I'm looking to purchase a reference caliber SACD player. I would love to hear what the members of this forum would buy for $10,000 or less.
I am considering the Ayre C5XmeP. Everyone who has it seems to really like it. Only catch could be the SACD is stereo only (no problem for me) ! It does also play DVD-A discs. Good luck
Not sure how to post to this original poster but I would personally save my money until a really good format is available. No way I would spend several thousand dollars on an obsolete format like SACD. The longer we all wait the more money that can be spent on something really good.
Steven M. Moore
Jomoco, I would not call SACD 'obsolete" certainly not by any dictionary definition. If you think it's a dead format, why is it that I'm able to buy new discs every week?
SACD is "a really good format" and is certainly not obsolete. At least three new labels in the last year are issuing SACD releases.
The longer you wait the nearer you are to death and will never have experienced superb sound reproduction of the type only SACD can provide.
How long will it take blu-ray or anything else to amass a catalogue of 6000+ titles?
" ...an obsolete format like SACD ".
I guess you didn't hear a properly adjusted SACD setup. You could've also picked a bad recorded SACD and made up your mind as a result of that.
I do understand, but I will ask you to give yourself another chance about the SACD's experience.
The EMM Labs one-box job, stereo only though.
Although I have not heard it, the EMM Labs unit is reportedly the state-of-the-art in SACD playback (according to those whose ears I trust).
Yes, I have heard the EMM player, quite nice on both formats. But a pet peeve of mine - do I want to pay 15k for a player that uses a cheapo plastic DVD tray? No way! have heard the upscale Esoterics and they would definitely be my choice.
However as far as I am aware the EMM is Stereo only & IMO SACD sounds best in MCH, best buyis the Sony XA5400ES player & DA6400ES receiver
" SACD sounds best in MCH "
Well-recorded Multi-channel is not a common thing. At any rate, if you've got a decent multi-channel speaker's setup and not a dedicated Stereo rig, I'd fully support your option.
I came to the conclusion that Stereo SACD playing through a nice pair of floor-standing speakers, with good cabling,source and preamplifier is much better than its multi-channel sibling.
I have not heard the unit you mention, but I have an opinion; the Sony SCD-XA5400ES is the best player under $10,000;there is no question in my mind!!!
I have had the Ayre C5-Xe in my home system for 3 years, and I thought it was the last CD player I would ever buy; it was that much better than what it replaced (and cost $6000, of course). My friend brought over the 5400 and I could not believe my ears; it is SO GOOD my jaw dropped about 3 feet. After 5 hours of comparative testing on all sorts of CDs and SACDs, I got online and ordered mine at once. It just blows the Ayre away.
I have NEVER heard a CD/SACD player sound more lifelike than vinyl before, but it does!! (I will concede that my turntable/cartridge/phono stage only cost about $5000; there are better, no doubt)
I have NEVER heard a piano reproduced with truly likelike dynamics and tonal range before by any CD player, and I have heard the latest from Luxman, Esoteric, and Audio Research. I freely admit that have never heard units costing over $10,000, which are probably in this class.
BUT we are talking about a $1500 player here. I am shocked that the audiophile press is not on top of this! An audiophile-quality player for $1500 that bests $6000 and $8000 players hands-down??? This is not BIG news????
Someone needs to wake up. John Atkinson told me that he was going to get one and check it out, but that was months ago, and not a peep about it.
So: what is up???
The Absolute Sound's Buyer's Guide lists two that interest me...the Esoteric X-05 ($6,000) and the Marantz SA-7S1 ($6,500). The one Stereophile seems keen on is the Ayre C5Xe (is the mp designation new?). I would happily pay the extra $ for the EMM Labs SACD Player ($10,000) if it will buy me a better performer. I have no way to audition these products so I must make a sizable purchase based on reviews and the opinions of those I trust. Mr. Harley, do those whose ears you trust also have any experience with any of these other players? Any comparison thoughts would be invaluable.
Reviews of the EMM machine that I've read give it top marks, BUT it is not programmable. This option is one of CD/SACD's advantages, as far as I'm concerned, and I wouldn't want to live without it.
The best under $10K is Sony SCD-XA5400ES.
I think different people like different flavours for their digital. I've yet to hear one that sounds perfect, so it's all about what compromises you can live with. I've tried various players that are someone or another's fave. For example, the ARC CD-8 (praised by JV), the Puccini without the clock (praised by Elliot with clock though), the Esoteric X01D with clock. To MY ears, out of that lot, the EMM Labs still sounds the best and the least hifi. Others (including JV with whom I usually agree) would argue differently. The EMM Labs is a fave of HP, AHC etc..
I haven't heard the Playback Designs one, which is designed by ex-EMM Labs people, with an Esoteric drive. This has received a lot of praise and retails for $10k. I have no local dealer for it, and since I don't buy without trying at home, this is out for me, but might be a potential choice for you. I would expect a similar set of compromises to the EMM Labs box though - these units tend to be praised by the same people. It's a relatively new company though with whatever longevity question that might raise.
The other one which is , on my list to audition is the Meridian 808.2, which has also received a lot of praise. I'm hoping that the local dealer will have a demo unit soon.
Meridian 808.2 is -unfortunately- not a SACD player, otherwise I would have bough it. Pythagoras tells me it sounds pretty close to the way his heavean's seventh sphere. To my ears it's the most analogue of all the CD players I've heard. I considered both the Esoteric and the Ayers but bought Krell SACD MkII. I am very happy with it, especially in view of its price relative to the other players I considered. Otside of the 10k bracket, I would consider the top Krell with its CAST interconnects to FBI...
I had not heard of Playback Designs, but the limited reviews are impressive indeed. However, it retails for $15k. The Meridian is not an SACD player. I currently use the Sony SCD777ES (w/ the Mark Levinson integrated and B&W 805 Signatures) and am convinced that SACD is, overall, the finest audio format for 2-channel audio.
Should I have any concerns about reliabilty/durabilty/build quality w/ EMM Labs SACD player?
I had not heard of Playback Designs, but the limited reviews are impressive indeed. However, it retails for $15k.
Real price is $10k. They call it special introductory price. You can get it from Acoustic Sounds (amongst others) for that price.
Should I have any concerns about reliabilty/durabilty/build quality w/ EMM Labs SACD player?
They used to use Phillips drives with questionable reliability. The current products all use a german-sourced drive (according to the company) which is supposed to be much more reliable. Superficially, the new drive's tray is now metal instead of the old flimsy plastic.
They have announced a new one-box player featuring state-of-the-art innards and an Esoteric drive mechanism. This will be released in the fall, but expected to retail well over $10k.
The Meridian is not an SACD player.
Oh - better take it off my list then.
Regarding reliability of the CDSA-se: when I first got mine, it had a noisy transport which made a whirring noise on some discs. The original transport was replaced, and now the replacement has been working flawlessly for over a year. In fact, I was considering having the new German transport installed, but since it is quite expensive, and the present transport is working well, I am inclined not to bother. Why risk the near-analogue sound I am getting? This machine often stuns me with its performance on both Red Book and SACD, presenting the true weight of the music. You should have no problems with durability, build or reliability. If you should have a problem the company is very alert to the needs of its customers. Hope this helps.
I would like to contribute in this issue with my personal experience. Due to some reasons I have at home presently the EMM labs SACD, the Sony ES 5400 ( new model with HDMI output allowing DSD stream to external processor to multichanel SACD) and a Oppo 983. And also my reference the Bluenote Stibbert ( just CD...a pitty )
All three SACD models are somehow best buys in each price point ( US$ 10k ; 1,6k ; and US400 ).
I can assure you that in terms of pure musical performance the EMM has no competition. The EMM is far superior in all musical aspects. If you are an audiophile ( i suppose ), and have the funds to have the best until 10K , select the EMM without any fear, including reliability ( at least mine is working wthout any problem for 6 months ). Operation is silent ( no noise of disc spinning, as I noted to be very audible with other expensive players - see below ). The only operational drawback is the way to enter tracks ( need to press 0 + track ).
The only point to consider would be the lack of multichannel ( this is why I have the others in a multichannel setup ). If this is not important to you...
Also, during my adventures I could compare, at home, the EMM against some relevant competition : the ESOTERIC X03SE with external clock, the Accuphase DP78 , KRELL EVO 505 and Audio Research ref 7. The EMM proved ( in my system : pre BAT VK 42, power GAMUT D200 MKIII, Magneplan 3.6, cabling Kimber and NBS ) to be consistenlty superior to all of them in both SACD and CD.
To be honest the only doubt I had was the CD reproduction against the AR Ref 7, which is very good. My Bluenote Stibbert came close in CD reproduction, but EMM is still superior. And this is another great point tjat make the EMM really impressive. Its sounds very, very well witn plain CD, until the point that you honestly do not see big improvements with SACD ( pleae note that this impression is because of the fabatastic performance with CD ).
Well, final comment : obviously I did not hear all good alternatives in the market, but if my feeling is right , it would be interesting to hear the CARY 306 Pro and the WADIA 841.
Good luck in your choice.
I support the point made in the previous post that the EMM Labs CDSA-se works well on Red Book CD. In fact, although the SACD performance is very impressive, ordinary CDs seem to be more alive and dynamic than SACD on the CDSA-se. There are good technical reasons why this is so, which are outlined in the Cordesman review. In short, the sound is outstanding in both formats. I also agree that the machine is virtually free of mechanical noise once the CD enters the machine.
good to know that you share basically the same opinion about the EMM. Maybe I am wrong, but your Portuguese reference name and your opinion lead me to believe that your opinion is based on an amazing expertise ( Imasom, etc..)
So how does the Sony 5400 compare ? I have an Esoteric SA-60, any thoughts on how it might stackup ?
I never heard the SA-60. However, if its sound resembles of the X03, I can tell you that in my opinion the Esoteric shall be superior. I would rate the sound of the Sony as a slight improved Oppo 983, maybe not justifying the price difference purely based on its stereo performance with both SACD and CD.. As I mentioned, the biggest appeal of the Sony is its capability of sending a pure DSD signal over HDMI to be decoder externally ( multichannel ). Also, aestetically and in terms of mechanical construction the Sony has a good edge over the Oppo, and in absolute terms as well.
The Sony is a very good general purpose player, but simply does not have that magic touch that makes you forget that you are hearing a reproduction, fooling you as the EMM, Stibbert and AR Ref 7 can.
Well, in sumary, I bought the Sony witht he hope of making a fantastic buy, looking to find a player that is mecanically perfect, handsome, with balanced stereo outs, HDMI just in case, cheap, and more import, able to satisfy my audiophile standards. All these requisites are atended, but the least....
I believe that this is probably what you are also looking for, otherwise why leave the SA-60... So, I recommed that you try to hear by yourself,.
Note that the EMM, even several times more expansive, does justify its price.
I hope this helps.
My Ayre C5-Xe replaced my SCD-777ES about 3 years ago, and was a couple of orders of magnitude better; I never expected to buy another CD player; I loved it.
That was until I heard the SCD-XA5400ES. It is so much better than than my Ayre that it defies all logic; a $1500 player, for God's sake??!!!!!!
I have had it in my system for 3 months now, and i still get a silly grin on my face when I listen to my system; audio nirvana!!
The above applies only to a system using all-balanced analog connections only. To be specific, I use Audio Research and Bryston electronics and Vandersteen speakers and subwoofers (about $30,000 for the whole system).
The one thing I cannot understand is WHY the audiophile press is so seemingly ignorant (or reticent) about just how good this unit is; it blows away the best $6000 and $8000 units from Audio Research, Luxman, and Esoteric; I have heard them side-by-side with my own ears, and the Sony is simply better by far! Perhaps they don't anticipate much advertising revenue from Sony, and big problems with those other advertisers when they finally let the cat out of the bag?? JUst what clothing IS the emperor wearing today...rofl???
Will no one speak the truth in those magazines? They simply CANNOT be that ignorant about a unit that has been on the market for maybe a year now.... What is the matter?
The tricky part about answering the original question as framed is that some of the most desirable SACD-capable player options overshoot the specified $10K limit by between $1500 and $5000.
The player I always liked best in the sub-$10k bracket, and which currently I use as my reference player, is the now-discontinued Musical Fidelity kW SACD player. I've contemplated upgrades from time to time, always thinking that the next realistic step up would likely be either the EMM Labs CDSA CD/SACD player (U.S. MSRP = $11,500) or the Wadia 581 SE (U.S. MSRP = $11,500, I believe). I've heard both the EMM and the Wadia (though not side by side, and not in direct comparison with my kW SACD player), but based on what I heard I think both would certainly make the cut for further, in-depth listening evaluations. They're both fine players. People I respect have also had very good things to say about the Playback Designs player, though I have not yet had an opportunity to one a "test spin."
Links to Meitner reviews on AVguide.com:
TAS review: www.avguide.com/review/meitner-cdsa-se-sacd-player
TAS/HP's Golden Ear comments: www.avguide.com/comparative-review/hp’s-2007-golden-ear-awards
Links to Wadia reviews on AVguide.com:
TAS review: www.avguide.com/review/wadia-270se-cd-transport-series-9-dac-and-581-cdsacd-player
HiFi+ review: www.avguide.com/review/the-wadia-581se-cdsacd-player
Editor, Avguide.com/Playback/The Perfect Vision
It can be tricky when talking about which is the "best" player of all the options out there. Too many variables, I think. I recently purchased a McIntosh MCD301 CD/SACD player, and even in my modest system, it sounds great. I appreciate the information retrieval and the smoothness, especially considering it's not broken in fully yet. I hesitate to say the 301 would be the best, but it's the best I've owned.
The Sony SCD-777ES is an excellent SACD player. It is the single-ended version of the SCD-1. Like Chris Martens, I want to feel confident that whatever I upgrade to will deliver a significant performance improvement over what I already own. I don't want to spend upwards of $10k and discover that I made a lateral move!
Our reviewer Jacob Heilbrunn recently bought the Playback Designs player, and in his upcoming review of the Wilson MAXX 3 loudspeakers, reports that Wilson's Peter McGrath heard the Playback Designs player during the MAXX 3 set up and immediately bought two of them. Peter has some of the best ears in the industry, and is one of the handful of the best classical-music recording engineers.
The EMM products have had reliability problems in the past, but that was due to the transport mechanism. They have since changed transports and the reliablity problems have reportedly been resolved.
The SCD-XA777ES is an outstanding player, but the EMM is a significant step up (I compared it with an earlier generation EMM).
I don't know the price in the US, but my Lindemann 820S was just under the 10k.
This is a beautifull product. Top quality overall and a well thought overall design. The way the drawer opens tells it all. And no pcm conversion, just "native" SACD
It comes with four digital inputs which will handle signals up to and including 192kHz/24 bit.
So you can save yourself a DAC and preamplifier.
The good thing is that their is also a younger sister/brother (without the volume control and digital inputs) the 822.
You know that you have bought yourself a good high end player if you just want to listen to more music and more music and more and more....
The EMM Labs, Wadia and Playback Designs SACD players are all over $10k. Maybe I should rephrase my question: Must I spend over $10k if my goal is to buy a reference caliber SACD player? Chris Martens seems to think so.
You may want to try the Esoteric X-03SE (still under $10K., I believe).
But auditioning in your own system is an absolute must.
Selling mine and upgrading to the EMM, but that's another story.
Are you expecting the EMM to sound significantly better????
I am expecting the EMM to be more to my taste.
Most of my listening involves jazz and classical recordings, and I am not happy with the way that the X-03SE handles acoustic piano (words like metallic and even threadbare come to mind).
That having been said, if I still listened to Rock/Pop the way I used to, I would be ecstatic over the X-03SE.
All players at this level have their own distinct personality, which unfolds over time.
That is why home auditioning is so critical.
Krell SACD Mk II is a distinctly better performer than Esoteric X-03SE. I also listen mostly to to jazz and classical, esp. piano music.
Have you heard of Modwright Instruments? Dan Wright modifies Sony players with amazing results. I own a Modwright / Sony 9100ES with what Dan calls his 'Platinum Signature Truth' mods (total cost incl. player = $4,300), and I'd compare it favorably to the layers mentioned above that I've heard. I find it a bit warmer and more 'analog' sounding than the Esoteric, but not overly dark, like the Marantz. (I've heard the Ayre only once, and was very impressed. I haven't heard the Meitner 1-box player.)
Modwright also offers the Sony 9100ES with Signature Truth Mods (no 'Platinum') for $3,500.
The 'Signature Truth' mods include a Class-A tube output stage, an outboard power supply, new master clock, improved (damped) transport, and some other upgrades. 'Platinum' adds a tube-rectified version of the external power supply and Bybee purifiers in both the AC and signal paths. (The Bybees are magic - definitely worth the extra $800! The tubed power supply also sounds better than the solid-state version.)
If this sounds like an ad, it's not. I'm just in love with this player, especially at this price. Dan Wright deserves more exposure for his brilliant work, and I love turning other audiophiles on to a real high-end bargain (...compared to $6K or more, that is). Arnie Nudell owns one of these. Robert H. Levi of Positive Feedback gave me my first listen (Thanks, Bob!) and I bought one immediately. Since then, two friends who heard it in my system have followed suit.
(BTW, the best Redbook-only player I've heard is the E.A.R. Acute. Yummy! If I could afford a 2nd untit for CD-only...)
You do not need to spend north of $10K. I simply can's see anyone going wrong with the Ayre C5xeMP (still just $6K). I've had mine for nearly 4 years, play it daily, and simply love it for both SACD and CD (note that the recent "MP" upgrade has significantly enhanced CD playback). I am aware of several dealers who won't sell a more expensive disc player because the "theoretical" gains are simply not worth the extra $$$. That said, if I were going to even consider spending more, I would test drive the Playback Designs . . . but its so much more. You can always get a C5xeMP on Audiogon for about $4K (the "MP" upgrade is something like $300) -- if you don't like it, you could flip it for effectively the same thing you paid and be no worse off. Good luck.
The Sony XA5400ES is easily the best value CD/SACD especially as it is so good with RB CD and has the advantage over all the other overpriced SACD players mentioned that it has HDMI surround sound SACD which sounds better than Stereo SACD so all in all it is the best player reardless of price. I have expereinced the overweight Marantz SA-7S1 and found it very disapointing with SACD and was glad to sell it on with no loss due to all the overated reviews it received.
One other player which is well below 10k is the Nad Master M5. It sounds "less" then the players already mentioned but it gives supreme value for money
I replaced NAD M5 with Krell SACD MkII. No contest!
The McIntosh MVP-871 have SACD with 6 Outputs in RCA, HDMI, DVD-Audio, DVD, MP3, DivX, HDCD, etc.
It´s a exelent multiplayer, I have one.
It always amuse me a lot to read all this discussions about which is the best CD/SACD/DVD-A player I can get with a 10k-15k budget. Come on guys! Are you serious? I mean we are talking digital (010101) here. The only real difference in X or Y sound is made mostly by the speakers and the acoustics of the room, given that the rest of the component are of good quality, good quality being that have no substantial flaw design that can corrupt the sound. Any good name brand cd/sacd player from the US$200-350 range can do the work. Do you really think the 5K-10K cd player can really add a "touch of magic" to music to produce a sound so different to justify the big price difference? It would be a bad idea actually if the answer was yes because the only thing a good cd/sacd player should do is to reproduce the 010101 the way the producer intented to and that can be made with any good $200 cd/sacd player.
But, this assumes that the bits are not affected by the mechanism transporting them. I'm not the most technical person, but it seems reasonable to consider that bitstreams are possibly affected by the equipment that processes/passes them. The MCD301 I just bought gets more musical information off my CDs than the unit it replaced. Something different somewhere along the way is happening.
I don't want to insult anyone, but those who cannot hear the difference between a $200 player and those mentioned above should stop assuming that there IS no difference. If you have actually done an A-B comparison and heard no difference, you either need a more revealing system or cleaner ears.
I've actually compared players. The first SACD playback I heard was on a $250 Sony. The sound was so close to Redbook CD that I lost all interest in SACD for about a year. Since then, I've heard several players - ranging from a $750 Yamaha to players costing $6K and above. Each of them sounds different from then others, and the cheap players don't sound anything like the 'audiophile quality' ones. The Oppo is a great bargain, if you don't mind tinny highs and anemic bass.
I'm not saying that you need to spend $10K or even $6K to get a good player. And I'm definitely NOT suggesting that there's a price corresponds directly with sound-quality. But the 'bits is bits' viewpoint is just silly. It negates all differences in how well players read those bits. It ignores the fact that every output stage sounds different. It supposes that circuit design, power supply, DACs, clocking, tubes, capacitors, etc. have absolutely no sonic effect.
If I had to pin it down to a price-point, I'd say $2K is a good start. I haven't heard anything cheaper that reveals anything close to the sound SACD is capable of. To those who are happy with their $200-300 players, happy listening & more power to you. But you don't know what you're missing...
You must have concrete in your ears if you can't hear differences in cd players. Getting back to the original question, have you not considered the McIntosh MCD500
No reviews yet. I live in a city where it is very difficult for me to audition equipment...so I rely on reviews and the opinions of those in this forum.
I always get a good laugh from this type of post.
It is almost a sure bet that this guy is using an amplifier that has no hope of reproducing the
differences he can't hear, so naturally he can't hear them.
There are people who deny the Holocaust, and people who say that AIDS only exists as an imaginary
sales tool of the drug companies. Open ANY subject, and a few of these types will fly out of some hole.
What can I say?
You need to get out more.
To nicdemly - C'mon 'nic'. Are you serious? Some players read the disc better than other, so there's less error correction. They all use different digital filters. And all output stages DEFINITELY do not sound alike. Noise floor is affected by many factors, including the quality of the power supply. There are many variables - not all mentioned here - in both the digital and analog sections of a player that affect its sound. And that is why different players DO sound different. It makes perfect sense. It's science. It's repeatable and verifiable. And if you listen, you will HEAR it.
So you can quit being amused now, open your mind, and LEARN what your player actually does
I'm a longtime adherent of both SACD and DVD-Audio (and the up-and-coming lossless Blu-ray audio formats) but I find it a bit over-the-top to be publicly discussing spending anywhere near $10,000 for a disk player. My five-year-old Denon 2910 "Universal" DVD player does a beautiful job playing both SACDs and DVD-As, decoding them to 6 RCA jacks. It's still in my system, along with my oh-so-declasse Panasonic (horrors!) BD50, which decodes all the BD lossless formats to RCA jacks in 5.1.
The Denon 2910 cost several hundred - not several thousand - dollars when new, and I believe an equivalent model from Denon costs about $379 (list) today. I haven't seen the Oppo Blu-ray player, but it is today's "Universal" player, also playing SACDs and DVD-As and decoding all of the Blu-ray lossless formats.
If you want these formats to survive, you shouldn't be sending the message that they're only for the filthy rich - which is what this discussion does. That's why DVD-A is dead and SACD is dying (check the release dates and music genres of the most recent disks in each format).
For $10K, you'd better be feeding the output directly into neural implants. I'm perfectly happy feeding the RCA outputs of my two disk players into a Yamaha receiver and from there to Paradigm speakers.