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SACD....am I doing something wrong?

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newslane

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Hi everyone....I have a handful of SACDs that I want to listen to. I have a Carver stereo set-up, including a C-4000 preamp that's been rebuilt to contemporary specs. I want to listen to the SACDs through this vintage set up.

I had been using a Sony Blu-Ray/Cambridge Audio DAC to play them, and on the screen it indicated that an SACD was playing. But I found from several helpful people on this site that because of Sony's proprietary decoding I needed a Blu-Ray with analog outputs to listen to SACDs, and to try it that's what I bought, an entry-level Yamaha BD-S681 that plays SACDs and has audio outputs. I bought it through Amazon so I can return it if I need something else.

Well, I did an A/B test with an SACD and CD ("Kind of Blue"). I switched between them, and the difference was amazing. The CD sounded alive, crisp, focused, as usual, but the SACD was dull and lifeless. Any ideas what I might be doing wrong? The SACD sounded VERY mid-rangy, no highs at all.

Thank you. John
 

LuvMyQuad

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Hi everyone....I have a handful of SACDs that I want to listen to. I have a Carver stereo set-up, including a C-4000 preamp that's been rebuilt to contemporary specs. I want to listen to the SACDs through this vintage set up.

I had been using a Sony Blu-Ray/Cambridge Audio DAC to play them, and on the screen it indicated that an SACD was playing. But I found from several helpful people on this site that because of Sony's proprietary decoding I needed a Blu-Ray with analog outputs to listen to SACDs, and to try it that's what I bought, an entry-level Yamaha BD-S681 that plays SACDs and has audio outputs. I bought it through Amazon so I can return it if I need something else.

Well, I did an A/B test with an SACD and CD ("Kind of Blue"). I switched between them, and the difference was amazing. The CD sounded alive, crisp, focused, as usual, but the SACD was dull and lifeless. Any ideas what I might be doing wrong? The SACD sounded VERY mid-rangy, no highs at all.

Thank you. John
I guess I'm confused. If the Sony/Cambridge combo was playing them, why did you need to buy a blueray player? Was the DAC not able to decode DSD or maybe you had no digital connection between player and DAC that would DSD? Couldn't you have just set the Sony player to output DSD as PCM?

As far as the difference in sound quality... i guess i'm not sure why that would be. Try a different SACD and see if the same thing happens.
 

J. PUPSTER

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Do you know if that player has any refinement adjustments like filters? Maybe I’m wrong, but I believe my Oppo has adjustments like that and could affect the sound.
 

newslane

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It has a "CD mode" that slows down the CD and shuts off unneeded functions like video, but no filters. Can any recommend a $1000ish SACD player I might try that can work with my vintage set up?
 

jimfisheye

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Understand the variables at play.

When comparing an SACD to a bluray or even a CD, you're comparing likely different mastering work. Anything from a simple level difference to different eq or compression decisions. THAT eclipses anything to do with limitations in the format. Record a 1940s radio broadcast to bluray. Convert an excellent studio recording to mp3. You know better than to conclude mp3 sounds better than bluray, right?

The SAME mastered program put to both 24 bit HD PCM on bluray and DSD on SACD can be transcoded back and forth and will still null to silence. (This transcode gets into some caveats to preserve lossless-ness and is subject to level disparity between formats. And thus subject to operator error transcoding back and forth. But they're both genuinely full HD formats that contain full fidelity music completely.)

You need two sets of expensive high quality digital to analog converters to support playing both formats (PCM and DSD). If you have a consumer AV receiver... who the hell knows what Rube Goldberg path the poor signal goes through depending on the format! Most receivers are going to have PCM converters and just convert the DSD on the fly. So that's what you're actually listening to there. If you DO have a standalone SACD player with DSD converters and analog outputs... How good are those DSD DACs? (Standalone players aren't generally known for converter quality.) What's the signal path after that for those analog signals?

If you have a quality set of PCM DACs right now, the shortest path to hearing the fullest reproduction from an SACD is to transcode it to PCM. (Use the 32:1 decimation to 88.2k. Available in the free XLD - X Lossless Decoder app.) Then play it with your PCM DACs.

The bluray and SACD format, if nothing else, are often a telltale that the content will be audiophile. Whereas the CD format often suggests trebley volume war sound. But anything goes! You'll find select SACDs and blurays with some of the worst preserved fidelity out there. And then some lowly 16 bit CDs with fully excellent sound that rivals the best recordings ever made. 16 bit doesn't sound bad or incomplete when used properly. It IS a smaller window, so watch that your levels don't get too low! (The low volume end doesn't get washed out in noise like in analog here. It gets truncated!) The volume war really destroyed the format's reputation.
 

newslane

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Thanks Jim...a lot to digest here...I appreciate your kindness and all the info. I have understand this before I spend any more money on it.
 

jimfisheye

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DSD to PCM conversion addendum:

For the most lossless conversion.
32:1 decimation conversion from DSD to 32 bit floating point at 88.2k
(That's right. Go to 32 bit float instead of 24 bit fixed initially!)

Bring the 32fp/88.2 files into a DAW.
Normalize the 32bit fp program to -0.1dbfs

- See, this is the part right here. The transcode to PCM can result in peak levels anywhere from -6dbfs to +6dbfs. If you go straight to 24 bit, the lower level examples end up with 23 bits of precision while the higher level examples clip and distort. You might be none the wiser with 23 bit results (other than a little lower volume) but you'll sure hear the clipped examples!

So...
Normalize the 32bit fp files (the whole album as a whole - not track by track!) to -0.1
NOW convert the 32bit fp files to 24 bit fixed and render to flac files.

It's something you could do for free between Audacity and XLD. A little fiddly there with the DAW work. This is what the paid DSD to PCM conversion apps are doing. Doing the 32bit fp -> normalize -> 24 bit behind the scenes.
 

LuvMyQuad

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Well, I did an A/B test with an SACD and CD ("Kind of Blue"). I switched between them, and the difference was amazing. The CD sounded alive, crisp, focused, as usual, but the SACD was dull and lifeless. Any ideas what I might be doing wrong? The SACD sounded VERY mid-rangy, no highs at all.
Does the Yamaha player have any built in volume controls. If so, either bypass them or set them to full volume. Is there any bass management controls on the Yamaha?

Also,some players that transcode DSD to PCM offer options on things like max sample rate and whether to perform the transcode or not. Do you have those menu options?
 

4-earredwonder

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Hi everyone....I have a handful of SACDs that I want to listen to. I have a Carver stereo set-up, including a C-4000 preamp that's been rebuilt to contemporary specs. I want to listen to the SACDs through this vintage set up.

I had been using a Sony Blu-Ray/Cambridge Audio DAC to play them, and on the screen it indicated that an SACD was playing. But I found from several helpful people on this site that because of Sony's proprietary decoding I needed a Blu-Ray with analog outputs to listen to SACDs, and to try it that's what I bought, an entry-level Yamaha BD-S681 that plays SACDs and has audio outputs. I bought it through Amazon so I can return it if I need something else.

Well, I did an A/B test with an SACD and CD ("Kind of Blue"). I switched between them, and the difference was amazing. The CD sounded alive, crisp, focused, as usual, but the SACD was dull and lifeless. Any ideas what I might be doing wrong? The SACD sounded VERY mid-rangy, no highs at all.

Thank you. John
Obviously John, your new Yamaha BD~S681 plays 4K discs and SACD but only has stereo outputs via RCA interconnects and HDMI which if fed into a newer pre~pro with HDMI would decode both Stereo and multi channel SACD. That Carver C~4000 pre~amp unless it has been retrofitted with HDMI [doubtful as it's VERY expensive] could conceivably only play Stereo SACD as fed DIRECTLY from those Yamaha STEREO RCA interconnects, BYPASSING the Cambridge Audio DACS. BTW, the NEWER internal DACs from your Yamaha may sonically surpass the older DACs of your Cambridge Audio interface!

And without knowing the Specs of the Yamaha......does it also play Multi channel SACD. I know, the older but reliable SONY SCD XA5400ES player only played multichannel SACD through its HDMI output.

And NOT to be an alarmist, but the Amazon reviews regarding this Yamaha player were VERY MIXED with quite a few NEGATIVE Reviews.

IMO, akin to what PUPSTER recommended, an OPPO 105 would satisfy your SACD playback needs but of course isn't 4K .... For that you'd need a 205 which is outrageously expensive nowadays.



Review of OPPO BDP~105

 
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gene_stl

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Before I lucked into my Oppo and had resigned myself to probably never having one, I picked up a Yamaha DVD player that also plays and analog outputs SACDs. It was only about $40 on FB marketplace.
Yamaha DVD S1700 Lots of stuff about them on the web. Lots of probably similarly talented models from ten or fifteen years ago too.
It can decode DSD. It converts it to PCM and then to analog. Some purists might not like that , preferring a zillion dollar all DSD chain to the DACs.
 

Titch

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There are just so many pitfalls - I'm not very sophisticated and don't have a background in engineering, but I can't imagine how anyone without a digital amplifier display could possibly know what signals their amplifier is receiving! I've had an Oppo BDP 105 for five years and thought I'd set it up all right, using the menu system on the Oppo, which seems to be straight forward. All the multichannel SACDs played as they should have and the SACDs that everyone says are audiophile sounded very nice to my ears. However, I only realised last year that I had to connect the HDMI cable from my Denon receiver AVR X7200W to the Oppo using the HDMI 2 port on the Oppo, in order for the receiver to get the native DSD signals from SACDs! I had, naturally used the HDMI 1 port by default - which amateur wouldn't? As soon as I did so, the Denon showed that it was receiving a DSD signal in the display.
IMG_2146.jpg
 

newslane

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Does the Yamaha player have any built in volume controls. If so, either bypass them or set them to full volume. Is there any bass management controls on the Yamaha?

Also,some players that transcode DSD to PCM offer options on things like max sample rate and whether to perform the transcode or not. Do you have those menu options?
Checking into all of these options.....thank you for the suggestions.
 

newslane

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Obviously John, your new Yamaha BD~S681 plays 4K discs and SACD but only has stereo outputs via RCA interconnects and HDMI which if fed into a newer pre~pro with HDMI would decode both Stereo and multi channel SACD. That Carver C~4000 pre~amp unless it has been retrofitted with HDMI [doubtful as it's VERY expensive] could conceivably only play Stereo SACD as fed DIRECTLY from those Yamaha STEREO RCA interconnects, BYPASSING the Cambridge Audio DACS. BTW, the NEWER internal DACs from your Yamaha may sonically surpass the older DACs of your Cambridge Audio interface!

And without knowing the Specs of the Yamaha......does it also play Multi channel SACD. I know, the older but reliable SONY SCD XA5400ES player only played multichannel SACD through its HDMI output.

And NOT to be an alarmist, but the Amazon reviews regarding this Yamaha player were VERY MIXED with quite a few NEGATIVE Reviews.

IMO, akin to what PUPSTER recommended, an OPPO 105 would satisfy your SACD playback needs but of course isn't 4K .... For that you'd need a 205 which is outrageously expensive nowadays.



Review of OPPO BDP~105

Thanks for your notes. If I can't get this working as desired, I have until mid-September to return it, and I will. Interesting that you mention the DACs...I have the Yamaha simultaneously connected to the preamp's RCA inputs and to the Cambridge Audio DAC using the COAX output. Switching between the two, the Cambridge is definitely better-sounding, but not by much.
 

newslane

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Hi everyone...following up on my experiences trying to improve SACD fidelity....

Today, I used my dB meter to compare the SACD sound with that of the CDs. I was surprised to find that the SACDs were much (much) quieter, and when I turned them up to match the volume of the CDs, things really improved.

They still didn't have the highs the CDs have, but when I boosted the treble through the preamp and listened to the SACDs carefully, I gradually came to realize that the SACDs were not necessarily better than than CDs, just different in a nice way. The mixes were different, too. And like CDs and LPs, some sound better than others.

I decided to spring for a bona fide SACD player, and ordered an ARCAM CDS-50 from Crutchfield to compare with the Yamaha Blu-Ray. Hopefully I am getting closer to understanding and enjoying SACDs.
 
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