Worth getting an SACD Player

Danhifi

Active Member
I currently have a Rotel A14 and Rotel CD14 and have purchased many Reference Recording classical hybrid SACD's and Analogue Productions jazz hybrid SACD's. Is there a benefit to hearing the SACD layer by buying a SACD player? If the answer is yes, what model would I need to invest in to get a "superior" sound from the SACD layer vs the CD layer playing on my CD14? I am not interested in multi channel only stereo.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
The SACD layer of any hybrid SACD is ultimately better and classical music will certainly benefit for the extra detail and soundstage available from the DSD recording. I have two standalone SACD players, a Denon DCD 2500 NE which is still available and a Marantz sa8005.

There is also the Denon DCD 1600 NE which again is a good SACD player and will give as good as, if not better, redbook performance over the Rotel.

 

Mark.Yudkin

Distinguished Member
I currently have a Rotel A14 and Rotel CD14 and have purchased many Reference Recording classical hybrid SACD's and Analogue Productions jazz hybrid SACD's. Is there a benefit to hearing the SACD layer by buying a SACD player? If the answer is yes, what model would I need to invest in to get a "superior" sound from the SACD layer vs the CD layer playing on my CD14? I am not interested in multi channel only stereo.
The real advantage of a (multichannel) SACD player is the ability to listen to the surround sound recording. Whilst many (recent) multichannel SACDs are more about ambience, others are about using the system to provide an immersive sound (e.g. some of the older quadrophonic recordings now being reissued), or are pieces which were designed for surround sound (e.g. Bach's St Matthew's Passion, written some 2.5 centuries before SACD was invented).

However, you have a stereo-only system and say that aren't interested in SACD's biggest advantage. IMHO you won't gain much from replacing the CD14 with a stereo-only SACD/CD player. That said, others consider the difference between the CD layer and the SACD stereo layer to be night and day, so in the end, it's up to you. That means auditioning would be your safest way forward. So get your jabs (easier said than done in many countries) and go and listen.
 

Danhifi

Active Member
I found a Marantz Sa Ki Pearl Lite for $800 USD. I assume I would have to connect via the analog out. That signal gets converted to PCM. Does this further decrease the benefit of the SACD layer?
 

gibbsy

Moderator
I found a Marantz Sa Ki Pearl Lite for $800 USD. I assume I would have to connect via the analog out. That signal gets converted to PCM. Does this further decrease the benefit of the SACD layer?
All signals eventually get converted from the digital to an analogue one. My Denon is connected by analogue to my headphone amp and there's no hiding place with a headphone set up. I've compared a couple of discs playing the RB layer to the SACD layer. The SACD layer wins out every time. The last disc I did a back to back with was Joan Armatrading's self title album that has just been released. Far better soundstage, instrumental separation and the layer shows a lot more finesse in her vibrato. I know that that disc was taken from the original analogue master tape straight to DSD.
 

jwlawler

Active Member
I am a classical music enthusiast and a recent convert to SACDs. I bought a budget player: Sony UBP-X500. It serves two jobs; being able to play SACDs and UHD BluRays. It is connected to a Denon X3200W. My speakers are a bit of a mix but the mains are Tannoy R3.

I was not sure how much to expect from the SACDs. I expected to appreciate the extra channels since I had already experienced classical music in 5.1 via BluRays (both audio only and with video). I was able to detect other improvements but they were fairly subtle. You might expect that high notes would benefit the most due to the higher sampling rate but I noticed the improvement most on the lower notes.

I also listen to the same discs in my modest office system. However, I am just listening to the CD layers. With the smaller system, Tannoy Mercury VR bookshelf speakers, the cost and effort of an SACD set-up does not seem worthwhile.

I have not played the 2.0 SACD layers much since I like the extra channels. I guess that they are also slightly better than the standard CD layer but maybe not enough (for me) to justify the cost.

You might find this thread interesting: UHD BluRay and SACD player recommendation.

I started a thread on Hi-Res classical music: Hi-res audio classical music discs - recommendations. I have been pleased with all of my SACDs with one exception which is discussed there.

This site is good for research: HRAudio.net.
 

k-spin

Active Member
I found a Marantz Sa Ki Pearl Lite for $800 USD. I assume I would have to connect via the analog out. That signal gets converted to PCM. Does this further decrease the benefit of the SACD layer?
What makes you think the Marantz converts the DSD signal to PCM before converting it to analogue?
Had a quick Google and it appears from what I could find (not conclusive, though) that the Marantz converts DSD to analogue "natively". Certainly, the DAC it has (Cirrus Logic CS4398) is capable of this.
Not saying you're wrong (and it might be fairly immaterial to the sound quality you hear - many SACDs have probably been PCM at some point during the mixing/mastering process), just interested.
 

Danhifi

Active Member
K-Spin. I meant it more as a question. I am naïve on this topic and need educating! Thank you for taking the time to google it. I tried that option as well, but did not get far.
 

k-spin

Active Member
TBH, my Googling didn’t turn up anything conclusive. Just some stuff about the DAC and some posts on another forum.
The way SACD seems to be these days is you have two basic options;
1. For multi-channel you can get a universal player (i.e. a Blu-ray/DVD/CD/SACD player) and output the multi-channel layer of the SACD, probably digitally via HDMI, to an AV receiver.
2. For stereo you get a CD/SACD player and output the stereo layer of the SACD via the analogue RCA connectors to a stereo hi-fi amplifier.
 

Mark.Yudkin

Distinguished Member
Stereo SACD players typically decode natively. Multichannel SACD players with analogue outputs (like mine), typically convert to PCM in order to apply bass management and speaker distancing.
 

jwlawler

Active Member
Stereo SACD players typically decode natively. Multichannel SACD players with analogue outputs (like mine), typically convert to PCM in order to apply bass management and speaker distancing.
Interesting, I'd like to get the chance some day to hear my favourite SACDs on high end kit but I would still be reluctant to give up the extra channels. They don't have a blatant effect as they might in a movie but the effect is there and it seems to make the sound stage more accurate and convincing. Also, some music benefits from the sub-woofer.

My ideal is to close my eyes and not be able to tell whether I am listening to a recording or there are live performers in front of me. Since I got my SACD player, I have come closer to that than ever.

I have experienced surround sound music before through BluRays (both audio only and with video). These can be good (better than CD) but typically the SACDs are even better. I don't know whether this is due to superiority of the format or that SACDs are typically produced with the expectation that they will be played by audiophiles (*) on good kit. Either way, I am pleased that I made the move.

(*) Within this forum, I am probably at the low end but more fussy than most listeners.
 
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gibbsy

Moderator
Interesting, I'd like to get the chance some day to hear my favourite SACDs on high end kit but I would still be reluctant to give up the extra channels. They don't have a blatant effect as they might in a movie but the effect is there and it seems to make the sound stage more accurate and convincing. Also, some music benefits from the sub-woofer.
I would say that 80% of my SACDs are stereo only. Some of my multi channel discs have a far superior multi channel layer over the stereo. That is certainly true of the six Moody Blues albums that I have even though they are essentially a 4.1 mix.
 

jwlawler

Active Member
I would say that 80% of my SACDs are stereo only. Some of my multi channel discs have a far superior multi channel layer over the stereo. That is certainly true of the six Moody Blues albums that I have even though they are essentially a 4.1 mix.

All of mine, a couple of dozen now, are 5.0 or 5.1 but it's one or my criteria when choosing them so it's not a surprise. Though I don't remember rejecting any just because they lack surround channels. All of mine are classical though it is not obvious why classical would be more likely to use surround channels. As I say above, their effect is quite subtle for this genre.

My SACD buying splurge might be coming to an end. I am struggling to finds ones that I like enough to buy again, are available, have decent reviews, and don't have a stupid price: e.g. £50.
 

Mark.Yudkin

Distinguished Member
Off hand, I can think of a just a couple of SACDs in my collection of a few hundred which are stereo only, and here the point was to get 4 hours on to a single disc. Pretty well everything that gets released by "normal" (non-Japanese) classical labels are new multichannel recordings, although Pentatone also does 4.0 rereleases of quadrophonic records from the '70s. All of these, without exception, have the same price as the same company's CD releases when released, and new multichannel recordings appear every month.

SACD does not seem to command much attention from the non-classical labels and such SACDs appear to be dominated by audiophile reissues of stereo material at connoisseur prices. The only classical SACDs with stupid prices are audiophile label remasters (e.g. Japanese SHM-SACD) reissues, and I don't buy them.
 

jwlawler

Active Member
Off hand, I can think of a just a couple of SACDs in my collection of a few hundred which are stereo only, and here the point was to get 4 hours on to a single disc. Pretty well everything that gets released by "normal" (non-Japanese) classical labels are new multichannel recordings, although Pentatone also does 4.0 rereleases of quadrophonic records from the '70s. All of these, without exception, have the same price as the same company's CD releases when released, and new multichannel recordings appear every month.

SACD does not seem to command much attention from the non-classical labels and such SACDs appear to be dominated by audiophile reissues of stereo material at connoisseur prices. The only classical SACDs with stupid prices are audiophile label remasters (e.g. Japanese SHM-SACD) reissues, and I don't buy them.

I have seen quite a few stupid price classical SACDs. By stupid, I mean £40 or more. I had presumed that they were ones with little remaining stock.

Here's an example: Beethoven Violin Concerto at Amazon for £84.29

Though while checking, I found one that I wanted at a sensible price so my SACD buying spree can continue a bit longer.
 

Mark.Yudkin

Distinguished Member
I have seen quite a few stupid price classical SACDs. By stupid, I mean £40 or more. I had presumed that they were ones with little remaining stock.

Here's an example: Beethoven Violin Concerto at Amazon for £84.29

Though while checking, I found one that I wanted at a sensible price so my SACD buying spree can continue a bit longer.
If you look at the picture of the back cover, you'll see that this 1) was originally issued by a company calling itself "Audiophile Productions" and 2) is being sold second-hand by a company called Smaller World Future as a rarity.

You cannot generalize from a connoisseur price for a used copy of a deleted SACD. Nor, IMHO, should you encourage such practices.

BTW, if you'd like to hear Accardo playing Beethoven's violin concerto, you'd be better off with the Philips quadrophonic recording with the Leipzig Gewandhaus under Masur, reissued by Pentaphone on SACD (Amazon product). [I own this version].
 

jwlawler

Active Member
If you look at the picture of the back cover, you'll see that this 1) was originally issued by a company calling itself "Audiophile Productions" and 2) is being sold second-hand by a company called Smaller World Future as a rarity.

You cannot generalize from a connoisseur price for a used copy of a deleted SACD. Nor, IMHO, should you encourage such practices.

BTW, if you'd like to hear Accardo playing Beethoven's violin concerto, you'd be better off with the Philips quadrophonic recording with the Leipzig Gewandhaus under Masur, reissued by Pentaphone on SACD (Amazon product). [I own this version].

I am not encouraging them. As soon as I saw the price, I moved on. It would be nice to have a hi-res version of the Beethoven Violin Concerto but I already have five regular CD recordings and I can live without it. I also have a conversion from an old 78. It's surprisingly good though I don't like the performance.

Edit: I just followed your link and that is a sensible price. I may have skipped over it previously because the original recording is from 1977. Is it good? Does it show its age?
 
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Mark.Yudkin

Distinguished Member
I am not encouraging them. As soon as I saw the price, I moved on. It would be nice to have a hi-res version of the Beethoven Violin Concerto but I already have five regular CD recordings and I can live without it. I also have a conversion from an old 78. It's surprisingly good though I don't like the performance.

Edit: I just followed your link and that is a sensible price. I may have skipped over it previously because the original recording is from 1977. Is it good? Does it show its age?
High quality recording began in the late 1950s, and by the '60s all of the major labels were producing high quality masters. There is some tape hiss, as can be expected from a 1977 analogue recording, but it's hardly disturbing. As is typical of 70's quadrophonic recordings, the level (and delay) of the rear channels is somewhat higher than in modern surround sound recordings, so it might come as a bit of a surprise at first.

As you say, most of us have multiple versions of Beeethoven's violin concerto, so there is not normally any pressing need for yet another.

Fone's normal SACD price on their web site is €19.90. I own none.
 

jwlawler

Active Member
High quality recording began in the late 1950s, and by the '60s all of the major labels were producing high quality masters. There is some tape hiss, as can be expected from a 1977 analogue recording, but it's hardly disturbing. As is typical of 70's quadrophonic recordings, the level (and delay) of the rear channels is somewhat higher than in modern surround sound recordings, so it might come as a bit of a surprise at first.

As you say, most of us have multiple versions of Beeethoven's violin concerto, so there is not normally any pressing need for yet another.

Fone's normal SACD price on their web site is €19.90. I own none.

I was an early convert to CDs. I bought a Philips CD160 sometime in the 1980s and never looked back, I didn't buy any vinyl after that and I soon found myself rebuying many vinyl recordings. Together with the player, I bought two discs: one was Beethoven Violin Concerto and the other was Stravinsky Petrushka. I also borrowed two from the library but I don't remember what they were. I soon learned to look for the AAD / ADD / DDD marking and I went for as many Ds as I could. I loved the lack of hiss and other random noises from the analogue days.
 

Mark.Yudkin

Distinguished Member
Interesting coincidence. My first two CDs (1983) were the same version of Beethoven's Violin Concerto, the other was Ravel's Daphnis and Chloë. I bought the Hitach DA-1000.
 

jwlawler

Active Member
My choice of discs was, of course, partly determined by what was available but also by which I felt would benefit most. The Beethoven Violin Concerto has a very quiet start so I hoped it would benefit (it did). For Petrushka, the expected benefit was being able to play the whole piece without turning the disc as it has no natural breakpoint. Even today, many years later, I still anticipate a break at a point where no break was intended by Stravinsky.

Beethoven 9th Symphony followed soon after so I could listen to that uninterrupted. I might have bought it with the player but there was a deal for 10 discounted discs and this was an option; I had to apply by post. My earlier LP, from when I had a very limited budget required me to turn the disc part way through the 3rd movement. A later, better set of LPs used 3 sides for the 9th and the 4th movement had a side to itself. There is the story that the finally agreed size of the CD was determined by the need to contain the whole of this symphony.
 

Mark.Yudkin

Distinguished Member
For me it was the promise of the end of listening to everything through a bowl of rice crispies, and CD definitely delivered that. It took a couple of years for CD releases to catch up with LP releases.

My LP of Beethoven's 9th takes sides 2-4, the 8th being on side 1. It was over 10 years before I bought my first CD box of the Beethoven symphonies. I had taken an interest in what the "original instruments" was achieving, so waited until the 1994 release of the Gardiner box, now reissued, or part of a bigger budget box.
 

jwlawler

Active Member
For me it was the promise of the end of listening to everything through a bowl of rice crispies, and CD definitely delivered that. It took a couple of years for CD releases to catch up with LP releases.

My LP of Beethoven's 9th takes sides 2-4, the 8th being on side 1. It was over 10 years before I bought my first CD box of the Beethoven symphonies. I had taken an interest in what the "original instruments" was achieving, so waited until the 1994 release of the Gardiner box, now reissued, or part of a bigger budget box.

A good analogy. Hence the Beethoven Violin Concerto, I don't have to pick out those opening timpani notes from the snap, crackle, and pop any longer. I now have five complete sets of the symphonies but, in the early days, I concentrated on two: Karajan with The Berlin Phil and Hogwood with The Academy of Ancient Music. My most recent set is Rattle with The Vienna Phil since I used to see him at a lot in his CBSO days. I have never managed to decide on original instruments or not, I like both ways.

My LPs were a set of all of the symphonies but I forget the exact layout. As I said, the 9th was stretched over 3 sides. The odd side was probably also paired with the 8th. Some of the smaller symphonies were a side each, maybe 1 and 2. The bigger ones, e.g. 3 and 5, had a disc each and you turned between the 2nd and 3rd movement. That is a familiar process that I don't miss.

My memory is faint after so many years but this might be the set.

Why does anyone want to go back to vinyl? I can see a little nostalgia with pop where vinyl is, in a sense the original, but for classical, my ideal is to close my eyes and not to be able to tell whether or not live musicians are in front of me. CDs were a huge step in the right direction and SACDs are a further step (but not as large).
 

Mark.Yudkin

Distinguished Member
I have Karajan's 1977 BPO cycle on LP (still) and CD. I have the Böhm you had on LP as part of a 22 CD box, and another 5 cycles. I really must get Hogwood's and Brüggen's.

I guess people are nostalgic for the snap, crackle and pop, background noise, harmonic distortion, limited dynamic range, restricted channel separation and all the faffing about with cleaning and static.

I reckon it's cheaper just to use an emulator. For example, iZotope offers some of the above at a much lower price than real LPs:
  • Warp: Choose the amount of warping and the warp shape for the record—from no warp to totally melted and warped edges
  • Dust: Simulates the amount of dust that has settled on the surface of the record
  • Year: Models record players from different decades using filter responses
  • Wear: Simulates the effect of a record that's been played too many times, from brand new to a few thousand spins
  • Mechanical Noise: Adds turntable rumble and motor noise
  • Spin Down: Simulate the sound of slowly stopping playback of a record, modulating both playback speed and frequency
 

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