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Thread: SACD v. CD. Can you hear the difference?

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    Amicus's Avatar
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    Lightbulb SACD v. CD. Can you hear the difference?

    The multi-channel version of SACD has a certain cachet among home theatre enthusiasts, but the 2-channel version also generated a buzz once among audiophiles with no interest in multi-channel. SACD never caught the popular fancy, however, and is thought by many to be nearly extinct.

    Nevertheless, I have a number of SACDs, mainly classical, which I've played as CDs and I love great sound, so a year or two ago I investigated 2-channel SACD players. I dropped that plan after reading about the following study on Wikipedia:
    In the audiophile community, the sound from the SACD format is thought to be significantly better than older format Red Book CD recordings.[41] However, in September 2007 the Audio Engineering Society published the results of a year-long trial in which a range of subjects including professional recording engineers were asked to discern the difference between SACD and compact disc audio (44.1 kHz/16 bit) under double blind test conditions. Out of 554 trials, there were 276 correct answers, a 49.8% success rate corresponding almost exactly to the 50% that would have been expected by chance guessing alone.
    The Mobile Fidelity release on SACD of three by Frank has me wavering again. What do listeners here with SACD players, or who have at least heard them, think?
    Last edited by Amicus; 10-20-2012 at 06:35 PM.
    Mike

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    Bob in Boston's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amicus View Post
    The Mobile Fidelity release on SACD of three by Frank has me wavering again. What do listeners hear with SACD players, or who have at least heard them, think?
    I don't need to listen to know that these three new releases should be worthwhile. It has nothing to do with SACD vs. CD...

    MFSL will be remastering from the original LP master tapes, which should produce a superior audio experience no matter how it's played back. Particularly in the case of the mono album, Where Are You?, the sound will be different than what we've ever heard on compact disc.

    Note that these will be hybrid SACDs, which can be played on a standard CD player. Even if you can't hear the enhanced SACD layer, the remastering from original analog sources make these something to look forward to.

    Of course, until we hear them next month, the jury is out with regard to the SACD vs. CD question.

    Bob in Boston

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    Amicus's Avatar
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    I'm not wavering about these three MoFi releases. I love my MoFi Only the Lonely and Nice and Easy and I'm sure I'll love these three, even if I hear them "only" as CDs.

    I do waver, however, about investing in an SACD player. I had just about sold myself on that until I read about the 2007 double-blind test, which suggests that the theoretical advantages of SACD can't be heard by human ears. There aren't many high-end stereo brick-and-mortar stores left, so I haven't been able to manage a useful demo for my own ears.

    Are there any "SACD-only" releases for sale? I have amassed a number of SACDs, nearly all classical, and they are all "dual" format and sound fine as CDs (the only way I've heard them).
    Mike

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    Bob in Boston's Avatar
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    Mike, I haven't taken the SACD plunge yet either. I may change my mind after I hear what my audiophile friends have to say about the upcoming Sinatra SACDs.

    Bob in Boston

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    AndrewT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amicus View Post
    Are there any "SACD-only" releases for sale?
    Yes, Mike. There are single-layer SACDs, but I believe the majority of SACDs are now produced as dual-layer.

    See this post for information regarding "Baubles, Bangles And Beads."
    Andrew

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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrewT View Post
    See this post for information regarding "Baubles, Bangles And Beads."
    Andrew, You might want to copy that post to this thread, as it cannot be viewed by non-members.

    Bob in Boston

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob in Boston View Post
    Andrew, You might want to copy that post to this thread, as it cannot be viewed by non-members.
    Thanks, Bob. I didn't notice that the news thread is in a members-only forum.

    Quote Originally Posted by AndrewT View Post
    Speaking of the SACD format, the 1967 Sinatra/Jobim version of "Baubles, Bangles And Beads" appears on the The Sopranos - Peppers & Eggs: Music From The HBO Original Series single-layer SACD release (Sony/Columbia, 2001). Although this SACD is not a hybrid release, there is also a standard CD version.


    Andrew

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    For the life of me, I don't understand how these audio experts can't tell the difference. I've spent so much time flipping between the SACD layer and the regular CD layer on various SACD hybrid discs I have and there's no contest: the SACD layer is obviously superior in tone, clarity, fullness, etc. There's an obvious and definate difference. And multichannel when done right is awesome. I know some audiophiles poo-poo it, but done right they can really capture the ambience of a hall through the rear speakers and the bass track for subwoofers makes a big difference, too. Some of these early classical ones were, in fact, recorded in three channel so, for instance, in concertos, you get the soloist from the center speaker only. LIkewise, on the Nat Cole SACDs, they place Nat in the center channel and it's quite effective.
    "...and stars fractured 'bama last night."

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    With hi-res digital (both DSD and 24-bit), I hear more there there. The system disappears more, and you can hear into things better. It's more like music and less like a recording vs. 16-bit.

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    Rich_Silverman's Avatar
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    Exactly!

    Quote Originally Posted by MMM View Post
    With hi-res digital (both DSD and 24-bit), I hear more there there. The system disappears more, and you can hear into things better. It's more like music and less like a recording vs. 16-bit.
    "...and stars fractured 'bama last night."

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    Dave K's Avatar
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    Most of my SACDs are classical and multi-channel. I seldom buy any that are stereo only. There have not been all that many released in stereo only that interested me. The Nat Cole SACD of After Midnight is in mono only, but has much more presence IMO than the CD version.

    ---EDIT---

    Looking back on the thread, it seems to me the question may have been: will the CD layer on an SACD hybrid sound better than a standard redbook CD? IMO: no. The CD layer on SACDS that I've heard sound like any other CD. You may benefit from improved mastering of the CD layer; but the SACD usually blows away the CD layer.
    Last edited by Dave K; 10-23-2012 at 05:54 AM.
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    There most certainly is a difference between standard CD audio and SACD audio. Has anyone listened to the splendid multi-channel SACD versions of the Nat Cole albums that Steve Hoffman and Kevin Gray remastered over the last few years? They are astonishing!

    When you listen to the three-track (left, center & right channels) on an SACD player, you can hear such fine detail that you believe that you're standing next to Nat at the microphone in Capitol Studio A (I heard the tinkling of his bracelet as he leaned into the mic to begin, "When I Fall In Love." The detail - and fabulous depth and clarity that Steve and Kevin extracted from the original session tapes is jaw-dropping for an audiophile.)

    Frank Sinatra's entire Capitol catalog deserves the same treatment, but it must be done under the supervision of a seasoned producer who is also a Sinatra expert. I long for the day when these recordings sound as good - maybe even better - than what we're hearing on the Nat Cole audiophile CDs. It's criminal that Capitol refuses to hire the right people who can do the job properly, once and for all.
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    Amicus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Granata View Post
    When you listen to the three-track (left, center & right channels) on an SACD player, you can hear such fine detail that you believe that you're standing next to Nat at the microphone in Capitol Studio A (I heard the tinkling of his bracelet as he leaned into the mic to begin, "When I Fall In Love." The detail - and fabulous depth and clarity that Steve and Kevin extracted from the original session tapes is jaw-dropping for an audiophile.)
    Many thanks (and also to the other responders) for this information. One point: does "three-track" mean listening through a multi-channel, 5 (or at least 3) speaker set-up? For various good reasons, I will be sticking with a conventional two-speaker setup, so I am not interested in better sound available only on multichannel systems.

    I've heard great things about those Nat King Cole SACDs and, if I take the SACD plunge, will track them down, even though I already own CD versions of them.
    Mike

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    Frank Sinatra's entire Capitol catalog deserves the same treatment, but it must be done under the supervision of a seasoned producer who is also a Sinatra expert.
    I think we all know who that producer is, Chuck. Have you talked with any of those suits over there? I don't even know who they are anymore.
    DON'T DESPAIR

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    +1, oh man, x1,000,000 on this!

    Nancy I've looked through their site and couldn't find a contact list. Maybe run a "Who-Is" for the site registrant? I'd rather get someone through the web than to shoot off a snail mail letter which would end up in the circular file, unopened. The best bet might have to be Chuck or your brother, and hope they know some contacts there.

    Something of this magnitude would be very appropriate for December 12, 2015. What a beautiful Christmas gift that would be for us all.
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    Is it worth writing Capitol or will it fall on deaf ears? Who would we/I write to, anyway?

    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Granata View Post
    Frank Sinatra's entire Capitol catalog deserves the same treatment, but it must be done under the supervision of a seasoned producer who is also a Sinatra expert. I long for the day when these recordings sound as good - maybe even better - than what we're hearing on the Nat Cole audiophile CDs. It's criminal that Capitol refuses to hire the right people who can do the job properly, once and for all.
    "...and stars fractured 'bama last night."

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    Dave K's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amicus View Post
    Many thanks (and also to the other responders) for this information. One point: does "three-track" mean listening through a multi-channel, 5 (or at least 3) speaker set-up? For various good reasons, I will be sticking with a conventional two-speaker setup, so I am not interested in better sound available only on multichannel systems.

    I've heard great things about those Nat King Cole SACDs and, if I take the SACD plunge, will track them down, even though I already own CD versions of them.
    Yes. To hear the three-track recordings such as the superb Nat Cole SACDs you have to have a multi-channel receiver and a center channel speaker. As more and more people are setting up "home theater" systems, multi-channel systems are becoming more common. Most receivers sold today offer at least 5.1 channels. You also have to have a player capable of playing SACD; otherwise you will only hear the conventional CD tracks. A standard CD player will not even access the SACD tracks.

    SACD players can be expensive. However, some models of Sony Blu-ray players feature SACD playability. The Oppo Blu-ray player that Rich mentioned plays SACDs and DVD-A's, in addition to Blu-rays, DVDs, etc. I have the Oppo BDP-93. It was an expensive player ($499 USD); but I have quite a few classical SACDs and DVD-As. It will also play FLAC and pretty much any other audio file. It is also hackable to allow it to play Blu-rays and DVDs from other regions that would otherwise be locked. It also connects with HDMI; so no need for a full suite of analog inputs (which are becoming rare on receivers nowadays).

    As Chuck says, it sounds like Nat is in the room on those 3-track SACDs. It's almost scary. Those recordings far surpass what we've heard of Nat on any previous format.
    11-22-10: I became the 1000th member of the Sinatra Family forum!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Granata View Post

    When you listen to the three-track (left, center & right channels) on an SACD player, you can hear such fine detail that you believe that you're standing next to Nat at the microphone in Capitol Studio A (I heard the tinkling of his bracelet as he leaned into the mic to begin, "When I Fall In Love." The detail - and fabulous depth and clarity that Steve and Kevin extracted from the original session tapes is jaw-dropping for an audiophile.)

    Frank Sinatra's entire Capitol catalog deserves the same treatment, but it must be done under the supervision of a seasoned producer who is also a Sinatra expert. I long for the day when these recordings sound as good - maybe even better - than what we're hearing on the Nat Cole audiophile CDs. It's criminal that Capitol refuses to hire the right people who can do the job properly, once and for all.
    When Nancy says we all know who that right person should be, she is absolutely correct.

    To improve the sounds of the Sinatra Capitol catalogue so as to achieve a consistent quality improvement is a goal worthy of a 100% commitment.

    I've not really heard any SACD recordings and i very much would like to do so. I have taken in what Chuck has said above although I am perhaps a little dubious as to whether these 50 and more years old tape master recordings will benefit in quite the same way a brand new digital recording but I am prepare to be wowed!

    Regarding the multi-track 5.1, I must admit that I have my doubts for two reasons. First, because I was previously quite disappointed when I purchased "The Sands" in DVD Audio. In truth I much preferred the sound of the original cd release of "The Sands". I would hope any new SACD recordings are an improvement on what was previously on CD.

    The second reason and perhaps more relevant is the fact that in my opinion most home movie sound systems sound quite good with film and tv soundtracks in Dolby Digital or Pro Logic Stereo but they don't sound so brilliant playing pure music per se. There are lots of reasons for this! The sub-woofer can be especially distorting with so much more bass and speakers generally are not all focuThis could mean one would need a dedicated 5.1 player just designed for music!
    Last edited by Jeffrey Simmons; 11-04-2012 at 02:51 PM.
    JEFFREY

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    Dave K's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeffrey Simmons View Post

    I've not really heard any SACD recordings and i very much would like to do so. I have taken in what Chuck has said above although I am perhaps a little dubious as to whether these 50 and more years old tape master recordings will benefit in quite the same way a brand new digital recording but I am prepare to be wowed!

    Regarding the multi-track 5.1, I must admit that I have my doubts for two reasons. First, because I was previously quite disappointed when I purchased "The Sands" in DVD Audio. In truth I much preferred the sound of the original cd release of "The Sands". I would hope any new SACD recordings are an improvement on what was previously on CD.

    The second reason and perhaps more relevant is the fact that in my opinion most home movie sound systems sound quite good with film and tv soundtracks in Dolby Digital or Pro Logic Stereo but they don't sound so brilliant playing pure music per se. There are lots of reasons for this! The sub-woofer can be especially distorting with so much more bass and speakers generally are not all focuThis could mean one would need a dedicated 5.1 player just designed for music!
    Jeffrey: The 50 year old recordings would almost certainly show an improvement on SACD because of the fact that they were so well recorded 50+ years ago. I do think you would be wowed.

    I never knew Sinatra at the Sands was released in DVD-A. As to your not liking it as much, it could be for several reasons. It may be that you don't like the distraction of the extra channels. Some 5.1 mixes throw too much sound to the rears. Many people have lighter weight speakers for surrounds; so those speakers may produce a "tinny" sound for music (but be OK for movie sounds). Also, DVD Audio discs feature 2 types of 5.1 sound, Dolby Digital or DVD-A. If you play a DVD Audio disc on a standard DVD player, you will not be able to hear the higher resolution DVD-A track unless you have a player equipped to play it. Otherwise, you'd only get the Dolby digital 5.1 mix.

    You are correct that many 5.1 systems are not appropriate for music. IMO, this is due to the preponderance of HTIB's (Home Theater In a Box) These usually feature a subwoofer and some teeny tiny satellite speakers. As you say, they are OK for basic movie use; but not necessarily good for music. I do not recommend those types of setups. They are cheap to get started, but not good for music. I play movies, music and DVDs and Blu-rays of operas, and the 5.1 setup I use plays all well. As to the "boomy" sound of a subwoofer, it depends on how the frequency crossovers are set. Most new receivers have settings for adjusting crossovers so that only the lowest sounds go to the subwoofer. But for this to work, your satellites need to be big enough to carry the midrange sounds. The problem with HTIB setups is that often the satellites are little more than tweeters masquerading as midrange speakers. It costs a little more to set up a system for music and movies, but need not be prohibitively expensive.
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