The Year of the Universal Player

Universal players appear to have come of age, with announcements at CES of new universals by at least 8 high end manufacturers, and rumors of 'in progress' from several others....Bel Canto, Linn, McCormack, MBL,Audio Aero, MSB, Lexicon, Teac, (Krell?, Goldmund?). And in addition, a majority of Japanese makers have them, and even at multiple price points.

This is excellent news for high resolution, as it follows on a general industry consensus, expressed by S. Rochlin at, that both SACD and DVD-A are here to stay. That, together with the success of SACD disc sales, the availability of appropriate chip sets, and the fact that the majority of high end audio shops are now heavily involved in home theater and multichannel sales.

Universal players by high end makers are clearly aimed at that 75% of the audiophile market that is still fence-sitting because of the format war.

Will the presence of higher quality universals now affect your decision to buy into these formats?

i'm one of those fence sitters that has been leaning toward sacd. this makes the decision a lot easier (especially on the wallet).
I'm really happy that the universal disk players are finally coming out. However, I have little or no interest in video playback, and the higher end units will incorporate several thousand dollars' worth of video circuitry for which I have no use. I was very interested in the Linn Unidisk, but I understand it's price went from around $5000 to $9000 so that it would include state of the art video capabilities. I therefore went to a Tri-Vista SACD (stunning, review to follow), and I'll incorporate a middle of the road, possibly modded DVD-A player for occasional playback of those disks.
Absolutely not. The issue isn't hardware; it's software. When new releases start to come out regularly one or the other format, then I'll buy in. Not until.
I might consider the MSB model, which lists for $8000. It sounded out of my price range at first, but I think it's a receiver, DVD-A, SACD, CD player all built into one. So if I take what I'd want to spend on a universal player, and I add that to what I'd spend on 5-channel amplification that's meant for hi-rez audio, and if I could get the MSB unit at a discount of some sort ($6,999 or something), it might be something I'd look into. I mean, just think of the savings on cables alone...there's nothing to run your SACD/DVD-A/CD player into, because it's all built into that one unit. Taken together, seven grand might be a very reasonable deal.
On the point about software, there should be a snowball effect. More hardware creates more demand for good software. If I were a hi-rez indie, I think I'd be pretty happy right now.
I'd have to disagree with the "more hardware results in more software" theory. Just like with HDTV, most people get excited while viewing the super clear images but get turned off after realizing that there are (still) so very few programs (channels) available to watch. Put more hybrid disc titles and HDTV channels out there and watch them explode.
As a confirmed fence sitter, I am looking forward to these universal players. I believe the Muse model 10 is a good universal player currently available. With any luck maybe Wadia will join the fray.
Didn't Wadia go under again?
I don't think the Muse model 10 plays SACD, just the CD layer of a hybrid. Could be wrong, but I don't believe there are any Sony decoder chips in there.

Wadia was alive two weeks ago when I heard one at a local dealer.
According to the muse web page, the model 10 playback capability includes hybrid sacd.
Ditto to Bomarc's and Hockey's posts. Very little reason to make such an investment, what with very limited software.
I definately think software - and availiablity - will drive the sales of these players. They are practically "giving away" DVD-A and SACD on the sale of DVD players, which have been one of the most popular sellers in the history of electronics. One of the reasons I am sure these formats will continue is the inability (at this point anyway) to copy or burn them. This should provide greater incentive for the record companies to buy in to these formats AND as more people replace their DVD players with newer models (with the technology built in) they will have the players to play them. I can tell you that the quality of sound put out by a lower end SACD or DVD-A is probably equivelant to a MUCH more expensive CD player or DAC/transport combo - a discernable difference to the "mass market" consumers. AND Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon is going to be released in March (30th anniversary) on SACD - for me, 'nuff said!
For Scotty,
If you talk to MUSE they will confirm to you that the Model 10 will play the CD layer of a hybrid SACD, it will NOT play the SACD layer and they do not claim it to be a universal player in that sense.

For Others,
I have a MUSE 9 Signature Gen 3, and if anyone has compared or been able to listed to the Model 10, I would like to have their comments.