Having listened to several JVC xrcd's on some state of the art redbook gear, I am of the opinion that most that I have heard sound more natural to me than SACD on a budget Sony SACD player. I have not, however, listened to any higher-end SACD players in my system. I would be very interested to hear from those who have made this comparison and can provide some input with regard to how the XRCDs compare.
My system has a Wadia 7/9 combination and a Sony SCD-1 in the digital front end. I've had the SCD-1 for two years now.

In general I find the Wadia on redbook to be a bit better than the SCD-1 on redbook (better soundstage and midrange).

XRCD's on the Wadia sound very good but to me don't match the detail and clarity of the small label direct DSD recordings, or the SACD's mastered by Doug Sax. However they sound as good or better to me than many of the Sony SACD's.

I think that a superbly mastered CD (i.e. XRCD) can sound better that a poorly mastered SACD, but that a well mastered SACD will sound better than a well mastered CD, given equivalent quality front ends.

My system has the dCS Verdi SACD transport which will play both, however the red book is up-sampled to DSD thru the Purcell. I tend to agree with Ghostider45, the best way -or one way- is to compare the three recording of Jacintha. Because "Here's to Ben" is XRCD2, “Autumn Leaves” is Gold CD, and finally "Lush Life" is on SACD (or at least this is how have them). Normally all of her recordings are excellent. Well guess what? I still like the SACD better. So again, if the SACD is properly recorded, it will sound better than any other red book CD, whether it was XRCD, XRCD2, Gold, or Aluminium. This is just what I think.
Hope the above helps
My problem with SACD so far is there are no players on the level of the EMC-1, the capitole, the CD12, etc.... So even if these great mastered SACD's did exsist there would be no fair way to compare the two formats. Do what you feel is right, to me SACD doesn't seem right at this time- when there are more titles available and price comes down and there are some GOOD choices in players- then I will think about it again. I have a couple of SACD's and just sold my player, I think it was a good move at this time. Try a search this exact thread subject was posted about a month ago.
I listened to the Tony Bennett/Bill Evans XRCD on my Richard Kern-modified SCD333ES SACD player, which certainly holds it own on redbook playback. (This is my only XRCD listening I've done.) I was struck by the analog sound, very rich; the warmth and emotion of Bennett's voice and Evans' piano really comes through... took me back to days when I had a VPI turntable. Never heard anything else like it on CD/SACD. However, I prefer the sound of the better SACD's, e.g., the Patricia Barber SACD's from Mobile Fidelity, and several other SACD's, too. The detail, imaging, and dynamics are outstanding. But I sure can understand why you might prefer the sound of some of the XRCD's.
It is my humble opinion that SACD has taken off like a heard of turtles. For being around as long as it has, it has gone nowhere and in a few years will be remembered like 8 track, the Sony Elcassette, SQ, QS and Beta.
Another alternative is to seek a CD player that can play HDCD encoded discs. My Arcam FMJ-CD23 can play HDCD discs and they sound better than standard CD's. More natural sound with better dynamics. HDCD is often overlooked and not promoted enough. I do like XRCD's. I have tried a few of JVC's classical re-issues of Fritz Reiner and Chicago Symphony. They are good, but pricey compared to standard priced HDCD discs.
You're asking people to compare apples and oranges. XRCD is a very careful mastering process. SACD is a digital format. If an XRCD mastering job were put on a SACD, it would probably be indistinguishable from a 16-bit disk.
I recently made a direct comparison of the RCA-BMG Fiedler Gaite Parisienne on imported SACD (a hybrid from BMG Hong Kong) with the JVC XRCD reissue. SACD was through my Classe Omega SACD player, a $12,000 player built on the transport of the SCD-1. CD was from the digital outs of the Omega, as transport, to a dCS Purcell upconverter and dCS Elgar. Rsesult: the JVC sounded superb, but the SACD was noticeably warmer, richer and had more of an analogue sound. Same comparison with the RCA-BMG Fiedler High Performance version of the Carmen Suite: the RCA 24 bit transfer sounded in your face superb, but the SACD had all of the same detail and was a bit fuller, richer and had a wider spread. Any negative analysis of SACD made on a $500-$1,000 Sony SACD player versus an Audio Aero Capitole or something like that is playing ostrich and denying that SACD, played back on comparable quality equipment, is simply better than CD, and however poorly initially marketed, deserves to succeed.
Dear Mgottlieb...It makes no difference whether sacd sounds better than xrcd because no one is repurchasing the bulk of their collections in this new format...only their favorites and maybe not even then.Only vinyl can yield significantly greater results over digital media which I believe has been stated 12,863 times already if my thread count is correct
Brucegel: whether or not your count is accurate, your comment is irrelevant to the XRCD vs. SACD question asked, which is what I, at least, was attempting to respond to. The issue isn't whether anyone has to repurchase their collection, it's about what's going to happen going forward. If SACD is killed off because the "experts" tell everybody "no better than remastered CD", everyone loses. Not every current or future release is or will be a reissue, and LP is certainly the best of the formats, but there won't be a hell of a lot of new LP's coming out very soon (which aren't reissues, that is, which makes your comment even more perplexing).
Thanks for some insightful responses. All day today I have been auditioning my brand new Philips SACD 1000 player ($399.99 at Tweeter), comparing its sound on SACDs to my venerable $25,000. Jadis redbook cd rig. I must say that while the Jadis shows its considerable advantage over the Philips unit on redbook, the SACD player presents a sense of spaciousness and depth of soundfield I have never experienced. This is fresh out of the box! Why on Earth aren't more high-end manufacturers producing SACD players? Yeah, yeah, I've heard the nonsense about limited titles and concerns over viability of the format. Do you really think Conrad johnson or Audio Research would be able to keep up with the demand for a sub-$5,000. SACD/DVD-A player? How many of us would put down deposits right now, sight unseen ( or unheard)? If a $400. Philips player sounds this good, what could a CJ or ARC do with this format? Maybe I'm just in the midst of "new toy" euphoria and I will tire of SACD in a week, but I seriously doubt it. As long as this format sounds this analog-like, there will be enough audionuts to support its continued existence, even if it is rejected by the masses. Esoteric companies will make them, and MOFI-like companies will record them. I don't see SACD dying!
I think really good sacd played on even one of the very few good sacd players out there sounds as good as any vinyl you can throw at it. To hear people talk you would think every vinyl album out there sounds like gods gift to man,lets get real people. I like vinyl and it does sound good but there is just as many stinkers on vinyl as on anything else. I think xrcd is very good but not up there with the best sacds. I would not have said this a couple of years ago but sacd is hard to tell from the very best vinyl out there it is so lush and smooth sounding and redbook is falling behind fast on my play lists.
I agree with most of people above, what really matter is how the CD or SACD is being mastered. I have experienced before with CDs on the same title but mastered at different time or technology make a big different in sound quality. Attention to details is key to have good sound from the whateven media is being used, regardless of CD or SACD. "Garbage in garbage out" is still true. For obvious reason that SCAD technology will be better than red book CD, but if it is not done correctly then SACD will sound worse than red book CD. This is not the fault of the SACD technology but the human factor.
Folks for me it comes to the difference (and their is a difference)not being big enough,not the merits of the technology and the distribution isnt my problem nor yours.Having said this I think some clever people could revitalize everyones interest in vinyl again in a big way and I myself am considering putting my money where my mouth is and starting a tube based recording company that produces vinyl.Thats how legitimate the vinyl revival is for me.Chad Kassem was considered cookoo for starting his buisness now look at where he is.Acoustic Sounds is doing very well.