AVS Forum banner
  • Get an exclusive sneak peek into our new project. >>> Click Here
  • Our native mobile app has a new name: Fora Communities. Learn more.

What's a great referance CD player and/or SACD?

630 Views 11 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  Nick Satullo

I'm considering a reference audio CD player and was wondering what some of the best were that you may own. The ones I'm considering are made by Linn, Krell and Meridian. What I haven't heard but find interesting is the Sony SACD player that does that format and is a reference CD player. Does anyone own this one, how does it handle standard CD playback that's NOT SACD?

Thanks for any input.

Not open for further replies.
1 - 12 of 12 Posts
Acutally, the DVD-A players from Panasonic are available at a few retail outlets. Both of the Sony SACD players are just incredible including thier CD play (albiet a bit slow ergonomically). the DVD-A and SACD players only pass their higher resolution formats through analog outs only, while regular 16/44 signals are passed through the digital outs.

The new Pioneer will play all of the formats.

By the way, does anyone know which stores are carrying the Panny DVD Audio player?

are you looking for a player or transport?

the Meridian 800 is reference quality in both respects but IMHO its too expensive.

The panasonic H1000 DVD player is a very good transport- but it wont read CDR (it will read CDRW though).

I know some people who say the pioneer elite dv09 player is a great cd transport- actually beating an older Meridian CD player.

- Jerry
See less See more
There was a review of the new Sony SACD-Player SCD-XB 940 in a German magazine (AUDIO). The ratings they gave where very good indeed. A Wadia 860, Krell KPS-25 or Linn CD12 get 120 points the Sony got 95 for CD and 105 fro SACD. The Sony is the cheapest CD-Player in there Reference-List!!It's performance with CD is similar to the MArantz CD-14 and CD-17 Mk II.

Lot's of luck in your search!

I recently bought a Sony SCD777ES SACD player. I did have to wait a while, nearly 2-1/2 months, to get it at a good price, but overall it was very worthwhile, in my opinion. I've only got a couple of dozen SACD's at this point, some dual layer (SACD and CD), some single layer, it's clear that they tend to be as good as the original source; the best, recorded on DSD gear, are quite stunning.

What somewhat surprised and really pleased me, though, is the quality of standard CD playback. Obviously, there is a tremendous range of available CD players, and there are magazines that will tell you that there's no point spending more than $350 on a CD player, becasuse there aren't any audible differences (you know, "perfect sound forever"). Well, my current player prior to the SCD777ES is another "high end" Sony player, the XA7ES, which listed for around $3k when it was introduced (96 I think). I bought a "B-Stock" unit at a Sony outlet store, becuase it sounded better than my $1200 Denon or my Sony DVPS7000 DVD player.

The SCD777ES is in a different league still, particularly with the user settable variable coefficient filters. Personally, I prefer the DF3 setting, and it measure quite well with that mode, particularly offering a good combination of phase linearity without the typical oversampling pre-ringing on edge transients, and still having high ultrasonic image suppression. Sonically, the timbral accuracy of all instruments, as well as transient definition, is simply more live and natural sounding. Even something like bass guitar sounds more like bass GUITAR (I used to play for a living, getting through school), and I've spent a lot of time rediscovering my CD collection since getting the SCD777ES. The build quality is outrageous, particularly for the under $2500 I paid, inlcuding 2nd day shipping from the opposite coast.

If you're really in the market for something new, you should definitely audition one in a good system you're familiar with, and with source material you're familiar with. The player does come with two sampler SACD's, one from Sony, one from Telarc. But, one of the real strengths of this unit is CD playback. And, it's here, you can buy them now. Sony is introducing lower cost players, (first in Europe and Japan), but I'm wondering how much of the "goodness" will be preserved with reduced build quality and circuit implementations. I have a Sony XA20ES (bedroom system), which was a $700 unit built to offer as much as possible of the performance of the XA7ES at a much lower price point; it's a good unit for that money, but it throws a less dimensional sound stage and doesn't have the low frequency weight and focus/solidity of the XA7ES.

It's interesting time for music lovers; there are a lot of options to be introduced in the next year, I'm hoping that the digital watermarking scheme finally implemented for DVD-A is not as sonically deletrious as some fear it will be. Once the reviews and the opportunities to hear it for yourself arrive, making choices shouldn't be too difficult. Since I use a processor with passive bypass, setting up for both HT and high quality stereo is fairly easy.

For reference, my stereo preamp is a passive unit using Shallco rotary switches in the attenuators and balance control, and my active crossover and power amps are all custom. Speakers are custom, using Eton, Focal, and Audax drivers. Each main speaker has a 15, 13, two seven's (Eton), a primary tweeter Focal T120dx2, and two ambient tweeters (Audax DTI01).


See less See more
Keep in mind the two main functions of a cd player: (1) the transport, which reads the disc, and (2) the d/a conversion, where the digital signal is converted to analog so that you can hear it.

With that in mind, you want to consider several issues, such as:

a. the quality of d/a conversion in your preamp/processor. If it's high quality, you're probably going to bypass the d/a converter in the cd player, and use the processor.

b. multiple formats: don't look at just cd playback and sacd. Consider DVD, and DVD-audio, because you really want to hedge your bets.

c. because of (a), above, you might want to invest in something that is both high-end, but purely a transport, such as from Proceed or Theta.

I would strongly recommend the Proceed PDMT. It is purely a transport, but it is already a reference level cd and dvd transport (keeping in mind that you're going to need a good preamp/processor to feed the digital signal to). More importantly, the "card" slots for upgradeable inputs makes it a very future proof unit. It was specifically designed to be able to add DVD Audio, and, likely, SACD as well, as well as other unanticipated formats. On the video end, it will not only serve you well now, but Proceed is already at work on a progressive scan upgrade.

With the PDMT, you're getting reference quality now, with the ability to expand in the future. They're not cheap, but you can probably pick one up for just a little more than you'd pay for a reference standard cd player.
See less See more
My understanding of Logic 7 is that it is a digitally processed soundfield which will take a 2 channel signal and simulate multichannel audio. If that's what it does, then I don't think it makes a difference if you go into the processor with a 2 channel stereo signal, or a 2 channel stereo SACD signal.

While I personally like a basic surround soundfield, having been broken into it with the Citation 6-Axis mode (which is not digital), the audio purists are generally aghast at the idea of doing anything with 2 channel music other than 2 channel listening. While I understand their point, I find that I enjoy some information being directed to the center and surrounds, so long as the basic stereo signal is not degraded.

I've not heard Logic 7, but I've read that it and Meridian's Trifield are tops at digitally simulating something greater than 2 channel. Unless there's something particularly different about the SACD signal, it probably will have the same effect on the SACD signal that it will on a normal cd signal. In other words, my guess is that you'll still get the additional resolution of the SACD, though it will be matrixed or processed to create a simulation of multichannel sound.
See less See more
The problem with the Lexicons and their ilk is that they digitize everything that goes into them.

So in the case of an SACD player or DVD-Audio you will lose all the extra resolution as the Lexicon is limited to the quality of its AD convertors. You would be better off simply using any decent transport.

To take advantage of the new formats (or indeed any reference player), you will need a pre/pro with a true analog bypass. For these purposes, a Citation 7.0 would in fact be better than a Lex for two channel and surround.

Steve Dodds:

You may be right. But if the signal went into the Lexicon as digital, why would there need to be an A/D conversion at all?

If, however, the SACD's resolution were achieved strictly through its own d/a conversion (which I doubt, but could be the case) then you might lose it. Are you saying that's the case? If so, then no SACD player should be used with an outboard converter.

If that's the case, then, yes, something like the Citation 7.0 would be the better approach, since it does nothing to affect the signal in the digital realm, and you're only matrixing or steering the already "resolved" signal from the SACD's d/a converters.
I'm sorry but I can't resist commenting on the German magazine's reviewers scoring system. I have had the Wadia 860X, Wadia 9, and Wadia 270/27iv in my system and have heard the others and the Wadia Power DAC system. I've owned Krell CD players and a Levison 360S and 31.5 transport, and used the Levinson gear extensivley at 24/96.

They're all great (although the Linn is overrated, IMO). But even though I'm not a big Sony audio fan, giving the Sony 105 points on SACD and the other players 120 points for CD reproduction is ludicrous. I've heard the Sony player and the DSD recording format numerous times now and DSD is almost indistinguishable from a live mike feed. It's truly that good. No CD player in the world comes in any way close. It even has the emotion of vinyl.

I have to assume that there is no relationship between the points given for SACD and those for CD. Either that, or these German reviewers are deaf.

Perhaps Tony V can shed additional light on this strange German result.
See less See more

Thanks for the clarification. My mistake was in assuming that there was a digital output from the SACD, which I've not heard.

1 - 12 of 12 Posts
Not open for further replies.