State of HDCD and SACD

I am contemplating a new digital front-end and wondering if I should give preference to HDCD or SACD. It seems that you do not see these two technologies combined too often in a CDP, at least not well!

So, what I want to decide is "What has more of a future as a format?" I think both can sound excellent - that's not the question. I have a MiniMax CDP in my 2nd system that does great things with HDCD, and I previously owned a Shanling T200 that was great with SACD (and Redbook).

If I decide to put my eggs in the HDCD basket I'll probably get a Raysonic CD128. If SACD, a Marantz SA-11.

So, I would appreciate hearing takes on the respective futures of these formats. SACD has many titles available but still a drop, of course, compared to Redbook, and it seems views differed greatly on its future the last time I looked into it, about a year ago.

Would also consider other recommendations for players. Is there something there under $3K (preferably new - I don't trust used digital transports) that does HDCD and SACD and does them both well?
Any of the Denon DVD players will fit the bill - 3930 comes immediately to mind...

This is one forum I intend to watch closely. At this time my listening is exclusively on vinyl. I am considering another foray into digital. SACD will probably be the format I choose. I look forward to hearing the RCA Living Stereo series on SACD.
Both SACD and HDCD are on life support and will never be anything more than a tiny niche. DVD Audio is dead. The replacement for redbook has yet to be invented.
I haven't seen/heard the 3930 but in general I agree that Denon DVD players are great at their respective price points.

CD Redbook will be the standard for now and the near future and is where your preference should be. SACD's and HDCD are nice to haves, nothing more or less.

I have owned a SACD player (SONY SCD 555 ES) for 5 years now and the buying and tracking down of SACD's is a pain. I find myself buying titles (usually by mail order) more because I bought into SACD, than because I would normally buy these titles in the first place. For me, with the exception of the RCA Living Stereo, Dylan, Stones, Renee Jacobs' Opera series and the odd Byrds or BST release (and they are all hybrids), there is not much available that I would NEED to have.

I currently own SACD and DVD-A players and owned a HDCD player, with HDCD being the format I liked the best.

If I had to do it all over again, I would have passed on SACD and spent the money on a much better redbook player. It's not that what I own is shabby, but the $1K or so could have been spent on other components.

Regards, Rich
As with most choices in life, compromise abounds, and since redbook is the dominant factor in our digital universe I would consider redbook as the leading factor in my choice of a high quality player... Kira nailed it...
As mentioned above, any of the recent Denon Universal players play HDCD and SACD (as well as DVD-A). Buy a modified version, and you're all set.

As for the question, I don't hear much difference between HDCD and redbook CD. The differences certainly wouldn't sway me to buy a HDCD player over another, better redbook-only player. SACD has a more definite difference in quality over redbook than does HDCD. XRCDs, on the other hand, sound quite good in my opinion, and they will play on any standard redbook CD player.

If I was making this decision, I'd buy a used modified Denon from APL or Modwright. One caveat...if you consider a used Denon 3910, be sure to ask the owner if the laser has been replaced. There have been some reports of the laser assembly failing in a few of these machines. The laser assembly can replaced for a couple hundred dollars.
I do already have a number of SACDs (about 15), mostly hybrids, that I bought when I had the Shanling.

When I switched to the all redbook, NOS DAC front-end I kidded myself into believing it was as good as SACD. Listening to a friend's Denon universal with SACD made me realize I'd been doing just that - kidding myself. SACD definitely sounds better than even the best redbook IMO. The question is, is it worth it with the limited selection of titles? HDCD is probably not on par with SACD (imaging is as good, but does not achieve the same smoothness in my experience).

This is why I'm trying to nail down this question: which has more of a future, SACD and HDCD? SACD is entreched as a _niche_ audiophile format but, damnit, it is still very much entrenched or so it seems to me. But I could be wrong!
I guess SACD has turned out to be a bust. No support from the recording industry. Typical. Most Americans don't care how their music sounds. The talent the record companies are promoting are less than mediocre. Jusin Timberlake and the like. ARRRGGGHHH!!!
I don't have much experience of SACD, but rather agree with the limited supply. HDCD on my Shanling CDT100 is a clear step up on CD and a no cost one, the CDs cost the same. I tend to agree both formats are barely walking wounded, if you go for HDCD, you will probably find a lot of your CD collection uses the format already. You already have an HDCD collection and you did'nt know it.
A couple more comments. SACD library: my big thing is jazz and there is a LOT of good stuff on the format. Enough that I'd probably only got around to buying around 1/3rd of what I wanted. That is a personal plus for me.

As for HDCD, again, I find it tends to give more air and better imaging & soundstaging, but doesn't have that buttery smoothness of SACD. Perhaps ironically, redbook with a good NOS DAC gives close to that level of smoothness (which sounds like vinyl to me), but SACD is still the king.

I think the advent of computer-based sources is yet another hit against the hi-res formats since, as we know, they can't be used with these because there's no digital interface (not to mention the space requirements).
I'd go with the Marantz SA-11 because it offers a bigger benefit over the Raysonic. You can always run your NON OS DAC with the Marantz. You get the benefit of the warm redbook sound you enjoy, plus SACD. That's what I'd do.
TVAD, how is the SA-11 on redbook? Have you played with the different filter settings?
Don't own one, Paul, and I've never heard one. My recommendation was based solely on your two choices, the Raysonic and the Marantz SA-11, and the advantges of the SA-11 over the Raysonic in that the SA-11 offers you the possibility of running your NON OS DAC in addition to playing SACD. As I mentioned, IMO, HDCD isn't worth sacrificing SACD, especially if you already own many SACDs.
My sacd's are mostly classical, and multichannel...outstanding, to very good for the most part. I also have many of the "Mercury Living Presence" and "RCA Living Stereo" sacd's....a lot of three channel stuff on these.

I second the vote for the Denon universal players. They are very good for the money. I own a 5910ci. Denons sound quite detailed, but are on the cool side of the spectrum. If you're looking for warm and lush, look elsewhere.

Haven't bought anything from them, but I see that American Theater Systems has a perpetual auction for new 5910ci's on Audiogon. Before I bought my unit, I called American about their ad, and the reserve price for a new unit was around $2700 at that time.

I doubt anyone really knows the future of these formats. Perhaps not even Microsoft and Sony. It looked promising when the new HDMI spec supported DSD (SACD). However, in a strange turnaround, Sony's Blu-Ray spec does not.
I owned both SACD in the past and HDCD (my current player is HDCD)

Not all HDCD-encoded cd's are labelled or carry a logo as such. My HDCD light comes on with certain cd's, and they sure sound nice, sort of halfway between redbook and SACD sound (more air and detail).

Listen to Neil Young's ''Prairie Wind'' cd encoded with HDCD. The guitars are right there in front of you...

Great technology, worth it to get a player that does the HDCD thing if you can.


Yes, again, I'm quite familiar with the sonics of both formats. I have a MiniMax CDP that does HDCD very well (2nd system). What I'm looking for is insight into the future of both formats. I think that, as in a year ago, nobody really knows! No surprise.

I noticed that American was also selling the SA-11 new at an extremely good price. I got one of the last two today at that price (they went up $200 today). So - decision made! I've never heard one, but I doubt I'll be disappointed. Kinda had to make a quick decision there. It sounds like this is a superb player, especially at its price point, on both redbook and SACD.
Several posters to this thread seem to have already answered your question regarding the future of SACD and HDCD - namely its all but completely dead and buried. But you seem not to want to hear them so instead I will tell you what you have been waiting to hear - namely that the furture is very bright indeed for these formats. The music buying public is just about to wake up and realize that this is exactly what they have been yearning for. They will abandon their MP3 players and Ipods in droves and rush out to buy all the best megabuck audiophile SACD and HDCD players they can get their hands on. Record executives will suddenly realize the enormous potential of these formats and decide to reissue the entire Classic Blue Note and Prestige, Riverside, Verve (etc. etc.) jazz catalogs with tens of thousands of titles which have never been reissued on Redbook let alone SACD with its paltry list of a few hundred Jazz titles (including some of the same tired top 50 titles which they have be recycling for the past 30 years.) Rudy van Gelder will of course, personally oversee the monumental remastering effort and we will finally achieve perfect sound forever.
P.S. You are free to wake up now and return to your previously scheduled programming.
Having owned a SA-14 that was built like a tank (complete with copper chassis!), I suspect you have made an excellent choice.
Here's my analysis, for what its worth.

The inventors of HDCD are on record as saying that they only intended for it to be a transition technology until higher resolution formats came on stream. Remember that HDCD is relatively old now. It was before SACD, DVD-A, etc. On that basis, therefore, I would say it's done. However, the rights to HDCD were bought by Microsoft. I think the plan was that they had designs on it as a possible format to deliver music sold online. But it seems to be forgotten and is sitting on the shelf now. Realistically, I think that it's just been overtaken by advances in digital. Unless Microsoft give some indication of doing something with it, and putting their considerable muscle behind it, put HDCD in the museum with the eight track casettes.

In all likelihood, I would say that SACD is in the same boat, at least in the longer term. However, it may have a little more staying power. SACD was championed by Sony, but it's not a priority for them now. Partly this is a reflection of their new CEO's strategy of rationalization of the company's products, as evidenced by some of their corporate moves over the last year. But mostly, I think, that it too is a transition technology. Now that Blu-ray, (and HD-DVD)are in the marketplace, there is no need for Sony to push SACD any more. They certainly seem to have lost interest in it. Sony's new Blu-ray can be used for high definition audio if the desire is there to do that, as well as for all the video stuff. So there is simply no need for SACD now. It would be a duplicate for audio purposes only and that's not how Sony seems to be moving now at a corporate, strategic level. However, Sony do own a large music catalog and many of their hardware products do have SACD. So it may be around for a while. Sony are something of a pit bull with their products. They don't let go until they absolutely have too. It was only two or three years ago that they stopped making beta players, if you can believe that. And they stood by minidisc for a long time.

So I think that SACD has a little more staying power than HDCD. How long it lasts will depend upon whether Blu-ray wins the current DVD war, and whether it does double duty for audio. If that happens, it will accelerate the end of SACD.

Regarding equipment selection, the posts above make some good recommendations. I'd go with the SACD option.
You'll be happy, the Marantz SA-11 is a great send it to Underwood Wally for the Ultimate tube mod and..........

I don't understand the motivation for tubed output stages on CDPs. It's an "additive" mod - the tubes are used as buffers after the SS output - so what's the point, other than impedance matching, which shouldn't be any issue with an active linestage at least?

I'm not saying this particular mod package doesn't improve the unit - I'm sure it does.

When I had my Shanling, I preferred the SS output to the tubed, and believe me I'm a tube guy (SET).
You're right Paul, it is a tube buffer stage, not a tube output stage. Maybe the sonic difference is the better caps and diodes, who knows? I certainly cannot explain the benefits of a tube buffer stage, though I do know that Musical Fidelity made a lot of money selling outboard tube buffers.
It does sound pretty damn good though.

FWIW, I was joking. Simply enjoy your Marantz SA-11.


Thanks for the sarcasm. I appreciate the individuals that have weighed-in with their take but that is not the final word. You may recall that SACD was considered to be on its death bed two years ago and yet we have excellent products like the SA-11 being released.

I was just looking for a little more, and current, insight into the whole matter.
Well actually Paul the SA-11 is now about 2 years old as well, it was released in 2005. However, Marantz has just released the SA-7S1 as well, which also supports SACD and lists for $6999.99.

It's a shame that Sony doesn't continue to support the format, from a hardware or software end of it, as I think that is what is killing SACD. Though not technically dead yet, it is a dying format on life support.
For instance, why don't the Sony Blu-Ray DVD players also play SACD's? They play CD's, and this was Sony's format in the beginning. Sony has pulled the plug and moved on, just like they did with Beta VCR's. Without Sony's support, the format will die, IMHO.

If they keep the life-support plugged in till I myself kick off I'll be satisfied. ;-}
FWIW, I've added Sony to my 'Enemies' list.

They're at #673 at the moment following 'Jane Fonda' and 'New York Mimes'.
01-16-07: Paulfolbrecht
FWIW, I've added Sony to my 'Enemies' list.

They're at #673 at the moment following 'Jane Fonda' and 'New York Mimes'.


FWIW, Sony is much higher on my 'Enemies' list, they come in at #342, right behind 'New Coke'.
SACD has been claimed to be on its death bed for close to a decade now. New software and hardware are being released....

How long do you expect to wait for blu-ray to have a decent pile of software to choose from. Willing to wait 3-5 years? By then memory sticks might be the portable method of choice as shiny disk will go away. Enjoy what's available like SACD, oh and vinyl too ;)
"oh and vinyl too"...

Still have not dipped a toe into those waters. I know, if I do, I'll be in up to my neck in no time and there's a lot more $ in the hole. Funny, cause I do agree that nothing compares to good vinyl. It's the best.

01-16-07: Paulfolbrecht
"oh and vinyl too"...

Still have not dipped a toe into those waters. I know, if I do, I'll be in up to my neck in no time and there's a lot more $ in the hole.
I'm in for a whopping $900, including table, 2 cartridges, phono preamp and accessories (stylus gauge, protractor, cleaning supplies). Quite satisfied at that modest investment.
Blu-Ray technology had nothing to do with my point. My point was that until Blu-Ray, Sony had always supported their SACD technology in their DVD players, they no longer do. So Sony, the creator of SACD has officially shitcanned SACD and moved on. Just like they did with Beta, and will do in the future with Blu-Ray, Sony is unwilling to support their new technologies. I'm not interested in Blu-Ray, because it will be another superior, yet failed technology from Sony.

If you can remember, Beta didn't die overnight. It took several years. I haven't heard that SACD has been on it's death bed for a decade now, I think you're exaggerating. I felt Sony dealt the deathblow two years ago when they pulled the plug on the software. Now they've pulled the plug on the hardware. When the creator pulls the plug, one does have to wonder how long it can survive.

FWIW, I own a SACD player and love the format. It certainly is closer to vinyl than redbook. I can't let my emotions deny the facts though. I love my mother, yet I see her growing weaker in front of my eyes.

FWIW, on the Sony website, there is a link about SACD. In the FAQ section, one question is: Where can I buy a SACD player? In the answer there is a link to Sony Home Audio products from SonyStyle. When clicking on this link, the response is 'This merchant is no longer participating in the affiliate program.'

Now if that isn't a sign of the creator abandoning his creation, what is?
I have invested fully in redbook as I

1) Don't want to start duplicating (yet again) my music collection as I did going from vinyl to Cassette to CD.

2) There are not enough SACD, etc. releases to justify yet another electronic component

3) I instead invested in a high-end redbook player(Audio Aero Capitole)
By all indications, 2007 may just be SACD's biggest year. About 2 weeks ago, Sony announced the introduction of the first car SACD players. As for Sony pulling the plug on software, you guys did see the continuation of the BMG Living Stereo series of SACDs? In 2006, there were about 700 new SACD titles released worldwide, which was on par with what was released in 2005. This year, we are seeing SACD releases from Genesis, the Moody Blues, the Pixies, Rick Lee Jones, and possibly Enigma. Not to mention all the classical and jazz SACD titles being released all the time. While SACD will never reach mass acceptance, it's not exactly on its deathbed either.

I hear what you are saying, but SONY's support for its own technology has been so half hearted as to represent an absolute slap in the face of those who purchased both the SACD hardware and the software. I have thousands of dollars invested in SACD (a SONY SCD 555 ES player and at least two hundred SACD's). SONY never lived up to its part of the deal. In a world of never saying never, I would never trust SONY to keep its word with a new audio technology again.

Regards, Rich
I've glanced through the discussions on this thread and haven't seen anyone mention what I think is the best solution: The Cary 306 CD/SACD/HDCD player. It does all of those formats with excellence and you can usually find one used for just above your target price point of $3000. Yes, you did say you were wary of buying used but perhaps that's because of a bad experience with the Shanling. Get the Cary and be happy!!
If you'll read the thread a little closer, you'll see that the originator has already purchased a player. A Marantz SA-11S1. Read his last post on 1-15-07.

Yep, I am very happy with the Maranz player (fortuantely it is truly stellar on redbook), but would have considered a used Cary had I known. I've certainly liked every piece of Cary gear I've heard, but have never seriously listened to one of their CDPs.
Prepare yourself, Cary cd players sound very different from their preamps and amps, IMHO. I would think that your Marantz sounds closer to the Cary preamp/amp sound that you're used to hearing.

Commenting on:

''It's a shame that Sony doesn't continue to support the format''

I would say ' It's a shame the buying public snobbed it's nose at it!''

The MARKET usually decides what stays and what goes. I don't expect any company to keep the respirator on UNLESS that very same company made you spend huge amounts of money and then dropped the ball on service and software.

To a certain degree, this is what hapenned, but I don't think it is such a big deal as many SACD machines are worth it on redbook performance alone.

In my opinion, SACD will remain a specialty item for commited audiophiles of that technology...and sound.

No unlike turntables, when you think about it. Not mainstream, but with a following.
I would say ' It's a shame the buying public snobbed it's nose at it!''


While I agree to some extent, I do believe that the format developer shares the responsibility as well. I waited on Sony to flood the market with software to make buying SACD a more viable option. While I did buy a SACD player, and a few dozen SACD's. I think the overall lack of software was to blame for the demise of SACD. Sure, you can get 'audiophile' recordings on SACD, but the major labels with the most popular artists never subscribed to the medium. It's hard to blame the consumer's that the software was not released. Without software, who needs hardware?

The software was released as a cottage industry, so the SACD hardware never grew beyond a cottage industry. Maybe if they had originally released hybrid cd's instead of SACD only, they would have had more success, who knows? It's a moot point now anyway.

An exceptionally good redbook player with an equally exceptional recording (a choice MFSL gold, for example) is very hard to opinion.

It's also very hard to say which format is "best" without considering the infinate variables surrounding such a comparison. Some SACD mixes sound horrific and ruin perfectly good recordings. It goes the other way, too.

I say buy a unit that supports the music you have, and/or the format you see yourself continuing to buy. Don't buy music from an artist simply because it's in the format your source component supports; Buy it because it's your favorite artist. Buy the source component that plays it!

If all my favorite music was limited to 8-track cassettes (what a nightmare!), I'd probably buy the best damned 8track player made (is that an oxymoron!?). Anyway, it's about the music. If you remember this, the rest will follow.
Hey just had to let everyone know that this ***hol* tube_lvr who posted right above me stole 1200.00 from me. He put an ad up for a cart and I sent him the money. He cashed the check and never sent me the cart and won't respond to phone calls or emails for 2 months now. Sorry just pissed me off when I read this thread and noticed he had contributed. Just wanted everyone on here to know what a piece of !@#$ this guy is.
sorry to hear about your troubles.

re: SACD.

i simply love the format. I own damn near every SACD that comes out. The ones I don't like I re-sell or give away. There is so much good chamber music and symphonic material that i listen to weekly. The REne Jacobs version on SACD of The Marriage of FIgaro is a performance for the ages and the sound is gorgeous.
There is never enough good jazz but I think there will be more if we buy the reissues and also some of the newer jazz. I just bought a Chessky SACD of Vocals for Audiophiles and it is a great musical album, not just great sounding (but it is that). I don't share too much of the rock pantheon but I have found a lot of the MFSL SACDs of Gaucho, Supertramp, and the Sony Dylan SACDs. I thought the Rolling Stones re-issue/remasters were a little bright for today's systems but would probably sound great if your speakers were Altec Big Reds from the 60s.

So my pov is that there is great music to listen to. Stravinsky, Brahms, Mozart, Bach (the B-Minor Mass is incredible as are the St. John and St. Matthew Passions).

there is a lot of music to discover. And then we have the Mercury and the RCA series reissues.

My problem is that I don't have enough time to listen to the SACDs that I have.
I have owned some decent SACD players and ulimately decided to purchase a Meridian G08 since the SACD format is so limited. I recently purchased a cheap Denon 756 new in box for $100. Now I can listen to the 40 or so SACD's that have been collecting dust for the last 10 months. The Denon certainly isn't as good as the Meridian, but at least I can listen to my SACD's and the sound isn't too bad either. Actually, it is pretty good. I recommend investing in the best red book player you can afford. I would much rather listen to red book on my Meridian than SACD on my Denon.
Pretty cool site, for people who have HDCD compatable players, even if it is in Swedish.

Was surprised by the number of titles that are HDCD. Just quickly going through the titles I found at least 10 titles that I already own.

Makes me glad that I'm picking up a HDCD compatable player (NAD CD542), looking forward to hearing what HDCD can do.

Will report my findings.
There's a ALL new CD format out now from FIM records....its a process called K2HD. Someone over on said it was superior to SACD or DVD-A!