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SACD--Super Audio CD

4514 Views 9 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  The 7th Taylor
I have a Sony player which can handle SACD and a Yamaha AVR which can handle the analogue inputs. I have never set it up as I was underwhelmed by reviews that indicated the SACD audio was only marginally better than regular CD. Hopefully there are some users here with experience using the format who can comment. My main interest is classical music.
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I'm neither an audiophile, nor have I a SACD playback system at home.
But at different times I've heard dozens of classical titles on SACD/DVD-A.

Never doing an A-B comparison between a CD and SACD recording, the
difference is at least comparable to CD vs. DTS-CD, i.e. day and night.
If your interest is merely higher quality audio for stereo sources, you may or may not be impressed. It's recorded at a higher resolution, but takes good quality equipment and speakers to show the difference. I don't have any classical SACD recordings, but there have been a number produced.

If you are interested in SACD surround (and not all SACD recording are surround), the mixes are variable - some are stellar and others are a mess. The main problem I have with SACD is it's pretty well an orphaned format, and difficult to find SACD recordings. If you do some searching, there are a few sites for SACD reviews.

Either way, as you already have the player and the receiver, it's only a couple of dollars for cables to find out for yourself!
I can't say I'm an audiophile either, but I was intrigued by the multi-channel audio. Clearly when you think about it, it should open up a world of new possibilities. I have an original PS3 which supports SACD (I seem to recall that newer models do not, in an effort to save costs on less critical features; check for the logo on top of the PS3 if you have one). So I went and bought two SACD titles, Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and Orff's Carmina Burana. Interestingly, both are "hybrid" discs that should play (albeit in stereo) on "any" CD player. This makes buying the discs a little more worthwhile as you can still listen to them in the car or at the beach, for instance.

These are some of the best rated SACD recordings available, based on my (limited) research. Obviously they sound very good, but somehow I expected a little more I think. Maybe I expected that the mix would resort to "cheap tricks" and abuse the multi-channel capabilities (like some tracks make "creative" uses of stereo). Perhaps in the end it's better that they kept it subtle. Certainly it will stand the test of time better.

I'd like to stress again that I'm no expert in classical music or even classics, I just happen to like some of the works. My audio set-up is not a big budget affair designed to take full advantage of superior recordings. Heck, even the room in question is far from ideal for sound, so don't read too much in my report, but I would agree that you probably do need very good quality equipment in a good environment, and perhaps a few A/B comparisons (not to mention a good set of ears, which I don't claim to have!) to really notice the difference.

But as others have said, if all you're missing is a few cables and a recording to test it, it's definitely worth it. For what it's worth, I would consider buying more SACDs for the types of recordings that I think would benefit from the format. Maybe you'll enjoy the results a lot more than I did, or maybe not, but at least you'll know for sure and will have spent a few hours tweaking your set-up some more, and isn't that half the fun? :)
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You might want to check out this site for starters:
You want to hear multi-channel music done right with subtlety? Check out Dire Straits' Brothers In Arms. It is absolutely my favourite surround sound album! This SACD does not resort to gimmicks or annoying abuse of the rears. It's even better than DSotM, and that's saying a lot! And the music is phenomenal too. :)

I have a small number of SACD and DVD-A discs, but none are classical. If you want to see what is available, have a look at this site - Acoustic Sounds. There are lots of recordings currently available. It may be though that high def audio will migrate to Blu-Ray, which will at least simplify the hardware required to enjoy both the best audio and video available.
I love SACD and DVD-A and I don't have a $20K system. Higher resolution is higher resolution--you CAN hear the difference, but you have to be willing to listen. With the preponderance of MP3, people are less and less able to hear the difference between good, accurate reproduction and compressed sound, in my view.

I also think it's unfair to call SACD an orphaned format. While it isn't a mainstream-iTunes-top40-MuchMusic medium, a steady stream of SACD's are released every month--the majority of which are classical. Though it's much easier to purchase on the internet than the paltry selection at your typical retail music store.

If you do take the plunge--and you can get a taste using 5 cheap cables, but cabling does make a difference--since the signal is NOT digital, but analog, so better cables equals better sound, (though there is always a point of diminishing returns, I think)--remember that there are SACD's that can only be played on an SACD player, while "hybrid" discs can be played on both an SACD player and a regular CD player. Neither are necessarily surround sound or multichannel, though. Only "multichannel" SACD's are.
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If you do take the plunge--and you can get a taste using 5 cheap cables, but cabling does make a difference--since the signal is NOT digital, but analog, so better cables equals better sound [...]
That's if your SACD player only has analog outputs. I believe it depends on your set-up. I'm using my PS3* to play SACDs and sound is sent digitally (linear PCM over HDMI) to my AVR, which then sends it to the speakers over (analog) speaker wire. It really doesn't matter much what type of HDMI cable I use, as long as the signal gets to the AVR.

* Be careful with the PS3-as-SACD-player, as the newer models can't play SACDs. Look for the logo!
That's right. There's an overview of which models do and which don't support SACD (and other details) in the PS3 SACD FAQ.
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