My recently acquired media player plays SACD disks. I recently acquired a review copy of one such. It’s the Chandos recording of Berlioz’ L’enface du Christ recorded by Andrew Davis and the Melbourne Symphony. It comes with three “tracks”; standard (more or less) CD which will play on a CD player and both stereo and surround tracks in SACD format. Now “standard CD” for Chandos is a bit higher definition than most CDs. 24 bit at 48kHz versus 16 bit at 44.1 kHz. Is there a detectable difference?
This, of course, is the question a normal person wants answered. It doesn’t really matter what tech specs or measurements made by machines suggest, the acid test is can a human hear a difference? Not having the means to do a proper double blind triangle test (no minion) I just listened in different ways to the same passage. First up I compared the CD track with the stereo SACD track using headphones. Usually I find that if there are subtle things on a recording I’m more likely to hear them on the ‘phones. I might have detected a bit more channel separation on the SACD but I’m pretty sure I would not have picked it consistently on a double blind. The second test was CD versus surround sound SACD on a 5.1 speaker set up. Again, no detectable difference except that I had to turn the volume setting up on surround to get the same perceived loudness. That often happens switching between stereo and surround on video disks so no surprise. On a normal concert hall recording like this I don’t think surround sound makes a huge difference anyway. I guess if one wanted to listen to some Renaissance polyphony recorded on all sides of a basilica it might be a different story but that’s not my usual listening.
So bottom line; little or no difference. If this format comes bundled with other features you want then fine but I wouldn’t pay for it.