Compact disc

Super Audio Compact Disc Players

Super Audio CD player Marantz SA15S2.

SACD: what you need to know

SUPER Audio CDs (SACDs) are rare in Australian music stores, although many specialty hi-fi retailers have them in stock. You’ll find many more from overseas suppliers (especially in Japan), and they’re usually priced 20-25% higher than regular CDs.

Your CD player – or DVD or Blu-ray player, for that matter – probably won’t play a SACD; the player must have an SACD decoder chip, and most do not. But SACD players read normal CDs.

There is a wrinkle there, however. Many SACDs are hybrid discs. That is, in addition to carrying SACD content, they also carry a regular CD stereo program of the same music, which you will hear if you put them in a CD player.

The sound quality will therefore be exactly the same as a regular CD.

But put the same disc in a SACD player and you will get the far superior SACD recording in all its glory.

SACD recordings can be in stereo or two-channel surround sound, and the discs are labeled appropriately.

SACD is not the same as another premium audio disc format, known as DVD-Audio or DVD-A, and the two are incompatible.

Marantz SA15s2
$ 2,780

There are a number of DVD and Blu-ray players that support SACDs, and there are dedicated SACD players cheaper than this one, but this entry-level Marantz player (there are four in the lineup, going up to $ 4,690) is probably one of the cheaper ones that does the format full justice. It’s fast, smooth, and beautifully designed. What we really like about it is that special attention has been paid to the headphone jack to get the best possible sound quality for the money. And there are a lot of technical tweaks here to provide precise and super fast signal handling. It can also function as a digital to analog converter, and it handles MP3 and WMA as well as CD and CD-R / RW.

Electrocompany EMP2
$ 3999

EDVARD Grieg was not the only great music creator to come from Norway, audio equipment maker Electrocompaniet is also from there. You can spend a lot more on one of their disc players than that, but the EMP2 will appeal to those who want a single disc player that does it all, including DVDs and Blu-rays up to 7.1ch, including including DVD-Audio. It’s a flexible player that, in addition to handling surround sound, does a great job with two channels, with a separate balanced stereo output up to 192 kilohertz / 24-bit resolution. SACDs can be played in stereo or surround, all with the shortest possible signal paths to reduce the risk of interference.

Krell cipher
$ 14,999

REALLY, it’s not the most expensive disc player on the market – you can easily spend twice as much. But for our ears, this is where the law of diminishing returns hits the wall – we can’t see (or hear) the point of spending more when the sound of it is so pure. One of the main reasons for this is digital to analog conversion. The vast majority of players have a single DA converter, but this one has one for each of the two channels, and these balanced DACs feed the circuits directly in current mode. There is also vibration and shock insulation. The only thing we don’t like about this drive is the way it looks, but Krell has never been into the aesthetic. Maybe it’s because it’s American.


Getting into SACD properly doesn’t come cheap, aside from the cost of the discs themselves, but the improvement over CD is tangible. You have to be prepared to spend what it takes, however.