SACD Players

SACD is now in the market with both players and discs avaliable. Several Audiogon members have purchased the players and have declared the improvement in digital sound. Currently we have for our SACD consideration two players from Sony (SCD-1 and SCD-777ES) and one player from Marantz (SA-1) with a Phillips player soon to come. Has anyone compared the players in home noting the differences in sound? If so what is your system and what differences did you hear between the players. Thanks, Doug
Doug: Sony also has the 333ES (five disc carousel) and they have just announced at CES 2 additional players. One is a budget 5 disc carousel SACD player for $400!!
I don't know about players announced at CES 2001, however, I listen to SCD-1, owned 777ES and now own 9000ES Sony SACD/CD/DVD Player (you can get it for about $1.1k ""). 9000ES, per my personal opinion, is by far the best sounding Sony CD/SACD and 24/96 Player. It has much improved transport and D/A chip is possibly of 2nd SACD generation. The most important sonic characteristic is its midrange sounding similar to the best tube amps i.e. not syropy or euphonic but full harnonic texture, timbral accuracy and sence of naturalness. Its bass is also the best among these Players. Highs are good but can be better if 50kHz low pass junky filter can be removed (SCD-1 and 777ES has extrenal switch to disconnect this filter, in 9000ES its internal). SACD sound is breathtaking: much, much better then vinil (its dynamic range is noticably greater) and DVD-A (whatever DVD-A I auditioned none sounded so natural as SACD, and by far). My opinion is biased, however. I love SACD sond of 9000ES. Rest of my system as you asked: CAT SL-1 MkIII Preamp, Two Bel Canto digital amps EVo in mono mode and speakers are Diapason by Dick Shahinian. Al wilre by Electraglide. This system was geared to listen to "big sound": symphonic music, choruses, opers etc. SACD is increadibly realistic here, second only to live concerts. I am not professional reviewer (however, by education I have diploma of classic piano) therefore my experience is highly biased (as, I bekieve, it should be here). Good Luck - Simon
Simontju, With all due respect, and forgive my ignorance, how can a $1200 or so DVD player sound better than the $3500 units AND, also play DVD's? Is there something I and more importantly Sony missed, and are they not risking losing their SACD audiophile units' market by doing that?
Having not heard the latest Sony offerings, I can't comment on their sound, although Simon appears to be an excellent listener from his posts and I would tend to give his opinions respect. I don't think Sony is missing anything; I think for once they're getting the right idea of producing cheaper players (with a progressive scan DVD player to boot!) and getting the possibility of marketing SACD to the masses. Now if only they would make their SACDs hybrid discs like everyone else and lower the prices of software, the medium might be able to stick!
Simontju- Any idea how to turn off the filter?
I agree with Rcprince, Sony is lowering the price and adding DVD to help force the format to the masses. They,and Phillips, stand to make a lot more money if this format wins the war. I have the 9000es and think it was a great deal.
Linamine. You ask two entirely different questions. one is subjective: "How they play DVD". My answer is to push button with word "PLAY". Now, your question "How $1,200 Player sounds better then $3,500 (and I would add $5000 as well) is more difficult to answer. I will split my answer for you on two. Firstly, I stated that I am biased, it is highly biased opinion. How I developed this opinion? I don't like to compare one piece of equipment with another. I (try to) comapare it with live acoustic music. I spend 12 years on music education (piano) and I am lucky to live in Philadelphia where sound (and importanly, ambience) of Academy of Music is easily reacignisible on many records made there. The latest, among many, is "Nature" by Waterlilly in 24/96, Red Book CD and SACD. I described in the previous post my system and you can, therefore, judge for yourself of its degree of fidelity to acoustic music (Many people demend fidelity to the actual recording which for me is one of many steps of reproduction of acoustic music. Unfortunatelly, I do not listen to electronic music and thus cannot comment to it. In summary, for my ears, in my system, in my acoustic environment I firmly (but dubjectively) believe (as of today not three years from now)that SACD sound is the best among, CDs, DVD-A, Vinil etc. I listen to Sony SC-1, owned 777ES and again I believe that sound of 9000ES is much superior. Non-biased, professional answer. According to Scatt Hall of Electraglide and few others th transport in 9000ES is much better then in previous SACD units, others suggest that its D/A chip is of second generation. I am out of this discussion, sorry, guys, for the lenght - Simon
You might check out Michael Gindi's review in the Winter issue of Ultimate Audio where he and Lars Fredell compared the Sony SCD-1 and the new Marantz SA-1 SACD/CD players.
Anyone know if the 9000ES has Redbook CD digital out? Not clear from the literature I saw.
If I might respectfully disagree with Simon: 1. History has taught us that the best product a company like Sony makes is in general, their first, flagship, product. After that, it's how can can the product be made more cheaply. 2. This is a fact: the combi drives out there today as used in the Sony are no where near the equal of the best drives available or the SCD-1 drive. The leading designers who have tried the new "universal" drives all tell me they are sadly lacking in quality. Then look inside the SCD-1 and check out the build quality, transport isolation and case -- and compare that with the 9000ES. 3. I'm wondering how the 9000ES, which converts DSD to PCM in the course of processing, can be better than the SCD-1? 4. The WL PO is THE worst CD Kavi has ever made. 5. Since you don't detail your vinyl system, it's hard to tell your reference point but the SCD-1 does not equal my TNT V/JMW-12.5 and either Parnassus DCt or Clearaudio Discovery. The only area where the the SACD player comes close is in low frequency dynamics -- but it still falls down when it comes timbre eg. listen to a piano and how all the low frequency registers sound the same. The SCD-1 is clearly bested in the most critical midrange area where it's still lean and lacking in three dimensionality.
Myles, That you know of, are any of the high end manfacturers currently proposing the production of SACD players? If so, which ones and when? Or, are they waiting the format war out. What do you mean by "the low frequency registers sound the same", please explain. Do you find the lack of anti-skating to be a concern or problem with the JMW-12.5? I'm going to upgrade my arm and cartridge andseveral people have recommended the JMW-10. I'm mounting to a HW-19 MkIV and lack of anti-skating just seems to go against conventional wisdom and engineering. Thanks, Doug
Doug, Accuphase has an (outrageously) expensive SACD transport/DAC on the market, and my understanding from my local dealer is that dCs is working on a universal transport. I'm interested by your final question, because the concern you speak of is the reason a friend of mine, after much consideration, went with the Graham arm for his TNT a few years ago over the JMW arm. Quite frankly, I don't think he could have lost whichever way he went, they're both superb products.
Myles, thank you very much for your detailed analysis with my observations. Regarding SACD vs vinil; you are correct that SACD has better "bass dynamic". I love symphonic music and therefore this "bass dynamic" makes me to say "this listening experience is second to the live acoustic music only". Regarding piano, I also cannot argue with you. Its sound ranges wildly from "Italian Co, Glenn Gould" to terrible Volodis. Kavi Alexandr recording may be his worst, again I am not arguing, my point is only that I am very familiar with hall ambience, orchestra and our esteem maesto Sawallich. so I can use it as reference (in CD, 24/96 or SACD mode) Now, you said something EXTREMELY IMPORTANT, if I understood you correctly, SACD signals are converted in PCM format in 9000ES in SACD mode (and from PCM must be converted, finally to analog). Wow, theoretically it should negate all advantages of SACD. Ed Meidtner (spelling?) designer of some SACD machines, said in writing that actually PCM initially is recorded in something very similar to SACD, and he illustered many errors coming with it (e.g. Gibbs artifucts and many others). Thus 9000ES, I hope I misunderstood you!, perform in poor PCM? PLEASE, clarify - Simon
The 9000ES has digital out (coaxial and optical) for DVD, CD, and 96/24. My son and I compared the CD digital out going into my Rotel 985 with the Sony CD D/A conversion and analog into the Rotel. We agreed the both approaches had similar sound quality. I slightly preferred the digital path, while my 22 year old son preferred the analog. Frankly, the diference was very, very small. I could not reliably pick the digital approach.
Rcprince, have you listened to the Accuphase? If so did you compare it to the Sony's or the Marantz? Simon, I seem to recall an item in Stereophile recently (I don't remember which issue, but I could find it) in the industry update indicating that SACD is recorded and mastered in PCM and is only stored and read as DSD. I may be wrong on this but it is what I remember. I don't know if this helps, maybe Myles can shed some light.
Myles, Doug: FRAUD or FROG? DSD->PCM or vice versa. As far as I know: many many years ago digital recording became single bit (in most but not all studious) x64 or x128 oversampling. Lets count, 44.1 kHz x 64 = few MHz. in other words its very similar (if not mathematically identical) to... SACD. For Red book CDs these single bit signals are converted into PCM (24/192 is only "hot rod" of 16/44.1 PCM. I am not distinquish them here due to their identical mathematical principals). This is what you probably read, Doug. Myles, you claim actual FRAUD in Sony 9000ES by stating, as I, and apperently, Doug understood you that "they" take "pure" DSD signal and then convert them into the "dirty" PCM (here is not A/D but D/A so you must imply mode called by Sony in this machine as "SACD"). PCM converted from DSP has huge amount of artifacts, as discussed by Ed Meidnter (spelling?) as oppose to PCM created directly from the sound waves in A/D process. Not that SACD is without a problem... BUT that you are saying is a fraud by Sony. Are you sure about that? It is hard to swallow, really - PLEASE respond - Simon
Doug, I know what you read. Multi-channel SACD is said by "experts" in Stereophile (in the issue where Scull reviewed Technics A10 DVD-A Player) can be done only by using PCM process, if it is so in Sony/Phillips units or not we, really, don't know. But its entirely different from Myles statement that on 2-channel SACD part of 9000ES Sony Player SACD signals are converted into PCM format. If he is corrrect and I wish him to respond VERY MUCH then sound quality is compromized, indeed. It is very serious matter for me, I own 9000ES and send it to modify analog stage, however, if digital part is "dirty" it will not help much and it is huge waste (emotional at least).
Simon, I know what you mean!! This is part of the reason that I have not jumped into the High Rez Digital arena. Although I do not have a deep underatanding of PCM and digital I understand enough (probably enough to be dangerous)to know that there are some issues that are being discussed that put a dark cloud over the whole discussion on the two formats. I listened to SACD at the Chicago Hi-Fi Show two years ago and was impressed enough to be ready to spend th cash then. Now I am waiting. It appears to me as though SACD has the lead. There are more music titles and players on the market, I continue to see more Audiogon members raving over SACD and most of the Audio reviewers now list a SACD player as a part of their "reference system". I truly hope someone can shed some light on the more technical aspects of the SACD format. I started the thread in hopes of getting two things: (1.) Actual side-by-side comparisons of different players by people that have bought and (2.) Some detailed discussions on the technical aspects as well as mods. As I said in a previous post maybe, hopefully Myles as well as others will continue to post Thanks Gang, Doug
What the hell does it matter? SACD players sound so much better even paying redbook cds. I just do not understand the argument at all. A $2000 player sounds better playing my existing cds than the $10,000 unit it replaced. Is it that you are so into the engineering and mathamatics of it all that you really don't care what it sounds like? LIKE I ASKED BEFORE, WHAT THE HELL DOES IT MATTER?
JADE:Its matter if you want to continue and build upon available. In such as case, current sound is less important then expected in future. it much better to start with good engineering rather then bad. If you are only interested in stock, you are 100% correct - Simon
Doug: Haven't heard the Accuphase. I'm sure it's impressive, although take a look at the thread SACD Demo, from last November, where several posters heard an unbroken-in sample of the combo and gave it mixed reviews. Also, Stereophile reviews it this month, for what it's worth, and Scull does draw some comparisons with the Sony and Marantz units he reviewed earlier. I didn't want to spend a lot on a new medium which might not make it, so I waited until the price on the Sony SCD777 ES came down to $1600, then had Jerry Ozment of Audio Logic bypass the analog stage and attach the tubed analog stage from his 2400 DAC, with separate power supply, to the Sony. I think the resulting unit sounds very close to my Forsell/Audio Logic 2400 digital rig, I didn't have to spend anywhere near the $24,000 for the Accuphase, and I got to feel like I'd put my money where my mouth was to give what I perceived as an improvement over the CD medium a chance to succeed. Your earlier question about other high end manufacturers making these machines probably is rooted in the fact that it's an expensive risk for them, many of whom don't have the capital to put into the R&D necessary for a medium that might not be a commercial success. Sony, Philips and Accuphase do have that kind of capital. Hopefully, with the added feature of 6-channel sound, they can make the format succeed.
I have to agree with Jade, tech-talk notwithstanding, the Sony unit I have sounds better playing red book CD's than any previous, significantly more expensive players I had, including upsampling from dCS gear. At about 1/10th the cost. And the SACD is even better, albeit not WAY better, and is significantly software dependent. And along with Myles, my vinyl setup (Basis 2500, Graham 2, Miyabi cart) still sounds far better than any CD I've heard, and I'll give you I've not heard them all, including SACD. Having said that, regardless of what's going on with PCM or DSD, the low price SACD units are an incredible bang for the buck. I've been through 7-8 DAC's/Transports in the last 5-6 years, some ludicrously expensive, and I honestly like the $1800 777es better, and I listen to mostly red book. On certain recordings, the SACD is even better which I consider an added bonus.