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'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.
The Esoteric X03SE (MSRP 8200.) with the Esoteric G03X clock as an option (MSRP 4000.) would blow away any CD/SACD player costing up to 6 times the price. Even without the clock it has been reviewed as such. Very warm and engaging. No digital overhang whatsoever. The VRDS disc mechanism and their analog output stage is reference class. Even used by recording studios and other manufacturers to provide reference grade playback. (Herbie Hancock uses one of a lower class Esoteric; model DV50 in his own studio). Pioneer Electronics uses one in their Long Beach mobile electronics lab. I have owned an X03SE for over a year. I would not change it for anything at this time. Hope to add the external clock this summer. Build quality is unbelievable.
What's the best player for under ONE thousand? I mean specifically for SACD playback. Amid all the SACD obituaries, here's a bizarre request: somebody design a SACD-only, 2-channel purist player -- make my (considerable and beloved) SACD collection sound it's best for 1k, and I'll buy one.
There is also the Marantz 8003, MSRP $999. There have been positive reviews.
Without a doubt the OPPO BDP-83 SE is the best SACD player under $1K. It runs circles around the Marantz or anything else for that matter. The step-up from the Oppo SE is the Sony SCD-XA5400ES at $1,500. But it’s NOT a big difference. There is NOTHING under $5K that touches these two in terms of sheer sound quality. I have tried in an effort to find one for my system and listened to a great many players. To significantly step up from the Sony you have to embrace the EMM Labs or Playback Systems players and go into 5 figures. The law of diminishing returns seems to have sweet-spotted the Sony.
Rana N. Kabir
CEO, ENDS Technologies
The Sony 5400 is likely outclassed by some of the players mentioned in this thread but it provides enormous bang for the buck. Any plans to review this player? I don't think anything can touch it at the price point- new or used.
It may be the bargain SACD player of the decade.
Before I purchased my Ayre C5xe in November 2006, I listened to every player under $10,000 that had
received good reviews, and the Ayre sounded the best to me.
I recently purchased the Sony SCD-XA5400ES, and it blows the Ayre away. I have never heard such clear
reproduction of classical piano music; it is so real it actually comes close to the live venue. Voices and
instruments such as the difficult-to reproduce harp and vibrophones are also reproduced as accurately as I have
ever heard them on any player at any price. You name it; it sounds MUCH better on the Sony compared to the
Ayre. As for the Sony SCD-777ES; I bought mine in 1999 and still have it. It is way way inferior to the Ayre C5xe.
If I was going to rate these units based on my listening, using live performance as the standard (a 10), these would
be my ratings:
Sony SCD-XA5400ES-- 9
Ayre C5xe--- 8
Esoteric X-05--- 7
Sony SCD-XA9000ES--- 7
(I will eventually send my Ayre in to the factory for the MP filter upgrade, which is supposed to be a major
improvement, but I understand that they have a 6 to 8 month wait at present)
EMM labs player is full of sound degrading op-amps...it aint that good...
go to vacuum states website.
buy a old sony player. get level 6 mod (its basically a re-build) and the uber clock done to it.
that will beat pretty well anything at any price....(havent heard every player but most)....
much much cheaper as well!
Emm Labs' XDS1 does not use op - amps. It utilises just a single discrete Class A output stage.
Op amps notwithstanding, with good high-resolution SACD playback, a tube output is no longer necessary to sweeten the bitter digital pill.
Alright, so here's the list so far:
Reference SACD Players: EMM Labs, +/- Playback Designs
Close Enough (?): Esoteric X-03SE, Wadia 581SE, Ayre C5xeMP
Wow, JLeeMD, lots of great choices out there. I can't see how anyone could make such a purchase sight unseen( er unheard ). Something I've learned in my 20+years in audio is find someone you can trust when it comes to auditioning audio, but , when it comes to putting your money down Trust No One! Let your ears be the judge. Here's my advice for you if you must purchase without an audition. Look for a Krell SACD Standard used. There are many available in mint condition for about 85% off there original retail from ebay and audio/videogon. Have some fun with that piece while you do your research on "higher end" units. It is VERY quick and VERY tight with SERIOUS bass. It will not sweeten up poor masters but will be a great honest player while you are searching.
This strikes me as a lateral move. My Sony SCD-777ES is the single-ended version of the SCD-1.
Krell Standard SACD Mk. III is a really good value and a comfortable parking spot.
Please use the website www.SA-CD.net if you really want to be involved in SACD. This is a forum and information source for audiophiles who strive for perfect sound however elusive such a goal may seem. DSD recording and SACD playback set new standards in high realism of reproduced sound. The US mags are quite anti-SACd for their own strange reasons but you cannot please everyone after all!
Specifically to answer your question, the Marantz SA7-S1 is BY FAR the best SACD player currently available and betters the EMM Labs machine and Krell Evo by quite a margin. The EMM weakness is the sloppy and unreliable tray mechanism, they are pricey not because they are that good just because they are made in small numbers. The Marantz is deceptively cheaper simply because it is supported at the top of a quality pyramid by all the decent mass market stuff they sell to produce cash flow. It is far better built and whilst Meitner knows a thing or two about DSD recording and playback, Ken Ishiwata knows about music as well. It is only Stereo, but in my view high quality stereo is a better outcome than lower quality surround.
If you want multi-channel then there is again only one choice the Sony XA5400ES is light years ahead of anything else and runs the Marantz close but not close enough to make it a stereo no-brainer.
Forget all the other stuff unless you can afford dCS
I was wondering why no one voiced support for the Marantz. What about this Marantz "house sound" I kep reading about?
I run a midline MARANTZ universal player through a respectable, synergistically structured system. It does justice to DVDA, brings out the best in my large collection of SACDs, and sounds very musical and organic on common old CDs.
I suspect the tilt point for all these formats to work is probably a common one- only the attention to vibration control, wiring, and cleanliness of the power supplies lifting one above the other.
Spend wisely, and put the rest of your cash to building up a collection of hi-res discs of either format- you will be amazed at how many are still out there.
Just a note to observe the emergence of BLU-SPEC cd in Japan. The half dozen of these I have collected so far are all exceptional. Try the issue of RETURN TO FOREVER's "ROMANTIC WARRIOR" against the SMH-CD or the standard reissue- the difference is astounding- evident on even a modest system.
All future CDs should be released in this option- it cannot cost any more to produce.
Last fall I was fortunate to find a Wadia 581SE slightly used for a little more than half price. The guy owned it for a few months and traded it in toward a DCS rig for about 3 times the money. The rest of my system is not quite of the same caliber but almost. I tried running it directly as suggested but found it a little harsh or clinical. It may have been a burn in issue on the Wadia or some newer cabling I had. I later added a Marantz SC7S1 pre and was blown away. My system now sounds the way I was hoping to hear. It's been pieced together from dealer demo's and Audiogon deals but makes a cohesive whole.
The Wadia 581SE is an amazing player. Red book cd's sound better than I've imagined possible and SACD is astounding. If you are planning other digital sources I would recommend the 581iSE. It's been well reviewed in maintaining a similar sound quality with other sources.
This is a question for "dingodave": can you tell me about the Romantic Warrior reissue and the SMH-CD of the title? I've heard tracks from this album that have been remastered (on the recent Return to Forever Anthology) but did not know that the entire disc had been reissued. Do you know if it's from the same remastering as what appears on Anthology?
In reply to Robert, who enquires about the Blu-Spec and SMH-CD of RETURN TO FOREVER "ROMANTIC WARRIOR". Robert I do not have the Anthology yet, but as they appeared in the same time frame, it is probably the same generation.The difference seems to be, in the case of the SMH-CD, the optical clarity, and burn quality. I have a large collection of the SMH-CDs, and every single title, no matter how old the recording, exceeds the standard issue by a large margin. Try any of the current batch of TRAFFIC titles for instance ( be quick, they sell out very fast). With the Blu-Spec discs, it is a combination of the clarity, and the actual Blu-ray burn process - it does not use the red-ray burn. The amount of detail possible, including expanded dynamic range, bottomless bass, and improved spatial clues this produces, are worth every cent. These issues are just down right "erection producing". "ELEGANT GYPSY is another one that comes up a treat, and I have also added a copy of the old TOTO album, HYDRA. The first three tracks are awesome. The outo on track two (I think) is so clear you can hear the drummer fumble on of his 'fills' at one point.
I obtained my discs from the H.M.V. website in Japan. They are efficient, and run a points system. 2-4 day turn around to Australia.
Hope this helps Robert, all the best DingoDave.
How about Levinson No.512 SACD/CD player ?Havne't seen any details on there web site for a long time.
The Levinson is going to be way above $10k. The Wadia 581 in TAS Buyer's guide is $6950 but the 581SE is $11,500.....do I have this right?
The MSRP for the Wadia 581se is $9950. 581ise is $11500. 581se can be upgraded to 581ise or can be upgraded to 781i. I'm pleased with the 581se.
Does anyone have experience with the Esoteric X-05? Neil Gader's review would make one believe it was a reference caliber SACD player.
I don't think TAS has been anti- sacd at all. They seem to support it well. Most of the reviewers even seem to like sacd better thn cd. Do hope you review the new Ayre with Mp filter.
In his article in 9 Sept 2008 Absolute Sound, Shane Buettner while reviewing Ayre C-5xe, makes some comparisons between the Ayre C-5xe and dcs and EMM Lab's DAC -6, for those who are interested. His conclusion, to quote him is that " consider the prices and that neither the EMM nor dcs play DVD-As, and you'll see why I'm high on the Ayre....... With the C-5xe, Ayre has established a high water mark for multi format players... it excels across all (stereo) formats by performing at or very near the curren state-of-the art" Unquote. I have not heard any of these players but the C-5xe sound like a good product based on the review. But go read the article for yourself .
One more comment about the Sony SCD-XA5400ES:
I have ben an audiophile for over 30 years, and have extensive experience in electronic design.
I have auditioned virtually every CD or SACD player that costs under $10,000 over the past 10
years (and a couple over 10K), and have over $30,000 invested in my current system (including
$6000 in the Ayre C5xe).
When I tell you that the Sony 5400 is the best-sounding player I have ever heard, at ANY price,
it should be apparent that this is not merely a GOOD player, it is revolutionary in both performance
and price! Every manufacturer of a unit costing over $2000 is no doubt shocked by what this thing
can do at its modest price level. I would pay $8000 for it in a heartbeat; the fact that they are selling
it for $1500 is no less than AMAZING!!!!!!
I have been quite interested in the Sony 5400 but it appears that the only multi-channel output from the player is via HMDI. How does one connect the player to conventional RCA inputs? Or is that out of the qestion?
Any help would be appreciated.
The Sony 5400 (I have one) does not have multichannel surround analog outputs, but it does have high quality stereo analog outputs as well as stereo digital outputs to use with an external DAC if desired. Using its multichannel SACD capability (via preamps and receivers with HDMI inputs and the right processing specs) has been described by Kal Rubinson in in his "music in the round" column in several recent issues of Stereophile (May 2009 and following).
I have not compared the 5400 to any expensive reference players. For Redbook CD, I do slightly prefer the sound of my Cary Xciter DAC (using the Sony as a transport) to the Sony's built-in DAC. The Cary DAC has an equally detailed but slightly smoother sound with better bass control. However, the Sony is excellent and is a bargain for both its build quality and sound quality in a $1,500 SACD/CD player.
Thank you for the information. That's what I thought, no analog outputs for multichannel. Too bad.
All of these opinions are off course dependent on personal preferances and system (stating the obvious :) ). You should shortlist a few within your price point and listen to them. Personally I hate bright, sibilance prone SA/CD Players. So, I was very impressed with the Marantz SA-7S1 and bought it (look at several excellent reviews of it all over the web). There are always trade-offs. I know the Marantz is not as detailed as some others, but it works well with my very revealing ML Vantages (and my ears). I also know I can listen to all types of mucic (including classical!!) for hours and not experience fatigue, just enjoyment. Most of the "revealing" players complete tire me out and makes me want to run away within half an hour....
You have to listen for yourself, only use these opinions to short list :)
In the $2K-$3K range has anyone auditioned or can opine on the Arcam CD37, stereo only SACD player? I was leaning towards the Sony ES9000 SACD product, unmoded till the Arcam showed up. Thanks.
I have the Esoteric X-03SE and it is fantastic!! If your budget is indeed $10k, then you will find no player that has the build quality and transport than
the X-03SE. If you check some of the other high end/high cost CD players, you will see they use Esoteric transports. Also, you can also upgrade
the X-03-SE through several companies that excel in making the product even better. You can't go wrong with this choice. The other posts have
great ideas and suggestions, read them all, it will be worth your time and money. Cheers.....RT
I bought the Esoteric X-05 about a month ago and find it everything NG said it would be. Couldn't be happier and, with the "recession discount," I spent less than half of what I was prepared to pay. Along with the Mark Levinson No.383 integrated amplifier and Dynaudio Confidence C1 speakers, I am for the first time in a long time satisfied...kind of an empty feeling not knowing what my next upgrade is going to be :-)
I have been pleased with my Cary Audio 306 professional SACD player. I listen to primarily classical and jazz and it works well in my system (Magnepan 20.1, ARC Reference 3, Cary Audio 500MB amps). Also, it accepts digital inputs up to 24/192, so an external DVD-A can be used for high definition audio and you can use the Cary DAC. In comparison with some other DAC's brought over by an audiophile friend (like the DAC-1), it has done very well, but truthfully, I have not A/B'd the unit against any high end competition. It fits my needs well and is not fatiguing at all. Am happy with the purchase. I have also heard good things about the Marantz SA7and EMM Labs as noted above. Lot's of choices in this area. I got lucky and found a barely used 306 Professional of Audiogon with the idea reselling of trying other players if I was not happy. That did not happen.
I owned the Cary 303-300 and it wasn't bad, but I replaced that with the Esoteric X03-SE which was built like a tank and sounded wonderful. I bought the McIntosh MCD-500 and had it in my system for some time with the X03SE. The MCD-500 with those new ESS DAC's sounded better all around than the X03-SE, especially in the low end. There was virtually no difference in SACD playback. I sold the Esoteric unit.
Having access to those great DAC's for my server is another big plus.
In answer to the original statement: "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."
What is the rest of your system like? Are there other areas you plan to change as well? A SACD player isn't just a component, it's part of a whole system. Even a reference caliber player is part of the whole.
I was able to pick up a lightly used WADIA 581SE for about 50% of retail about 15 months ago. Apparently the fellow who bought it traded up to a Scarlatti rig after a few months. I picked it up without doing any research other than listening to it for a few minutes. I have been very pleased with it. I originally ran it directly into my power amp and found it a little lean. It was accurate as can be but lacked some warmth. I'm not a tube guy but seriously considered a tube preamp to warm it up. Instead I picked up a Marantz SC7S1 preamp. I was a little wary of the Marantz. I knew they were one of the original great brands but had gone the mass production route and were trying to make a comeback. I also knew if I didn't like it I could probably sell it to a friend of mine. I was quite shocked with the difference a great preamp made in my system. B&W 803D, McCormick DNA-500, Marantz SC7S1 pre and the Wadia581SE. Very balanced and pleasing to the ear. Still as accurate as can be, but better.
Kind of interesting observations about a player that is intended to be used without a preamp. It's a great player but with my McCormick Amp and 803Ds it didn't quite satisfy. I knew I would find something to work well with it though.
I recently lent my preamp to a buddy who also has 803Ds with a Marantz SC11 series SACD player and Bryston SST amp. He's ben running a $800 Rotel preamp and was curious what kind of difference he would see. He had it for 2 days and asked me to take it home because he's not in a position to upgrade right now. When I got the Marantz pre I described it as placing the notes like paint on a canvas. After hearing it in his system he knew what I meant.
Different players will have different characteristics. I know the skeptics say bits is bits, but even my red book CD's sound much better (if they are well recorded in the first place) through the 581SE. The whole digital recording thing seems to be going through a metamorphis for the better. I recently picked up Mark Cohn on a Mobile Fidelity Gold disc. This is a disc I am very familiar with. It was almost as if I had never heard these songs before. An exciting time in digital recording! It's tough to know which direction to go.
I also run an IPOD through a Wadia170i and PS Audio DAC to keep the teens out of the discs. It's a convenient playback system but does not sound close to the 581SE. I consider it an entry level server and the Ipod is convenient and portable. I can basically take my entire music collection in a lossless format anywhere.
Sorry for rambling. Your player is part of a system and all of the components need to work together.
I have recently migrated from the Mcintosh MCD301 to the MCD500, which uses the new Sabre ESS dacs, and find it to be a significant improvement over the MCD301 - good as it is. There is more detail and air in the sound with both Redbook and SACD playback, and offers the added flexibility of external digital inputs. I play my music server through the dacs and WOW! Price is $6500., so well below the $10,000. thershold. Mcintosh offers value in their products and this is a good example of what your high end dollar will get you.
I've heard that the McIntosh 500 is better than the 301, even $2000 better (the difference between the respective MSRPs). Even if I'd known about the 500 when I got my 301, $6500 was too rich for my blood since I'd bought other gear and needed a break for my wallet. Considering how good the 301 is, it's scary to think of what the 500 is like. Either one is an excellent choice if you have the money. Even with my 16 year-old ARC LS3 preamp and B&K monos, the improvement with the 301 over its predecessor is obvious. I hear things I hadn't heard before in familiar CDs. So the 500 must be awesome.
I was fortunate to be in the position to take advantage of an opportunity to trade my 301 back in when the MCD500 was introduced only 4 months after the 301. I simply paid the difference in negotiated purchase price to my dealer. I have never looked back. The 301 is an excellent-sounding player though, and a huge improvement over the MCD201, which I purchased new in 2006. Enjoy!
I have an Ayre C5x-e player with the upgrade company mod .It got everything way better.
The name of the Beast is CARY CD-306 SACD/ CD player Professional Version( $ 8,000 ).
After hearing it OUT OF THE BOX I did find out that my loudspeakers have built-in SUBWOOFERS !!
Its BASS is simply staggering.
I've got an ESOTERIC DV-60 that converts PCM to DSD and does an upsampling up to 24 bit/1. 5 MHz that was completely OVERWHELMED by the CARY CD-306.
The DV-60 sounds DULL and SHABBY if compared to the CD-306.
The CARY gear also has three digital inputs, being therefore an outstanding D/A Converter !!
Oh,man...It is the most beautiful piece of audio engineering I've ever came across...
When used as a D/A Converter, each time you do change the source, you're gonna hear a dreadful clicking noise...
The remote doesn't match the gear. It is a CHEAP,POORMAN's stuff.
All I can say is that hearing this machine altered the way I perceive what music is.
It altered the sheer SIZE of it. It got bigger, deeper, better.
I have to agree with you re: the Cary CD-306. The bass response alone added a realism I hadn't previously heard on orchestral recordings. It's a great SACD and CD player. In addition, when I bought mine late last year, my local dealer offered a substantial discount.
I would like to share my experience with the EMM Labs CDSA SE player which I had for 2 years before recently upgrading to the dCS Puccini. I am not sure if the transport mechanism had been upgraded when I bought it as I did not know any better then and the dealer was mum about it altogether. The EMM has some reliability issues which I observed. This is the first time I have heard about the transport issue, and it is here in this forum. Some days, the EMM will play glorious music and some days, I just wanted to switch it off. This may be attributed to the stability of its power regulation, transport mechanism or DAC section, and one could never be sure. And when playing hybrid stereo SACDs, in some discs, the CD layer sounds much better than the SACD layer, and this is not because of any multi-channel layer which I have checked. There is a slight edge or glare to the outlines of music instruments and a very fine grain overlaying the sound of female vocals from the EMM which may be at first be mistaken for detail but gradually becomes fatiguing. Anyway, when I sold it for the Puccini, there's no turning back.
Hi Jon2020. It sounds to me that your problem with the EMM Labs was related to the interconnect you were using. I had a similar experience until I changed the wire to the preamp. Then I sold the interconnect and kept the CDSA. The sound now from the CDSA is very close to analogue and so realistic you can chew on it, especially female vocals. Try, for example, Diana Krall. Good luck with your dCS Puccini.
After breaking in Cary 303T pro cd/sacd player is the best I have heard in terms of dimensionality, detail and bass response. Plus having an option between tube and solid state output gives listners broader choice in the listning preference. Hope this helps.
I directly compared the Ayre C5xeMP and the Wadia 781 to an Esoteric X-03SE a few months ago. The Esoteric sounded warmer and more like the real event, eliminating all digital glare. The Ayre MP mod seems to clarify yet truncate notes - the Ayre signal sounded a bit artificial next to the X-03SE, and this was apparent with all recordings (the comparison demo was conducted using the same amplification, cables and speakers). I would say the Wadia player fell somewhere between the two in sound quality, but I preferred the Esoteric unit's inherent warmth, as it would be more flexible with tube or solid state amplification, and I just liked the sound better.
I've read wonderful things about the Cary 306 Pro and latest Sony player, but have not heard them yet. I was underwhelmed by the McIntosh 301, in contrast to their excellent amplifiers - the latest MCD500 version may be an improvement, but I haven't auditioned it.
I heard the latest EMM SACD player at CES 2010, and it was stellar from a stark realism perspective, but not warm enough for long term listening, per my own preferences.
What do you think of the Marantz SA KI Pearl ?
I have not run across it yet in my area (San Francisco), but would love to hear one. Everything I read indicates that it is excellent - and I am familiar with the Marantz DV9500, which served as my universal player for a number of years. With a tube amp, it was outstanding.
Purchased the Sony XA5400ES when it first came out & I have to agree-you can spend more, but in this case you won't get more. Search on-line & you can find the Sony for quite a bit less.
From several very good comments (Disbeliver, Dave_B from audiogon forums, etc.) I was convinced that Sony's SCD-XA5400ES player was the perfect player for me (sonic quality/price).
In that in mind, I decied to buy it (2011). I have been shopping for that player all over Europe (I did not trying in US due to incompatibility voltage) and it seems I have just arrived too late! This player has been discontinued and it seems there is online shop/retailler with it in stock.
So my question is: what is the "second" best (sonic quality/price) player after the SCD-XA5400ES? My budget is around US$1.500 (up to US$2.000, if needed) for a SACD/CD player. Does any one know of a Sony SCD-XA5400ES new/replace model?
Thank you for your comments,