Could SACD Sound That Bad ?!?

Discussion in 'Playback Devices' started by amatala, Sep 3, 2004.

  1. amatala

    amatala Stunt Coordinator

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    Hello,

    I have a Marantz DV6400 DVD/SACD player connected to a Harman/Kardon AVR430 receiver. I use Mordaunt-Short Avant 906 for speakers (both front and rear) plus a MS 905C central and a MS 907W suboofer.
    I think that CDs do sound great on my system and DVD-A sounds really exceptional (I currently own 5 of them). I am also happy with the DTS CDs I have, so all in all I am very pleased with my system (I wouldn't want to invest more money in this anyway).
    The only problem I have is with SACDs. I do find the SACD sound quite fake, with high frequencies having a 'dirty' sound.
    Now I have read quite a few technical articles explaining that SACDs cannot measure up against DVD-A and that high frequecies tend to sound quite bad on SACD, but I wasn't expecting this to be that bad. I do agree that the mid-range is cleaner and more open on SACD than on plain CD, but when it comes to high frequencies I would choose the CD over SACD any day.
    Has anyone had a similar experience with SACDs?

    Thanks!
     
  2. Dan Hitchman

    Dan Hitchman Cinematographer

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    The problem may be with the Marantz player you have. None of the reviews of their universal players have been overly complimentary of their reproduction of SACD's that I've read.

    They could also be converting DSD to PCM at some point along the way. If not the player, possibly the H/K receiver is converting the analog inputs back into PCM for signal manipulation and then back to analog.

    If you want SACD to really shine, I've read that the Philips DVD/SACD player is one of the better low cost solutions and it upsamples regular CD's to 192 kHz as well as any upscale boutique player. Otherwise, for audio only players the discontinued Sony 555ES and the uber expensive 777ES (as well as other high end Sony products) are very, very good at SACD playback. Even the older Sony 999ES DVD/SACD player is better at SACD reproduction than for DVD video, and some have bought it just for SACD discs.
     
  3. PaulDA

    PaulDA Cinematographer

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    I have the DV6400 and I find it very nice with SACD (though a bit thinner in bass than with DVD-A--don't know if that's owing to the mixing/mastering of the individual discs (though I suspect that's the case). Is your room "lively"? Perhaps some acoustic dampening might tame the highs. Also, can you name the discs causing this issue? Perhaps they weren't well recorded. If I have the same, I can play it through my system and let you know. For reference, I have the Marantz running through an Integra DTR 6.4 with Boston Acoustics VR-M60s front L/R, VRC centre, VR-M50s surround L/R with PV900 sub.

    I don't think the player converts DSD to PCM as it uses the "Sony solution" gentle 80hz crossover that Sony uses for it's own SACD players. (This is not in the manual, it's in the Sound and Vision lab results when they tested it--can be found on their website. DVD-A crosses at 100hz at the standard slope found in almost all players).
     
  4. Mike Up

    Mike Up Second Unit

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    Your not the only one who feels this way.[​IMG]

    I have talked to a guy who owns 2 universal players, the Pioneer DV-563a and the $1000 Yamaha. He stated he felt that the SACDs he has sound like there's distortion in the high frequencies.

    Also, I 'believe' it was Sound and Vision that did a comparison some time ago. They found SACD doesn't have the high frequency extension as DVD-Audio, but this wasn't a concern because the frequencies were high enough to be inaudible plus there's no digital filtering needed for DSD. "HOWEVER", they did find that there were high noise and distortion levels in the higher frequencies. They wrote that off because those frequencies were inaudible.

    It does bring to mind that I've read and personally heard negatives about SACD but only have heard and read praise for DVD-Audio. PCM is an established and mature format where DSD is an infant format. Perhaps with time, if SACD does continue to exist, it will improve. Judging by Sony's Beta, DAT, and Minidisc formats, I feel DVD-Audio is the format to succeed. I will be buying Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon SACD regardless as even SACD is better than PCM and any DD 5.1 recording of the same, out there.

    Have a good one.
     
  5. amatala

    amatala Stunt Coordinator

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    Hello,

    The SACD I've used in my tests is Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells. I've read quite some positive reviews related to this one, that's why I've chosen it.
    I've also listened to it on a friend's system (he has a Pioneer DV757 universal player) and we've both agreed that it didn't sound right: it was better than the CD on mid-range frequencies but worse on higher frequencies.
    The DVD-A that sound best on my system are Eagles - Hotel California and ELP - Brain Salad Surgery. For my non-audiophile ears these two sound just perfect, so I guess my room is also good enough.
    For SACD, I think I'm just hearing the flaws that the specialized tests have shown ...

    Thanks for all the replies!
     
  6. amatala

    amatala Stunt Coordinator

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    These are some quotes from a publication that caught my attention (can be found at sound.westhost.com/cd-sacd-dvda.htm):

    "It is nothing less than a tragedy that Sony/Philips system SACD still is considered to be a real competitor to DVD-A, though it has lower real resolution than the CD-system in the highest octave.

    DVD-A does absolutely offer a much higher dynamic range than CD, but it is very questionable if SACD does.

    SACD is in the high frequency range quite mediocre, even compared to a good CD-system one-bit DAC, and of course clearly inferior to a CD-player with a real multi-bit converter.

    On the contrary, DVD-A is in theory 250 times better than the CD-system at all frequencies!"
     
  7. Phil A

    Phil A Producer
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    All the talk about one format being that much better is silly and marketing hype. Mixing and mastering properly can make even a CD sound better than many mi-rez discs. My Dire Straits "Brothers in Arms" XRCD2 import sounds better than many hi-rez discs. So there is lots more to something sounding good or bad besides the format.

    I have not heard the particular Marantz player but have a Pioneer Elite DV-47A in the bedroom system that feeds multiple places and having a universal is nice and I've extensively heard the 8300 and 8400, neither in my opinion are all that great on SACD or CD for that matter. The Marantz 8260 which is a CD/SACD player is much better than either the 8300 or 8400 on SACD and CD. The orig. Marantz machines were souped up Pioneer Elites. Most often less expensive universal machines share parts so that they can be gotten to market at a price point. For example, most use the DVD-V bitstream (48k) to transmit PCM for CDs which is not exactly ideal. That is one reason why something like the Linn Unidisk costs $11k, as it has separate clocks for each format.

    I have the one universal in the bedroom system and separate players in the main system. I have a separate DVD-A player for the basement system I am putting together and will likely get the new Sony ES changer for the basement so I can have both a changer and an SACD source.

    Most manuf. have a much longer track record and associated experience of making less expensive equipment with PCM circuitry (vs. DSD) and I think at this point it is easier to get a piece of hardware that will do DVD-A well at a more reasonable price point. I have an old DAC I bought used (traded excess stuff for) that was expensive in its day - Micromega Duo pro and combined with a good transport sounds great on CDs and I would not be surprised if it sounded better in some ways playing the CD layer of hybrids vs. less expensive SACD players. I would definitely agree with Dan in that the low to moderately priced universal's I've heard pretty much suck in my opinion on SACD. Keep in mind that my reference is a fully modded Modwright XA-777ES where the mod costs more than a fair % may spend on electronics in an avg. home theater system. Many home theater systems are also not optimized for music in the same manner as a separate audiophile music system would be.
     
  8. LanceJ

    LanceJ Producer

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    Mike Up: the DSOTM multichannel tracks were made from 96kHz/24bit PCM masters.

    Another well-received sacd that used PCM source masters for its multichannel tracks is Roxy Music's Avalon (very classy/slinky music). But this time it was the 48kHz/16bit PCM format. Read more about this here.
     
  9. John-Tompkins

    John-Tompkins Second Unit

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    I bought this title because of reviews as well..Frankly I think it sounds pretty dam bad...Try Norah Jones or Allison Krauss or the Eagles then let us know what you think.
     
  10. EricRWem

    EricRWem Screenwriter

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    So, in conclusion: DVD-A > SACD? [​IMG]
     
  11. Phil A

    Phil A Producer
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    Lance, you are correct. There are somewhere in the neighborhood of 450 DSD recordings available out of the almost 2,400 SACDs available worldwide. Virtually all are classical or jazz as the format tends to be geared towards audiophiles. Out of the 450 DSD recordings, there are probably 6 or 7 that can be considered conventional pop, rock, blues, etc.
     
  12. Lee Distad

    Lee Distad Stunt Coordinator

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    Phil A brings up an excellent point that I have beaten like a drum for many years. Ultimately, the quality of any recording has more to do with what the engineers in the studio do than anything involving the format per se.

    It doesn't matter how much you spend on your studio gear, if you don't have mad skillz to go with your fancy kit, you will bung up a recording more often than you engineer a gem.
     
  13. Rachael B

    Rachael B Producer

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    Amatala, I think you should hear some better players before you draw conclusions. I have better players and I share none of your concerns.
     
  14. amatala

    amatala Stunt Coordinator

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    Well, like I've said before, I am not willing to put more money into this. Spending thousands of dollars on a good SACD player is not exactly my thing...
    So I'll guess I'll just stick to listening to DVD-A on my 'bad' player - at least this combination works perfectly for me.

    Thanks!
     
  15. PaulDA

    PaulDA Cinematographer

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    Is Tubular Bells the only SACD you've tried? Don't give up on your Marantz' SACD capabilities too quickly. Try The Thorns self titled SACD. Had it on yesterday and found it very nice in multichannel, not harsh at high frequencies at all, and will nice full bass (thus confirming my suspicion that the "missing" bass on other discs are mixing/mastering issues, not format issues).

    P.S. Alison Krauss and Union Station Live, Pvt Brubeck Remembers by Dave Brubeck are also excellent test discs. Both are hybrid and well recorded, so at the very least you'll have a couple of good CDs, if their SACD layers fail to impress you.

    I have the Eagles and ELP discs, I agree they turned out pretty well. Fleetwood Mac Rumours and Beck's Sea Change are also worth checking out in DVD-A.

    Enjoy the tunes.
     
  16. Lewis Besze

    Lewis Besze Producer

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    John Atkinson of Stereophile will agree with this statement as he's constantly measures worst resolution performance from all the SACD players[some are real meagbuck ones]then the typical CD player including those combo players[CD/SACD].So naturally he concludes that it is format related not hardware.Though he never complains about this based on his subjective evaluation of the same product,which reminds us to the age old argument: just how good is the human auditory system,but that's for another thread.
     
  17. amatala

    amatala Stunt Coordinator

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    Paul,

    What about Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon? Have you heard this SACD? This is an album I would really love to listen to in multichannel.
    And yes, you are right about the Marantz, I also do think it is a reasonably good SACD player for its price. I will not give it up that easy...

    Thanks!
     
  18. PaulDA

    PaulDA Cinematographer

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    I have Dark Side of the Moon and it's well worth the purchase.
     
  19. David Judah

    David Judah Screenwriter

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    Do you think it might be from expectations you have from the articles you've read? The high frequency information might not look as pretty on a graph due to the noise shaping DSD undergoes, but it shouldn't be audible as it is pushed way out beyond human audibility.

    Of course, as others have mentioned, you'll want to try more discs before you come to a final conclusion. With the discs that I have the quality ranges from adequate to spectacular with alot having to do with the condition of the original source material and, of course, how it was handled during remixing, remastering, and transfer.

    Not everyone in the studios use the same quality of equipment or have the same level of expertise in using it(or even the same budget). The beauty of hi-rez is that the delivery system itself is not the limiting factor.

    DJ
     
  20. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    The BEST SACD I have heard yet is Patricia Barber's Cafe Blue (2ch only). It was one of the best recorded rebook CDs I'd heard, so I had to have the SACD, which is even better. Next on my list of favorites would also be DSOTM and Avalon - both are quite good for multichannel. As for gimmicky and all, DVD-A has just as many, if not more, lousy sounding discs - this is an engineering and mastering problem, not the format. I listen to aboput 90% 2ch and I find SACD to sound better in most cases. A GOOD universal player is a worthwhile investment IMO.

    I also have Mordaunt Short 902s with a Marantz amp and it sounds wonderful. I have also heard the DV6400 and was far less than impressed.
     

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