Even for an objectivist such as myself, I'll state that there have been some dreadful CD recordings. Some are so bad that their deficiencies will be readily apparent on your run of the mill boom box. By the same token there have been poor recordings done on vinyl or tape however much of the focus is on the digital medium. Many have hailed the coming of technology such as SACD as the cure or DVDA as the cure. Increased sampling rate will allow for more accurate signal representation they say. Well we know that's not true according to the Nyquist Theorem, the proof of which was given by Shannon about 50 years ago. There are also critically aclaimed digital recordings even on the humble CD which suggests to me that the fault lies not with the medium but elsewhere. As others have pointed out, there are a myriad of reasons why CDs can sound bad and why their dyanamic range is not being utilized which I summarize below and point to the recording process as being the culprit. 1) Engineering standards are poor and good quality control procedures aren't being implemented. Variable quality is the result. 2) The recordings are being designed to some perception of what the public wants. Unfortunately the public is either accepting it or not complaining. Well maybe all that downloading is part of the retaliation 3) Some music is admittedly low in dyanamic range 4) Engineers are using techniques that worked well for vinyl and therefore don't exploit the possibility of digital. 5) The microphones are inadequate to exploit the medium lacking either linearity and/or dynamic range. 6) The equipment in the studio is inadequate along the lines of 5) above and needs to be upgraded. 7) Poor speakers are being used in the studios. Can anyone say Yamahas? 8) The recordings are being done in rooms that were suitable for vinyl. We've got a much lower noise floor with digital and those rooms need to be addressed. That'll do for now. We, the consumers, seek to blame our equipment looking for something a little more realistic, something a bit warmer, something that we can justify spending our hard earned dollars on. So we engage in DAC assassinations and focus on our equipment as the reasons. Well maybe if you're using one of the first couple of generations of CDs there might be some justification. To the rescue many say comes Sony with SACD. Now don't get me wrong, being able to do 5.1 is nifty. More recordings are starting to come out and here we are touting SACD (yes, I know there's DVDA but I'm focussing this on SACD) as the savior. But is it really? What guarantees do we have? What's to say that since it's possible to create crappy CDs we're not going to have overcompressed and poorly recorded SACDs? Many have bought SACD releases and compared them to the CD versions and found audible differences. The question then becomes to me, are these differences the result of the new medium or something else? Allow me to digress briefly into DVDA. If one compares the DD, DTS, and DVDA tracks of various DVDA releases one will find differences and similarities. On some disks, the differences are quite substantial. On others they're quite similar. Since there's no pattern here, this strongly suggests that the differences in the tracks is due to how they're handled and not by any differences in digital processing. If it were the latter, then these differences would be consistent and they're not. IOW, the differences that we're hearing are due to differences in how they're mastered onto the medium. Consider an article published in the July 1994 Stereo Review by David Ranada titled "Super CD's: Do they deliver the goods?" Ranada's findings back then indicated that there were equalization and level differences that could not be attributable to differences in the digtial technology. His conclusions were that either different masters were being used or that it was the same master with some additional post production enhancements or corrections being applied. This means the differences had nothing to do with dynamic range and nothing to do with frequency response. So what has Sony done to convince the public of the superiority of SACD? Well for starters, neither Sony nor the companies issuing rereleases of old favorites have been particularly forthcoming with what's new other than some vague comments about it being an SACD release. That leaves you and me to make of it what we will. Apart from the above paragraph, they've also done something else that to my mind is rather reprehensible. They've stacked the deck in favor of SACD. This has been done by ensuring that even if you've got two identical recordings on the disk, SACD will play back 3 dB hotter. This ensures that should the naive consumer or reviewer get their hands on such a disk, they'll be sure to hear a difference. Since these evaluations are never performed unsighted, we can be quite confident that the louder of the two will be preferred. As is well known to those who've conducted research into non level matched playbacks, if the individual is not aware that the level has changed, they'll use a variety of subjective terms (soundstage, clear highs, a firm and controlled low end, etc.) to try to describe the differences. So if the outputs of the DSD decoders are 3 dB louder but commercial SACDs are softer, then what does that tell you is going on? What does that tell you that Sony is really trying to do? Are they looking to give us more quality or are they looking to pump some life in the cash cow? What do all of you think? Me, I think neither SACD or DVDA will survive. I also don't think we needed to go to a different approach to get better sound quality but the market will be the arbiter here. I also think Sony's got some 'splaining to do especially as to why, if SACD is so superior, that they had to gimmick it up by adding a little extra salt.