CD/DVD/SACD player break-in: true or myth? (plus review of sorts)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Yohan Pamudji, Feb 21, 2002.

  1. Yohan Pamudji

    Yohan Pamudji Second Unit

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    Before I ask my question, first here's my story.
    So I got my Sony DVP-NC650V combo player in yesterday. It plays CDs, DVDs, and SACDs. I bought it because I've been curious about SACD for a long time but the entry price to satisfy this curiosity has been too steep for me until now. I setup the player, plopped in some SACDs of albums that I also own on CD, and listened.
    The short version of the story: I was disappointed.
    The long version follows. I AB-ed Miles Davis' Kind of Blue and Dave Brubeck's Time Out on CD and SACD. I adjusted the internal volume of the CD player to match the SACDs as closely as possible for each album (the respective levels were different for each album). CDs were played on a Marantz CC-4000 5-disc CD changer; SACDs on the Sony DVP-NC650V. Both used analog out to a Marantz SR-7000 receiver, direct stereo input setting on receiver. Interconnects were AudioQuest Jade for CD and AudioQuest Diamondback for SACD. Speaker cable was Tributaries SP-4 to Paradigm Monitor 9s, no subwoofer.
    My expectation of SACD going in was that I was going to be wow-ed by the experience. Instead, I was impressed but not overly so. By synchronizing the CD and SACD I switched back and forth to listen for differences. The SACDs had a slightly fuller and smoother sound, but that's about it. The drums in Time Out SACD sounded more realistic because I could hear the rattling of the drum enclosures more clearly instead of just the sound of drumsticks striking the drum surfaces. The horns in both SACD albums sounded smoother at higher frequencies and maintained the punch of high notes without the ear-grating effect I noticed on the CDs. All of this is good, but not incredible. If I walked into a room playing SACD without knowing it was SACD I'd probably think it was CD, on this SACD player anyway.
    Before you respond with the typical debunking answers, consider these points:
    1. Yes, I realize this was not a true AB comparison, nor was it blind in any way. The equipment for playing each format was different, cables were similar but different, and the levels were not exactly calibrated. But the playing field was definitely skewed in favor of SACD (except for the players, which I'm not sure how they compare). SACD had better interconnects, the calibrated levels were close but the SACD was oh-so-slightly louder, and I wanted the SACD to kick ass. All indications pointed to the conclusion that if SACD is really that much better than CD I would be blown away. I wasn't. Wanting SACD to be awesome but barely being able to tell the difference between it and CD is not my idea of "amazing".
    2. So what if the SACD player is only $399 retail? If this is a product that is so awesome that mainstream public will pick it up, it should offer a performance increase similar to, say, DVD over VHS, or CD over tape, regardless of price. A low-end DVD player will blow away a low-end VCR, same with CD and tape. A low-end SACD player should blow away a low-end CD player. Well, that's what I think it should do anyway. Maybe my expectations were unrealistic.
    Now to my question. Is the media player break-in theory true or is it a myth? Will playing this thing for a week non-stop really open up the sound and make it produce the incredible sound I was expecting to hear from it? What's the basis of this theory? Am I just expecting too much out of it? Do I have to shell out $800 for the 555ES before I'm amazed? If so, see my #2 comment above.
    Thanks for any comments, criticisms, and insights. I still want SACD to kick ass. Help me make it happen. So far SACD is not the killer app I'd thought it would be.
     
  2. Bob McElfresh

    Bob McElfresh Producer

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    In general, electronics dont need break in time.

    You did hear a difference, which is good. (Although even experienced reviewers have been fooled into saying one amp is better than another because of a small amount of volume difference).

    I suspect your speakers may be the weak point.

    While the Paradigm monitors are good, they are a monitor style speaker. Compare this to a electrostatic or panel speaker like Magnapan or Martin Logan which have a huge radiating surface and are much more sensitive, I suspect you would have heard a greater difference.

    The other part to "break in time" is your ears. If you can, try listening only to the SACD disks for a few days. Then, play one of the matching CD's. Getting used to the new sound over and over again will make you more sensitive to the small changes. (IMHO this is why people change a wire and claim a "dramatic change" - they are very acclimated to the previous sound & material so small changes sound huge to them).
     
  3. JerryW

    JerryW Supporting Actor

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    My view?

    Is there a break-in period for speakers? Yes. I've personally heard it myself. I bought a set of speakers as surrounds. Later, I bought a pair of the same model for use as another set of surrounds. The older pair and the newer pair sounded very different (the new pair sounded more artificial and strained). Then, after a month, both pairs sounded identical.

    Solid state equipment and cables? I don't think so, I've never experienced it and not heard any credible evidence to support it.

    The gray area? Tube equipment. I think it can change because of deterioration of the tube filament, which is much more substantial than deterioration (if any) of ICs.
     
  4. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Outside of speaker systems, no components require a break-in period. That's a myth promulgated by the snake oil-selling writers of the "high-end" audio press. Any decently designed electronic component only needs about thirty minutes to reach full thermal stability. Otherwise, leaving the thing on and running while you're somewhere else will only result in a shortened lifespan (for the component, not you).
     
  5. Marty M

    Marty M Cinematographer

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    FWIW, I read a review of the Kind of Blue SACD version and the reviewer did not think the SACD version was an improvement over the recent remastered CD. I have read that there are some Telrec recordings that sound great in SACD.

    I have been trying to decide if I want to take the plunge to SACD or DVD-A with a new player. Since my DVD player is working fine right now, I just might wait and see if one format wins out over the other, or if either make it.
     
  6. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Yohan, a few things concern me about your observations. For one thing, as someone else said, your speakers could be the weak link in your set-up, though I would not say that electrostatics or planars are required. Secondly, Kind of Blue is not one of the better SACDs in my opinion and that of others on message boards and in print. Finally, the 'NC650V is not good enough to convey all that SACD has to offer. It will show improvements over CD as you observed, but to hear more of what SACD can offer, you will need one of the ES models, such as the 'C222ES or preferably the 'C555ES (assuming the rest of your system is up to snuff).

    For now, I agree that you should give SACD an extended listen on the 'NC650V before you throw in the towel. You might consider picking up a few more SACDs for variety.
     
  7. Yohan Pamudji

    Yohan Pamudji Second Unit

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    Thanks for the replies and suggestions so far. Keep them coming.
    Thanks everybody for clearing up the player break-in issue. Now I know that it's hogwash.
    I have a bad feeling that SACD will not take hold in the general market. Audiophile circles perhaps, but not for the average Joe. My equipment is nowhere near high-end, but it's not exactly boom box either. It is apparent from replies so far that my speakers are not good enough to reveal the benefits of SACD and the NC650V isn't good enough either. If entry-level SACD players cannot provide enough of an improvement over CD to be noticable using not-great-but-good speakers like mine, how the hell is Joe Blow gonna care how good SACD sounds on a $20k system? The only way for SACD to grab a hold on the general market is to have DSD and PCM on 1 disc. Backwards compatibility is key.
    Very helpful comments on the Kind of Blue SACD. I'll quit using it for A-B comparisons. Instead I'll look at other currently available SACDs that also have CD versions out. Anybody care to suggest some titles on both SACD and CD for comparison purposes?
    I will say this though: Sopranos: Peppers & Eggs sounds very good--very compelling vocals. Unfortunately I can't A-B this right now, but I'll probably pick up the CD as well. Scratch that--I will pick up the CD version, tonight. I definitely think the software I'm using is contributing to the disappointing results of my listening sessions.
    Like I said, I still want SACD to kick ass. But at the moment I'm not ready for any hardware upgrades, so the only option is to find some good software to see if that makes a difference. Time to save up for those Paradigm Studios, the Sony C555ES, and separates [​IMG]
     
  8. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Yohan said:
     
  9. Evan S

    Evan S Cinematographer

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    Keith, I'm sorry for the intrusion into this thread, but I've been seeing some posts regarding SACD a little troubling and I'm looking for perspective. First off...

     
  10. Rachael B

    Rachael B Producer

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    I have accumulated over 20 SACD's already and I'm very underwelmed by most of the Sony discs I have. The pattern for me has been that most of the Sony SACD's that have seemed weakest are of material that's 10 years old or much older. Here's my disappointing list:
    Miles Davis- MILES SMILES
    Bob Dylan- BLONDE ON BLONDE
    Billie Holiday- LADY IN SATIN
    Santana- ABRAXAS
    Herbie Hancock- HEADHUNTERS (stereo version)
    Blood, Sweat & Tears- (self titled).
    The above group of titles don't sound better than CD's to me.
    This group of titles I believe sound a little better than CD's:
    Kenny Loggins- THE GREATEST HITS OF
    Billy Joel- THE STRANGER
    My list of hot titles is:
    Joe Satriani- ENGINES OF CREATION < totally hot! defines how good SACD can sound IMHO.
    Willie Nelson- STARDUST < the detail in his guitar playing is stunning
    Al Dimeola, John McLaughlin & Paco DeLucia- FRIDAY NIGHT IN SAN FRANSICO LIVE < muy excellente!
    Keb'Mo- THE DOOR
     
  11. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Evan, I don't mind your jumping into this thread. You are entitled, at least until the Moderators say otherwise. [​IMG]
    Most of the SACDs I buy are on the Sony label simply because Sony Music puts out the most titles that interest me. I say this in terms of music content, not sonics. If I were only after sonics, I would continually buy SACDs from Telarc, Chesky, and the like. In any event, I am disappointed that Sony is not releasing SACD/CD hybrid discs. As a result, if I want the CD version for any reason, I have to go out and buy it separately. Now, why do I buy the CD versions? Well, honestly, I like to compare the CD and SACD formats. Now, I do not compare CDs and SACDs out of some insecurity that SACD may not be better than CD on a particular title today. For me, the comparisons are not borne out of some need to prove anything. SACD is better than CD, and I like comparing various titles on the two formats to hear the differences. More importantly, I buy CDs because I haven't yet found an SACD head unit for my car or an SACD-ROM drive for my computer at work. [​IMG]
    As for the 9/11 benefit SACD that just came out, yes I will buy it. Why? Well, for one thing, it offers a number of artists that interest me. Secondly, a couple people say that it is not not a stellar SACD. Well, should I just accept that? Of course not. I want to hear it on my system and decide for myself. Even if I find it to be a lackluster-sounding SACD, I am sure that it beats the CD. And yes, I will probably buy the CD too if I like the performance enough, again for the car and office and to compare it to the SACD.
     
  12. Philip Hamm

    Philip Hamm Lead Actor

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  13. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Philip, maybe I am in the minority, but to my ears, the Steely Dan DVD-Audio disc (stereo track) is noticeably better than the CD. True, the CD is very good, but I feel the DVD-Audio version is much better. Just my $0.02.

    By the way, what happened to your post count? Been meaning to ask you.
     
  14. Ryan Spaight

    Ryan Spaight Supporting Actor

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  15. Yohan Pamudji

    Yohan Pamudji Second Unit

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    Philip Hamm said:
     
  16. John Beavers

    John Beavers Second Unit

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  17. JerryW

    JerryW Supporting Actor

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    John, I think it's very... creative. [​IMG]
     
  18. Rachael B

    Rachael B Producer

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    Ryan, maybe that has something to do with the fact that I first heard Bob D. and Santana on vinnyl, my lack of enthusiasm? I stille have both records too but haven't actually compared them. I realy don't have time for that sort of thing, generally. I've always thought that records could sound better than CD's but I've embraced CD's because rcrds were seldom pressed with a decent grade of vinnyl. I've bought many a record in the past that didn't even have one good play in them! I've had far too many records that developed numerous pops after 2 or 3 plays.
    Back to SACD's, I don't think Sony is putting that much effort into some of them. Maybe the master tapes used to make some of them are just too old or never were all that good? I never thought ABRAXAS was a sonically great record, performance yes...
    As for Bob D. , I don't even have those CD's. I've only ever heard the album on vinnyl before. That's my point of reference. I don't see the SACD as much of an improvement. I will get the record out and compare some time soon. It's a record I really love!
    Yohan, just be careful what you buy. The older stuff geneally doesn't impress me. Thanks for the kind words! Try a couple of the audiophile label discs and see what you think.[​IMG]
     
  19. Rachael B

    Rachael B Producer

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    John, would you like to buy a good used bridge? [​IMG]
     
  20. JerryW

    JerryW Supporting Actor

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    Rachael, YGM about that bridge! It's not the Gay St bridge in S. Knoxville, is it? [​IMG]
    (You'd have to live in K-ville to really appreciate the humor in that joke.)
     

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