SACD - what gives?

So, I finally purchased a dvd player, which also happens to play SACD's. So, being all excited, I run over the to local Best Buy to grab some SACD,s. Much to my surprise, it seams that every SACD that they had (about 200) was a remaster of an anolog recording. I also checked and just about everything they carry ( over 700) is also remastered. So, my questions is: If SACD is such an advanced format then why is everything re-issues of older recordings? You would think that they would be issueing direct digital recordings. Now, I know why this format is not catching on. Let me put this in perspective: I spend about a thousand dollars on a SACD/DVD player so I can listen to re-issues of the complete Rolling stones catalog. No offense to Stones fans, but I aint paying for these recordings for a third time (LP, CD). Any insight or comments?
Sony (and other labels) felt that the best way to get SACD to catch on was to initially trget the software to established audiophiles. Let's take the Stones for example. I think SACD's thinking was, "A lot of audiophiles are middle aged males. They can afford to invest in a new format like SACD. So let's give them the music they've always loved, along with the promise that they can hear that music with a level of fidelity they never could have imagined possible [My comment: at least with digital]." Hence, reissues of music that audiophiles are likely to enjoy.

The second point is, they deliberately made the Stones reissues as hybrids; that is, they contain both a CD layer and an SACD layer. As a result, tons of owners of regular CD players bought these discs, but Sony can claim them as "SACD purchases." The idea is, labels will see people buying SACDs, therefore those labels will want to *put out* new SACDs...

And then new music will be recorded using the pure DSD technique, rather than analog remasters put into the SACD format.

Whether this will come to pass is highly debatable...I was just presenting the Sony view, as I have come to understand it from the past two years of spending obscene amounts of time on AudioAsylum's "Hi Rez Highway," a page that specializes only in SACD (their DVD-Audio page is separate."
I noticed that myself! I also noticed something else I haven't been able to figure out yet - If the reason for SACD was to maximize the quality of sound reproduction isn't it something of an oxymoron to produce low quality SACD players, obviously targetted for folks who do not have high resolution systems? I'm spending my CD money on good redbook and players.
Ever since I first heard about SACD, I have thought it had promise. But, I too have observed that most SACD releases are older material. Which is one reason why I haven't jumped on the SACD boat. I figure I can get these recordings on LP (either original or reissue). This saves me the cost of a SACD player. The money saved could be used for turntable upgrades, which would be good for my entire record collection.

In a way, I'm reminded of the line that the electronics industry keeps coming up with new formats just so they can sell the same recordings over and over again.
Newbee, YOU DA MAN!!! Right on, Bro'!!!
I have to agree with all of the points being made. I probably have about a half dozen SACD's and that's it. I'm not buying recordings that i don't want to listen to, regardless of how good they are supposed to sound and / or the quality of "re-mastering". We want / need new music on these formats if you want new people to invest in the technology. Sean
C'mon you middle age men, buy more SACDs. If there is demand, then there will be more SACD titles in the future. Afterwards, when I can get all my favorite bands on SACD, I'll jump in.
I feel I have to chime in here as well and feel compelled to add, that apart from being of the same opinion with everything said above, I feel that SACD -even with the "best" players - is a distinct disappointment as far as the upper highs are concerned and considering the financial state of the larger recording companies, we can wait a long time for new issues, which are musically or sonically worth their money. I own about 6 new issue discs and found them mostly lacking artistically and sometimes also sonically (high end of the spectrum). As far as the reissues are concerned, I must bluntly state, that my old LPs sound worlds better on my rig. ( They "breathe", whereas with SACD the highs are "dead" or blotted out by that omnipresent hiss, which you invariably get, if you have tweaters worth writing home about ) A disappointment, because I had put high hopes in this technology. So my SACD players is collecting dust and no Vigggen, no way, nor more SACDs, at least not for the time being.... (-:
Detlof, your comments above are VERY interesting, indeed I had wanted to ask you about this upper end /hi-rez point.
I've had a similar misgiving about the upper end reproduction. This I attributed to my less-than-stellar tweets (even though my electronics are wide-bandwidth). Although the analogue sounded subjectively better --through the same speakers, of course-- I assumed this was due to loss of detail on the sacd format... (even though, SUPPOSEDLY, my tweets lose their proverbial 3db at 36kHz.)

It's good to know that a mega system like yours (with upper tweets worth their salt!) gives the same experience. Elsewhere, I read a post by Mikelavigne (also the owner of a world class system) comparing his top Rockport, to a new digital set-up. He found the analogue still overall superior to the digital set-up (he didn't go into details).

On a side note, and strangely, I've found that the redbook layer on certain (dual layer) sacd's sounds better than the older single-layer redbook ??!!?
Hello Greg, good to hear from you and that you've made the same experience, regarding high-end resolution of the SACD processing. As I remember now-and if I recall right - there was a technical discussion here on these pages about 3 months ago about the very same topic, giving objective reasons for what both of us seem to hear. Sorry, for being a tad off topic, by the way. But I thought we have a point here, interesting enough to be worth mentioning.
P.S. By the way, have not listened to the Meitner DAC6 by the way, which seems to be the latest king of the SACD hill.
I own a Sony SCD XA777ES with the 4k Audience mod. Cheers,
The software also drives the hatdware. If there's nothing to justify or play on the latest and greatest peice of equipment, then there is no reason to buy it. Imagine what would have happened to the original Apple computer if there wasn't a program called Visicalc (spreadsheet). Apple would be out of business and Steve Jobs would be bagging groceries at the local market.

I'm not going to buy music I'm not familiar with, or haven't heard yet, just to have the latest and greatest.

Thanks for all the great post and insight.

I get the feeling of being in the minority (or perhaps composing it myself). I have neither an analog rig nor good tweeters which perhaps makes me more satisfied with SACD than I should be but I am reasonably happy with SACD so far.

Perhaps my age and the fact that my financial ability to support a music habit (no real access to used software) is somewhat recent have something to do with it but most of the older re-issues I've bought have been first-time purchases of that particular music), especially in the jazz category (grew up listening to others' copies).

Some new issues are absolutely fabulous - musically and sonically. e.g. Prieres Sans Paroles (BIS), the Eric Bibb discs (Opus 3), Wispelwey playing Britten cello concertos (Channel Classics), and the list goes on.

Gregm, the redbook layer being better... I've noticed it too. perhaps due to the re-mastering? A lot of the re-issues I've seen have been 20-24-bit re-masters on the redbook layer.

Detlof, I too remember a thread or two about the limitations of SACD at high frequencies. At least one of the threads is here.

This and 2cts will get you 2cts. Travis
Needs more time. I remember when DVD was never going catch on. SACD is better than CD on my system. I look forward to some new tune being recorded in DSD.

most sacd's are being mastered without the consent or approval of the artist....if the labels deal with new artists they get into serious money/control issues....most of the labels older material is controlled in perpituity by the label,not the artist...its cheaper to redo and the artist doesn't have to like it.
I've had SACD for about a year now (Sony 555 played through older 2-channel Spectral electronics and Martin Logan Sequel II speakers). While I noticed an improvement from CDs immediately, I didn't play SACDs that frequently due to a relatively small collection. But over time my collection grew to about 70, and my machine completed its break-in phase, and during the past month or so I have found myself gravitating more and more to my SACDs. Compared with CDs the highs are much more natural, and the timbre of instruments is much richer (unless all of the necessary information has been lost in the recording studio which is sometimes the case) drawing me much more into the music.

I can't compare SACDs with LPs. I am one of those people who was driven crazy by surface noise on LPs and for whatever reason, I was incapable of finding and/or maintaining quiet vinyl, even from some of the well known audiophile labels of the 80s.

What I can say is that this weekend, when I put on a number of SACDs, both originals and remasters, I had one of the most enjoyable listening experiences I've had for quite a while.
The answer to your question is very simple. For the most part, they don't exist. To have them means that the recording studios have to convert to machines capable of making these recordings. If you ask the same question about DVD-A recordings you get the same answer. Why invest in a machine that may be obsolete if the format dies. So even though many studios can make a high resolution digital recording, they are not in native SACD format and have to be digitally converted.

Why reissues? Most of the recordings in the studio vaults are on analog tape. There are millions (well, at least a whole lot) of hours of tape that can be remastered and reissued in a higher resolution format. These are recordings of proven sellers versus the crap shoot of recordings of new music. Which would you do?
Well, I don't completely agree or disagree with anyone. I have a pretty high end system, so I feel I can comment on each medium as played back through some of the best representative equipment around. As to software, things are getting much better. Right now, I have 9 SACD's on order which are due out this month or next, and just got 3 others in the mail (all classical). As to comparisons with LP on analogue material, it depends on the quality of the original masters and the original LPs. Yes, audiophile LPs sound better on a high quality front end, but if you compare lesser sound recordings--like most analogue Columbias--the SACD's are substantially superior, even when you have collected pricy European alternative pressings. As to CD vs. SACD, I have yet to hear an SACD which wasn't superior in most respects to the CD version--especially in soundstage and depth--even when the CD is up-converted through my dCS Purcell and Elgar. As to high frequency response, here I am really baffled, because SACD high frequency response sounds to me much more like analogue LP than CD does, and my tweeters are certainly not overly polite. The one comment I certainly agree with is that there is no point criticizing SACD sound after playback on a bottom end player; that defeats the whole purpose of the medium. Does it matter whether CD or SACD sounds better through a $250 player?
I join Mgottlieb and Tbone and the few others in the minority here who are still enthused about SACD. I find little of the high frequency problems Detlof has found, although I would have to say my system cannot be as revealing in that area as his Soundlabs, and perhaps my mods from Jerry Ozment have something to do with it as well (the latest transformer mod is even more pronounced in its improvements to my SACD player than they were with my DAC, which surprised Mr. O as well as me). As far as new recordings taking advantage of the medium, there are more and more classical recordings coming out in pure DSD recordings that really show off the medium's advantages over CD--the Telarc Vaughn Williams Sea Symphony and the San Francisco Symphony Mahler cycle are absolutely spectacular examples, and there are more and more of them, although admittedly the analog remasters still are in the vast majority here (much as it was in the early days of CDs as well). I still prefer a good LP on my vinyl rig, especially where the master tape isn't the greatest and I don't want to hear everything on it, but the glimpses of what SACD can be I've been getting from the most recent DSD releases are closing the gap on analog significantly and widening the gap between SACD and CD. All that said, I still don't think the medium will be anything more than a niche market; hopefully we'll at least get some good recordings and performances to listen to from the specialty recording companies or perhaps the orchestras themselves (LSO Live, perhaps, as they record in DSD, to go with the SFO).
Prior media, LP, Tape, CD, have never been able to convey the quality of sound inherent in the master tapes made even 40 years ago. SCAD can bring those master tapes into your listening room (assuming that the people who made the SACD didn't screw it up).
Eldartford is pretty much right, but part of the problem also is that some of those master tapes weren't so great to begin with, particularly with some labels who seemed to like to put mikes in musicians' laps or which had producers who wanted a "hot" mix to better catch your ear on a small transistor radio. In those cases, the warmth and lack of absolute ultimate resolution of vinyl are a Godsend, as they let you enjoy the music instead of hearing the recording.
I've owned and listened to friends SACD players over the last few years, the one I owned having been moddified extensively taking it to a level well above the stock ( and quite good)unit. My previous impressions mirrored many of the above, it was good, often better than redbook, but not THAT much better. Throw in the software issues etc, and I guess I was less than enamored. Lost most of that gear in a spousal parting of the ways, and over the last year or so have re-geared, and in the process had the opportunity to listen to, and subsequently purchase the Meitner DAC 6 and transport. I have been reborn. This is like nothing I've ever heard. THIS is what I had in mind when I first heard of SACD: transparent, resolute, great bass without any of the digital "boom" that even the best redbook players had, musical and an ease of presentation that only vinyl had previously offered. Incredible micro-dynamics, and an ability to listen deeper into the music than I had previously experienced. No digititis, no fatigue, and seamless. I don't hear any problems with the upper registers, but then again I probably lost a good bit of hearing in that frequency range in the last year of marriage. And quite possibly Detlof has better hearing, I certainly respect and value his impressions. DSD recordings do sound a tad better than anolog sometimes, but not always, it seems to be recording dependent. Some of the DSD's sound so good it's like listening to a direct feed. So I really can't disagree with many of the above posts in their less than enthusiastic embracing of SACD, I was there. What I can say is my perspective has changed significantly after having heard this format through the Meitner. I hear the argument all the time that redbook is many times limited by the hardware, and redbook playback can be superb if the player gets it right. I think the same can be said of SACD. The software may not be the rate limiting factor. The difference between vinyl playback on a middle level tt and something such as the SME 30 or Rockport is amazing, and not because the mid level tt is not good. It's just very apparent how much more information the SME or Rockport extracts. I've found my recent experience with SACD to be similar. I'm not trying to convert anybody here, just relating my experience as a response to the initiating question. YMMV.
When I attend a live concert, do we hear lots of details and something extra which is not "musical"? I would say "yes" we do, hope most people agree. If that did not prevent us from going live performance, it means that details or some noise will not kill a good music performance. For a properly set-up SACD and good engineering recording, I usually hear much less the machine added "edgy" sound than CD format.
If someone hate the details even though it is not "edgy", could I propose the performance is simpley not good? The orchestra simply did not perform well on the recording!?
I believe Beethoven will blame on the conductor or orchestra. Hardly I would believe he would blame on the machine which can bring out every note of his work.
If you were Michael Jordan, would you prefer a slot motion HDTV to show your move, or you like a blur tape and claim it is more "artist".
Maybe many of us had our hopes up too high, looking for immediate gratification thru sacd... No-one however condemns this format outright. Rather methinks the discussion puts forth a number of issues directly related to our enjoyment of MUSIC thru sacd.

-- for older recordings yet again, we are at the mercy of the remastering process; (i.e., it's a vulnerable process and thereby NOT a completely foolproof, repeatable thing) Call me deaf but, frankly, my S Yorke TT (no SiriusIII, no Goldmund reference, etc) smoked two excellent sacd players on B Walter.

-- for older recordings we ALREADY have LP and redbook -- i.e. the music is already in our library, or available in the market. If we're digital only and we wish to improve on our redbook player, we need to INVEST in NEW hi-performance h/ware...

-- Hi performance h/ware doesn't come cheap (yet; will it EVER?). Presently, it's the MOST expensive rig (but that gives us hope for the future)

-- the MANUFACTURING process is, again, a "process"; so, we hope the latest disc we buy belongs to the "good" batch. OK, we had that with all previous media.

-- the dsd originals DO sound better... Amen!
BUT i have to join Detlof in questioning the artistic value of these releases. I agree with Rcprince that the Mahler is interesting, not only for the music but for the ray of hope it transmits for the future. BUT having some (past) links with the music industry, I'm worried about its difficult financial state and wonder if the present day W Legge's will have the means to record great music. I hope they will.

The terrible thing is, I can't afford the Meitner and I believe that Mes (et aliae) has done the right thing in getting soemthing that gets out of the way of his music.

Worse, what to I do with a few thousand lp's and a few cd's? Ooof, buy the cd's in better format I suppose. I feel too poor, too old, too deaf. Think I'll spin a vinyl (BTW, I used to be VERY frustrated with analogue 25 yrs ago).

So, for the time being, I am condemned to wondering why the Insider refuses today to give me the esoteric info I know is on/in that black spinning plastic. (You know, overhang, VTA, azimuth, the arm bearings, the temperature, the psychology,
Over & out
Beautiful post Greg!
I love SACD (much superior to reddbook) and I if I had to go back to redbook only......I would be out of this hobby.

Okay folks.....Maybe I am just the not-so-overrated rookie...but what is redbook? (sorry....)
Unclejeff: Redbook is basically the regular CD format. :)
Unclejeff: redbook is the conventional audio cd, so named because of the colour of the Philips booklet containing them.
Cheers, Detlof!
Eddartfort, although I remain sceptical, I hope that you are right and yes, RCprince, I had hoped that you might come in here, because I wondered how happy you are with your highly modded gear and Mes, glad, that you are back in the game, never to do things at half measures. Wished, I could come over and listen to your Meitner and that goes for RCprince too. Alas, too much water inbetween. I have the same modded player which Mes used to have. Was quite happy at first, but got more and more disappointed, when directly comparing with LP renderings. Had the latest DCS gear at home to try out and still was not convinced, though it bettered my player in overall transparency and sounded wonderful in upsampling normal CDs. Is the Meitner even better than the Brits stuff? Anyone compared directly? Still a doubting Thomas but cheers to all,
Hi Detlof- I had the dCS Delius/Purcell combo, which didn't do SACD, so I can't compare it to the Meitner on SACD. On redbook, the Meitner is superior, it doesn't upsample but does convert redbook to DSD with the results being similar, but not quite on par, to SACD. The combination of microdynamics, resolution and detail with a relaxed, non-edgy presentation is something I'd not heard before in digital. Players that were relaxed were on the warm and rolled off side, players that were resolute and detailed were edgy and suffered from digititis. This is the first time I've experienced this combination, with the exception of high end vinyl. The Meitner is unlike anything I've heard. Don't let a little H2O stop you.
Agree, Detlof, you're always welcome here as well, it's not that long a flight (although there are many things I prefer about your side of the pond). The Audio Logic DAC also changes the pcm signal to DSD, that's why I like it so much. At some point I'd like to hear the Meitner, as I think my modded unit might give it a run for the money.

Detlof, I do remember that some early DSD recordings I heard seemed a little reticent or rolled in the highs (a fault I initially attributed to my equipment but still there even after my latest upgrades which have improved the system's high frequency extension markedly), but the recent SACDs I mentioned in an earlier post have high frequency extension galore that is extremely natural and adds to the openness of the format's presentation. It's easy to hear Telarc's sonic evolution in their DSD recordings, perhaps that may be a part of it as well as the playback mechanisms.
Rcprince, you make a very good point, which Telarc do you suggest I should listen to and thanks, also to Mes, for your kind words.
Definitely try the Vaughn Williams Sea Symphony (I'd have preferred a different VW symphony, although this one is growing on me) with the Atlanta Symphony and chorus conducted by Spano, whose work I like a lot and who I wish was available for our orchestra here in New Jersey. It won a Grammy and actually deserved that award. Tough to reproduce the massed voices well on a home stereo system, and it was only when I had the transformer upgrade for my player that I realized just how good this recording is. Telarc's Mahler cycle with Zander is quite good too, although a friend of mine felt at least the Mahler 5 sounds too much like B&W speakers, which he doesn't like. The Debussy/Turina and Berloz discs with the Cincinnati Orchestra are also quite good, although it's a drier acoustic so not as spacious-sounding as the VW--if you compare these discs with the early-DSD Dukas disc with the same orchestra I think you'll hear a bit of a difference in the sonics, perhaps some changes made to the hall, perhaps the recording stream. I also think you might like the SFO's Mahler cycle, which is a bit closer miked than the Telarc recordings but has tremendous dynamic range, very transparent and natural sound and good performances, in my view.
I have to agree! Lets have some new material SONY! SACD will not work is only as good as the master (tape) is these cases...still...the potential is here...the new BECK CD on sacd is frickin AWESOME!