warnes "Song of Bernadette" (Famous Blue Raincoat) was very, very moving.

One thing that did not impress me was the bass response. Their was no visceral impact of Pink Floyd's "Run like Hell". The salesman - a very nice man with wonderful patience, I might add - suggested that the lack of bass repsonse could be attributed to the cartridge which was decidedly below the level possible with the P3 and arm. What do y'all think?

He's offered my the whole kit for $800 canadian (about $605 american). I realize I may be able to save a few bucks by finding one used - if they'd ship to canada - but I'd like to swing this guy some business and buying new with warranty and local support is attractive to an analog neophyte.

Are there other options for under $1 grr cdn (about 7 fidy us) that would make me a happier camper. Or should I just go for the P3 and rb300 and swap in a new cartridge.

Thanks again for all of your responses.
Hey Conscious, in my humble opinion you can get the visceral bass you desire with the P3. I have one with just a Grado Blue on it and it's not bad. One thing I'd recommend to improve the bass is the Expreemachining heavyweight counterweight and a replacement mat. I bought a new mat from Herbie's Audio. Amazing difference in bass response and signal to noise ratio. It seemed to quiet some records that I know "sounded" scratchy. I currently use a carbon fiber brush to clean and have no real problems with "vinyl" noise, and I consider myself an anal listener. I agree with your assesment of vinyl's strong points. Pink Floyd's The Wall was completely transformed for me on vinyl. Good luck discovering what you've been missing!
Conscious, it sounds like you've caught the vinyl bug big time! Great to have you join those of us committed to this format. What you describe is exactly why I've stayed the course with vinyl, keep buying more (used and new), and have continued to upgrade my front end to be able to hear more and more of what good vinyl can deliver.

A very good vinyl system can reproduce bass with accurate timbre, definition and extension. Better than CD in my experience. But doing so is not an easy challenge. As with all things audio, everything makes a difference, everything has an effect. The rack on which you set the TT will make a difference. The phono stage will make a difference. The cartridge will make a HUGE difference. I'm not familiar with the Rega cartridge, but perhaps others can share their experience to help. Good Luck!
Look out, here comes another convert! You should have listened to Rushton's well reasoned warnings, Concious. Now it's too late.

I'm unfamiliar with Rega cartridges, but many say even better sound can be had for similar money. Colitas' cartridge is one idea and I'm sure there are others.

Ask your dealer for the price of a P3 with an RB250 arm. Not only will you save money, you'll get better sound. As Colitas mentioned, there are several reputable modifiers of Rega arms. They all believe the RB250 is sonically superior to the RB300.

These Rega arm mods offer great bang-for-buck sonic improvements and are universally admired (except by Rega of course). Changing the arm end stub and the counterweight, as Colitas suggested, should improve both bass and clarity. Visit or for details.

You might buy just the P3 from your dealer and add a fully modded up arm from one of the above. Simple and economical.

Buying used should get you more for you dollars of course, but if you're uncomfortable with that then a P3/modded RB250/??? cartridge would be excellent value. Welcome to the madhouse!
One issue you must consider is the availability of music in the format you choose.

All older music will be available on LP, but it will be harder to find new music (yes I know it is possible, I'm just saying it is more difficult).

With SACD it will be impossible to find most older music now. Who knows about the future? If the format continues to grow it might not be a long-term issue. Right now, though it is not possible to get most of what I would want to buy on SACD.

There is a lot of older stuff that never came out on redbook CD so it doesn't seem too far-fetched to assume that a lot will never be there on SACD either.

I have both formats and have simply accepted some stuff will not be available on one or the other formats.

Which one will provide the greatest ammount of music you want to hear?
In terms of available software, your choice is between CD and vinyl. At more modest level of investment in dollars and time, I would go with a good cd player. Good vinyl reproduction involves a more substantial investment in a turntable, tonearm, phono stage, record cleaner (a must-have item), as well as time to properly set up the rig, clean records, hunt for records in used record shops (the fun part), etc.
Larryi, you're right about the available music of course, but CDs do not appeal to Concious. He wants a natural sound that redbook discs do not provide. His true choice is between enjoying the convenience of SACD despite a limited repertory and an unknown future, or to suffer the many inconveniences of LP's to enjoy a vast store of music in the genres he prefers.

One could argue that this is a false choice, since there's no reason (except money) not to have both formats. But when funds are limited this dilemma presents a serious decision. Hopefully our responses have helped clarify the relevant issues so he can decide which compromise makes the best sense for him.