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SACD....am I doing something wrong?

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newslane

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Problem solved! The ARCAM SACD/CD player worked wonders, and all the SACDs I have now sound marvelous. The Yamaha just wasn't cutting it.

I just placed an order at the Miles Davis store for a batch of the limited edition SACDs they have on sale there. I am completely hooked. Thanks everyone for your kind comments and help. John
 
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ssully

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I looked at the manual for the Yamaha BD-S681

By default , your Yamaha model is set to play the MULTICHANNEL layer of an SACD.

By default, it downmixes the multichannel to 2 channel PCM for analog output.
THis effectively creates a different *mix* than what is on the CD layer. EQ's may be very different too.

You should have verified that you were accessing the *stereo* DSD layer. That is what you wanted to be listening to. You can change the default SACD DSD playback layer in the player's 'SACD Area' option (p. 40 of the manual). Set it to 'Stereo'.

Also (and this is a general feature of SACD) , the analog output of a 2 channel DSD layer can be as much as 6dB lower than the equivalent CD mastering simply due to properties of the two formats. Players may or may not account for this by automatically lowering the CD output to match DSD output. If the player does NOT do this, the DSD stereo could sound weak/quiet compared to the CD layer

Speaking of mastering, it should be equivalent between the CD and stereo DSD layers....but sometimes it's not. Typically when there is such difference, the CD layer is mastered 'hotter; with less dynamic range, therefore sounding louder and punchier, and the DSD sounding quieter.

Transcoding to PCM per se is irrelevant here. It would not be responsible making the sound 'dull and lifeless'. Mistakenly playing a downmixed multichannel source, could be. Not accounting for a (normal) output level difference between 2 ch DSD and 2ch CD , could be. Mastering differences, if present, could be.


Anyway, for whatever reason your Arcam seems more bulletproof, if it's given you the sound you were expecting.
 
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newslane

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Sounds like you nailed my problem. I guess I didn't read the manual well enough, because what you described about the sound level is precisely what I experienced. The Yamaha has a light the comes on when it's playing an SACD, and the screen read "SACD", so that what I thought I was playing. Too bad I can't test what you found - I already returned it to Amazon.

The ARCAM settings ask which layer should be default, and it was set to SACD. So it looks like I was playing SACD out of the box. No wonder!

There are three others reasons why I would keep the ARCAM though, unrelated to SACD. First, it sounds better than the Yamaha and my Blu-Ray/Cambridge set up when playing CDs, and it does streaming.

And it has two more features that I really like. As I might have mentioned, my listening set-up is dedicated to listening to stereo in sonic holography, which I actually prefer to 5.1, and the best way to enjoy it is in complete darkness. The ARCAM's remote lights up when you touch it, and one can turn off the screen entirely. So, it's a good fit for me all around.
 

ssully

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Sounds like you nailed my problem. I guess I didn't read the manual well enough, because what you described about the sound level is precisely what I experienced. The Yamaha has a light the comes on when it's playing an SACD, and the screen read "SACD", so that what I thought I was playing. Too bad I can't test what you found - I already returned it to Amazon.

The ARCAM settings ask which layer should be default, and it was set to SACD. So it looks like I was playing SACD out of the box. No wonder!

I fear from reading this that you are still misunderstanding.

An SACD disc can* have 2 'layers' on it:
the DSD layer -- only an SACD player can access this; sometimes called the 'SACD' layer
the PCM layer -- any player can access this; sometimes called the 'CD' layer
(*not all have a PCM layer, but most do. These two layer SACDs are called 'hybrid')

But JUST AS IMPORTANTLY, the DSD layer itself can* contain two versions:
A multichannel (e.g. 5.1) DSD mix
A stereo DSD mix
(*not all DSD layers have a multichannel mix, but many do)

So the full SACD disc architecture can look like:
DSD layer (aka the 'SACD' layer):
--multichannel mix
--stereo mix
PCM layer (aka the 'CD' layer):
--stereo mix

If the SACD disc has a DSD layer with two mixes, and you always want to play the *stereo DSD mix*, it is necessary, but not enough, for the player to play the 'SACD' layer. Your Yamaha in fact did that part correctly. The player ALSO has to be set to play the *stereo* part of the DSD layer of the disc. Your player did not do that step by default. Its default behavior was to play the *multichannel* mix of the DSD layer. ** (Even so you -- probably -- could have switched to the stereo DSD mix using your remote control. To avoid having to do that every time, though, you would have to go in to settings menu and change the default DSD layer playback behavior to *stereo*.)

So I suspect your ARCAM isn't merely set to play DSD ('SACD') layer by default -- again, your Yamaha did that too -- it is also set to access the stereo mix of the 'SACD' layer by default. The alternative is, it's playing the multichannel mix by default, and you are only hearing the front left & right channel content, which is wrong; or it's downmixing to stereo, like your Yamaha did.

I would check this if I were you.


** if the SACD layer only has a stereo mix, no multichannel, then just having the player default to the DSD layer should be sufficient to get you to the DSD stereo mix.
 
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