Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Updating the SACD player

In sorting out my junk for sale, I also retested my Sony DVP-NS500V dvd player.  This was in the second generation of SACD playing products (after the SCD-1/777ES), and it was the lowest priced single disc SACD player.  It was also a DVD player of pretty low credentials now.

It was a cult player, and favorite of modifiers because you could buy this player new for as little as $149 and then fill it up with $1000 or more of mods, and people would say it challenged the big dogs.  My audio-nut brother-in-law liked it pure stock as the best sounding SACD player, I think for the few days that he even considered SACD's worth listening to.  He had suggested that the second generation of SACD decoders from Sony was better than the first.

In scientifically useless sighted testing I preferred it in some ways to the Denon 5900, my living room player.  It had a more dynamic and expressive sound on SACD's.  The Denon sounded quieter, cleaner, as though it wasn't taking any chances.   On CD's I preferred the Denon 5900 and even the Denon 2900.

Now I don't take SACD or the equivalent (and I stress equivalent) digital file format DSD as the ultimate of anything other than hype.  In no way are these formats superior to PCM formats using the same amount of data, and my personal feeling remains that SACD's or PCM files are even inferior to Redbook CD….although it may be fooling at times since the SACD does have better midrange dynamic range.

So I don't obsess about SACD's or pure DSD signal paths.  But I feel it's worth having the best SACD playback, at least, as I can, for music that is only or best available that way.

I couldn't have pure DSD anyway because  the backbone of my system, from selection to level control and crossover and EQ are all done in PCM, and cannot be done in anything like DSD anyway.  I read SACD's by resampling them to 24/96 digital using a Lavry AD10.

I strongly reject the concept that DSD files have the potential to sound better than optical disc transports.  Highly tuned optical disc transports have the possibility of not only having the lowest jitter, but of having a particular kind of forward-motion timing much like idler wheel turntables.  Lack of motion is not a possible state, given the rotational inertia and forward drive force.  Whatever variation exists is forward running and not fed back into itself.  This is going to sound free as in freedom.  Meanwhile, most asynchronous digital systems like USB and Sonos operate on the principles of handshaking and full duplex communication.  This is going to have a different kind of time signature, one of deliberate action, give and take, action and reaction.  I know this sounds like magical thinking, and may be, but it seems to me that at the very finest of levels, these correlations (or something similar to what I'm describing) are what actually exists…whether we can detect them or not.  Clocks are never exactly perfect, etc., and furthermore in real systems all the imperfections have ample force to be correlated through sharing space, grounding, and connections.  When you have multiple stages of time varying devices which are intended to reject the incoming time variations, they can never do it perfectly.  Basically, everything is awash in tiny variations, with relationships that produce actual if not statistically verifiable correlations.  The mere fact that you have "buffering" or whatever doesn't mean the problem is completely solved…at least at the level of the tiniest actual particles and wavelengths, variations continue to go on at the tiniest of levels, and everything within an electromagnetic sphere of influence has some contribution to the proceedings.  Best is to make everything, at every level and every way, as stable, simple, uncorrelated (free), forward running, and close to the next amplifier as possible (distance is loss too), that's the best linear system for music.  That's what you get with a very high end packaged SACD player, as compared with a network of interacting devices which ultimately decodes DSD files.  And timing is more critical to DSD.

(Audibility?  There is no reason to believe such effects would be remotely audible (DSD 1x files vs SACD players).  Jitter becomes audible many orders of magnitude better than the worst but correctly performing digital equipment, according to published research.  But remember, proven audibility is not what I am concerned about.  What I am concerned about is not the verifiable, but the potential for difference, a difference that ultimately might make a difference within the infinite possibilities of the future.  Anyway nobody who claims an audible difference can back that up with scientifically respectable research at this point.  It's all just hand waving.  So if I can point to what actually has better potential, not just someone's current opinion based on biases, I win.)

So I believe it's worth having an SACD optical player, and maybe even play CD's this way too, by resampling them to digital rather than using the digital output or digital files.  I am thinking now that this  works precisely because both the player and the ultimate digital signal are decoupled in time.  Digital sampling is measurably so close to perfect as to be as good as any analog preamp, so there is no penalty for using it in this way, and anything can be resampled to anything else with nearly perfect dithering.

And now I find out that generally the first generation DAC chips Sony used in its statement SACD players, the SCD-1 and SCD-777es and also the cheaper DVP-9000ES, the "V24" series, is considered superior to the second generation chipset in my NS500V player…which was intended for AV products and not audiophile products.

I'd always lusted over the cool looking SCD-1 with a top loading drive with weight, which I think in general is a superior configuration (though the specific unit in the SCD-1 may not be as good as transports in other units such as Esoteric and Accuphase which are conventional drawer loading--or even possibly the transport in the DVP-9000ES).  Now I find out I can get almost the same thing in the 777ES, but all the players after that, including the current 5400ES, look cheaply built in comparison, lacking the heavy build and heavy transport.

(When a CD plays in a cheap front loading player, it may be vibrating like hell.  You wonder how the system works, but it works just up to a breaking point.  But this is further time variation at the beginning of the whole process, messing everything up downstream, no matter how much buffering, etc., there is a chain of causality and correlation is created.  And with higher speed media such as SACD, it's 10 times worse, or maybe 20 times worse, on top of the timing itself being 64x more critical.  Now the vibration may not always be so bad, I'm talking worst case here.  But you simply can't imagine this happening with a SACD clamped or weighted down onto a heavy metal platform.  So this is why I like the idea of a top loading player, because it makes sure you are going to have a flat spinning disc without too much vibration.)

So the kind of thing I'd like to get would be SCD-1, SCD-777ES, DVP-9000ES.  Also it looks like the Marantz units are especially good, and may honor the SACD/DSD signal better than Denon.  Something like an SA11.  I'm not sure whether the Esoteric DV-50, now available not too far out of my price range, would honor SACD as well but it could be far better with CD's, and looks to have a transport that may be among the best among these alternatives.

I actually don't see any reason why having the laser fixed as in the SCD-1 is a good idea.  The usual method of fixing the spindle sounds much easier, and possibly better.  Might as well have the rotating element fixed--it's certainly the harder thing to move.  A simpler top loading drive would be a good idea, for reasons I have explained, but neither Sony nor Esoteric nor Accuphase nor Marantz offer that. I do have the feeling now that of the mechanisms available, the top of the line Esoteric is the best.  But that's not something I can imagine affording soon.  At this point I can only imagine the DV50 and that is really way beyond my need for SACD, and I think it might not be the better choice for SACD among these options anyway, though it could make up for any inferiorities with a better mechanism too perhaps.

Timing is very very important for one bit formats.  In a way, all of the information is just timing.  So an especially good transport is a must.  Sadly many of the old classics like the CEC belt drive transport were made for CD not SACD.

No comments:

Post a Comment