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SACD 5.1 Demo at Sony

I attended a demo for 5.1 surround SACD at Sony music studios this past Thursday evening.

We listened in a mix room which had a 48 channel Sony Oxford console & custom speakers set up. However we listened on a dedicated setup of equipment which included large ATC self powered monitors (same speakers in 4 corners of the room, ATC powered center spkr. & powered ATC subwoofers.
Playback was from a top of the line Sony SACD player.

The following tracks were played:
Aerosmith: Sweet Emotion: marvelous, with fun use of surround to accentuate percussion. Strong front, center image for vocals & guitar.

Roxy Music: The Space Between: from "Avalon", again a lovely lush, mix: warm & undigital

Elton John: Candle In The Wind: from "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road", not yet releaseed. Nice piano sound, good vocal, maybe too much kick.

The Who: Pinball Wizzard: from "Tommy". Sort of disappointing. I had huge expectations for this new release. Lacked dynamics, sounded over compressed. Our Sony demonstrator said "Pete wanted this to be really loud". He got that, all right.

Pink Floyd: Money & Great Gig In The Sky: from "DSOM". Slightly gimmiky mix, but suited to the music. Sounded not as good as I had expected. Some EQ wierdness in the mids, also sounded compressed.

Sam Cooke: Twistin' The Night Away: from "Live At The Copa". An amaizing job recreating the ambience of the venue from a 3 track analog master. Limitations in the mix put drums hard left, horns hard right. Good vocal sound. Very lifelike.

Beck: track from "Sea Change": Fine mix of contemporary recording. Adds a really nice different dimension to an already good recording.

Steely Dan: Babylon Sister: from "Gaucho". WOW, a real winner. Sounds much better than the latest Dan release on DVD-A although I do not believe that is the fault / or credit of the media. This is a demo track par excellance!

Marvin Gaye: Let's Get It On: another spectacular track. Had everyone dancing. Much better than 2 channel audio. Way better than CD.

Bob Dylan: Absolutely Sweet Marie: from Blonde On Blonde. Not as good a recording as "Blood On The Tracks". Also dates from 1966. Sounded smaller & edgier than previous 2 tracks. But still better than original. Heard instruments not previously audible in original CD or vinyl. Subtle things became much more clear. "Blood On The Tracks" very nice.

Peter Gabriel: Growing Up: from "UP". Gabriel says he will conceive all his future music in surround rather than 2 channel. He makes great use of the media. Sounds "right", another good demo disc.

Bob Dylan: Mr Tambourine Man: from "Bringin' It All Back Home". Real depth & startlingly good vocal sound. Like he was in the roon singing. We did a comparison to standard 16/44.1 CD. Not even close. Another good demo track.

Aerosmith: Walk This Way: not as transparent as "Sweet Emotion", still interesting, just not quite as good a recording. Not bad, considering age.

Sony is making a big PR push in "Rolling Stone" magazine shortly. They are really going to try to make SACD a mainstream product. I wish them the best of luck. Quality audio may yet win out, especially now that some prices are coming down.

Have any of you had a chance to check out any of these tracks yet?


GT40sc Wed, 11/19/2003 - 11:18

Hey Don,

Thanks for the report. Wish I coulda been there too...

Have only heard SACD at a local hi-fi shop a few years ago...the first-generation Sony player at five grand, and 10 thousand dollar Martin-Logans, etc. And not in 5.1, either...

Do you have a favorite SACD player you could recommend?


Don Grossinger Mon, 12/01/2003 - 07:37

I think there are 2 factors:

1) Backwards compatability: SACD has this (at least on some discs). DVD-A does not. SACD gets the nod here.

2) Mixes: this is totally a matter of choice & taste. I have heard really good and really bad mixes on either format (by my taste). Like mastering, there are lots of ways to make the final product sound, which way do you want it?
Both formats can be equal.

Both formats sound very good. I hope a good sounding, reasonably priced "universal player" is released soon, so we all can enjoy both formats.