SACD & other Formats


I'm a vinyl guy and have invested lots of money in my TT rig and listen primarily to vinyl because it can sound so much better than digital.

I want to buy a CDP that will satisfy and understand a well mastered CD can sound good as well. I abandoned red book play back 10 yrs back because it was very frustrating finding satisfaction. Too many poorly mastered CDs that could not communicate the music. Have things improved? I know you can get better digital sound for less $$, but has the quality of mastering improved?

Looking through stores online I see SACDs are getting a lot of new mastering attention, gold CDs are available, XRCDs, etc. Is SACD the direction to look? are the current SACD issues of titles living up to the marketing hype/price? sonically? the key is in the software, availability and mastering.
musichead
Things are way better even in Red Book than they were in the first decade of CD playback. I have a couple of pretty good turntables/arms/cartridges and phono preamps mainly because I have a lot of LP records from back in the day.

Although I definitely enjoy vinyl playback on a decent audio system I mostly play CD's these days. The better of the CD recordings sound very impressive--musical and dynamic if you have a nice DAC or CD player.

I personally like the DAC route because these days they include all kinds of digital inputs and you can play from either a CD/SACD player or a laptop, music server or tablet. It's just more flexible and the DACs have more features.

For a CD player you could buy one of the Oppo players like a 105D to start with. The Oppo's will also play SACD and Blu-ray concerts too. Believe me, you need to get with the times... Good Luck :)
I already have the flexibility with a Cambridge Audio Stream Magic 6 V2. Great for playing from any source, my questions has more to do with the software than the equipment. Has the mastering behind a lot of the newer releases improved, the CD market seems to be promoting the SACD format. Or is it all just the same, little change and the gains and improvements are in the equipment.
I have older cds the SQ of which is quite pleasant. I found that I needed a heavy solid transport and high quality digital cable. These two components are essential for good cd SQ with older and newer recordings. I'm talking HEAVY.
There are a great many classical SACDs available, if you enjoy that genre. I haven't sampled them myself but since they have to be a labor of love (there isn't a lot of money in classical these days), I have to think that many have been produced with better sound quality as a goal.

As far as pop and jazz cds from the last decade go, they are all over the place. Some are very good sounding others are terrible. You really can't generalize.

At this point you might want to wait and see how high-res downloads work out. Reviews so far are mixed. There are not a lot of titles available and sound quality is not always what you would expect for their price. I hope that better players and mastering will make these the best option, but I don't think we're there yet.
The digital recording and mastering technology has improved to a much higher level since you were buying CDs (especially Redbook). However, there have been many negatives along the way; have you heard of the "Loudness Wars?" This came about due to all the kids using ipods and wearing earbuds; the record labels decided to compress the music so it could all be heard loudly thru ipods.

So, after 2000 we have superior digital technology, but most CDs are mastered with high compression resulting in poor dynamic range. Classical and Jazz are the exception and can compete in SQ with high-end vinyl. In recent years, many artist have grown tired of having their albums ruined by the label and the engineers, so they are now remastering their work. Some of it is quite good.

As far as SACD, there are limited recordings compared to Redbook, but a few record labels are committed to the format. But to get the most out of these formats, good hardware is essential.
Oppo is the way to go. It does not get any better then the products they produce. Enjoy.
i feel some SACD our very good and some not good. the same with red book , Gold, XRCD, K2 cds.They are getting better over all but still a lot of clunkers. what you play them back on does make a big difference.
good luck
To my older ears I prefer vinyl over everything else. The main problem for me with vinyl is that there is not to much newer music that is available. I then must use SACD/CDs. I tend to not listen to digital and analog during the same listening session since I do prefer the sound of vinyl. That being said, there are great digital recordings out there and terrible records.
I had an expensive TT rig with air bearing arm, vacuum platter etc. and it sounded really good. I started down the digital path with one of the best options at the time and it was not quite as good as the TT. Since then I have changed the digital out a couple of times (along with understanding/applying many of the available tweaks)and at this point I can comfortably say that I don't need the analog side to be quite satisfied with the level of quality I'm enjoying in my listening experience. I would like to emphasis, though, the importance of tweaking CD/SACDs to get them to perform to their potential.
I climbed the heights of CD playback about 10 years ago with equipment and continually seeking the best possible CD issues for specific titles. When I realized I was chasing something that wouldnt satisfy, I sold off my expensive CDP and most of my CDs and took my TT to another level which really paid off. The Cambridge Audio Stream Magic 6 V2 hits the good enough mark in digital playback (flexibility and sonically) for me if the software market is still the same out there. I experimented with the downloading and computer audio and really just dont buy into it, a red book CD played through a transport can sound musically just as good and sometimes better. I also dont like the complication (wasted time and money) of what to buy for each specific title the red book, SACD, HDCD, XRCD or the download. I am just curious what formats can deliver the quality, say like SACD, then I can determine how broad the title selection is and what level of player I need to get the most out of it. If the software isnt there it just isnt worth the journey IMO, vinyl delivers in every way except convenience.
SACD is the way to go IMHO. Buy the Oppo 105 and have Modwright instruments give it the full mod. The player becomes a giant killer in multiformat players. I have one as well as the 25k EMM labs XDS1 they are closer than they should be for the price difference.

Good luck
Assuming you want a CD spinner, things improve tremendously as you move up in quality and (unfortunately) price. I recall when I thought $1500 bought the best CD you could have until I heard it next to a $3000 player that changed my perception of how much there was on a CD to be recovered. So, IMO, it's more about the quality of the player than the format. Before you do anything, I think you should listen to some of the better players and see whether you hear the difference. Yes, you may well end up going over budget, but I've never seen someone into the high end that didn't. Good luck.
I have few CDs that sound incredible, showing that format limitations play small role compare to mixing. Compression is necessary for average Joe to listen on small size speakers without membranes buzzing, but in case of vinyl they know it is purchased by audiophiles and larger dynamics can be allowed. I'm just guessing, since last time I had TT in 80s.
Musichead,

Before you take the plunge, read Roger Sanders (Sanders Sound) white paper regarding CD's and SACD's. He believes that SACD is inferior to CD and explains why - it actually makes sense...?!

Then buy the Oppo 105 and get it modded.

Dsper
Although I'm all-in with Redbook (ARC CD 3 mk II), it's been said by many members and reviewers that it's hard to find a standalone CD/SACD deck that plays both formats equally at high quality SQ. The one that is always recommended is the ModWright Sony XA-5400ES fully modded.

It's more common to buy the deck for your preferred format; ie, ARC builds Redbook only. There's lots of chatter here about getting the best SACD playback, but it's often from a deck that excels in reproducing the SACD layer over the CD layer.
I run two turntables. The high end one is a SOTA Cosmos IV with vac and the "easy" one is a JVC OLY5F. I believe vinyl has the highest fidelity in my house.

As I get older I find myself turning to sacd/cd more for ease of use. I started with a Nak cd2 and when I was impressed with a few sacd demo's I purchased a Sony 333. I liked the sacd format and decided to up the ante and went in for the 777 (plus having a brass puck made it like vinyl in that I had to clamp it). The 777 was a better sounding player than the 333 but it was not a night and day difference that the 333 was over the Nak. Well the 777 needed more service than my vinyl setup and after dealing with repair a couple of times I decided screw it and bought a used Esoteric X03se right here on the Gon. I bought it more for the build quality and was extremely happy when I found the sound quality on par with the build quality. The seller was moving up to the K01 and my buddy had a 777 so we got to compare the Sony 777 with the Esoteric. He ended up selling his 777 and ended up with a used K03 right here on the Gon(and that seller was a doctor who decided on moving up to the K01). So, depending on budget I would say an Esoteric is worth seeking out for an audition. Been extremely happy with mine.

Depends on how often you plan to use it I suppose. My engineer buddy has an Oppo and the number of folks recommending them seems to make it the budget choice.

Love the Esoteric and very glad I spent the money. I have never heard a K01 but if you get a chance try to get in front of one. The X and K series my friend and I own are great and so that K01 must be all that!!

Have Fun!
The digital sound was due primarily to playback equipment. Enjoy cd today. Check out Alpha dac reviews.
"Before you take the plunge, read Roger Sanders (Sanders Sound) white paper regarding CD's and SACD's. He believes that SACD is inferior to CD and explains why - it actually makes sense...?!

Then buy the Oppo 105 and get it modded.

Dsper
Dsper (Threads | Answers | This Thread)"

You can't listen to a piece of white paper.
High end Bob. Could you describe the improvements with your EMM XDS1.
"03-04-15: Highendbob
SACD is the way to go IMHO. Buy the Oppo 105 and have Modwright instruments give it the full mod. The player becomes a giant killer in multiformat players. I have one as well as the 25k EMM labs XDS1 they are closer than they should be for the price difference."

Why not just buy a player that was made right the first time, like an Ayre 5 series universal player, or something similar? You will also be wasting money on video features that will never be used.
The SACD direction looks appealing because there seems to be a market push for the product.

I am running a Rega Osiris amp and the Rega Isis is very attractive given my amp and the balance of my equipment but it doesn't read SACDs.

I understand the Hybrid SACD have a SACD layer and a red book layer. Assuming both layers are from the same mastering could a CDP like the Isis reading the red book out perform or be as good as say a Modified Modwright reading the SACD level?

Do people buy SACDs for the red book layer? in theory it should contain the same mastering.
"I understand the Hybrid SACD have a SACD layer and a red book layer. Assuming both layers are from the same mastering could a CDP like the Isis reading the red book out perform or be as good as say a Modified Modwright reading the SACD level?"

I think the biggest mistake made with SACD, was to allow both single and dual layer discs. If Sony only allowed for hybrid discs, people would have been building their SACD collections even if they didn't know what SACD's were. The format may not have failed.

As far as quality goes, that's something you have to decide for yourself. I thought CD's sounded better on my Wadia than an SACD of the same recording, did on my Sony 9000ES. But its a judgement call that you have to make.

"Do people buy SACDs for the red book layer? in theory it should contain the same mastering."

Yes, but unfortunately most SACD's are single layer.
I've read interview with Roger Sanders. He believes that red book CD format is perfect and vinyl is inherently flawed. He quotes Nyquist etc. He forgets that Nyquist theorem applies only to continuous waves and fails short with short samples especially of high frequency (like cymbals). SACD contains 4x more information and is collected with weak or no antialias filters making for better pulse response. It is difficult to compare two, since SACD players are often not the best redbook players.
CD is limited. Vinyl is inherently flawed.

There is a difference.

Not to say that CD is better sounding than vinyl necessarily. Just a lot easier to get to perform well up to its inherent format limits which perform pretty darn well, hence its longevity. Vinyl has no equivalent limits to the sky is the limit in theory but much harder for a layman end user to pull off correctly at any high level.
Anything can be proven with mathematics.

;-)
MusicHead-

big fan of all things CD/SACD here. Let me start by asking which CD/SACD did you own previously?

What direction would you like to travel this time around?
What is your budget for a spinner? Are you open to (2) spinners- 1 for CD playback and the 2nd for an SACD player?

Interesting times for this movement, keep me posted.
Happy Listening! -JA
Musichead, heed ZD. SACD was/(is) just a blip on the radar.
It will imminently be out of date as hi-des downloads are going to provide stunning audio quality -- it's happening now. That's where you should be investigating. Don't waste money. People are buying and praising the OPPO 105D for many reasons, and it may help you with SACD's as well. I haven't used one but people I've come to know on this site are using it; and some pf them are used to listening to $25,000 CD players through excellent systems. P.S. They are already streaming SACD's at double speed- I think that says it all.
More of the classical labels have become committed to Hybrid SACD, so they will be here for a while. As for rock/pop, we all know the cd is dying a slow death.
Never owned a SACD player, I currently use a Cambridge Audio Stream Magic 6 V2 which gives me 100% flexibility to try computer audio, downloads, streaming, movies, etc. Sounds great, never offensive. My past experience with digital was the higher you climbed the more trade offs you faced. Some CDPs produced pleasing sound but musically sucked, none could deliver the drive and impact of Led Zep and the sultry voice of Diana Krall. I gave up digital then because I realized it limited what was musically engaging. A good vinyl system doesn't do that, that is why I primarily listen to vinyl.

My last big CDP was a Naim CDS2 and my current amp is a Rega Osiris, so the Isis CDP seems to stick out as a logical choice if I wanted a good red book player. I am familiar with the Modwright product and suspect a modded Oppo would probably sound nice.

At this point I am more interested in the quality of the mastering, how broad the selection is to determine is it worth going back? Guess I should try a few Hybrid discs because the mastering should still come through on what I currently use.
"03-05-15: Ptss
Musichead, heed ZD. SACD was/(is) just a blip on the radar.
It will imminently be out of date as hi-des downloads are going to provide stunning audio quality -- it's happening now."

That's certainly a true statement. Downloads may end up saving high end audio altogether. To produce physical albums in different formats is a big expense. Not to mention risk. To offer music as downloads in multiple resolutions, really won't cost anything extra. The only real downside is illegal file sharing.
Does anyone know why digital downloads cost $18 to $30 for a single album with no bonus tracks or contemporaneous concerts, no deluxe booklet with new interviews and essays?

I think the cost to get a download to the consumer is minimal and I know that the price will not come down as volume grows. Most people are used to getting their music for free these days and one of the reasons SACD failed was that people thought they cost too much. So what are the record people thinking?
"So what are the record people thinking?"

They don't think.

What kind of downloads are you talking about, high rez or something else? That does seem very high.
SACD hasn't failed. As a matter of fact, with the right rig, SACD is awesome. From a guy that started with records in the late sixty's until the ninety's, and migrated to CDs because of convenience, SACDs are the perfect format for great sounding tunes and still fulfill the habit of loading and changing physical media. Old habits die hard, and as the vinyl crowd was rewarded with a total resurgence of high quality new pressings with all the ancillaries, liner notes, pictures, a physical, storable, collectible form of music which still appeals to us old timers, SACD provides all that in a digital, compact form. And now that is "dying", you can buy disc's at ever lowering prices.
What's better than that?
So what is the right equipment to make SACD sing? Some people say the Oppo is good, others say it needs to be modified and I see SACD players $10K +. Is a dedicated SACD the better route?

My TT is DV XV-1s, TW 10.5 arm, TW Raven One, Tron Seven phono. It sings and I play everything from Led Zep/Faith No More to Blue Notes to Mozart. My TT rig does not impose on any music style, that's the vinyl advantage IMO.

Being an old guy now I will never buy downloads especially at the $18-$30 price quoted. The music companies can deliver a physical product to market for considerably less so why would a download be more that say $5, they have removed the production and distribution cost. I suggest the push will be to just dig deeper into your pocket. I'm also of the mind set that physical media does have an after market value so you can at least recover a portion of what you invest later. This has been the reality in my lifetime, always best to go against the grain. Buy when everyone is selling and sell when everyone is buying.
"03-07-15: Colekat
SACD hasn't failed. As a matter of fact, with the right rig, SACD is awesome."

I don't think I was clear. I meant SACD was a commercial failure. Sony stopped supporting the format about 10 years ago. The sound quality is fine. I think it sounds much better than CD.

"03-07-15: Musichead
So what is the right equipment to make SACD sing? Some people say the Oppo is good, others say it needs to be modified and I see SACD players $10K +. Is a dedicated SACD the better route?"

That puts you in an interresting position. I happen to agree Ptss in that downloads are the safest bet for the reasons stated in my other post. If you don't want to download, for whatever reason, it may make sense for you to buy a player. I'm not a big fan of mods. I'm sure a modified Oppo sounds better than a stock Oppo, but why not just buy something that was made to perform at a certain level to begin with? It seems to be a cleaner solution. And with the Oppo, you will be paying for features that you won't be using. Of all the players I've heard, I like the Ayre 5 series universal the best. It sounds great with CD, SACD and DVD-A. Its a universal player that was designed for 2 channel music playback. There's no money wasted on multichannel or video. My second choice would probably be a Cary 306.
ZD542, the $18 to $30 is on the hi-res download sites HDTracks and Acoustic Sounds Super HiRez. There were some titles at HDTracks on sale for $15.

Colekat, SACDs outside of classical are being released at the rate of one or two a month except for Japanese SHM SACDs which cost $40 to $90 apiece. The most desirable out of print SACDS go for very high prices. Only the ones no one wants are cheap. So I would say that SACD is not a vibrant, growing format. I enjoy SACDs and wish there were a lot of them that I wanted at good prices, but there just are not very many.

Musichead, I would recommend looking at Marantz or Esoteric for SACD players. I would also recommend looking at Amazon, Ebay, Acoustic Sounds and Music Direct to see if there are enough SACDs that you want available before buying an SACD player.

Many people feel that their cds sound better when ripped to a music server. So if you want to get something soon, find out if you're one of those people. If you are, get a music server and rip away and buy the high-res downloads you're willing to pay the price for.

If you get a server, I would make sure it handles both DSD and at least 24/192 PCM. Many servers don't do DSD, which is how SACDs are recorded. High-res downloads are available in DSD, 24/96 and 24/192. Those bit rates will probably go higher in the future, but I can't say exactly when. It's something you want to consider when buying a server or DAC though.
"03-07-15: Tomcy6
ZD542, the $18 to $30 is on the hi-res download sites HDTracks and Acoustic Sounds Super HiRez. There were some titles at HDTracks on sale for $15.

Colekat, SACDs outside of classical are being released at the rate of one or two a month except for Japanese SHM SACDs which cost $40 to $90 apiece. The most desirable out of print SACDS go for very high prices. Only the ones no one wants are cheap. So I would say that SACD is not a vibrant, growing format. I enjoy SACDs and wish there were a lot of them that I wanted at good prices, but there just are not very many."

That's foolish. People like this never learn. All they're going to do is drive people to download without paying.
To try SACD in my system can I just buy a cheaper SACD player and and use it as a transport to feed my DAC? Or is a full player required?
The trick about CD and SACD, or any comparison, is that you need to get the volume equal from either source in blind testing.

Wonder what we would say if we could do that?
Is the SACD signal louder? When I compare components I also do background listening. If it's musical it will draw you in if it's not it can be annoying or you don't even notice it. This is the subconscious response to it vs direct analysis of sound. This is where vinyl kills most digital systems.
"03-09-15: Musichead
To try SACD in my system can I just buy a cheaper SACD player and and use it as a transport to feed my DAC? Or is a full player required?"

You need to get a full SACD player. There's very few SACD transport/dac combos in production. And the ones I do know of are very expensive. But getting a cheap SACD player to try SACD's is not the right way to do it. A well designed, good sounding Redbook player will almost always sound better than a cheap SACD player. The format alone can't overcome every obstacle and always sound better than CD. You need to buy an SACD player the way you buy any other piece of audio gear. And that's to employ careful consideration of any player you are looking to buy. Like any other component, you need to make sure the player is the right fit for your expectations.
Thanks ZD542, makes sense! I'm thinking from a vinyl perspective. A good 1st pressing shines through almost all levels of tables. When digital fails very little shines through :-)

Any opinions of the Cambridge Audio Azur 752BD? read some online reviews, similar to the Oppo 105 but with better audio. I really don't need the all of the video options in these universal players, is there a good red book, SACD, HDCD player that is reasonably priced?
Hello again Musichead. I haven't heard and don't own the OPPO 105D but is sounds like THE very safe bet for you. By all accounts it plays SACD very decently; as well as all other formats(wow) and it will also do downloads (including hi-res) when you want to use that feature. It supports HDMI IN and OUT and numerous other inputs. It upsamples audi and video. By accounts here on Audiogon there are upgrade paths available for $2600 and less that transform its sound to that of $10,000 to $15,000 players. What else do you need?
"Any opinions of the Cambridge Audio Azur 752BD?"

I don't read reviews. I'm sure that the reviewers are well intentioned, but I find them to be of very little use. I don't know what you're budget is, but have a look at this listing for an Esoteric DV-60, lis64eee. It looks like a really good deal. It should be the last player you'll ever need to buy. If you can find a good used Ayre 5 series universal, that will definitely be the last player you buy. But it will be a bit more expensive. If you're looking for something more affordable, I think Marantz has several players that should be as good as anything else in their price range. I've had some Cambridge components, but I would still go with the Marantz. Look at the Esoteric first, though. That's probably the best value and the most reliable. Esoteric is a division of Teac, and they make the best transports.
Haven't heard the Cambridge Audio Azur 752BD, but it's marketed as a home theater deck. That tells me it's built to be all purpose, but not specialize in any one format. I don't think this is the path to take for superior sound.

Zd's list raises my pulse when I think of how good audio can sound, although the decks listed also include CD/SACD models unless video is a necessary option for you.
Well I made a decision, I don't want to chase a format or be forced down a hardware path because of a format. I tried a few SACDs playing the CD layer (to hear the mastering) and I wasn't inspired. The universal players are not for me because I'm always just looking for the best audio performance and I don't believe there aren't compromises when all of the video options are added to a player. The Rega Isis Value is the ideal player for my setup, second hand pricing is similar to a modded Oppo 105. But in the interim I am going for the Rega DAC-R which is a step up from their prior DAC and it keeps my options open for computer audio (should things improve). It will give me the general flavor of the Isis and I will see if I'm inspired to buy more CDs or download before I invest more.