What am I doing wrong with SACD?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Aaron H, Oct 25, 2002.

  1. Aaron H

    Aaron H Supporting Actor

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    Hello group,

    I have a relatively new setup and was really excited to get a new SACD player and a few disks over the past week. I have heard such awesome things about the format. But...I have to admit, I can't hear any difference with SACD. Any ideas what I am doing wrong?

    My system: Sony 775 SACD/CD into Denon 1803 Multi channel input into B&W 602's. Using supplied inter-connects and Monster speaker wire. I got 2 SACD's 2 nites ago - Stevie Ray Vaughn and Joe Satriani. Just for kicks, I downloaded 2 mp3's off of the internet, converted them to .wav's and burned them to a CD. I spend the last 30 minutes going between Stevie's "mary had a little lamb" on SACD and .wav and similarly with Satriani's "Borg Sex". I honestly cannot hear a difference.

    Is it possible to have bum ears? I'm only 29, but maybe I listened to the music too loud when I was a kid. This is really the 3rd time I have expected to hear a difference and couldn't. First time was at the local hi-fi shop. With the wife, we listened to the cheapest Monitor Audio bookshelfs. Then the salesman took us to listen to some $7500/pair Martin Logans. Neither the wife or I could hear a difference on the 2 cd tracks we listened to. Second, I played with the Denon 1803 for a few weeks at home. I picked up a $2500 HK AVR8000 last week, and again, couldn't tell any difference between the 2 receivers with CD and/or SACD quality. Then, the SACD vs .wav thing now.

    Is it me? Or my setup? Any other ideas?

    Thanks, Aaron
     
  2. Eujin

    Eujin Supporting Actor

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    I wanted to say that maybe it was the throwaway interconnects and Monster wire you were using, but your experiences at the dealer and with the AVR8000 suggests otherwise. Could it be that you're unaware what you're listening for? Do you attend live music performances? Did you grow up listening to cassette tapes and CDs or did you have vinyl somewhere in the distant past? Has anyone pointed out to you, during a listening session, just what you should be paying attention to? It can be tough, especially in our age group (I'm 29 as well) if you've had no previous experience with hi-fi. I find that many people do not even have a conception of what good sound sounds like. Much of this lies with growing up with the sound of CDs played back on car stereos, portable "discmans", boomboxes etc. When initiated into the realm of audiophile-quality sound, many people will initially think that it all sounds alike--mainly because there's such a huge leap up from the sound of said boomboxes and their bretheren.

    I wouldn't push the panic button just yet. Keep listening, pay close attention to the presentation of the music, and try to find educated listeners in your area who can help you along the way. Good luck!
     
  3. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Aaron, your experience is surprising to me. Perhaps your receiver is the weak link. I know you have used some higher-end gear, but I suspect you did not spend much time with any of it. I easily hear difference between the Satriani and Vaughan SACDs and the store-bought CDs, so I can't fathom MP3s converted to .wav files sounding as good.

    I'm not sure what to tell you except that you might want to spend some more time with the SACDs and see what happens. Also, you might want to consider upgrading your receiver. Spending some quality time with a better receiver in your set-up could make a significant difference.
     
  4. Aaron H

    Aaron H Supporting Actor

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    Thanks for the reply. Yeah, I was starting to pannic, but I'll hold off and give it some more time. [​IMG] I just wanted to hear and feel the excitement that everyone else was enjoying. I also forgot to mention another experiece that I had. I was seriously looking into the VMPS line of speakers. I actually found someone in the area with the RM40's, the $4000 speakers that use the Neo Ribbon and that won CEDIA "best of" last year. This guy had a super nice system - these mono block amps from France (I think $10,000) and the matching preamp. Source was a Panny RP91. I went over to listen, and although I thought they sounded nice, I think my little B&W's were just as nice.
    Yeah, I grew up on car cd systems and the like. No vinyl, however. I'm getting to the point where I can just about want to buy the cheapest equipment I can, just because I'm thinking it really doesn't make a difference. I was all set to buy the 555ES SACD and move the CE775 to the system downstairs, but now I'm thinking I'll just try and find another 775 for $100. Additionally, I decided that the AVR8000 was just too much $$ to justify the difference, so I had moved down into the $600-$800 range with the possibility of the Sony 4ES or the Pioneer 43TX, but now I thinking maybe even a Sony 2ES or HK 225 or something for a few hundred bucks will sound just as good. (The Denon 1803 will eventually go downstairs in the family room. The "nice" equipment was to go upstairs in the bonus room for the dedicated HT/music room). Believe me, I want to spend the money on nice stuff, but my pocket book tells me I have to be able to hear the difference!
    I sure hope I have a breakthru here someday soon...... [​IMG]
    Aaron
     
  5. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Aaron, keep at it. I forgot to mention in my first post that those stock interconnects could be the culprit. I would upgrade them to at least some Radio Shack Gold Series cables. However, I still feel that you should upgrade the receiver. As I said, although you have demoed some high-end gear, I doubt you spent enough time with any of it to get a feel for the sonic characteristics of the systems or formats played on the systems.
     
  6. Hartwig Hanser

    Hartwig Hanser Second Unit

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    Aaron,

    be thankful that you are contend with not too high end (and costly!) gear! So you can enjoy with moderate expense your music and do not have to upgrade always on your search for musical nirwana. I think, it was not meant this way, but some other replys seem to urge you to listen so long until you finally are convinced to hear differences (regardless if objectivly true) and therefore are now unhappy with your gear and have to shell out lots of money to reach your former state of happyness.

    in short: you do not seem to be unhappy with your CDs, so stay with them and save money.
     
  7. ChrisAG

    ChrisAG Supporting Actor

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    Aaron,

    Sometimes it takes time to develop a critical ear, and often people can't tell the difference in A/B comparrisons but can if they have lived with a component for a while. I have experienced this personally. After being satisfied for fifteen years with Philips CD player that I purchased in 1987, my room mate introduced me to her almost-as-old Sony CD 5-disc changer. We recently used the changer exclusively for about six months, then her Ex realized it was his and took it back, leaving me with the Philips once again. Let me tell you, I now hate the sound of the Philips, and I was also not pleased with the Marantz cc3000 I had purchased and returned in my attempt to regain quality CD playback. That's why I'm currently shopping for a new Sony, either the 222ES or 555ES.

    Of course, quality differences in source components are more readily apparent if you have decent speakers - I may not have noticed a difference if I was using an old pair of boombox speakers as opposed to my new mid-fi towers.
     
  8. BenK

    BenK Stunt Coordinator

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    I find it very surprising you dont hear a difference between mp3's and SACD's. Even on low end systems you should be able to hear a difference. The very high bitrate mp3's do sound pretty good but not in comparison to SACS's. Comparing cd's to SACD's is not like VHS to DVD but there is a definite difference. I would say my equipment is mid-fi and the difference is clearly audible. I do find it interesting that you also dont hear a difference between very high resolution equipment compared to less expensive stuff. I envy you [​IMG] Even though getting new upgraded equipment is fun and exciting, having a lighter wallet is not. I agree with Hartwig that if you dont hear a difference between a $2500 receiver and a $500 be content with what you have. By the way...what do you eat? [​IMG]
     
  9. Marvin

    Marvin Screenwriter

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    Are the SACDs you bought hybrid or SACD-only discs? If they're hybrids, are you sure you were listening to the SACD layer rather than the CD layer?

    Also, how is your SACD player connected to your receiver? I assume you have 6 cables from your player to the receiver. They shouldn't be connected to the normal analog-in connectors on your receiver. What button on the receiver are you pressing top listen to SACDs? In mine, probably yours too, it's a button labeled 6 Channel Ext In.
     
  10. Bill Blank

    Bill Blank Stunt Coordinator

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    MAN! There's so many factors that come into play. I don't feel terribly comfortable replying to this thread as I don't own an SACD player and have only heard demos at shops a few times. I've compared MP3's-->WAV files burned to CDR's (with MP3's of high sampling rates) and compared them to store bought CD's a hear a difference on both of my systems. I think a lot has to do with my familiararity with my gear and, even more so, with the recordings. These are recordings that "grew up" with me since I got into this hobby 7 years ago as a freshman in college. I've heard them on plenty of systems, each time hearing more bits and pieces before.

    This is where I feel your listening habits or "critical" ear come into play as someone else mentioned. Had someone not pointed out to me things to listen for on certain recordings before I got into this hobby, I would not likely be in it. My uncle had a decent "mid-fi" system and would point out all sorts of little things that I couldn't (or didn't) hear before via my walkman and headphones or boombox. That sparked the urge to get decent gear and during the process to focus on the little aspects of recordings that casual listeners overlook. I still trudge out a lot of the same recordings when I buy new gear or audition stuff at a shop. I've added new ones as well where I know to listen for certain things in order to judge different aspects of a component's effect on the software.

    I also think what plays a major role in this hobby, and clearly in your case, is expectations. Some on this board and others will tell you how going from CD to SACD was like switching from AM to SACD. There are others that still proclaim vinyl as the Hi-Rez king and despise solid state equipment. While the latter group might just like a particular "sound", those that exaggerate the difference between SACD and CD build high expectations for those of us that haven't taken the plunge. All of the SACD demos I've heard were on high-end systems. Some were with recordings I was familiar with, others not. Did I notice a difference? Yes. Huge? No. Does that mean SACD is not superior? No. As Keith mentioned, spending time with new software or a component is key and even a short SACD demo in my system might have yeilded a different opinion for me. Will I eventually buy into one of the new Hi-Rez formats? Sure, once some material I like gets released on it (they're very close with the Stones).

    Then again, it might just be that you've reached your satisfaction point (for now or...forever) with HiFi gear, in which case you should be happy! My drive to buy the newest version or hottest model has diminished quite a bit recently. I'm not feeling that urge right now to upgrade. I would recommend you stick with the gear you've got for a while. Get to know it. Listen to a variety of types of music. Experiment with the placement of your speakers and room treatments. Get the best out of the gear you've got and then decide if you still want more. Try not to go too crazy in the process.

    Cheers!
    Bill
     
  11. Aaron H

    Aaron H Supporting Actor

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    Marvin,

    I believe these are SACD only discs. I press the SACD/CD button on the player and get a msg "Not Hybred". Dang, I thought you were onto something.

    As far as connections, I have the 5.1 cables out from the player into the EXT IN on the receiver. I am pressing the EXT IN on the receiver's remote. I didn't hook anything else up (ie digital out of the ce775 or the 2 channel analog out) just to be sure I was hearing the SACD.

    Bill, I was hoping I hadn't reached my "peak" since this is really my first ever setup besides the normal boombox setup. Like the others have mentioned, if this is as good as it gets, then I won't have the craving to upgrade and spend more money. I guess that's one good thing. Maybe I am expecting too much. I'll see if I can find something in the Tampa area who has a SACD set and see if I can hear the differences there.

    Thanks everyone. I really appreciate it.

    Aaron
     
  12. Brian L

    Brian L Cinematographer

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    Another possibility.....

    Does your player do Bass Management (ie. can you set the speaker sizes to Large or Small, turn on a Sub Woofer?).

    You don't say if you have a sub. If not (and the player does BM), you want to make sure that your main speakers are set to Large. If you do have a sub, you want to set your mains to small (usually) and turn on the sub output. Then, check the level of the main channels vs. the sub.

    Some of the SACD players, as well as DVD-A/SACD players (like my Pioneer 45a) have a problem with the sub output being too low relative to the main channels. It is tweakable in some set-ups by raising the sub input level on the receiver and/or the sub amp, but not all rigs will let you get around this.

    If any of this is set incorrectly, you could be missing the bottom octaves, which would really make things sound thin and weak......and perhaps homogenized.

    This is a tough one, IMHO. For a lot of folks who aren't really heavy into this stuff (AKA normal folks, not Hi-Fi geeks like most of us!), MP3 is in fact indistinguishable from CD. It really boils down to what is happening in your room with your ears.

    And don't feel compelled to apologize. If you really don't hear a difference, you will save lots of cash down the road and avoid the dreaded upgraditis that most of us have!

    BL
     
  13. Rachael B

    Rachael B Producer

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    Aaron, everybody's hearing is not created equal. It's not just our inner ear components, it's also how our brains interpret the sound too. Everybody's brain is "wired" a little differently. A friend of mine's daughter can't read aloud properly from a book. She thinks she's reading but her brain paraphrases the material and she changes sentences. It comes out meaning the same, and she thinks she just read the thing the way it was written. She argues that she did! It's entirely possible that your brain filters out some sonic details and you never really compare them anyway? Your brain may be more centred on how loud things are and little else? Where someone else can readily divert their attention to, say, the details of a drum being struck gently by a brush type drumstick.
    I've always thought that physical differences between individuals was a huge factor in percieved differnces in A/V equipment. It's not discussed all that much. Some people, who proably have 20/60 vision, have commented that VHS looks the same as DVD. What we hear or percieve that we hear obviously varies.
    As Hartwig suggests, maybe you're lucky, in a sense. Maybe you're unlucky in a sense too. Most of the posters seem intent to suggest that your equipment is to blame. Maybe? I think your equpment sounds pretty good. The reciever is probly the weak link a suggested by, was it Keith. Then, again... [​IMG] Best wishes!
     
  14. ReggieW

    ReggieW Screenwriter

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    As far as the receiver being the weak link....

    I am running a Sony SCD-C222es through a Denon 1802 via the two-channel analog CD connects, as the six-channel analog connects are being used for DVD-A playback and I currently have very few multi-channel SACD'S, and can hear a DRAMATIC difference between my CD/SACD layers on my two Telarc discs as well as my Rolling Stones Hot Rocks hybrid. My 1802/222es combo sounds amazing, eventhough I'm only using budget JBL N-26 speakers, so something is definitely amiss if you couldn't hear any differences - even on a very modest setup.

    Reg
     
  15. John Royster

    John Royster Screenwriter

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    I'll give a shot. This is what I heard with SACD:

    Cymbals less splashy and more soft and true.
    Vocals less 'edgy'
    Mid bass more mellow and taught
    Upper treble more smooth

    Basically what I heard was an absence of a digital 'edge'. CDs to me tend to have a sharp 'bite' to their sound where SACDs don't (depending on the recording). This is all very hard to put into words without sounding like a windbag, so that's my HO.

    Try listening in the sweet spot with the lights down low and get into the mood so to speak.
    -edit- just reread original post. Listen to the guitars, the tone and flow. One format will sound smooth and sweet the other will sound darn good but won't quite get it right without sounding too picky or an emphasis on the pick hitting the strings.
    That's the digital 'edge' I'm talking about.
     
  16. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Bill said:
     

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