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connoisseur series500

Pardon my ignorance but...

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I remember Greg going on about them on BNBB, but I never bothered to read the threads.

What exactly are SACDs? Do they play on regular cd players? Is the sound supposed to be better? I notice "Blue Train" is about to be reissued on SACD format. Should I upgrade?

Thanks :blink:

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The question probably should be 'what were CDs?'. A question to which there is no polite answer...

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cs500,

Here's a page that has some information:

http://www.daisy-laser.com/tech3.htm

I have a combo DVD/SACD player. If you're not an audiophile, buying one of these might be the way to go. The model I bought is a Sony 755, and it retails for $200-249 or so. Best Buy had them, but will not be selling them any more. They will be bringing in Pioneer combo players later this summer.

To answer your other questions simply, yes, the sound is supposed to be better. I have a very low-end system and can tell that much from the few SACD releases that I have. For example, the "A Love Supreme" SACD release sounds wonderful to me, especially the bass. Not all SACD's are done well, however. I've read many reviews of SACD releases where there were complaints similar to those you would get with normal CD's. Who does the mastering and what they put into it means just as much with SACD's as it does with normal CD's.

Hybrid SACD's will play on most normal CD players and computers. Single-layer SACD's will not.

If you want to upgrade (you mentioned the upcoming "Blue Train" release), I'd wait and look for some reviews on the sound before doing so. There isn't a whole lot of music available in the format yet, and if you're more concerned about the quantity of music you buy than the quality of music you buy, then I would suggest waiting until more titles are available. To be honest, the only reason I bought an SACD player and the few titles I have is because of my employee discount at Best Buy. That makes trying new stuff out a lot more affordable. :rhappy:

Edited by vibes

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Here is an excellent site that is run by Sony that lists all the SACD's that have been released by the different labels. It's updated regulary.

At the bottom of the page you will find links to the recent additions, upcomng releases, reviews. You can also find a link to SACDs that where recorded in DSD at the bottom of the page. The site currently lists 1199 SACDs that are available.

http://www.sacdinfo.com/home.php

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A few months back, circumstances forced us (my wife and I) to replace our sound system, VCR and TV, so I actually did follow all the back and forth about SACDs on the old BNBB before buying anything. To those of us who read any of his posts, Greg's "True Believer" attitude and brusque style of communicating could be kind of annoying, but he did seem to know quite a bit about the new format, and I learned quite a bit from following his posts.

From what I gathered, SACD is supposed to be able to break the blocky digital signal into such tiny parts that it approximates the smooth analog waveform, and thus the smooth, warm sound of analog, in way that conventional CDs can't, even 20 and 24 bit CDs. (This may not be an accurate description, and please don't ask me to explain why or how.)

There is also interest on the part of music companies because SACDs are encrypted in such way as to preclude burning exact digital copies. I don't even have a CD burner, but I'd like one, so this is one potential concern that I tried to learn about- apparently SACDs can be copied as analog but not digital. I do not understand how this works, or any potential difference in sound.

The way the "hybrid" discs are able to play on conventional players is that they have 2 layers- SACD and "regular" CD.

We ended up getting the Sony DVPNS 755 unit to use as a DVD player, and a Sony SCD C222ES 5 CD changer to use as our main CD player. If I were just upgrading a CD player, I'd look closely at the 755 or a similar unit- it plays video (but not audio) DVDs, SACDs and regular CDs. The 222 plays regular CDs and SACDs, but not DVDs. Since purchasing these units, I have stopped following the issue, but I'm pretty sure both have been superceded by newer models.

I remember Greg stating on a few occasions that Sony players had better "noise shaping" than Pioneer or Philips players, and sounded better. I don't really know what this means- something to do with how they handle the signal and noise reduction(?)

As far as sound, the few SACDs I have sound very good indeed. The new Rolling Stones SACDs are a truly amazing improvement over the old versions, even the regular CD layer, but this is probably partly due to the poor quality of the remasters they replaced.

I have not really gone whole hog into replacing titles I already have with SACDs, but I do buy them occasionally, if they have a conventional CD layer. My speakers aren't that great (the only part of our system we didn't replace) and I am not completely convinced that SACDs sound that much better than a really good digital K2 remaster, which are some of the best sounding discs I own. I will readily admit that the differences between SACD and Digital K2 might be more apparent if I had better speakers, and/or if I was a more discerning listener.

I do not own any single layer SACDs, and I won't buy any until I'm sure I can make decent sounding copies or "best of" discs for personal use. I don't like the idea of not being able to copy them, and the music industry controlling my personal use of something I paid for. If I want to make a "best of" disc to use in my car, I should be able to, especially at the prices for CDs. I also don't like the idea of possibly having a bunch of "white elephant" SACDs if the format fails to take off.

Edited by riverrat

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SACD is still fairly expensive. I'd stick with regular CD if I were you. The format has not been maxed out yet. Having heard the Musical Fideilty Nu-Vista CD player, I can attest to that.

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There is also interest on the part of music companies because SACDs are encrypted in such way as to preclude burning exact digital copies. I don't even have a CD burner, but I'd like one, so this is one potential concern that I tried to learn about- apparently SACDs can be copied as analog but not digital. I do not understand how this works, or any potential difference in sound.

I remember Greg stating on a few occasions that Sony players had better "noise shaping" than Pioneer or Philips players, and sounded better. I don't really know what this means- something to do with how they handle the signal and noise reduction(?)

I have not really gone whole hog into replacing titles I already have with SACDs, but I do buy them occasionally, if they have a conventional CD layer. My speakers aren't that great (the only part of our system we didn't replace) and I am not completely convinced that SACDs sound that much better than a really good digital K2 remaster, which are some of the best sounding discs I own. I will readily admit that the differences between SACD and Digital K2 might be more apparent if I had better speakers, and/or if I was a more discerning listener.

I do not own any single layer SACDs, and I won't buy any until I'm sure I can make decent sounding copies or "best of" discs for personal use. I don't like the idea of not being able to copy them, and the music industry controlling my personal use of something I paid for. If I want to make a "best of" disc to use in my car, I should be able to, especially at the prices for CDs. I also don't like the idea of possibly having a bunch of "white elephant" SACDs if the format fails to take off.

riverrat made some excellent points. I'd just like to follow up on a few of his points:

It is true that SACD's do not allow for making digital copies. I use an optical cable to connect my player with my speakers, but the optical line is disabled when playing SACD's. As for burning CD's from an SACD, it would be pretty impractical. Computers can't even read the SACD layer, so if you wanted to make a copy of a single-layer SACD, you'd have to input the sound into a computer through the sound card's analog input, record .wav files, then burn them to a CD. This isn't very practical at all. With hybrid SACD's, however, I've had no trouble creating .wav or mp3's, which can then be used to burn copies.

I also remember Greg stating that Sony players had better sound than Pioneer players, specifically (I don't remember Philips being mentioned). I believe this was because at the time, Pioneer had not licensed a certain technology for decoding the SACD's, something related to DSD. I believe Greg said they had recently licensed it and so this wouldn't be an issue.

I agree with riverrat on what he said about a K2 mastering versus an SACD. Like I mentioned previously, I have a low-end system and it is very difficult to notice the difference between an SACD and a really good 20/24-bit mastered CD. Perhaps one of the audiophiles on the board could say more about this, someone with a nice, high-end system?

I don't buy single-layer SACD's either. I have the "A Love Supreme" single-layer disc, but that's only because I got it for free at work. I only buy hybrids at this time, because being able to make mp3's of my music means everything to me right now - I have an mp3-CD deck in my car, use a 20GB mp3 player at work, and stream music across my home wireless network. Until mp3's or some other digital copy can be made from SACD's, I'll probably continue to only buy hybrid discs.

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Thanks for the info, Vibes. :tup

Hey! Don't I get any credit for my pithy if facetious and unhelpful answer!?!? ;)

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I have a good hifi system (Dynaudio Contour 1.3 speakers, Sennheiser HD580 headphones) but I cannot hear a significant difference between good CDs and SACDs. Particularly Sony SACDs (KOB, Miles Smiles, Mingus ah um) fail to impress me. Others sound better (some just different) than previous releases (the OJC material releases by Analogue Productions), but this must be due to the remastering, because the CD layer shows the same improvements.

The difference I hear between Sony CDs and SACDs is in the range of sonic differences between good CD players. Something you hear only in direct A/B comparision, and not with every music.

Edited by Claude

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SACD is still fairly expensive. I'd stick with regular CD if I were you. The format has not been maxed out yet. Having heard the Musical Fideilty Nu-Vista CD player, I can attest to that.

Appreciate all the info, everyone. I'm not switching from cds. I don't have excess money to burn. Not with my old Mercury Mystique. ;)

None of the information given here excites me to go out and seek a switch in technologies. Even if I were to contemplate such a switch I could envisage the potentiality that half my collection would be in one format while the other half is in another. Can you see BN ever reissuing things like Dorham, "Trompeta Toccata" on SACD? Unlikely. I'll keep my cds, thank you.

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Like Claude, I have yet to be blown away by many SACDs I've bought with the exception of a couple of them from Analogue Productions (like Adderley's "You Know What I Mean"). However, I am very happy with the sound of nearly all the SACDs I've bought, something that cannot be said for nearly all the CDs I've bought. True, I did buy Peter Gabriel's greatest hits SACD, "Shaking the Tree" and it doesn't sound all that great, but it is really the only dud I've encountered in about 50 SACDs so far. I have many crappy-sounding CDs that I've been forced to re-buy and, in some cases, re-buy again... sometimes for a slight sound improvement.

If you are faced with having to buy a new CD player, I would recommend looking into a CD/SACD combo unit. There is a possibility that Sony may start releasing hybrids for some of their product (like ABKCO has done with their Rolling Stones' catalog) and it doesn't make sense to exclude yourself from being able to access that extra, great-sounding layer. :) If you aren't seeing a need to buy a new player, wait until you old one dies. With any luck, Sony will follow through and get a bunch of hybrids into your CD collection so that sometime in the future when you do get to hear the music on that extra layer, you can see if it is better.

Later,

Kevin

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For clarity's sake, I believe all SACD players will play CD as well. If you have interest in formats other than jazz, you may want to buy a combo SACD/DVD-A player, I know Kevin is happy with his Pionner DV-45A and I'm happy with my Yamaha (though at $1000, not for every budget)...

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Like everyone on this site, I am an avid jazz listener, and have quite an extensive collection of LPs and CDs. I have decent system, and love the sound from my old lps. When I first heard about SACD, I was very curious. A buddy of mine who has the greatest audiophile setup I've ever seen/heard bought a player and we did a bunch of A/B comparisons with SACDs/CDs and LPs (I guess technically that would be an A/B/C comparison, right? ;) ). We came to the general conclusion that the SACDs sounded better than the CDs, but did not eclipse the sound from an LP in nice condition. Since I have so many LPs and CDs already, it really did not seem worth it to buy into yet another format, particularly since I didn't hear any improvement over the format the record companies would call the most obsolete and which I have the most of: LPs! ("Progress" isn't always better!)

Also, I am not into surround sound for listening to music. I like either stereo or mono coming out of two speakers. While I'm sure a bunch of people would be interested in many of the SACD issues' multi-channel abilities, I will admit that this is a benefit that is lost on me.

In addition, it bothers me that SACDs have copy protection that prevents their being burned digitally. To me, that seems like the record companies' prime motivation for pushing this new format.

So my bottom line is that the quality may be better, but it isn't enough of an improvement for me to buy a new machine and then have to deal with three different formats for the music I love. Hopefully, if the companies really want to push SACD, they will do it in the dual-layer format (like the recent Rolling Stones releases, which unlike their early CD counteparts finally compare with the old mono LPs I have). That way, we can make a music purchase ONCE and get both formats so we won't have to buy it all again when they stop making CD players (although i don't think CD players are going anywhere soon because the vast majority of music listeners don't care all that much about sound quality).

Don't know if this is helpful to anyone or not, but I thought I'd add my two cents.

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Don't know if this is helpful to anyone or not, but I thought I'd add my two cents.

I Appreciate it, AJF! :D

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Myself, I think SACDs are easily much better than CDs. In terms of the sound system I use to listen to my music I wont say mine is the best sound system. At least not without knowing what everyone else has. ;) But I bet it's at least in the top 5-10 on here, AAJ, and JC and a good many of the Audiophile boards. When you add that most SACD players can play CDs as well it's not really as if you would have to pick up a seperate player for each. You can still listen to your regular CDs that have not been upgraded to SACD or even might never be. It's really the best of both worlds.

Of course this is just my opinioin to each his or her own. Unlike Greg my life does not revolve around SACDs and SACD players. :rsmile: :rsmile:

Edited by Mnytime

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If you like classical, it's a sure thing IMO. Especially for reissues of stuff on the Columbia label. Their classical lp's never did sound incredible(there are some exceptions). And there are some amazing new recordings out there. The Florestan Trio on Hyperion comes to mind.

Anotehr good resource:

www.highfidelityreview.com

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What Shrugs says...the only classical I buy is on sacd. I love listening to classical in multichannel sound! There are some great jazz sacds out there but not nearly enough! I just picked up the new Chick Corea - Rendezvous in New York multichannel sacd...sounds fantastic to me. As much as I like the multichannel sound (if done right), my favorite sacds are Miles Davis - Cookin' and Sonny Rollins - Way Out West (stereo only).

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Despite still being quite skeptical about SACD (or DVD-A for that matter) "replacing" CD as the "standard" medium of the music industry, I did recently kind of back into both formats. Here's the deal, because I think it's important if anyone is curious about these new media to hear about someone who enjoys them for what they are without being a zealot (Mnytime and the others here definitely also fit this bill - funny how we all seem to have the same hesitations about posting on this topic lest we be lumped in with Greg and his fervor!):

Our DVD player was one of the first to hit the market and quite primitive (I won't bore you with the limitations). Suffice to say, we were ready to upgrade a little this year, although we're not into having the very best video, just upper middle.

We shopped around and found Pioneer makes a couple of players now that play pretty much everything - standard DVD, but also DVD-A, and SACD. Of their models, the Pioneer DV45-A is VERY reasonably priced given that it is a universal player, around $400 or less if you shop around. Throw in all the high quality connectors you will need and you're talking no more than $600. Sure, it's not the very best at doing any of these things, most likely, but I figured if DVD-A and SACD are so great, then with a decent player and good connectors (plus a good amp/speaker combo and the pre-requisite surround speaker set up you need to really enjoy either DVD movies or multichannel SACD/DVD-A) I should be able to hear a big difference compared to my standard CDs. In other words, we spent a couple hundred extra bucks beyond what we would have payed for a mid-range DVD video-only player to give the new formats a whirl.

After several months of trying out various formats - DVD-A in stereo, surround; SACD in stereo and multichannel - I have to say that with a good stereo system I am totally confident you will have NO problem noticing an improvement in sound quality compared with most of your standard CDs, even those remastered fairly recently. It is not hype, it's definitely worthwhile if you have the opportunity. I can't imagine even someone with "tin" ears wouldn't notice the difference right away. Some examples from my small, slowly growing collection:

ART PEPPER MEETS THE RHYTHM SECTION - no contest, the SACD (stereo only) is amazingly more rich, present, and detailed.

Sonny Rollins - SAXOPHONE COLOSSUS - ditto, although perhaps a slightly less huge difference

MILES SMILES - also SACD, stereo. Wonderful! All the harshness of Columbia's recent remastering (which was no doubt better than the old CD) is gone. It's like you're right there. Incredible.

But the best: SONNY CLARK TRIO (the TIME recording, not the BN one) on SACD stereo. Wow...this one always sounded like crap on the old CD, and now it is up there with Rudy Van G's best work. The face lift here is almost unbelievable.

For rock, Pink Floyd's DARK SIDE OF THE MOON reissue with SACD surround is breathtaking. Bjork's VERSPERTINE DVD-A surround mix is equally so - the music just surrounds you and given the layered, detailed approach she takes you literally hear things you never heard before. Neil Young's HARVEST DVD-A surround mix is a bit more eccentric, mixed so the musicians seem to be in a circle - honestly I prefer the DVD-A stereo layer here, but it's fun for a change. And the Stones' London records reissues are all amazing - BEGGARS BANQUET was a revelation, sounds like Keef (or who knows, might have been Dave Mason) is sitting playing acoustic slide right in your living room on "No Expectations."

In all - you get much more natural sound with both these formats, with great separation and presence and detail even it very low, comfortable listening volumes. NO ear fatigue. Incredible warmth (far closer to good vinyl than regular CD can approach). Personally, I think SACD sounds a bit warmer and more like high end vinyl, ideal for jazz, but DVD-A sounds much more "ultra-detailed" and "tighter" in bass response to me, and thus seems particularly well-suited to more modern rock/pop sounds like Bjork.

So with all that, how do I assess the situation and what would I suggest?

1. Unless you are a super-audiophile snob, I would not even THINK about approaching these new formats as a "replacement" for CD. If you're like me, you have 100s or 1000s of CDs you still love and enjoy and it's improbable to me that you could ever hope to replace most/all of them. Instead, consider them as yet another option and go for a universal player. I now can enjoy stuff on vinyl, CD, SACD, DVD-A, and they all have their benefits. By the way, the CD player in the DV45A is subtly but definitely better than my 6 disc Onkyo multidisc changer...so again, when I feel like really listening and savoring a favorite standard CD, I often use the DV45A instead of the multichanger.

2. Think about approaching the new formats when you're ready to add or update a DVD player to your rig. I can see no reason NOT to buy a universal player in that circumstance, except for those who are looking for ultra high quality video (the DVD movie audio on the Pioneer DV45A is really great, while the video is I'm sure not any better than an upper-mid range quality).

3. Where possible I try to find hybrid discs that play as both regular CDs and SACDs (DVD-A doesn't seem to do this, unfortunately, but the trade off is many of those discs have extras like lyrics, photos, etc that can be viewed on your TV screen). Its a good buy and great for the car. However, I'm not above going with single layer SACD or DVD-A for those sessions I really enjoy and already also have on CD (for car). My approach is to take it slow with acquring these discs, and really savor them...I continue to build my regular CD collection, but will slip in one of these every once in a while, and again I've devoted most of my buying in this realm to favorite artists/desert island stuff. I think it's highly worth it for music you love, I've found myself rediscovering some truly great works that I tend to ignore sometimes in the interest of trying to hear all the great and more obscure music that's out there.

4. You can definitely enjoy SACD and DVD-A with just conventional stereo speaker set-up, but if you can afford it, it's really fun to have the 6-speaker option. Even if you end up preferring the stereo on some discs, its great to have flexibility and options.

5. Make sure to do a lot of research before buying, as it all gets a bit confusing unless you're quite a gear-head. For example, to really enjoy the higher resolution of SACD, you'll need to make sure you have a receiver that is even capable of accepting the SACD player's 6 high quality analog inputs (most newer ones are, but not always, particularly if your rig is even just a few years old and not too high end) AND that doesn't reprocess the high quality analog signal into lower resolution digital (the intricacies of all this are beyond me, but suffice to say there are some receivers that don't take the 6 analog inputs, and apparently still others that do but then reprocess the signal so you in effect lose all the benefit - so you want to make sure your receiver has an output or bypass setting option that avoids this glitch). We've had great performance with a Denon AVR line receiver, which is a little on the old side but fortunately Denon had the forsight to include multiple analog inputs and a direct output option for them.

Edited by DrJ

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ART PEPPER MEETS THE RHYTHM SECTION - no contest, the SACD (stereo only) is amazingly more rich, present, and detailed.

Sonny Rollins - SAXOPHONE COLOSSUS - ditto, although perhaps a slightly less huge difference

MILES SMILES - also SACD, stereo. Wonderful!  All the harshness of Columbia's recent remastering (which was no doubt better than the old CD) is gone. It's like you're right there. Incredible.

But the best: SONNY CLARK TRIO (the TIME recording, not the BN one) on SACD stereo. Wow...this one always sounded like crap on the old CD, and now it is up there with Rudy Van G's best work.  The face lift here is almost unbelievable.

For rock, Pink Floyd's DARK SIDE OF THE MOON reissue with SACD surround is breathtaking. Bjork's VERSPERTINE DVD-A surround mix is equally so - the music just surrounds you and given the layered, detailed approach she takes you literally hear things you never heard before. Neil Young's HARVEST DVD-A surround mix is a bit more eccentric, mixed so the musicians seem to be in a circle - honestly I prefer the DVD-A stereo layer here, but it's fun for a change. And the Stones' London records reissues are all amazing - BEGGARS BANQUET was a revelation, sounds like Keef (or who knows, might have been Dave Mason) is sitting playing acoustic slide right in your living room on "No Expectations."

Thanks for your input, DrJ (Tony :))

You should have stated what CDs you compared those SACDs with and if you played the CDs on the same player as the SACDs. I have the impression that you describe the improvement of the remastering that was done for the SACD, not the sound advantage of the new format. The Sonny Clark CD for example sounds like crap because of the poor remastering, not because of the limitations of the CD format.

As far as Miles Smiles is concerned, I don't share your impression. Compared to the Miles Davis Quintet 1965-68 CD box which has the same remastering as the latest single CD release , if found the improvement of the SACD to be marginal. The same for Kind of Blue.

Edited by Claude

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Very very well said DrJ! :D

If people have the money to get multichannel systems, it's really a lot of fun. Dark Side of the Moon on stereo is good. In 5.1 it's grrrrreat!

SACD sounds deeper to me, DVD-A wider. Since one started more for audio and the other for video, not a surprise.

I also agree regular CD won't go away anytime soon... prices on both hi-rez formats need to drop for market penetration.

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Claude -

We may disagree on this a bit, B) or perhaps system differences are at play as well. For the record: when I'm speaking of comparisons with regular CD, mostly they are good remasterings (or the ones included on the other layer of hybrid discs) and I'm using the Pioneer universal player.

For example, I compared the regular CD layer of the Analogue Productions SAXOPHONE COLOSSUS and MEETS THE RHYTHM SECTION discs with the SACD layer, using the Pioneer DV54A to play both layers. For those, although the CD remastering is certainly quite good, the amount of detail, the dynamic range, and the warmth are so much greater on the SACD layer. You hear it in the things like the rattle of snare head, the resonance in Max Roach's toms on COLOSSUS, the sound of air in the horns, the complexity of the cymbal decay. These sound like picayune things, but its actually the overtones and detail that make music music (e.g. that make a sax sound like a sax and not a cheap synthesizer imitation).

For MILES SMILES, we definitely disagree. While I do agree that the Columbia boxed set version (which is what I have) sounds very good overall, all of the Legacy Miles reissues, in my view, have a harshness at the high-end that is just not a problem on the SACD. So perhaps a more subtle difference, but it's still there.

For the Sonny Clark disc, the old CD version was atrocious. But even compared with the standard CD layer on the new disc (which I had previously raved about on the old BN boards, picking up the hybrid disc before I had the Pioneer player), the SACD is a vast improvement.

Again, though, I would never presume to say SACD/DVD-A are "better" or "vital" or "necessary." Heck, I still buy regular CDs over these formats 3 or 4 to 1, because if for no other reason I can listen to a lot more music for the same bucks and I'm mostly into the music, not audio for audio's sake. But I do think, with the cost of universal players coming down and the quality being generally quite good, and the same also occuring for the discs themselves, these expanded resolution formats are just more options to sit alongside your multi-CD changer and turntable (or 2 if you're into 78s!) and add to the fun!

Edited by DrJ

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Those of you whose ears or systems aren't good enough to let you hear the advantages of SACD, that's a shame. You're missing some absolutely incredible sonic cues in these recordings.

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Did some searching around on the Time Sonny Clark disc. Another thread claims what lies in this one, I think, but there were a lot of disparate conversations going on.

So does this SACD version's CD layer of the Trio (the one that was recorded in January of 1959 and 'published' in 1960) completely blow away the recently 2001 re-issued 'Hi-Bit-Hyper' mastered disc from Japan? I've been gathering a selection of hybrid onlys as I have yet to upgrade the hardware, but have recently reconfigured my studio set-up into something that sounds very fresh.

Thanks.

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Never heard the Japanese CD. Why would you pay big bucks for an import when you could pay $13 to have a "future-proof" (in case you someday get an SACD player) version engineered by Steve Hoffman?

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