SACD : why ?

I have a local dealer here in Paris, France who has become a very good friend. SACD technology is just starting to hit our shores, and after hearing several CDPlayers, inc. the Accuphase 100 transport, we just didn't get it. The differences are just so tiny and are entirely software dependend (a bad SACD sounds worse that a great mastered CD) that we can't see it becoming a new standard. Nor spending thousands of dollars for so little.

We did a blind test for 15 of his customers. We told them we would play them a normal CD version first, and then the same music but with the SACD version. 15 out of 15 said they thought the second sounded much better and that SACD was an amazing technology. They were surprised, shocked and embarrassed when they found out we had switched the order of play and they actually preferred the 'standard' CD.

Here is my prediction : SACD is dead, long live DVD-A. Not because DVD-A is better, it *technologically* speaking isnt, but it makes much more market sense.
What CD player were you using for the demo?
I agree SACD is in trouble but not due to sonics. I've heard it sound quite good although dcs 24/192 upsample still best IMO. It seems that Sony is not interested in supporting SACD purchasers with the musical icons (Beatles, 'Stones, Zepplin, etc.) that such an organization is capable of. Content provided will win this war.
badwisdom: one less-than optimal test in france does not a format make. or break. BTW, how many dvd-a titles are available at the paris le tour de record? -kelly
One of the reasons that I am sticking to vinyl. I am sorry but I am getting tired of the next new wiz bang product. I can easily live with the limitations of vinyl, and I have enough LP's to last me for the rest of my lifetime.

Just my 2 cents.

Was the SACD unit properly broken in ? It needs at least 300 to 400 hours to bring out its best. I own a top notch CD/upsampler frontside and comparing it to a well broken in Sony 777, my findings were not anything close to being as decisive as you infer. Besides, your so called "blind test" proves nothing, because it was not properly carried out, apart from being unfair and cheating on those unfortunate participants. Being a vinyl man and no friend at all of redbook CDs, especially as far as large orchestral music is concerned, my finding were, that SACD was indeed a step forward, as far as big symphonic sound was concerned. What I found lacking in the Sony (compared to vinyl, NOT CDs ), were dynamics and resolving power. That was the reason I am having the unit upgraded on its analog side by the Audience people.
Here is my take. I feel that SACD will not survive also.I have heard it but I wouldnt go out and spend thousands of dollars on the player nor the software.One way to test the fromat end of the industry is to look at HDCD. A very simple format that they can easily make a standard format for all cds no matter what kind of music or record label. Also if you where to do a percentage of audiophiles versus regular run of the mill receiver/ no name $200 speakers. No offense , they are usally the happiest with their sound and dont feel the need to upgrade every few months like myself. Which gives them deeper pockets than me. The point is the % of people that they are trying to reach is maybe 30%. Which is anyformat will not survive. I talk to people who dont even want to spend $18.00 on a new cd. So if HDCD couldnt make it as a standard format then what makes anyone think anything else will? Especially at 25 & $30.00 per cd? Only time will tell. Me I am saving so I can Have my Revel Salons and my Mark Levinson 33H mono blocks. I have redbook cds that are mind blowing in sound And I paid 12.99 at Circut City. Good Luck let the smoke clear. Dan
We used the Accuphase transport 100 and matching DAC (the 101 i think) for both CD and SACD play.

And this was just an opinion cornfedboy, a prediction. The test was more than revealing to us : even if there is a massive difference in sonics, people can't hear it enough to justify the expenses. imho.
Of course you are entitled to your opinion,but this story just does not seem to wash,at least with me.I could put 15 people in a room and tell them nothing about what type of disks were being played and I can guarantee there would be at least 1 person who would find it to sound better or worse.The fact that you even tell someone there is a difference automatically is biasing them.It is only human nature .There are some SACDS that are not much better ,if at all ,than their counterpart PCM disks.I totaly agree with that statement.One that immediatly comes to mind is Carol Kings's Tapestry.On the other handBlood Sweat and Tears is greatly superior to the PCM disk.Mind you,these are all tape transfers and not straight DSD recordings.The DSD transfers are truly ouststanding,and I would be hard pressed to believe that an average person could not hear some sort of difference.As for DVDA,I for one think it is inferior(at least at this time) to SACD.Some of course will dissagree.I think that if Sony does not start releasing some popular recordings in the SACD format quickly,they will have let a golden opportunity slip by,and let DVDA get a foot in the door.As it stands now,anyone who bought the first generation pieces,own probably one of the better transports made,and are assured that even if SACD should fail,they have a top notch player that competes with any of the big buck pieces.So it is a win win situation either way.
Two things worry me. One, Joe public doesn't even seem to know about dvd-a or hasn't hit like cd...and the price of the music will not allow joe public to support it. Something better and cheaper could derail both super formats.....I'm sticking to my vinyl until the dust sales are starting to slip....when vinyl sales slipped in the early 80's "perfect sound forever" was prematurely rushed to market to save us. Now we're still waiting for a "more perfect sound"....time for some imperfect music.....cheers, Bluenose
Come to beautiful Destin, Fl. Where you can experiance snow white sands and emerald green waters. You can also be exposed to the SACD1, Pass amps, and the Apogee Mini Grands. I will guarantee you will never question the benefit that this format has made to the world of audio. It would be a shame if this format did not make it,all i know is that i will never part with mine!
While DVD-A makes the most marketing sense for equipment manufacturers, SACD makes the most marketing sense for record companies. Historically speaking, the record companies have always wound up setting the standards, not the electronics industry.

Incidentally, HDCD has by no means failed and a lot of new CDs have come out in that format. There is also nothing to stop the red book layer on a SACD from being done using HDCD.
I agree sattothestars. This does not wash. I'm not sure of the adjenda you have Badwisdom, but I'm sure it is not to be fully honest. You say you compared the DD-100/DC-101 to a number of other players and heard only a tinny difference. I can only assume the other players were the likes of Burmester and Mark Levinson, or your full of ....
I will advise all who are listening to this review to accept it for the little it's worth, the opinion of a guy I've never heard from befor. And the war between the world and the Frence marches on......
Be sure to read this very informative post on
I dont get it : why was such a test unfair ? Surely if they really heard a difference they would have said that the SACD was disappointing and sounded inferior, if they had been honest ? Doesnt it show how important the psychological aspect of audio really is ? How many people convince themselves that a Krell is the best just because they know they're listening to a Krell ? How many people tend to snigger and dismiss at less expensive models because just of the fact they cost less than the big boys ?

I dont think you can just put that aside. I agree that the technology is better, but i am more than sceptic (sp?) on people's honest appreciation of the format.
Hi Badwisdom -- unusual experience you had there! I assume you used wide-band amplification & matching speakers during the test (to get well beyond the 20kHz "audible" spectrum)?

Of the few SACD titles available, it seems that many are remastered from pcm, i.e., not dsd conversions from the original analogue master. If you used one of these titles, the redbook version (with normal band electronics & tweeters) could give the impression of being "crisper" and therefore, preferable. It probably sounded harsher than sacd -- but the audience would not have had the time tire out during a test audition...

To my ears, SACD sounds superior in orchestral music, especially when voices enter the scene.

As to the format "war" of attrition or survival, as it were, the marketplace definitely seems to be shifting in DVD's favour: video content rules!

But your standard DVD player will play audio too... not so, the other way round, with the sacd player. Unless the deal with Universal/Vivendi supporting sacd makes the grade, I wonder how Sony expects the sacd to conquer the mass-market and become the standard?
If this discussion were about the differences between two CD players, we'd all join our preferred camps and cheer for the unit we thought sounded best. While the SACD format can theoretically provide for a higher resolution output, we are still talking about the differences between two pieces of digital audio equipment. I've had the same experience as Badwisdom the few times I've auditioned SACD players. Both times they were Sony players and both times I preferred the sound of the CD, not because of resolution but simply because of the sound (the CD players happened to be ones I liked quite a bit). I'd have to believe when other manufacturers produce SACD units, they’ll apply their own audio signatures to the sound and the comparisons will be somewhat more balanced.

SACD and Redbook are just formats and can theoretically produce comparable results. In practice, SACD should have a significant advantage, but in the end its up to the manufacturer to take advantage of this and produce a better sounding unit. I’m sure that Sony does with their audio line, but for many folks theirs is simply not the preferred sound. The enjoyment that many people get from their SACD players needs to be put into this context, and not attributed to the format alone.

badwisdom: a couple of thoughts after reading your later posts. (1) the decision as to whether sacd "makes it" is largely political, dictated by those who control software production; fact is, more software companies are jumping aboard the sacd bandwagon everyday, tho that moving platform is also a moving target in light of all the multi-channel alternatives available. (2) i've listened extensively to the accuphase 100/101 combo, too. it's such a good redbook player that i have a hard time perceiving the superiority of sacd as well, except on titles mastered to sacd (i.e., NOT reissued discs). -kelly
I agree with the others that said the survival of SACD will come down to the availability of music. As it stands now SACD seems to be a purely "audiophile" format. And, as much as I hope it will survive, there has got to be a reason that we haven't seen SACDs of the reference standard recordings of all musical genres. Was there too little of an improvement in sound? None at all?

If either of the two new formats has any hope of becoming the standard it is DVD-A, yet I do not believe it will. I think there is room for CD, SACD, and DVD-A. Hopefully, the next video DVD player I buy will play audio DVDs as well. If not, I'm fine with my SCD-1 for both cds and sacds, but that is because I like 2-channel music.
Someone in a previous post put it nicely. The differance between SACD and CD is "subtle yet profound". I think Badwisdom should give it another listen. As mentioned, SACD players need alot of break-in. I swear my 9000es improved up until around a thousand hours.
I always think of Betamax vs. VHS when I hear a discussion about formats. The FACT is that Betamax was better in nearly everyway, yet due to marketing, software availability and other factors we all bought VHS machines (or else lived to regret it). Formats succeed or fail for very complex reasons and relative merit is only one of them. I personally am skeptical of SACD for the many good reasons stated above; however there is a formidable pressure on the record companies to find a new format because sales of new material are not enough for the current size of the record industry. They have counted on people rebuying records as they wore out and then buying the same recordings on CD. Especially classical recordings are suffering (how many complete Beethoven Symphony cycles can one man buy - even if every conductor who has ever lived wants to put one out). The growing used CD market makes things even worse for them since a far higher portion of CDs are well preserved than was true for LPs. Its impossible to know what will happen, but I guaranty that the sound quality of SACDs and Player will not decide the issue alone. And I have not even mentioned downloads..
I have been saying for quite a while that if any new format survives it will probably be DVD-A. First because is is just the natural progression of 16/44 redbook to 24/192. Secondly: Joe and Jane consumer are buying DVD players which will also play their CDs. Someday soon, an extry level DVD player will have 24/192 technology as the price of chips comes down, just like all similar technology.
Badwisdom, in my opinion the "test" arrangement you mentioned, proves - as you rightly point out - nothing but the gullibilty of those unfortunate participants, but it is useless as a tool to differentiate between the two formats in question. As for the arrangement being fair or not, it would have been perfectly allright, if the test was arranged in order to collect data about the question of autosuggestion amongst audiophiles, but according to test construction standards, it would be considered unethical as well as unprofessional to lead subjects astray by misinformation in the way that was done in Paris.
As an aside: I wonder, how many of his panel the dealer is going to lose as customers. I would contend, losing face like that is not a particular pleasant experience.
Regards, Detlof
Well I just purchased a Sony SACD. Now I must confess, I'm not an audiophile like most of you, but I indeed hear a difference! I have also had several of my in-laws to listen and they agree also.I hear things in the recordings I have never heard before. SOOO, I would recommend a good ear wax remover for the 15 people who said the regular cd was better.
Roachone, are you playing SACD discs in your SACD player to support your comments about SACD sounding better? Have you tried regular CD's in your SACD player and how do they sound?
badwisdom, you seem to be the victim of bad wisdom. hehe, sorry,i couldn't resist.

if you listen to a piano or horn recorded in dsd on sacd and compare it to 16/44 of the same recording there an overwhelming difference. the additional resolution of sacd reveals a depth and completness of each note. the 16/44 recording has a roughness that pops out in direct a/b comparison with sacd. presence and bass foundation is on another level with sacd. the 16/44 seems flat, the sacd seems alive.

i agree that not every recording equally reveals these differences. but most dsd mastered recordings do. i could easily find 16/44 recordings that would be similar in sacd.

for these comparisons i used my linn cd-12 and my marantz sa-1, with nordost valhalla balanced interconnects, levinson #32 preamp, #33 amps, and watt/puppy 6 speakers.

the sacd format, properly implimented, is a definite improvement over the best 16/44 avalible today. but not all environments and recordings might reveal that fact.
Mike : i knew someone what make that it sooner or later :)

My point wasn't to affirm or deny the superiority of SACD. As i specified in a later post, i honestly believe that most people will not be able to make enough difference between the two to justify an investment in both the SACD player AND the more expensive software which is too little too late imho. And the test proves that people hear what they want to hear : only serious audiophiles can honestly hear a difference, and we are an endangered species.
Chances for SACD are slowly getting better. Emi and Virgin records have now jumped on the bandwagon with the promise to produce a lot of their popular stuff in this medium and sales of SACD players seem to be rising in Europe. However Badwisdom shows good wisdom in pointing out, that not all will hear a difference and those that do, don't matter much to the marketing guys in the big companies.
OK, I'll venture that the format that wins (DVD-A or SACD) will be the first one that makes it into the automotive environment.
Yes. I use the 777es player. Regular cd's sound fine, and for a lot of folks, it will be all they want. The ? was do they sound better than cd's? I can't, for the life of me, believe 15 out of 15 liked regular cd's better.I'm still having "ordinary people" listen to mine, and have yet for anyone to tell me they liked the cd(ordinary) version better.Most tell me they are hearing things they never heard before. Oh well, just my 2 cents worth.