Welcome to PS3SACD.com. This site aims to be the most extensive Super Audio CD resource for PlayStation3 users. Considering it seems to be the only dedicated SA-CD site for PS3, we're confident it actually is. We also cover other aspects of the versatile media player that PS3 is, other SACD-compatible BD players, DSD, audio-only Blu-ray Discs, and other high-resolution multi-channel music formats, especially for pop/rock music.
Sony SACD/BD range 2013
At CES 2013, Sony has revealed its fourth consecutive range of SACD-compatible Blu-ray Disc players. This time, not quite all models got equipped with SACD support – only the higher-end models did. Here's an overview of the new BD players and home theater systems. The BDP-Sx100 models are the successors to the 2012 BDP-Sx90 series and the BDP-Sx80 and BDP-Sx70 before that.
Sony BDP-S5100 SACD/DVD/BD player
Sony BDV-9100W SACD/DVD/BD Home Theater System
Similarly, home cinema systems (in this case BD players with integrated AV receivers and typically bundled with surround sound speaker packages) BDV-N9100W and BDV-N7100W will properly play SACDs while BDV-E6100, BDV-E4100, BDV-E3100, BDV-E2100 and BDV-EF1100 will not. Note that most of these systems are not released in North America and that availability in Europe may vary from country to country.
We'll update our overview of SACD-compatible BD players with the 'BDP-Sx100' models shortly.
Top 20 bestsellers of 2012
Better late than never, here are the music discs that shifted most copies through this site in the past year. Sincere thanks to all visitors who've purchased stuff this way. The number 1 album has changed compared to 2011 but the band hasn't:
The best-selling SACD players, universal and otherwise, were these:
All of these play BD. The Oppo and Pioneer are universal (also play DVD-Audio), the Sonys lack this format. Runner-up was a universal DVD player: Pioneer DV-610.
The best-selling AV Receiver here was the Onkyo TX-NR509 5.1 Channel Network A/V Receiver.
Natually, all games consoles sold were PS3s. In order of popularity they were:
Note that the Super Slim models do not play SACD.
For a visual overview of 2012, click here.
SACD release rate stable in 2012
No further uptick this past year (like the two years before) but the number of SACD titles released in 2012 – 740 – is pretty much in line with the annual average across the past nine years: 728.
Numbers are based on the database of sa-cd.net. In the course of 2012 the site switched from a system entirely run by the admin to one where users need to submit all details for new entries but this does not seem to have affected the numbers. A positive sign: in the past month, December, the number of new entries reached an all-time high: 146.
If SACD releases continue at the current rate, by the end of next year the total catalog will approach 10,000 titles.
Oppo BDP-103 and BDP-105 available
In September, we announced two new universal Blu-ray Disc players from Oppo Digital: the BDP-103 and BDP-105 – successors to the popular BDP-93 and BDP-95. Again, the model with the higher type number is the audiophile edition of the other, the difference only being relevant if you use the analog audio outputs.
New or enhanced features shared by BDP-103/105:
New BDP-105 Only Features:
Sony marries DSD audio to 4K video
Four years ago, in December 2008, the Berlin Philharmonic announced the Digital Concert Hall – an AV streaming service for watching the orchestra's performances across the web. This summer, at the 2012 Berlin IFA, Sony announced a co-operation with the Berlin Philharmoniker that should lead to new, high-quality audio products. The first product we've seen linked to this program is the SS-AR speaker series, the brochure of which so beautifully refers to DSD, SACD and Gus Skinas of the Super Audio Center in Boulder, Colorado and shows a Sonoma digital audio workstation (DAW).
* except BDP-S185
Now this November, Sony presented a new concept where they're capturing the BP's performances for the Digital Concert Hall in 4K Ultra-HD resolution video and multi-channel DSD (likely not compressed, not even losslessly like DST Direct Stream Transfer). What a nice new A/V standard that is, we reckon. Such a worthy successor to Blu-ray Disc. We never quite understood why Sony did not include DSD as one of the audio formats on Blu-ray Disc, not even specified it as an optional one. Sony together with Philips introduced the DSD audio format to the market with the Super Audio CD format in 1999. For some reason we don't fully get it has taken until 2012 for DSD to suddenly become a lot more popular with an endless flow of DSD-capable devices such as stand-alone DACs announced (new DSD hardware coverage here, here and here; more coming up soon – in the meantime follow this Twitter feed).
Anyway, there's no mention in the press release of any new optical disc format here (though plenty of legacy products) so it's likely meant for 'digital' delivery (streaming and downloading) only, although it's perfectly well imaginable to store such an AV stream on a high-capacity optical disc like a future read-only version of the existing 128 GB BD-XL format. We'll do the exact math at a later moment but a back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests it's realistic: BDXL provides up to 128 GB capacity but even the 'basic' version offers 100 GB – twice that of a dual-layer regular Blu-ray Disc. 4K resolution contains four times the amount of pixels of 'Full HD' 1080p video but if a switch to HEVC (High-Efficiency Video Codec, also referred to as H.265) improves coding efficiency by 50% like reported then twice the capacity of a regular Blu-ray Disc would do – not just for the 74-80 minutes typically needed for music albums but even for full-length feature films.
That is, if the frame rate can stay the same. Some suggest motion blur will be more visible at higher resolutions so the frame rate may need to be doubled, in turn doubling the bandwidth required.
Of course, DSD may require more bits per second than standard fare audio, especially multichannel DSD, but not necessarily much more than formats like DTS-HD Master Audio and even at these quality levels the capacity needed for audio is relatively small compared to the video. More details about these numbers in a future post.
As it turns out, Sony has for the time being Sony has actually chosen for distribution of 4K content on physical media – on Hard Disks. According to their blog, buyers of Sony's XBR-84X900 4K LED television will get a special 4K Ultra HD Video Player on loan, that contains a Hard Disk Drive with ten recent Hollywood movies plus a gallery of other 4K content including some shorts pre-loaded.
For now however it appears that Sony has taken the capture to the next level but the delivery and reproduction isn't quite following yet. Displays are there and speakers are never the bottleneck but the only 4K-capable BD player, the current flagship model BDP-S790, can output this resolution by upscaling regular HD content. However, whether it (or PS3, or any of the other devices listed above) can handle 4K video streaming is unclear.
In less than a month there will be the 2013 CES where Sony will no doubt introduce its new range of BD Players. Likely, many of these will feature this year's top-of-the-range spec point, 4K output. By the way, BD-XL support doesn't appear to be there either. We're curious what Sony will come up with. We've pretty much given up hope (after four years) for a new real ES series component that would be a successor to the BDP-S5000ES and SCD-XA5400ES in one, although such a model would fit very nicely with the ambitions Sony pronounced when they engaged with the BPO. We'll keep you posted.
Rush 5.1 reissue program: 2112
Spring last year, Rush' album Moving Pictures was reissued after it had been remastered in stereo and 5.1. It got released on CD + BD-Audio and also CD + DVD-Audio. Now, one and a half year later, their album 2112 gets the same treatment. Not quite in a rush, one might say, but good news for fans of some symphonic rock.
The CD/DVD gets packed in the same type of packaging as the previous reissue – a gatefold digipack in a sort of plastic slipcase like Universal Music has used for so many reissues in recent years. The CD/BD-A version however is part of a deluxe collector's edition box set. Note: The DVD-Audio cannot be played fully on PS3, but the Blu-ray audio disc can.
Let's hope more Rush albums (as well as other artists') get this treatment, and that it will not take until the year 2112 to complete.
Philips returns to SACD
Six years after Sony Computer Entertainment, four years after Oppo, three years after Marantz, two and a half years after Sony's Home A/V division and one year after Pioneer, Philips – together with Sony inventor of the SACD format – has finally made a Blu-ray Disc player that plays SACD. It's Philips first SACD-capable player in about six years. Already announced at IFA 2012 but with such little fanfare that we had missed it entirely, the BDP9700 is Philips' new flagship BD player.
There's only little mention of SACD in the user manual but apparently DSD output is supported via HDMI. The player also has analog multichannel outputs on the back. Probably this player is based on the same new Mediatek platform that the latest Oppo players are built on – a successor to the one earlier Oppos, Cambridge Audio and Primare players were constructed from.
It's difficult to find information about the product. Although it's offered in the staff shop in the Netherlands, the product information page redirects to the national homepage. The same is the case in other countries like Germany. The 'directions for use' can be downloaded (here). The fact they're in English, Chinese, Tamil and Malay – Singapore's four official languages – suggests that the product is released at least in Singapore and possibly some other Asian territories. This wouldn't be the first flagship Philips product that's eventually skipped by most of the national sales organisations. The only Amazon where we could find the product is the German one. Note: BDP9700/12 denotes the (continental) Europe version; /98 the Asia-Pacific 'slash version'.
Notable features include Qdeo video processing; video upscaling to 'Quad Full HD' i.e. 4K; DivX Plus HD; BD-3D; 'Smart TV Plus' to connect to all sorts of online video services; Philips 'SimplyShare' streaming connectivity; TI Burr-Brown 24-bit/192kHz DACs (which ones exactly isn't specifies) and a separate linear power supply with a toroidal transformer. For more details you can download the 'product spec sheet' leaflet here.
We've added the Philips as the 12th brand in our survey of SACD-compatible Blu-ray Disc players. One important last note: Like the Sony players but unlike all the other players in that list, the Philips – for 'political' reasons – does not support DVD-Audio, so it's not a truly universal disc player.
DSD update: new software, content, and especially hardware
Since 2010, we're seeing a lot of asynchronous D/A converters with USB ports come to market, usually in the form of a compact box that serves as a headphone amp. Since this year all of a sudden however we're not just seeing high-resolution PCM DACs but a large number of DSD DACs, some even with DXD support. Two months ago (August 5 and 11) we already reported on a lot of these products. Here's an overview of what has been announced since.
The exaSound Audio Design e20 USB DAC handles DSD as well as DXD.
This Fidelix Caprice box seems to be able to handle DSD (via HDMI, also double rate DSD) after an optional upgrade.
The new Benchmark Media DAC2 announced at Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2012 does native DSD conversion and has an asynchronous USB audio interface. It's available now via Amazon. Its not cheap though -- $1,995!
Not shown there but listed on Love Harmony's website: this AX-WD DAC. A software update will upgrade it from regular DSD64 (2.8MHz) to double-rate DSD128 (5.6MHz), according to the manufacturer.
TEAC just announced they'll issue HR Audio Player software on Windows and MacOS for use with USB DACs like their own above-mentioned UD-501. It supports MP3, FLAC, high-resolution PCM, DXD, and DSD64 as well as DSD128 via DoP.
Lastly, regarding DSD content, Channel Classics is now offering a free trial download package with track in four different qualities including DSD. And Japanese music label Wataridori Records offers recordings (The Coronoa Shine) on DVD-R with audio in 5.6Mhz double-rate DSD (￥3,000). Note that PS3 does not support this DSD flavor.
Released November 28:
Released December 26:
The 2012 DSD masters are all based on DG's original analog tapes. SHM-SACDs are single-layer stereo only. Price: ¥4,286/¥4,500 excluding/including sales tax.
SCE has issued PlayStation 3 System Software version 4.30. Life with PlayStation and Folding@home are phased out. Published improvements are only in the area of trophies.
New hi-res audio standard: NextCD
A group of Japanese companies including Memory-Tech, krypton, Q-tec and Camerata Tokyo, calling themselves Promotion Group of Blu-ray Disc for High Resolution Audio, has announced a new standard: NextCD. The most interesting thing is: It's not a CD – it's a BD i.e. a Blu-ray Disc. It contains primarily audio (and optionally some video); audio in high resolution: 24-bit 96kHz or 192kHz uncompressed linear PCM in 2-channel i.e. stereo. A single-layer BD can hold up to 500 minutes of such music. We'd rather not consider what the selling price of a disc with that much content would be but according to the group, pricing will be "similar to SACD", in the "mid-3000-yen" range. That's cheaper than SHM-SACDs.
We'll call this a new standard rather than a new format because the discs are simply fully compliant to the BD standard: all content plays on any BD player (including PS3, one of which was used in the demo presentation). That's great because it ensures an enormous installed base.
The name for the new standard has not been finalized yet. Besides NextCD, BD Music is one of the names considered. Whether multichannel audio is considered an option (or even a mandatory aspect) of the new standard is not clear from the website or the article. Of course, it's perfectly well allowed in the BD format.
The title line-up is not as amibitious as with, for instance, the recent Blu-spec CD2 introduction, which came with 111 titles. Here, about 10 titles are announced. Interestingly, the Naxos Pure Audio BD albums we recently covered were also shown as examples.
Let's hope that with a concerted effort this could stimulate the market for high-quality sound carriers rather than add to the consumer and industry confusion about such standards.
A long, long overdue update on Blu-ray Audio music. A number of other titles have been announced, mostly in the classical area.
Then some non-classical news: The album Modern Cool by Patricia Barber, already available on stereo hybrid SACD and other media for a long time, has been re-mastered for Pure Audio BD in DTS 5.1 Master Audio (96/24) and 24/192 stereo by its original recording engineer, Jim Anderson.
On the website of MSM Studios, the company that conceived the Blu-ray Audio concept, which lets you navigate an audio-only Blu-ray Disc without the need for a TV screen, we find the following other recent titles:
Latter title is a 17-disc Deluxe edition from the Decca label, consisting of Wagner's complete Ring cycle on some 14 CDs, a DVD and one audio-only Blu-ray Disc with the complete Ring presented as 24-bit files. It's available on Amazon where you'll also find more details.
We've updated our Blu-ray Audio store with as many titles as we could find – still a relatively small number compared to the amount of SACDs available, but it's growing steadily.
And lastly some SACD news:
In Japan, Sony Music has compiled a collector's box of Glenn Gould, The Goldberg Variations 30th anniversary Edition that consists of 3 Hybrid SACDs, 2 DVDs and 7 Blu-spec CDs; a limited edition that's already sold out at HMV but still available from CD Japan.
Sony Music launches Blu-spec CD2 standard
Four years ago, Sony Music (yes, the record label – not the electronics company) introduced the Blu-spec CD standard. As we reported then, it's basically a Red Book CD of which the physical master disc has been prepared with a blue laser instead of a red laser, thus creating more accurate 'pits' – a marginal improvement, but one that apparently strikes a chord with many audiophiles in the Japanese market, the only market at which this and many similar innovations (see article referenced above) are targeted.
According to many reviews, Blu-spec CDs sound really good but we are convinced this is only because great attention to detail has been paid in the audio mastering process, not so much because of the physical characteristics of the disc.
Back then, we wrote we hoped Sony would one day rather launch a standard with a real sound quality improvement over RBCD, ideally a 'Blu-spec SACD'. That still hasn't happened. What do we get instead? Blu-spec CD2.
With the original Blu-spec CD, the innovations were the use of a blue laser (likely 405 nm) and a special type of polycarbonate substrate. With 'BSCD2', we get:
Sony calls this 'Phase Transition Mastering'. But it's still an RBCD.
The new standard (it's not a new format) will be launched with a roster of 111 titles, ranging from classical to Jimi Hendrikx. You can find them in this Japanese press release [PDF]. The technical details are explained (in Japanese) on this new website (via AV Watch).
All we'll say (once more) is: Sony, please give us Blu-spec SACDs, just like Universal Music Japan gave us SHM-SACDs after SHM-CDs.
Update: If you're interested in Blu-spec CD2 discs, you can now browse the collection (at least 100 titles) at CD Japan (in English).
Two new universal Marantz players: UD-5007, UD-7007
Hot on the heels of the new universal disc players by Oppo, Pioneer and Denon, Denon's sister brand Marantz launches another one. And then there's one we overlooked this summer. They are:
Supported disc types include BD Video, Blu-ray 3D, BD-Live/Bonusview, BD-R/RE, SACD, CD-DA, CD-R/RW, DVD-Audio, DVD-Video, DVD±R/RW, AVCHD, AVCREC. Media formats supported for playback from USB include MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV, FLAC, MPEG, WMV, AVI, DivX (also DivX PLUS HD) and still images of PNG and JPEG flavor.
Main changes of the UD7007 over the UD7006 are the inclusion of balanced XLR outputs and playback of WAV/FLAC files of up to 24bit/192kHz, though the DAC (Burr-Brown PCM1795, if our source get its right) supports up to 32bit/192kHz PCM, and DSD. Start-up time and disc read time have been reduced by 40% and 20% respectively.
There are double HDMI outputs for separate audio and video connections. A Pure Direct mode lets you switch off the video circuitry. A 'Marantz Remote' app for iPhone, iPod Touch and Android phones lets you operate the set as well as (new, 2012) Marantz AV Receivers with network features. Regarding networking, the player supports DLNA Digital Media Player (DMP) v1.5 and DTCP-IP.
It appears the two players are available in black in North America but also in silver in Europe. You'll find them in our ever-growing list of SACD-compatible BD players. One product you will not find there is Denon's latest SACD/CD player, the DCD-1650RE -- it's not BD-compatibe.
New, slimmer PlayStation 3 design is here
As predicted, SCE presented the PS3 CECH-4000 series at the 2012 Tokyo Games Show. The new console design is about the same width, a little slimmer and a lot less deep than the previous 'slim' models. The specs however are the same, except for the power consumption: that has been lowered from 200W to 190W, so apparently the main chips have not gone through a shrink or integration step. The weight has been reduced from 2.6 to 2.1 kg. Of course, as was to be expected, the new type does not support SACD. It will support DSD Disc playback though. We've updated our FAQ accordingly.
Quadrophenia on Criterion Blu-ray Disc
Six months ago we reported The Who's Quadrophenia had become available in a multichannel mix, but only on a DVD-Audio that was exclusively sold as part of a multi-disc deluxe edition collector's box. That wrong has now been righted, sort of. Not with a standalone DVD-A, an SACD or even an audio-only BD but a Criterion Collection Blu-ray Disc.
The movie already existed on BD, even in a Special Edition with DTS sound, but the picture and sound have now been restored by Criterion. The reissue features a lossless stereo track and a specially created 5.1-channel track in DTS Master Audio. The movie may not contain all of the music from the album but it's a welcome piece for any fan.
SHM-SACD: No more pop, rock, jazz or blues?
The fear we expressed last month when the SHM-SACD titles for release in September were announced appears to be founded: Also in October (street date October 31) we see only classical titles and no more pop/rock, jazz, blues or any other genre. The three titles are:
Would Universal Music have run out of suitable source material? We doubt that. Would it be bad business? It's difficult to see how, because the production cost is pretty low (SHM-SACDs are always stereo only so no mixing to multichannel is required), the replication cost is modest (SHM-SACDs are always single-layer, a lot like a plain DVD, i.e. no hybrid disc manufacture is required) and the discs are sold at a premium price. And lastly, the discs were released as limited editions into the Japanese retail market but found their way to global audiences via export/import.
We hope UMG (and other record companies) resume the issuing of pop/rock albums on SACD soon. If it’s really the company’s decision to focus completely on classical we'll regret that deeply.
New universal BD players: Pioneer, Denon, Oppo
Pioneer Japan announced a new BD/DVD-Video/DVD-Audio/SACD/CD player the other week: the BDP-450, successor to last year’s BDP-440. Like the 440 model which was released in Europe too this one's been announced there too, ahead of IFA even. It can be pre-ordered from Amazon UK, Germany and France.
Not a universal player but a dedicated CD/SACD/DSD-Disc player is the PD-70, which rounds off the range they started a few months ago with the PD-10, PD-30 and PD-50. It doesn't play DVD-Video or DVD-Audio discs but will read DVD-R/RW discs with DSD. It's got a 32-bit 192kHz DAC. It's got a perfect timeless Pioneer high-end audio design with a solid construction and makes a nice combination with the new, somewhat retro-looking A-70 amplifier (a style that's gotten very fahionable lately, judging by Yamaha's latest CD/SACD player and amplifier, the CD-S3000 and A-S3000 shown at IFA 2012; picture courtesy of AV Watch). Note that both these Pioneer components are purely stereo devices.
Denon meanwhile has launched the DBT-3313UD 'Universal Audio/Video Player Disc Transport' (called 'Universal Disc Transport' on some of their sites) in Japan, the US and Europe; available in silver (in Europe at least) as well as black and already on Amazon.com and Amazon Germany. Its connections are about as different from the above player as they could be -- where the Pioneer has analog stereo and digital stereo outputs in optical and coaxial formats, the Denon appear to lack any optical or coaxial digital output. Instead it features dual HDMI outputs, Denon Link HD, an ethernet network port, RS-232C control port and mini-jacks for Remote Control loopthrough on the rear panel. Well, and analog stereo outputs for Multi-Zone use. On the front there's a USB input.
The new player makes a nice combination with the similarly named AVR-3313CI (covered and reviewed by AV Watch, in Japanese), or with Denon's new flaghsip AV Receiver, the AVR-4520 announced yesterday/last week.
Lastly, at CEDIA Oppo Digital has shown two new universal disc players, the BDP-103 and BDP-105 that will replace the BDP-93 and BDP-95. Like these two current models they'll be priced $499 and $999 (¥100,000 and ¥200,000 in Japan) respectively, and should appear this fall and this winter. One of the new features (for both probably) is upscaling to '4K2K'. We assume the difference between the two will again be in the area of digital-to-analog audio conversion, which means only if you'll only use analog out the higher-end of the two types offers extra value.
More about the new Oppo players when they reach the market.
In the meantime you can find the new Pioneer, Denon and Oppo players in our survey of available SACD-compatible Blu-ray Disc players, along with the recent Denon DBT-1713UD.
Teac Reference 501 Series: CD Player with DSD playback
It’s that last component that drew our attention: The CD player offers DSD playback but no SACD playback. What could that mean? Does the laser only read CDs (780nm wavelength) and no high-density optical discs of the 4.7GB type (635-650nm wavelength) that DVD and SACD employ? In that case it will also not be able to read DSD Discs, which are based on recordable or rewritable DVDs. Would the player support DSD playback from CDs? That’s an unpractical solution because DSD requires a higher data rate than CD can handle at normal speeds, and even if the drive spins faster and the electronics beyond it sustain higher data rates you’d be left with a very short playing time. Or could it be the device does play DSD from DVD but SACD support is omitted because of the requirements that the copy protection imposes on the digital output, which in this case seems to be USB instead of HDMI (with HDCP) or i.LINK (with DTCP), or a proprietary interface like Denon link. We suspect the latter. Perhaps it’s time to apply DTCP to the high-speed USB interface? Why not use the XLR connection that SACD transports like the TEAC K-07 uses?
In other DSD-related news, Onkyo has just shown a new 2.1-channel amplifier with USB port through which it can handle input of DSD, 24-bit 192-kHz FLAC and ALAC (Apple Lossless), the NR-365 Network AV Receiver. It comes bundled with a subwoofer (BASE-SW50) or with a 2.1 speaker package bundled (BASE-V50).
Firmware v4.25 out
SCE has issued System Software version 4.25 for PlayStation 3. The most eminent feature is the expansion of online storage space for game save data of PlayStation Plus members from 150MB to 1GB.
Sony: CEDIA news
CEDIA 2012 has just closed. Hot on the heels of the STR-DA5800ES and the STR-DN1030 announced at IFA a week earlier Sony has bowed two more ES series AV receivers: the STR-DA2800ES and STR-DA1800ES. New features these devices share include Control4 home control system compatibility, which will be of interest especially to the custom installers that make up the CEDIA organization, and apps for both iOS and Android. The 2800ES, like the 5800ES, offers Faroudja 4K upconversion.
A nice detail in the press release is the mention of DSD decoding, although its mentioned just as an example of innovations by the ES series -- not as a feature of any of these AVRs. Probably it's included but it's not clear.
No new ES series SACD or BD player to succeed the SCD-XA5400ES and BDP-S5000ES but that was actually to be expected: If it didn’t show up after three years it’s probably not going to happen any more after four years or ever after. Still remarkable that the main proponent of the Blu-ray Disc format and also the SACD format has not shown more innovation in its flagship AV product range that the ES series (Elevated Standard) forms, which meanwhile continues.
Other new products in its line-up include high-end projectors. You can find Sony's whole CEDIA press kit here.
Sony: IFA news
The Internationale Funkausstellung (IFA) 2012 is currently taking place in Berlin. Sony's press conference took place last Wednesday. In Kazuo Hirai's speech and in the press kit's set of press releases and the list of new products shown there was no mention of any new BD or SACD players. The majority of these are introduced every year at the CES which always takes place in January, but usually Sony still has one or two new models announced at IFA. This year perhaps they're saving those for CEDIA, which starts two days from now. More about that later this week.
Sony did announce at least one new ES series component: the 9.2-channel STR-DA5800ES AV receiver, the successor to last year's STR-DA5700ES with a similar cascade design. Its most outstanding feature is the ability to upscale video to 4K resolution. Among the features listed is FLAC 5.1-channel. DSD wasn't mentioned but may be supported anyway. We'll know as soon as it comes to market.
Also new in the ES series: these speakers. In related news, Sony announced a cooperation with the Berliner Philharmoniker. And while such a thing may make you think of SACD instantly, the intent seems to have more to do with acoustics, possibly leading to better loudspeakers and headphones.
According to Hirai, Sony's strategy to revitalize the electronics business will focus on Mobile, Digital Imaging and Gaming. While that seems to de-emphasize traditional A/V products like receivers and TV displays -- unless the latter are grouped under 'digital imaging' but we think that category means photo cameras and camcorders -- a large part of the presentation centered on 4K, including an 84-inch LCD TV with this resolution.
Indeed, while last year, the year before (also at CES) and in 2009 the main highlight was 3D, it seems that this innovation has not set the CE world afire as much as Sony and others had hoped, and now the company sees high resolution beyond 'HDTV' as the new target. This started with the introduction of the 4K upconverting BDP-S790 SACD/BD player at the 2012 CES. On a side note: also PlayStation 3 can output 4K resolution, but only for still pictures apparently. It works with PlayMemories - 4K edition. For 4K movies and games rendering you'll probably need to wait for PlayStation 4...
Sony did have at least one new 3D product though: the HMZ-T2 Personal 3D Viewer, successor to the HMZ-T1 we got at the 2011 IFA. It's got lighter (from half a kilo to one third) and lets you use headphones (or earbuds) of your choice.
Update: As was to be expected (though perhaps not this soon): Here's the Japanese 'equivalent' of the STR-DA5800ES (and successor to the TA-DA5700ES), predictably named TA-DA5800ES and equipped with two remote controls.
More high-end DSD gear: dCS
British company dCS (short for Data Conversion Systems and not be confused with various other firms named DCS Ltd.), manufacturer of high-end audiophile equipment, has -- after several generations of CD/SACD transports -- launched a new system that will play SACDs as well as DSD bitstreams. In dCS' tradition, it's named after a famous Italian classical composer; in this case Vivaldi.
The system is not yet listed on the corporate website but other sites such as AVguide have already posted interesting pictures of exterior as well as interior. The system consists of the following components:
The D-to-D upconvertor is there to handle input from other sources than the transport. It will upsample digital signals to DSD or even DXD resolution. If we understand it correctly, an ampifier is not part of the offer.
More DSD hardware news
Just days ago we reported about a lot of new DSD-compatible electronics that had come to market in recent weeks and already three new products have been announced.
First of all a couple of receivers. The Pioneer SC-LX86 and LX76 can play (2-channel) DSD files of the DSDIFF flavor from devices connected to the USB port. Whether they also support DSD input through the HDMI port the article doesn't mention but it seems likely that it does. Many audio formats are supported via DLNA, although DSD appears not to be among these. Could it be because of a lack of copy protection on DLNA connections? That doesn't seem to hinder DSD over USB. Please drop in if you understand this. Furthermore, the DSP will enhance 24-bit 192kHz signals to 32-bit depth.
Onkyo's launching a new AV receiver too: the Integra DTR-70.4. Like the LX86, it's a 9-channel AVR. It supports DSD, Apple Lossless Audio Codec and many more formats. Processing features that let you use up to nine channels include Audyssey DSX and Dolby Pro Logic IIz.
Our last product for today is the Asus Xonar Essence One USB DAC. This D/A Converter may not accept DSD but it does great tricks with PCM. It takes input up to 176.4/192 kHz and upsamples the signal to double the resolution. Coming from 24-bit 176.4 kHz like PS3 and recent Sony SACD/Blu-ray Disc players provide (when playing SACD and converting the DSD to PCM) you'll get to 352.8 kHz i.e. DXD resolution. The 38kHz signal even exceeds that. Too bad then the device doesn't have an HDMI input but USB (type B), Tos-link (optical) and coaxial digital input only. Still, interesting developments.
DSD hardware news
Asynchronous D/A Converters with their USB ports are all the rage at the moment and while the vast majority of them only do PCM (even if up to 192 kHz) a precious few also decode DSD.
First of all there's Chord Electronics, a British maker of audiophile equipment. They've released two USB DACs capable of handling DSD-over-USB: the QuteHD and the Qute QBD76HDSD. (QBD is short for Quarter Back DAC. While HDSD is no common acronym, in this context it made us think this might support double-rate DSD, also known as DSD128, but that appears not to be the case.) Follow the links above for product information sheets, user manuals, a manual explaining how to set them up for DSD, and drivers for Windows XP, Win 7 and Mac. AV Watch covered the two DACs in Japanese here and here, respectively, and also did a review.
TEAC, the Japanese high-end audio company, has added a very fancy D/A Converter to their appropriately branded Esoteric range, which will go nicely with some of their SACD players and transports: the D-07X. This unit does also has a USB port (type A) but it seems DSD is carried from the SACD source to the DAC via XLR, using some surely proprietary method. AV Watch coverage here.
Earlier this year, TEAC entered into an alliance with Onkyo. That company in the meantime also came up with some interestign DSD gear: their CR-N755 Network CD Receiver and CR-N555 CD Receiver announced last week feature a USB input that can handle DSD, FLAC and ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Coding).
More variants shown here. These models may be available only in Japan.
Ayre has developed another quite unique product: a DSD A/D Converter (ADC), the QA-9. Ideal for those who want to transfer their analog recordings into the highest quality digital signal. The QA-9 Pro version can be linked to a master clock in a recording studio environment.
Then there's the Sforzato stuff. Contrary to what the name may suggest, this is Japanese. The name, an italian word, is actually a music term for a type of accent (which in musical notation is represented by the sƒz of the company's logo). Anyway, back to the electronics. The DSP-01 is a 'Digital Stream Player' that lets you play high-resolution music from a NAS (Network-Attached Storage). The DSP-01 is still a prototype (shown at the 2012 Hi-End Show in Tokyo) but it plays DSD, in addition to a host of other audio formats such as AIFF, WAV, FLAC, ALAC (Apple Lossless), WMA Lossless and plain PCM of up to 192 kHz. The DSP-01 then appears to be a sophisticated version of the current DST-01 (Digital Stream Transport; PDF leaflet here, in Japanese), which by the way comes with this separate power supply pictured below. Also in development reportedly: a DAC named DSR-01 (Digital Stream Renderer). Apparently, a DAC is not built-in to the DST-01. So what exactly does it do then? Networking and feeding the signal to the output with a very-low-jitter clock. Surely, that must be the main difference between DST-01 and DSP-01 then. After all, the DAC is what sets an (SA)CD player apart from a transport.
It's taken a while, but in 2012 a lot of DSD-compatible equipment is suddenly coming to market. That's fantastic news for audiophiles, we conclude. Time to update our overview of DSD resources, perhaps.
Couting Crows debut on SACD
More popular rock music is coming to SACD, thanks to Analogue Productions. The 1993 debut album of Counting Crows, August and Everything After, produced by T-Bone Burnett and recorded to analog tape, has been remastered by Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound for reissue on SACD and audiophile vinyl.
More information over at Acoustic Sounds.
SHM-SACDs September: Mahler only
The batch of SHM-SACDs newly announced for the month of September (Wednesday 26th) consists of just three classical titles (plus the last two Queen albums, postponed from August). We're hoping this is not a new trend or policy, and that UMG Japan will continue to issue pop/rock as well as jazz and blues on the super format.
For those interested in seeing (yet more) Mahler on SACD: In February, we got No. 2 and later this month we'll get No. 5, by Sir Georg Solti. Not quite a cycle, with all these different conductors and orchestras. All great names though.
Queen catalog complete on SHM-SACD
By the end of September, all of Queen's fifteen studio albums as well as their first two compilation albums will have been reissued, on the SHM-SACD format, fullfulling (with a little delay) a promise Universal Music made on 8 November 2010.
For a complete visual overview, click here.
Well done, Universal Music Group, good job. We've got most Dire Straits and all Queen albums now. Thanks. Which artist is up next?
New Denon Universal BD Player
Denon's just added a new SACD/DVDA-compatible Blu-ray Disc player to their range - the DBT-1713UD, pictured here with an AVR-1713 A/V Receiver. This AVR, by the way, will not handle DSD input via HDMI. The top-of-the-range AVR-3313CI however will. The universal BD player you'll find in our list of more such products.
The back side of the player features no multichannel analog outputs, just stereo out and HDMI for multichannel digital out. After all, any current AVR will handle digital multichannel input via HDMI, even if only in PCM format in some cases. Perhaps Denon considers this unit more as a transport than as a player, hence the change from 'DBP' to 'DBT' typenumber prefix?
This contrasts with the Primare BD32 universal Blu-ray Disc player we wrote about earlier this year (and which apparently is available in black, too). New pictures we came across show plenty of connection options on the rear panel, including analog multichannel and stereo out, XLR balaced outputs, optical and coaxial digital out, YCbCr component video, 2x HDMI, USB, e-SATA, RS-232C and LAN (ethernet port).
And this is what it looks like inside:
Norah Jones catalog issued on SACD
Analogue Productions have just announced they will reissue all of Norah Jones' albums on audiophile vinyl and SACD between July and September of this year. As the blurb writes: "LP and SACD editions of the five albums - 2002's Come Away With Me, 2004's Feels Like Home, 2007's Not Too Late, 2009's The Fall and the new album Little Broken Hearts - have all been re-mastered from the original sources by Kevin Gray."
"In addition to the individual releases, Analogue and Blue Note will produce limited edition vinyl and SACD box sets comprising all five titles plus an exclusive bonus album entitled Covers. Only available as part of these sets, Covers includes ten rare unreleased interpretations of classics recorded throughout Norah's career. Artists covered include Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Tom Waits, Horace Siler, Wilco and more."
According to Acoustic Sounds' Norah Jones page, all the SACDs will be hybrid stereo except Come Away With Me which will be hybrid multichannel. This is the only album that has previously been released on SACD.
The album New York City by The Peter Malick Group featuring Norah Jones, also previously out on hybrid stereo SACD – and quite hard to get by now – is not part of this reissue project.
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